My Selected Writing Samples
Here are some of my samples to show you how I write. There are a wide variety of topics and scenarios which determined my voice. I am able to tweak the voice as needed. These pieces show how I write and the quality of copy you can expect from me.
What Would You Prefer – Plain Vanilla or Aamer Ghol?
Plain Vanilla, please. In an exotic land where I’m trying to figure out the next turn on the map and the next food I could chew on, it’s the simple and familiar I head for when I’m really hungry.
Aamer Ghol or whatever it is called could be yummier on my palate but, please, I’m not ready to take a chance. At least, not when I’m hungry.
I go for what I understand. I know, so do you. We have a built-in mechanism to select the familiar and reduce our risks. That’s exactly what my copy does. It boils down to the bottom, removing all the needless fluff.
I remember going to a brand new texmex restaurant in the plush areas of Gurgaon, India. And having never been to America or Mexico at that time, we thought this would be our cheap peek into that part of the world.
The décor was totally cowboy-style, like we’d entered a Texan barn or something, or so we thought. We were very impressed. The menu card had a price list that scared us completely. Everything was exorbitant. That impressed us even more. But we had no idea what those items were – tacos, enchiladas, tortillas, salsa and what not.
We boldly ordered a tortilla. Imagine, just one tortilla — for the whole family. That’s how ignorant we were. From the enormous price, we believed it to be like an extra large pizza of some kind loaded with cheese and all the good things on earth.
Guess what! Well, I’m sure you’ve already guessed it. We came home a few hundred rupees poorer, turned on the stove and cooked some food to fill us up. Of course, we never went back there again.
That’s what happens when we don’t understand. We get impressed, we make wrong decisions. And then we are mighty disappointed.
Now, coming back to the first story, if someone were to explain that Aamer Ghol is nothing but their familiar favorite mango lassi, many would leap and go for that Aamer Ghol on the menu, their tongue dripping with saliva.
Saying it in plain terms, writing something that your customer will understand is an art. It’s also a skill.
Simplifying is all the more a need when difficult concepts have to be explained to your potential customer.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers, we prefer to understand everything that is told to us, that we are about to read. If it’s hard, we respectfully put it away. We’re impressed, but thank you, no more of that.
A cute example here. The other day I saw a WhatsApp post from a friend about venturing into an aqua-thermal treatment of ceramics, aluminum, and steel under a constrained environment. I thought that was a really important research project.
I was thrilled.
It was soon apparent that he was talking about “washing dishes”. Go back and read that again. It makes sense, doesn’t it? “Aqua-thermal treatment” is the hot water and soap scrub, while the dishes are sitting in the constrained environment of the sink. Voila.
Now, coming to the business point, if your website sounds like that exotic science research, it’ll scare your prospects away. Or they may sign up for something they did not need and then discard your company altogether. Is that what you want?
I like writing without a jargon.
Without a single difficult word. Something even a 12-year-old would understand Tell me if you can close your eyes and visualize the science lab in your . It’s a talent I was not aware of. Not until everyone started telling me that my explanations are as plain as vanilla ice cream or even Mango lassi. And that I could even explain rocket science to elementary school kids.
Imagine what it can do to your business, if everything was as simple as ever. You’d definitely save up a substantial amount of “the continued progress of existence and events that conjure up the past, present and future as a whole”.
That’s the roundabout way of saying you’d save a good deal of time.
Simple, candid writing style may not clearly impress to make the readers admire you silently with a tinge of jealousy. But it surely helps to understand and to take decisions. And to get things done.
My niche is the environment, specifically eco-friendly home goods and cleaners and “green” energy services. For most people, it is a tough area to understand. At least, it is a challenge to get people to sign up for these products that are typically more pricy than regular goods. I love that challenge. In the past several years, I have spoken at many places, written in many forums to explain how things work in nature and where we stand out in the middle of it. Many changed dramatically, some over time.
I feel humbled to think that it did the Earth some good.
Simple expressions are the mantra of the times. In the middle of all this complexity or technological contraptions and the digital age, the plain vanilla style stands out.
