Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Akkarai clean-up continues

 Rajeshkanna and his group - V R Volunteers ( 'V' for 'we'; 'R' for 'are') have been at it for the past six Sundays  - cleaning a patch of the Akkarai (Sholinganallur beach) of plastic bags, can, bottles and containers. Next Sunday, May 12, they have bigger plans; and to make a success of it, they invite others to join them  - company staff, school and college students, NGOs.

Sunday, May 12
4:30 PM - Volunteers meet at Akkarai Beach - Shyamala Garden Avenue Road; collect their trash bags/gloves.
4:45 PM - Split into two groups, starting the Cleanup drive from both the ends of 1 km stretch of the beach.
6:15 PM - Collection of trash bags, to be dropped at the chennai corporation garbage hold at the end of the road. 

 Social network:

 Contacts: Suresh - 9843677487;  Jai Ganesh – 9791050514

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Phone-in breakfast service on OMR

Youngster Vijay Vasudevan, a Mantri Synergy resident, with friends from a local catering institute, runs breakfast service for the benefit of office-goers in a hurry, and housewives who want take it easy on odd mornings, notably weekends. They can phone Vijay for breakfast,and it will be delivered, neatly packed, at their door-steps within a reasonable time.
A catering institute graduate, I believe his name is Gyanam Master, takes care of the kitchen.. It is a co-operative enterprise. They have taken space at  Padur, , where Gyanam Master with assistance from a couple of catering students, runs the kitchen. Vijay takes orders on phone and handles customer service. A couple of students on vacation have been engaged as delivery boys.
On offer at Vijay's breakfest service are Idli, pongal and vada, with sambar and chutney. Service is open 7 a m till 10 a m on all days. Vijay's phone-in service covers Padur-Kelambakkam stretch on OMR.
 Phone 9176509312

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Padur lakeside needs 'Namma Toilets'

Our apartments complex - Mantri Synergy - viewed from the lakeside, Padur. Photo by Balakrishnan, a Mantri resident and OMR Greens member.

Neighbourhood  residents on a recent Photowalk  along Padur Lake  were struck by the scenic settings, and its potential for development into a prime recreational area,  to serve the cluster of high-rise residential communities that have come up on  Padur-Kelambakkam stretch.

Families living in  Akshaya's, ETA Rosedale,  Mantri Synergy, X S Real,  The Jains, The Gem Group and Poorvankara wouldn't have to look any farther than their backyard for Sunday picnicking. A paved walkway, joggers track,  lakeside picnic areas, and open-air performance stage would account for high value social infrastructure.

Govt. funding would be hard to come by  for  such big ticket social infra-project. We could try a partnership model involving all stakeholders in lake area development - residents,  property developers, corporates with CSR budget, panchayat,  local town-planning authorities, urban development and tourism depts. Stakeholders share the project cost. We could try crowd-funding.

Maybe  OMR Greens are into big-ticket dreams,  triggered by their  Padur Lake Photowalk. Maybe, other neighbourhood  residents and photo enthusiasts should take to  photowalk , to explore the lakeside further and  talk about it in the social media. To start with,  let us open a Padur Lake plan page on Facebook.

Any lake development plan at Padur, we reckon, must start with provision of clean bank of public toilets along the lake. Their need would be evident for anyone who takes an early morning lakeside walk. That is when you find many people moving about behind the bushes around the lake.

Padur has recently acquired Nilgiris - air-conditioned super-mart - but, apparently, there are still houses in its neighbourhood with no proper toilets. Influx of migrant workers seeking rented houses for group-living adds to the pressure, driving  many residents to the bushes in the morning. Lakeside public toilet is a crying need, and no lake improvement plan can be implemented without fulfilling the basic need of people in the vicinity.
Photo  from ChennaiOnline

Namma Toilet, of the type that has been built at Tambaram,  appears to hold a solution to the problem of public defecation around  Padur Lake.  According to Tambaram municipal commissioner, a 'Namma Toilet' unit costs nearly Rs.70,000. A prefabricated modular stall, 'Namma Toilet'  can be assembled at the site.
Sanitation specialist Somya Sethuraman, writing in The Hindu, speaks of the need for a collective effort to create a user-friendly design, which would cater to the needs of all kinds — men and women, children, the elderly, and residents with special needs.

Somya writes: "The toilets have louvres on all four sides and a sunroof to allow for optimal ventilation, natural light and a feeling of openness without compromising user privacy. The fittings and fixtures are vandal resistant, durable and user-friendly. Each toilet stall is powered by a solar panel installed on the roof. During the day, the toilets get sunlight while the solar panels charge the battery, and when it is dark, the stalls are lit with motion sensor lighting".

