Published 7 January 2011
Environment , India , Politics & Policy , Service
Tags: corruption, garbage, Kivar, Kivar Environ, Pondicherry, Puducherry, Raj Bhavan, Shuddham, solid waste management, trash, waste, waste management
Shuddham, the remarkable volunteer-run NGO doing solid waste management in the heart of Pondicherry’s French Colonial district, has ceased operations, effective 1 January 2011. After eight years of going door-to-door, teaching households and businesses the importance of segregating waste streams into compostables and recyclables at the source – and slowly building compliance to an astonishing 80% among households – Shuddham has fallen victim to the incessant corruption of local officials and the negligence and callous indifference with which the government performs its obligations to the public.
Continue reading ‘The End of an Era in Cleanliness’
Published 11 February 2009
Environment , Friends , India , Politics & Policy , Service , Travel & Adventure
Tags: bird watching, birds, corruption, development, Environment, environmental protection, ornithology, Ousteri, Ousteri Lake, Pondicherry, Puducherry, Ramsa site
When the Government of Pondicherry takes decisive action in favor of environmental protection, one thing is for certain: there is more to the story than meets the eye.
Here is the astounding-but-true story of the designation of Ousteri Lake, Pondicherry’s largest water body, as an “Important Bird Sanctuary,” thereby providing a significant legal tool to stop the industrial development which is ravaging its watershed.
Continue reading ‘Accidental Environmentalism’
Published 1 October 2008
Environment , India , Politics & Policy , Service
Tags: Balamohan, beach, beaches, coast, corruption, democracy, development, Environment, erosion, government, Govind Singh Gurjar, Khairwal, Pondicherry, port, protest, Puducherry, rule of law, Thiru. V. Vaithilingam, Valsaraj
Yesterday was a good day for democracy in Pondicherry. The people took to the streets to protest a government which, time-and-again, deftly protects the private interests of its corrupt officials, disregards the public good, and holds itself to be above the law.
The issue concerns the ongoing battle over the illegal concession given to a private developer by former Chief Secretary Khairwal and Minister Valsaraj to build a huge port complex in the heart of this tiny heritage town, and the vast environmental, economic, and social devastation this development will cause.
Continue reading ‘The People Fight Back’
Published 20 August 2008
Art & Culture , India , Sport , Travel & Adventure
Tags: A.R. Rahman, Adnan Sami, architecture, Asha Bhosle, Beijing, Bollywood, bribery, China, corruption, dance, Delhi, Gurgaon, India, infrastructure, kick-backs, New World Order, Olympic Games, Olympics, tourism
India and China. China and India.
Whenever discussion turns to the New World Order, these neighboring giants are always mentioned in the same breath as the up-and-comers. I understand the arguments, but remain deeply skeptical about the prospects for both countries, though for vastly different reasons.
With the Beijing 2008 Olympics drawing to a close, one must concede that China has managed to pull off a fabulously successful advertisement for itself, even though its ugly authoritarianism and environmental shamefulness remained on plain view throughout. So the question nags: Could India hold an Olympics that would flatter, rather than embarrass the nation? I, for one, seriously doubt it.
Continue reading ‘Could India Host an Impressive Olympics?’
Published 2 April 2008
Art & Culture , Food , India , Politics & Policy
Tags: barista, chai, coffee, corruption, ICH, Indian Coffee House, INTACH, Pondicherry, South India, Starbucks, street food
India is justly famous for its chai – known in Starbucksland by the just-in-case-you-didn’t-get-it-the-first-time, Babelicly echoful moniker “Chai Tea Latte” – but in South India, coffee rules the streets. It is both repast and entertainment, as coffee-wallahs (how do you say “barista” in Tamil?) serve “meter-long coffee,” so called because the dense shot of “filter coffee” and sugary boiled milk are mixed cup-to-cup at full arms’ length. (Not all practitioners achieve the dramatic lengths depicted in my photo, above.)
Continue reading ‘Meter-Long Coffee’
Published 23 February 2008
Art & Culture , Environment , India , Religion, Spiritualism & Other Make-Believe
Tags: beach, corruption, erosion, festival, Gods, groynes, Hinduism, Indian Ocean, Kuruchikuppam, Masi Magam, Pondichery, sea wall, Shiva, Vishnu
Yesterday marked the Masi Magam festival in Pondicherry, a celebration which allows the Hindu gods Vishnu and Shiva – or at least their temple-idol look-alikes, more numerous than ersatz Elvises at a Las Vegas convention – to stroll among the sea-side villages on hand- or ox-pulled carts and have a ritual dip in the waves.
It’s very festive, as all good festivals should be.
And very loud, as all good Indian festivals should be.
Continue reading ‘Gods Go for Beach Outing, Find Little Sand’
You could tell she had arrived by the wacka-wacka-wacka. I’d never before seen or heard a helicopter in the skies over Pondicherry. Her Excellency, Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, President of India, was in town for the better part of two days.
One could not have helped but learn of her visit well in advance. The Government of Pondicherry, which hasn’t had sufficient money in its coffers to pay the city’s garbage collectors for the last five months, was on a mad shopping-spree, knocking itself out to beautify every inch of streetscape on which the presidential eye might glance during her minutely choreographed visit.
Continue reading ‘Blinkered’