Bottom line – life’s challenges seems much easier when you understand most of the things you hear, read and learn. One can take more strides towards change when you know what you’re signing up for.
At your business, your job gets done faster because you didn’t chew your fingers off figuring out any mystery. Then, you can afford to go out and jostle with a leathered sphere and tantalize the custodians of the netted citadel.
In plain words, you can now go play ball! While I handle your copies with care.
NABC2015.org Website Input
(This website’s content changes every year.)
NABC 2015 is all excited and ready to celebrate the guiding philosophy of the times – to be as sustainable as possible and to leave a gentle impact on the environment.
Almost every human activity in today’s world is using energy in some form or another. We either use electricity directly or in the form of batteries and gasoline. We are either using gasoline or using products that have been made with the help of gasoline. That’s too much smoke in the air.
When it comes to planning an event, we have to choose so very carefully to minimize our usage of these fuel resources to lessen the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
And hence the ‘green’ steps for NABC.
Creating needless bulk of waste is a HUGE concern – an event means piles and piles of paper, plastics and Styrofoam.
Can we change that? Even a wee bit?
NABC 2015 is out to show the world just that. That in spite of the countless gasoline-guzzling international flights that cannot be helped; a conference of this scale can be GREEN to a GREAT extent. I
Can we roll it out as a landmark approach which will absolutely set a trend for all future NABCs to come.
The purpose is to change how we think. It is important for our community and the next generation, to get thinking about taking responsibility for our carbon footprint, to minimize the trail of carbon that the fossil fuels have created.
To turn in this direction, it takes a change of gears.
It may seem somewhat daunting in the beginning but it is possible.
It is a tall task that we have undertaken to accomplish. We will start in whatever little steps each one of us can take, to create a murmur amongst us.
As a community, we will be mindful of reducing waste, conserve resources, and include all participants as we take our green steps.
We will lead without preaching, we will nudge without pushing, we will fly our green flag up high for all to see and flock. The ripple effect of this gentle stirring will be immense.
So, get ready for a surge of Green WAVE coming in your direction.
Want to jump aboard this sustainability ship to ride that wave?
Great, we knew we can count on you.
Here are a few things we can do!
General green guidelines
Reducing any kind of wastage is the first and primary goal – consumables, electricity and fuel.
Just as in KOM, continue to take your own cups/ bottles and motivate others to do so. Do not provide water in individual bottles – that’s pure wastage of the most precious commodity.
Start a “Be A Watt-watcher” and turn off lights or electrical appliances after all meetings. During meetings yank the AC one notch up and use a portable fan to compensate. Appreciate anybody who does this within the group. You can even do walking meetings to promote fitness! That way you literally walk the talk!
Carpool to the extent possible, or better still, do phone conferences to save fuel. Kudos to the team! Walk or bike to the nearby meeting venue in the neighborhood.
If possible, reusing and repurposing certain consumables like paper, coffee cups, and bottles.
Print as little as possible. Share documents through Google Docs – you all are so tech savvy!
If you have to print, print on both sides, if allowable.
For note taking and other draft prints, use the unused sides of printed paper. Incidentally, these paper-conserving habits are practiced throughout Japan in every office.
Refill your bottle, cups – if using a plastic bottle, keep Sharpies handy to write one’s name.
Recycling is always the last step when the above two could not be accomplished 100%.
Make sure the bottles or any plastic marked # 1 – # 6 are clean and empty. Please rinse if you need to before you toss it in the recycling bin.
All discarded printed paper and mailing materials will be recycled – almost all neighborhoods these days have recycling, so anybody hosting the meetings at their home can easily dispose in right receptacles.
Email: Sales letter
Subject: Portable coolers that magically speed up service time in your busy kitchen
(I was not hired to write that piece but this is what I would have generated.)
Running an independent restaurant is tough, especially with growing chain-restaurants.
Imagine the busiest moments of the day in your kitchen when your cooks are frantic. A walk across the kitchen to the cooler can compromise on both taste and time.
