Posts Tagged 'Indian Railways'

Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel was the role model to my role models. Today, on the first anniversary of his death, we remember him fondly.

In a country where ritual hygiene is sacrosanct and actual hygiene is observed mostly in the breach, Ishwarbhai devoted his life to the rational, hygienic management of human waste. Recipient of India’s Padma Shri for distinguished service to the country, among many other national and international awards, Ishwarbhai’s greatness and achievements were certainly widely admired. But, true to his modesty and good humor, he got more pleasure from his more humble nickname, “Mr. Toilet”.

Ishwarbhai was as matter-of-fact as could be about all matters of human waste. Within the first five minutes of the first time we met, he advised me how much my average daily dump weighed in grams – I forget the number – and added that it was likely more dense than the average Indian feces, because the Western diet includes more refined and processed foods. This was typical conversation, and there was nothing casual about it. It was part of Ishwarbhai’s mission. Having made sanitation his life’s work, he could hardly afford to be abashed in discussing these things. Moreover, he understood that the polite refusal of most people to talk about human waste entailed a pernicious complicity in the epidemic of debilitating and frequently lethal diarrheal diseases in India. “How can we solve a problem people are too embarrassed to talk about sensibly?” he complained.

Continue reading ‘Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel’

Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers Takes Notice of “Trash on the Tracks”

Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers Discusses Garbage Problem

Much of what I write on this bog is frivolous — but some of it is quite serious. And sometimes — just sometimes — things reach the proper audience.

I received encouraging news today from Aaman Lamba, publisher of the wonderful forum Desicritics, that my essay on the huge garbage problem on Indian Railways was been posted on the online discussion forum of Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers. (I had cross-posted the piece on Desicritics, which was where it was picked up.) Who knows if this will generate any real attention, much less action. Typical of Indian engineers, there has been much buzz about triviality and process (in this case, how to resize my photos), and no substantive commentary as of yet. But the fact that someone noticed and posted the essay is a good start.

Continue reading ‘Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineers Takes Notice of “Trash on the Tracks”’

Trash on the Tracks

Indian Railways Trash

A few years ago, I was riding in open-seating on a short-haul train between major metros. The precise place doesn’t much matter; this scene could have played itself out anywhere. I was by the window, and in the window seat across from me sat an obviously affluent, middle-aged woman. She was snacking incessantly throughout the journey. As she finished each morsel, she would casually toss its plastic bag or wrapper out the open window. When she purchased a cup of chai from the passing chai-wallah, it was a safe bet that the plastic cup would also be headed out the window.

It was more than I could stand; and though it was not premeditated, when she aimed the cup out the window, I instinctively reached out and caught it, scalding my hand with the remains of the chai in the process. The woman was shocked and angry, and lashed out at me. What the hell was I doing? She was simply disposing of trash!
Continue reading ‘Trash on the Tracks’

Stowaways

closet.JPG

We knew it was a gamble when we boarded the train without a confirmed ticket. Things always have a way of working out for us, though; and viewed from this naive and trusting perspective, it was a calculated risk. OK, so maybe “calculated” is a bit too flattering a description for our state of mind.
Continue reading ‘Stowaways’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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