A bank of five toilets by Padur lakeside would cost Rs.5 lakhs. If this could raised by way of crowd-funding and corporate CSR contribution,  OMR Greens can be said to have taken a baby step towards their big-ticket social infrastructure project that would benefit emerging residential communities on Padur-Kelambakkam stretch of OMR.

Padur lakeside photowalk, video by Soman Panicker

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shoddy waste disposal @ Padur

The concrete dustbin that OMR Greens set up at their cost, at OMR, Padur, went missing some weeks back. It reappeared on pavement the otherday. Mr Gopalan of OMR Greens, with help from a neighbourhood trader, restored the bin at its rightful spot.

 What we were not quite prepared for, was the refusal of the panchayat sweepers to clear the dustbin OMR Greens placed at their own cost -  Rs.1,000 for the concrete bin plus white-wash and painting done by resident volunteers from Mantri Synergy.
The sweepers on tricycles told us plainly that they would need panchayat president's orders for clearing OMR Greens dustbin, placed across the road from Mantri synergy residential complex.

 What has our brand of  panchayat raj come down to ?  Mr Gopalan and I plan to meet the Padur panchayat president to persuade him to give necessary directive to his road-cleaning staff.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Death of a cow on OMR

Cattle death in hit-and-runs on OMR is not uncommon. The photo was taken this morning in front of our apartments complex  - Mantri Synergy. The victim of hit-and-run, presumably, pregnant, awaits disposal. Like so many other passers-by,  my wife and I stopped by, voiced our concern and sympathy  for the animal  and cursed  the cattle owner for having  let  the cow out to fend for herself after milking.
We did the same thing - stopped by, cursed and carried on - under similar circumstances two years back. When we found, in front of our complex,  a mortally wounded cow .The scene then was that of  the cow,  foaming from the mouth, and gasping for breath. The dying animal  was being watched over by some panchayat sweepers.

This photo is taken from our earlier post (May, 2011),  in which I wrote: Padur municipal sweepers squatting by the side of the dying cow ...said they were waiting for the cow owner to turn up to claim the animal. As for the dying animal, they pleaded helplessness. There was nothing they could do, they said, other than wait for the death.  

A two-minute YouTube clip that I took, of unfettered movement of cattle at Padur.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Peace Lily as room freshener

My wife and  I have passed by this flower patch at Mantri Synergy on our morning walk for so many months without  giving a thought to  knowing so much as  the name of the plant, let alone its earthly use to our daily life.
This was till I saw a photo of the plant and read  The Hindu article - Green and clean - the other day.  They call it Peace Lily, and,  grown as indoor plant, it serves as air freshener. Peace Lilies grow easily, and they proliferate so fast that many people just throw away the extra plants that grow in their pots.         
"Grow them on your balcony or garden first and then bring them into your house to clean up the air", says The Hindu citing home gardener  Priya Mascarwnhas. The plant grows well in semi-shade and can be potted in a mixture of kitchen compost and red earth.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Akkarai, ECR, beach cleanup

Rajeshkanna, a friend and OMR Greens contact in Sholinganallur, sent us this mail:  "Yesterday (Sun.April 4) was the best day in the last 4 weeks....Next cleanup event on coming Sunday 21-04-2013 4:45PM-5:45PM...Volunteers can send SMS to 9884244423/9884244483 for confirming your presence or send an email to rajeshreshi@gmail.com

Rajesh, with his wife and 3-year-old daughter,  had came all the way on their moterbike, from Perumbakkam,  to join OMR Greens Padur Walk some weeks back.  A software professional with an IT company on OMR,  Rajeshkanna is a proactive green enthusiast  who responds to other people's call, when he is not organizing an event of his own. He is now in the midst of a beach clean-up campaign at Akkarai (Sholinganallur) on Sundays. The six-week drive would continue every Sunday evening ( 4.15 p m till 5.15 p m) till May 12.