Our mobile cooler can save hundreds of steps for your chefs, and that’s crucial.
The Chill-o-Matic LBR coolers are light enough to be rolled by two people anywhere on the leveled floor of your kitchen in minutes.
These coolers, however, do not climb stairs.
Its lighter-than-usual compressor works just as efficiently as its competitors, only cheaper. According to LR Brown and Associates, the LBR coolers are 28.2% cheaper than its competitors.
We are offering an additional 15% discount with this email to the first 35 responders. This coupon will remain valid for up to six months, saving you $800 in the deal. Make sure you grab one NOW.
Come and check it out yourself at our exhibit in the upcoming Restaurateur Conference and Trade Show. Click on the link below to sign-up.
And we will have your coupon ready with your name on it at the show.
GuessMe Tees’ T-shirts
Tees to tease you curiosee-Tee! (Blog piece)
Honestly, these unique tees are not for everybody. If you have the passion for solving cryptic clues in riddles and curiosity paces your pulse, the Guess-Me-Tees series of T-shirts are here to feed your smart appetite.
Sporting unique T-shirts is the perfect way to let people know that there’s more to you than meets the eye. Mixing in a little intrigue into your wardrobe is enticing, especially if it involves an element of fun! It’s a great way to meet new and curious friends anytime, anywhere.
However, finding a t-shirt that expresses your wit and charm can be like finding a needle in a haystack, and that’s exactly where we come in.
At Guess Me Tees, we know how good it feels to share an especially witty joke with a friend. That’s why we decided to make our t-shirts with a twist by incorporating quirky brain teasers into each of our designs.
The front of the shirt hooks one’s attention with a riddle. And the answer? It’s on your back! Be the eye turner at a party as you walk around. Bring your fun self everywhere you go with Guess Me. Bring some pizzazz to your wardrobe and stump your friends and family with some cliffhanger challenges!
We also know that comfort is key. So we’ve chosen to blend cotton and polyester in equal measure to create the softest fabric to make you feel comfy while you engage others in the guessing game.
Each month we will be releasing more designs with new twists, so be on the lookout for more! Check out our Q-Tee and Guess ‘Em activity tabs for some more fun!
Perfect Blend of Comfort and Curiosity (About Us page in their GuessMeTees website)
Dressing up for Halloween can be fun, but it’s hardly ever comfortable. Masquerading at a ball in a Gatsby-style party has its share of pretenses.
But not so with Guess Me Tees.
Spun in a 50-50 mix of cotton and polyester, these ultra soft t-shirts are a blend of style and flair, showing your distinctive mannerism and intuitive perception.
You’ll look cool and relaxed when you sport a Guess Me t-shirt.
And as if that was not enough! You’ll be proud to know that these tees are manufactured right here in the USA!
Buying locally sourced products not only makes you swell with patriotism, but it also helps the earth by reducing the carbon footprint.
Going green has never felt so comfortable!
Greenologics Facebook page blog posts
Guess what! Today, I had 3000 companions in my car! Visible, creeping, crawling, sleeping, lolling companions. By now, I have given the biggest clue, the headcount, and you are sure they are not humans. You’re right, NOT humans. So (yikes!), WHAT are they? They are … ladybugs!!! They traveled with me in two mesh bags, ready to be released into the gardens. Their most favorite food, let’s call them “Ladybug Pizzas”, are aphids. Ladybug babies simply love it. They devour them twig after twig.
What a relief for those plants who are infested with wooly aphids.
Where on earth did I get a bag full of ladybugs, you might wonder. Some of you may even want to have your own meshful of ladybugs! Well, they are available on Amazon, for sure. And if you are planning on driving to a store here in Houston, go to Texas Growers Supply on 5750 North Sam Houston Parkway E, Houston, TX, suite 703. This place is situated in the cozy business park for small startups. You can call Rick, the owner, @ 281-442-3739. Check out their Facebook page Texas Growers Supply and give them a like, if you like.
