Folk Dances in India

Heres a nice blog about folk dances in India. The point the author is making is that in India, folk music and dance has two purposes. One is the dedication to God and religion, where the dances play out episodes from the epics or from mythology, and the other is to celebrate life, and to mark the passage of seasons, with their importance to the agricultural cycle, especially the harvest season.

Folk Dances in India

And do check the videos. Really nice ones!

Happy viewing, and Happy Dasahra!

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The Tigress …

This one is from Jim Corbett‘s My India:

I once saw a tigress stalking a month-old kid. The ground was very open and the kid saw the tigress while she was still some distance away and started bleating, whereupon the tigress gave up her stalk and walked straight up to it. When the tigress had approached to wihin a few yards, the kid went forward to greet her, and on reaching the tigress it stretched ot its neck and put up its head to smell her. For the duration of a few heartbeats the month-old kid and the Queen of the Forest stood nose to nose, and then the queen walked off in the direction from which she had come.

Wonderful passage … just tells the sheer grace, elegance (a oneness maybe?) which comes with real power.


Sustainability

The last issue of the Scientific American India carries the title story of 12 things which can change the world, but probably may not. Interesting stuff. And they also mention how likely these are to occur. Some are imminent, others not so. Anyway, one of the things which could change the world as we know it is superconductivity at normal temperatures. Now, superconductivity surely reminds of the old Ajit joke (one doesnt really know if this was ever a dialogue in a movie or not, but thats not really the point, is it) … 

Put him in liquid nitrogen … he will become a superconductor, and keep giving out bus tickets all his life.

Anyone who hasn’t heard that one can please ignore it, and just read on. Because what I am writing about is superconductivity, not Ajit jokes, nice as they are. Actually not superconductivity, either (I don’t know much about it, but then that doesn’t stop me writing … hey, if I were to write only about things I knew about, I wouldn’t write about anything). What I am writing about is sustainability. Well, this article talks about how superconductivity can change the world by enabling us to be able to carry large amounts of electricity from areas where it can be easily generated with renewable sources, to areas where it probably cannot be, easily, this being a way we can tackle global warming by using natural, renewable resources wherever they are available, creating power from there, and transporting it to where its deficient.

This is an interesting way to manage the scenario we find ourselves in. I feel the approach we need to take needs to be more local in nature. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with them. Far from it, for I am don’t know enough to have an opinion on this. What I am talking about is looking at the option of self-help, local participation utilizing renewable energy. And here I am not just talking about energy from renewable sources, but the whole idea of sustainable growth.

Take India for example. Different parts of the country are suitable positioned to harness renewable energy in different ways. The northern part of the country, for example, could amply look at solar energy, while the hills might do better to generate energy through tapping wind power. The point I am trying to make is simple. We probably need to look at initiatives at the local level, with much more participation from village panchayats in development of alternative means of generating energy, conserving the forest cover, or the water table. After all, there is a wealth of common-sense methods which have been handed down from generation to generation, which I suppose have proven benefits over the centuries. In addition, these methods also have the merit of getting buy-in from the people who are immediately impacted by some of these measures, making them all the easier to implement. And in the process, come up with initiatives which are culturally more acceptable to the people.


Global … Warming?

There are two views to global warming today. One is the general view that global warming is bad, it is one of the evils created by the industrialized world and it will lead humanity to disaster. The other view (can we say contrarian for want of a better word?) is that global warming is a non-starter, essentially for two reasons:

1. The data that scientists are basing their predictions on is too small to be able to predict anything like global warming.

2. Global warming would have happened anyway because its part of the cyclic phenomenon we call global climate, so it doesnt really matter what we do.

The interesting thing is there is no way you can actually debate these lines of reasoning. This is because one is based on too short-term a view and the other is based on too long-term a view. I had an interesting discussion with a gentleman today about this, which got me writing this. Whats interesting is that while one cannot debate these lines of reasoning, they do raise a few questions.