I would let Rajeshkanna describe their work in his own words:
Dear Friends, 2 Weeks back we went to Akkarai, ECR Beach with our Apartment kids and saw lots of plastic bags and garbage littered on the Beach...On a Sunday(Mar 23rd 2013) we decided to clean the beach with 6 kids and started the cleanup to create awareness among people visiting the beach.
In My apartment all the kids showed interest .... on Sunday, March 31, we have done the cleanup again with 11 kids and 4 Parents. We will be going to AKKARAI beach  every Sunday 4PM for next 6 weeks...We will be talking to the people on the beach....you could please join with us. Also We are approaching the Panchayat for placing dustbins and for regular garbage removal.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kitchen garden resources centre on ECR

Surabhi, some 100 km from Chennai on the East Coast Road (ECR),  is a kitchen garden resource centre, says Hema Vijay in an article in The Hindu.  It is a resource centre  that combines a mega greenhouse, and farm with organic retail,  a restaurant, and much else. It's a one-stop greens place that provides customers with gardening tips, space-saving props, seeds, saplings, manure, pesticides, and offers for sale organic vegetables and fruits. Apart from what is grown in-house Surabhi's roadside shop  retails  produce grown by  several neighbourhood  villagers. They are not farmers, but  villagers with surplus veg.& fruits grown in their backyards.

Surabhi provides villagers in its vicinity  a marketing outlet  for household produce. A villager with a mango or guava tree in his backyard brings his household surplus to Surabhi, which sells it to car-wallahs on ECR who stop by for 'chai' and a look-around.

The man who makes Surabhi tick is Mr S S Rashakrishnan. A lawyer by training, the 64-year-old has been an IRS official with the customs dept.; and  founder of  a tax consultancy firm. Mr Radhakrishnan says he has now handed over charge to his son, and shifted base from his Beasant Nagar residence,  to manage and live at Surabhi, developed on  farmland  taken on lease from a friend near Kottaikadu village on ECR,

In a phone talk Mr Radhakrishnan said he didn't see Surabhi as a commercial venture,  though, I suspect, the business model he has evolved sustains the upkeep of 12 employees who keep Surabhi up and running as a community service project with socio-economic benefits. Surabhi initiates rural houeholds  into  efficient home gardening practices. Surabhi adds marketing value to their produce that are otherwise not easily marketable.

As for urban areas Mr Radhakrishnan believes kitchen gardening can meet much of the needs of city-dwellers, if only they put to use all available open concrete space in, around, and on top of their houses for growing greens. When I mentioned that the super-mart in our OMR apartments complex, and also the nearby vegetable stalls at Padur and Kelambakkam rely on Koyambedu  Mr Radhakrishnan talked about the potential for container gardening in the emerging high-rise communities on OMR.

Container gardening taken up in people's balcony saves high transporting cost of greens and things from Koyambedu wholesale veg. market.. Greens growing in your balcony enables housewives to use them fresh when needed, and in the quantity that is needed. You save space in the fridge that was earlier taken up by the greens. Salad greens are great to grow in containers, says a farming blog,  listing lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard leaves, green onions, baby beet leaves, and other leafy greens. culinary herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, thyme, oregano, mint, chives. Most of the leafy green plants for salads and herbs can be grown  in pots holding 5–10 liters of soil, because they don’t get very big, and their roots are shallow.

Mr Radhakrishnan can be accessed at 9841023448. E-mail -  reachus@goodgovernanceguards.com

Saturday, April 6, 2013

How do parents react to kids raised on iPad ?

Engaged in interactive computer  - Sidharth, 7, with kid brother Nikhil,5.  Video by  granddad.

As I read author Hanna Rosin's article - The Touch-Screen Generation - I was thinking about my US-based grandsons, aged 5 and 7, who, I noticed, loved to spend time with an iPad during their India trip for a couple of weeks. They watch basketball, run car races, play tennis, chess, and do quite a few other things I am not familiar with. 

The Atlantic magazine article discusses the phenomenon of today's children spending more and more time with digital technology. What does it mean for their development ? Hanna Rosin, who disagrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics,  favours  the idea of children engaged with interactive digital media for their development.. She reckons a child who is adept with iPad hardly needs any teaching. The Academy of Pediatrics wouldn't recommend children's exposure to digital media, even though over 90 percent of American parents say their kids - even 2-year olds - are exposed to some form of electronic media at home.

The question, as Hanna phrased it,  how would you want today's children to deal with technology ? Parents who, in their own childhood learned to  curb technology , would want their kids to keep off it. Those who realise  inevitability of increasing role of technology in daily life would rather want to see their young ones to integrate technology , making it a natural, organic part of life.

Hanna Rosin is not among those who believe free and open exposure leads to addiction. As part of parenting those bringing up young kids amid a digital clutter around their house - smart phone,  iPad, computer, interactive Tv etc -  would do well to be discriminative enough to understand when their kids engaged with iPad are concentrating intensely ; and when  iPad becomes an addiction. Incidence of iPad addiction among children is a rare phenomenon, says Hanna Roasin.