Oh, how could I ever forget! I had another half-a-million more of something accompanying me on the journey home — a bottle full of nematodes. When released into the soil, they love to chew down every pest larva that is hiding in the ground. They are the T-Rex of the pest world. For now, they are fast asleep in my refrigerator, waiting for the end of their hibernation.
Greenologics blogposts continued…
AgghHHH! My nightmare just visited me again this summer!
The roaches usually have a blast in the Houston summer. A late evening walk can have you scampering around the sidewalks to dodge them near each storm drain or sewage covers.
I am totally okay with that these days. It gives me some added exercise as I yelp and jump as they try to scamper closer.
But, inside the house? NOOOO. That’s another story.
My urge to be green, to be chemical-free inside the house puts me into this HUGE dilemma about whether or not I call the pest control guys. Normally, I keep the house as free of clutter and as cleaned as possible. When I slip, the spiders spin their webs in the corners, the garden lizard crawls in with me from the backyard and a lone roach chooses to surprise me.
Toggling between the do-it-yourself confidence and the pest-control terminator brigade, I finally landed a great site!
Explore www.bugman.com and find some great tips to tackle the bugs. They don’t serve Houston yet, but someone similar does.
Checked out Tom Bray’s site thegreenbugman.com –www.thegreenbugman.com for the Houston area. Awesome!
If you want to be your own bugman, there’s a wide array of products on Amazon. Simply punch in “non-toxic pest control products” and voila, you’ll have a wide range of products to choose from.
I’m trying out some, I hope to be able to give you personal feedback on them sometime soon.
Till then, enjoy your bug-free zone at home this summer! A toast to your bug-free, chemical-free life!
I just discovered something!
Living chemical-free can be infectious. In a good way! When you choose to live without chemicals, the people around you notice you.
In the beginning, of course, they may think you’re strange.
And that can be slightly embarrassing, not knowing how to interpret those stares and sometimes silence.
I guess it’s my increasing age that makes me kind of courageous. And I go ahead and do the right thing anyway.
Very soon I realize that those stares were more from admiration. Those silences were mostly hesitation to ask curious questions right away.
Ok, so, let me get this straight. Those who are staring at my vinegar and essential oil spray are actually too stunned and eager to actually come forward and ask for a recipe? That’s true!
This gives me COURAGE, and HOPE and FAITH to continue on this path and to continue to teach newbies to take that very first step away from the chemically intense lifestyle.
Want to join me in the game?
A couple of days ago a secret about life just dawned on me. It’s a secret only because we don’t talk about it as much. And even when we do, we don’t live it as much. I wonder why?
The secret is simple. It’s “simplicity” itself. Whether it is your bottle of cleaners, or your clothes, it doesn’t matter. As long as it is simple, life is easy, life is good. Let’s live that simple life. One simple step at a time. Let us know about the steps you take. Let us all grow into this together. We are waiting to listen to your voice…
Oh, I am so thankful I found this site!
Marketing my own copywriting skills involves some scouting for great green companies and today’s find made me happy!
When a baby comes into this world, it’s a great moment of joy for the family, but a big resource drain for the world! But many parents are trying to be very gentle on the earth while they are staying very careful about the baby’s needs too.
For these new parents, this site has a ton of information on green products. They can start living a new chemical free life with their new baby.
See, even little people can initiate big changes!
Time to spread this little secret out! There are many who would love to make a difference, to ensure a good earth for their baby to grow up in. So, “Share”!
This evening, it was a great feeling watering my garden beds with the fresh rainwater that has collected in the rain barrel. The sound of filling up the bucket is as therapeutic as I walk amongst the plants, nurturing them, talking to them.
Yanking out an unwanted plant is always the toughest of challenges.
I always feel that every plant has as much right to grow. It’s us humans that put them into categories and label them as “desirable” and “undesirable”. If there would be organization that supported the rights of plants to be treated as humanely as possible, I think people would begin to think differently.
Until then, I say my goodbyes, I say sorry and then I pull the weeds out. And it will be that way forever, I believe. The thriving robust weeds are my friends too!