One of the questions that they raise is can we afford to err? We may be making a mistake by assuming that global warming is actually happening, or we could be making a mistake by assuming that the data we are basing our conclusions on is too limited. At this point there is no way we can say which of the two is a mistake. The question is, can we err on the side of assuming that global warming is fictitious? It would be ok if it was, but what if it wasnt? Would we be walking over a precipice with our eyes open?

The other aspect is that of these climatic phenomena being cyclical. They might well be cyclical and warming might well have happened, human activity notwithstanding. What i think, based on my limited understanding of Chaos Theory, a dynamical system like the weather may have multiple equilibrium states and the fact that it is in a particular state doesnt mean it cant move from this equilibrium to the other equilibrium state it can have. Having said that, this movement would require some amount of nudging along from somewhere, and the question this brings up is, can we afford to have human activity being the nudge for moving to an alternate equilibrium, which may include extinction of humanity? I dont think so, but then, these are possibilities.


Vegetables

Sometimes i wonder whether i get to know the news thats impacting me or not? At times its more appropriate to think that we get to see the news that the editors of the news channels or newspapers believe we should be seeing, and this is where the media gets to define the scope and topic of debate in society. But there are aspects which probably get left out in all this because they arent very important, maybe.

Let me explain what i am talking about. Those of us who have followed politics in India for some time now will remember how the rise in prices of onions cast its spell over the elections in four states in India. Those of us will also remember the coverage the rise in prices of onions, an essential to Indian cooking, got in the political debates. For those of us who dont remember, you could read bits about it here or here.

What i am concerned about is how little space is being given to the price rise that we are seeing today. Yes, there is talk about it somewhere in between the columns on the inner pages. One could say that this is because there arent any elections round the corner thats why the price rise isnt as important an issue to be covered as it was a decade ago. But then this would imply that even then the coverage wasnt of price rise for an essential, but was coverage of an election issue, and this would imply that the debate is not about price rise and its impact on people but about elections and the impact of the price rise on elections. Now i am not saying that price rise hasnt got coverage but not the way when elections were round the corner.

Whats interesting about the price rise is who benefits from it. The vegetable walla told wife that if a Cauliflower is bought for Re. 1 from the farmer it is sold for Rs. 25 in the market. This means that the benefit of this price rise doesnt pass to the farmer but to a set of traders, middlemen if you may in the supply chain, and this is an aspect which not many seem to be talking about. Shouldnt this be something which should be the core of the debate and shouldnt this debate be at the core of the discussion in the country? To me, i believe, the two areas which should dominate the debate in the country are the impact of this price rise on common people and of course the ongoing negotiations at Copenhagen, which again are inspiring quite a bit of cynicism, like the one i read somewhere (dont remember where) … If the climate were a bank, it would have been saved.

Are there any areas which you think we need to focus on more as a nation? Please do write your comments, maybe we could start something?


Globalized?

It is quite routine these days to read about the world we live in as a global village increasingly interconnected with more and more integration of the different parts of the world into one unit. This is indeed a wonderful thing. But what is the extent to which it is happening is the question which needs to be asked. Why am i asking this question? Can there be a reason other than Copenhagen? Maybe Copenhagen will become the second Scandivanian city to have a phenomenon named after it? The other maybe is not too pleasant a syndrome, one would say.

Over the last year or more since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing mayhem one thing became very clear. That the global exonomy is indeed global. That is, no country can today say that their economy is isolated from the effects of the economies of countries around the world. Some maybe more some less, but nevertheless. This gave the feeling that governments around the world are coming to the understanding that unless the world faced the global crisis as a single unit the consequences would not be pleasant for anybody. There was a growing acceptance of the globalized world we live in today. Thing is, this bonhomie lasted only as long as we were talking about money. When it comes to the climate we arent quite as globalized as we think we are. Or is it that this is my pollution and that is yours? Are we trying to believe that your pollution is not going to impact me?