I still can’t believe I got greenwashed a few days ago! It’s usually me alerting people about the high chances of being tricked by a greenwasher.
“Greenwashing? What’s that?”
Okay, okay, I hear you! To many of you I probably didn’t explain what greenwashing means. Simply put, it means a company is projecting its products as eco-friendly and drumming up through ads to market them as “green” instead of actually spending the effort and money on making them truly sustainable.
So, basically, greenwashing is a “green lie” that companies recourse to in order to make their products look lucrative and “in”. In terms of ingredients, these products may score a 1 or a 2 on a scale of 10, far from the desired standards. They are quite successful in fooling many customers into believing they are buying a very ‘safe’ product.
My good old bamboo cutting board broke into two neat pieces along the middle. I continued to use them until these slim strips. were testing my dexterity to carry my veggie pieces over to the pan. I kept dropping the veggies right and left. It was sure time to get another one. Sorry about the carbon footprint, I decided to buy a very “green” one indeed.
At the store, the solid hardwood pieces were elegant but too heavy for my weak wrists. I just couldn’t lift them. I had to settle for something lighter! Bamboo was not Partha’s choice since the last one only lasted a few years. “They’ll eventually break,” he said. Just like us, I thought. I truly wonder if I will last another 10 years. Anyway, by my Carbon Karma logic, we needed to buy something that would outlast us to minimize our future purchases.
After some toying, we came home with this sleek “eco-friendly” wooden product that proudly held the sustainable forestry logo and the rainforest alliance certification. No sooner had I washed it with warm water, a strong chemical stench filled my nostrils. That’s when I noticed the label more carefully.
Alongside the “green” bragging, it claimed to be ‘dishwasher safe’ and ‘knife resistant’. Ha! That’s a lot for a natural product. This definitely is artificially compacted wooden particle board with a smooth wood-like finish! I cringed to think of all the synthetic materials that have gone into giving it the strength to withstand all the nature’s elements. Maybe it’s fire and termite resistant too?
It’s now my eyesore, sitting on the counter. I am planning to leave it outdoors for a few days to let it off-gas. It still smells pretty bad when wet.
I, for sure, promised myself to be more careful when I go out to buy something next time. Once foolish, twice smart, as they say!!!
*Tell me if you can close your eyes and visualize the science lab in your elementary school where you were enamored by the specimens of exotic species in clear sealed jars. Some of you may have seen strange creatures floating in a straw-colored fluid in some village fairs around the world. And not to forget the strange smell that hung in the chemical labs that added to the somber, sinister mood of those rooms.
Now, if I were to tell you that most of the things in your house, starting from the floor to the furnishings, the walls and the decors they adorn are all containing the same component that makes that preservative fluid, would that give you the goosebumps?
If you answer in the affirmative, I am with you in it. In fact, I have had my long sessions of goosebumps that actually taught me or rather instigated me to go for products that are free of that chemical, the well-known and equally dreaded formaldehyde.
Going back again to the morbidity of things, if you have been to a funeral lately, you may have admired the beauty of the demised person. The corpse almost resembles someone in deep sleep, and with all the makeup and formal clothing, you almost envy their great sleeping style.
As a child, I wondered how someone could look so “real” and so not-dead three days after passing. Well, to be honest, I wondered even as an adult until I came to know that the entire embalming process is actually quite a trick – starting with draining out blood from the veins and filling them with tissue-preserving formaldehyde.
It is that toxic chemical that even the dead tissues are afraid of and under its watchful governance the cells behave their best through the ceremony.
Once buried or cremated, the formaldehyde is set free to dwell in the soil or escape into the air to pollute and invade your personal space at a later date.
Let’s leave the dead alone and return to our personal lives. Living in urban dwellings, we have filled up every nook and corner with things of utility or with items of visual appeal.
Have you wondered if these products, too, have been mummified by formaldehyde? Now, I am not being the bad friend that likes to scare you out of your skin. Instead, I promise to be the life-saver friend who shared a truth that better be told while you can be proactive in ensuring a better life for yourself.
The truth is that most products in the market are using formaldehyde. Since formaldehyde is a gas, it keeps off-gassing from the items for several months. So, unknowingly, we have invited the Trojan horse of formaldehyde into our homes.
Formaldehyde is used in furniture, upholstery, particle board items, home cleaning products, cosmetics and toiletries, mattresses and pillows (Imagine spending hours each day smothered around pillows!), decors, apparels and believe it or not, even in foods and children’s products.
You may definitely want to know why formaldehyde is bad for us and the reasons why it is so widely used in manufacturing pretty much everything. Good questions. Let us first delve into the health aspect of formaldehyde. Here’s a list of things that can happen due to the short-term use of this chemical:
1. Itching and irritation on the skin and in the delicate linings of eyes and nose.
2. It can cause allergies (wheezing and coughing), hence, a common allergen to be tested during allergy testing.
3. It can also cause nausea and persistent headaches.
4. For long term exposure, it was suspected since 1987 by EPA and formaldehyde could be causing cancer. This suspicion has been proved to be true. By 2011, the National Toxicology Program of USA declared formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also classified formaldehyde as a human carcinogen.
These are enough reasons for us to start looking for ways to avoid it, right?
If it is so harmful, isn’t it a surprise that manufacturers do not bat an eyelid about using it in their production process. Besides the lure of profit, the manufacturers substantiate the usage by arguing that a small percentage of usage does not really endanger a person’s health.
For a short period of time, this argument holds true, besides the temporary eye and skin irritation and nausea; it may not leave an indelible mark on the person. But, most of us are constantly exposed to it, coming from multiple sources.
Therein lies the problem. Exposed even in negligible quantities over a long period of time, let’s say a few decades, can cause diseases like cancer.
Why is formaldehyde so indispensable in the manufacturing of things? Let’s take a quick look.
1. It is used in the making of a urea-based resin in the furniture/décor making process.
2. It increases the shelf-life of cosmetics and food items.
3. Formaldehyde is used as a disinfectant and a biocide agent in household products. Before people were aware of its adverse effects, formaldehyde was used to pasteurize milk bottles!
If you are quite convinced about the ill effects of formaldehyde, you may want to start buying products that do not contain it. First, let me tell you that it’s not easy.
You have to do your homework and quite a bit of legwork. As it turns out, you will also have to do some eye work to read the fine print on the ingredients list. I am quoting the American Cancer Society here. They ask you to check the labels for the following ingredients:
• Formic aldehyde
• Methyl aldehyde
• Methylene glycol
• Methylene oxide
Some chemicals that are used as preservatives can release formaldehyde, such as:
• Diazolidinyl urea
• 1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin (or DMDM hydantoin)
• Imidazolidinyl urea
• Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
Amidst all these scary messages, there is hope. Many organizations are working hard to raise awareness which leads to the rise in the demand of formaldehyde-free products. That market is growing too! I am switching to greener products for all my indoor and outdoor use. The possibilities are endless and we, as consumers, can get quite creative to create a wide spectrum of choices.
For more research on your own, explore the authentic sites in Google like EPA, National Cancer Institute, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and various research journals of renowned universities around the world.
Know that empowering yourself with the right knowledge is the best gift you can give to yourself and your family.
May you all be well! If you think this blog post has helped you, in getting the ball rolling towards a formaldehyde-free lifestyle, please pass along to your friends by sharing this post.
Imagine being ravenously hungry and slurping down the last drop from your bowl, shoving the plateful of chowmein or rice and then crunching down the cumin-ajwain-flavored silverware to help you digest your binge!
Super. Yes, these cutlery items are made from millet, rice and wheat with a dash of spices to made it palatable.
This can serve so many purposes — imagine. It’s your spoon that does not end up in a landfill, that does not have the fear of being reused behind your back, that does not use carcinogenic chemicals in its manufacturing process.
It is made of food and made for food, too! The question is however if the production process is scrupulously clean.