Lets look at the stark reality. We are indeed a globalized world. And nowhere more so than in terms of the weather. And either we all swim through or we all sink. True, some people will be impacted more than others. Rather, some countries would be impacted more than others. But the point we need to appreciate is that no matter which country, the poor would be the ones who would be impacted the most. Agriculture would be the area which would probably be impacted the most (from what we read). Question is, can we bring the cooperation of global economies to the sphere of global climate? The stakes are high, and we all need to understand that this is our world. Unless we cant look beyond the next two quarters?

I read an article which said that ISRO data shows that the rate of depletion of glaciers in the Himalayas is slowing down (cant find the article so if you can find it, please post the link). Positive sign. Things can be reversed? Certainly. Question that we need to ask ourselves (otherwise our children or grandchildren may not even get the chance to ask the question), do we have it in us to do it? OK, this is beginning to sound rhetorical, but thats because its meant to be. I am not an expert on the issue of climate (or on anything but i am not going to admit that), but trying to look at the problem from a simple common-sense approach. Any thoughts, please feel free to write.


About Copenhagen

This is a topic which a lot of people are discussing. These discussions tend to be quite interesting at times, and whoever is discussing seems to bring a lot of passion to it, though of course the direction your passion flows to depends on your viewpoint. I try to be not passionate about the topic, but its a little difficult, which is why i havent written about this till now. But there would be a time when i would need to write what i feel about Copenhagen and our stand there vis a vis what the other nations would do.

The edit in the Hindustan Times today was quite interesting. There are a few things which come out of this. To quote:

But no one, other than a starry-eyed few, doubts such a shift will carry a large economic price tag. While they may be cloaked in planet-saving language, the fact remains that climate change negotiations will be about which country will bear how much of this price.

This is a very important consideration when it comes to negotiations. One step more than required and the government could be seen to be selling out and one step less and the government could be seen to be not doing enough for the sake of the survival of our home, the only planet we can call home. Which is what makes the entire negotiations very tricky. However, it should not be so tricky, i think. Let me try to explain why.

To begin with, we, and not just we, but all nations of the world must understand that in this negotiation there wont be a scenario where some win and some lose. Either all will win or all will lose. If we are able to bring the Earth back from the brink of disaster (which is where we may find our planet to be at) we all will win, and if we arent able to, then we all lose. Its as much our climate as it is any other country’s. Its our planet as much as others. Having said that, though, there is also the aspect which we must understand and that is that every nation, including India, has developmental needs (perhaps India more than a lot of nations) which we need to aspire to, and the question is how best we can meet those needs while ensuring we minimize damage to the planet. The problem as i see it is that a lot of nations seem to believe that they can win the game even if others lose.

If thats not correct, and all nations understand that either everyone wins or no one does, then the question comes down to negotiating who will pay how much of the cost for cleaning the environment. One aspect that we need to understand is that India and China, countries representing a third of humanity have a need for development which is much greater than a large part of the world. Bring in another dimension and the developed world needs to understand that the use-and-throw culture is probably something which needs to be a thing os the past and that no country can afford to follow the path of waste. Instead, nations need to follow more the dictum to reduce-reuse-recycle if we are to save the planet. There was an article in the Times of India today which mentions that Americans waste 40% of their food. Now, this is a lifestyle which has been developed over a period of generations but having said that there needs to be an understanding that this cannot be afforded much longer if we are to save the world. While maybe two decades ago this might be a sign of affluence, it shouldnt be seen in the same light today.

To cut a long story short, we need to understand that the cost needs to be paid (the HT article puts it quite well) and at the same time the world needs to understand that this is an opportunity which hopefully comes only once (to save the planet) and that we need to grab this opportunity with both hands and understand that either all win or all lose. Once we can do that, we can understand that we can build a world which is far more comfortable with itself. One aspect which we need to build into the cost models is that there is a cost associated with the human potential which lies untapped in two of the most populous countries in the world, and this cost must also be factored into the cost calculations which i am sure everyone is talking about.