Post production handling is also crucial to prevent any kind of contamination. Remember, we cannot sterilize them, they will go soggy!
Final and the most important, the host of the party should make sure everyone has actually eaten their silverware! Throwing away these items would amount to food-waste, and that’s bad, even though these are biodegradable.
On a lighter note, I wish someone was making edible words too, then we could actually “eat our own words”.
Compare your personal care products with those of your grandmother or better still, your great-grandparents’. You will be surprised to see the difference.
If you were to observe their stylish portraits, you’ll notice so much elegance and beauty. The fact that they did not have harsh exfoliants working on their facial cells or the silicone compounds sealing up their fine wrinkle lines will not even cross your mind.
Beauty is the treasure within. Don’t you feel that way, too?
The care that we are supposed to take is for external hygiene, not an instant makeover regime to hide and conceal the reality to project a plastic-finish version of ourselves.
In fact, the words of the wise advise staying away from all products with color and perfumes that stand on your shelves looking the same forever.
Most of these chemicals that go into making them are not tested long enough in a research lab to show their side effects. The rudimentary tests are often conducted by the companies that use them, filtering only the selected information that promotes their sales.
More than 10,000 chemical compounds have worked their way into cosmetic products, from toothpaste to hair straighteners and only a few hundred have had sufficient testing.
Among them, many have earned the bad name of being carcinogens or for being accompanied by contaminants which are carcinogens. The list is long indeed, but I hope to be able to share if you care to read the ingredient list in the tiniest possible font each time you buy a product to enhance your own beauty.
Most of us don’t read the labels closely enough. We get carried away by the tall claims that the manufacturers make, almost like kids that get tempted by strangers with candies.
It’s time to grow up and go back to the basics of cleanliness with natural products mostly found in your kitchen. Enjoy the new experience! Will keep you posted!
Have you ever wondered how tiny your personal care pouch can be during travels? If you were to choose only five things to put in a tiny Ziploc bag, what would those personal care products be? It’s a tricky, yet pertinent, question for every backpacker, or anyone compelled to travel light. I have toyed with this challenge for the last few years and here’s my take.
1. The toothbrush!
2. The toothpaste (And now, I make my own or I slip in a nearly finished tiny tube to barely last the whole trip.)
3. The floss! This, I must agree is my weakness!
4. Coconut oil or a tiny dollop of emollient cream.
5. An antifungal cream, again a squeezed half-empty tube only to protect me from the occasional, unpredictable rashes and itching.
You may wonder why I did not count the hairbrush or comb in. Well, my fingers have been ambitious to be the comb for my rather short hair. The run of the fingers and the final caresses from the broad palms have done wonders in the past. So, my little pouch has learned to withstand its absence.
The next mandatory thing for any woman in these times is the moisturizer. How on earth did I choose to do without it? Or rather, how did I dare to shove that out? The answer is simple. A little research revealed so much about this benign panacea a couple of years ago that I have chosen, and successfully so, to live without it even in my own home. Here’s a brief report I have created which will explain why lotions and moisturizers do not feature as integral part of my beauty routines.
Any moisturizer works, or is expected to work, as a humectant for the skin, to keep it hydrated. These products contain chemicals such as propylene glycol, glycerin, urea etc that help to draw moisture from the air around and keep it in the skin.
In earlier times, oils and fats were use as emollients but now more and more synthetic products are used for long-lasting effect. Chemical combinations like isopropyl-palmitate and hexyl laureate for a fake coating on the skin.
What you and I seem to think as a “smooth finish” is actually a plastic coating to give a false sense of satisfaction of achieving some degree of skin revival. The consumer is fooled into believing that the skin has remarkably improved due to the application of the product.
To keep lotions looking like perfect emulsions for months and years, dozens of chemicals are added as emulsifiers, stabilizers and preservatives. If colors and perfumes have been added, then count in another 30 to 50 chemicals to create the semblance of a flower or morning mist of spring.
Never have these products given the extract of the real thing.
What starts out as an anti-wrinkle cream with a plastic-finish on your face can actually be an agent to invite premature aging and increased susceptibility to the harmful UV rays. How the complex chemical compounds interact with the living cells on human skin may be unknown to the layman but putting in a few hours of research can save you more time than you invested in investigating.
These chemicals can cause itching, burning and other discomfort. Has some lotion ever gotten into your eye inadvertently? It must have burned like crazy, making you wonder what’s in that stuff.
What could be so good for your skin that can burn the hell out in your eyes?
These skin products also contain mineral oil derivatives that can be contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Now, that does not mean that each and every user will be a cancer patient in the future. Nor can a 90-something old lady bravely claim that these chemicals are harmless only because she is still alive and going strong.
Anyone predisposed to cancer can fall victim to the disease with the slightest provocation, and there is no way we can figure out how predisposed we are genetically or environmentally.
So, why even take the risk?
Why not live with organic coconut oil or pure beeswax? Enough of my rantings now, you have a fair enough idea as to what prompted me to live, and live well, without those branded bottles in the market.
Next time you pick a product from the shelf in a store, make sure you have asked yourself some basic questions. Is it something you cannot find natural alternatives for?
Is it something you cannot do without?
Try researching on authentic websites about the serious side effects. These side-effects may be too subtle for us to notice with our senses with any concrete evidence.
It’s been long that we have lived our lives for instant and convenient outcomes. It’s time we looked at side-effects that may be the fine line between life and death.
My allergies and asthma has been acting up lately, thanks to the winter season. The air likes to sit heavy like a comforter with all the pollens and pollutants invading our lungs. Rummaging through my medical files, I just found a few tips to prevent asthma from getting worse.
It strongly recommends keeping strong smells away from the house. It says, NO to house cleaning chemicals, fumes from furnaces, NO to new carpets or building materials. Very few people actually know about off gassing, that emitting of gas trapped in things, especially new things.
And almost all new things are doused with formaldehyde and fire-retardants. These particles go uninvited into your lung passageways and tickle the cells.
Another big thing they said “NO NO” to are perfumes, air-freshener sprays, and scented candles. Now, that’s a real dampener for many. A couple of billion dollars of trade is around the aromatic industry which shows how much people value those candles and potpourris and room sprays.
In this holiday season, you walk into a store with cinnamon scents filling the air. So, asthma patients, be on guard. If it is store, you really can’t help it besides avoiding shopping unless needed. But, school or day care, or even your workplace could be something you want to act on. Alerting them of the huge impact these things have on people with asthma is a good step.
Educating people has a long-lasting benefit. Also it may help many other people to stay healthy, people who had no idea what was causing a problem for them. So, be a Good Samaritan and get started on spreading this piece of valuable information.
The reward for this good deed will shower on you like grace.
I remember the previous great-depression-like tough punch in the stock market in 2008. Someone had asked in the Abby’s column about ways one could get by with less money.
The best answer received was to “add water”.
Huh? Add water in everything? Yes, that was the advice — to add water to pretty much everything we were using. Add water to the pot of soup that is boiling, it won’t compromise the taste but may very well help you with extra helping or to add a chair for your friend or family at the dinner table.
Add water to the dish-soap. A diluted soap solution can clearly wash more dishes and need less water to rinse it off. Advice was to add water to the shampoo bottle and the washing detergent for the same logic.
I had taken that advice to heart even though, by God’s grace, we hadn’t lost our jobs. I added water to all possible liquid concoctions and have been doing that very effectively even to this day.
To add a touch of zeal, I have not limited this strategy to my home, but extended it to the teachers’ lounges in my school, passed on the advice to coworkers and friends.
Now, I pass on the bug to you! We now party without disposables, and add water to the soaps and soups. The companies that are tightening their budget around things that need not be disposed have our best wishes to continue to do that even after the economy brightens up. It’s time to dispose off the idea of disposables.
Nathan Crane’s Search for Sustainability — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNnf_ePqqWA
This episode is a must watch! If it is not available for free anymore, it is worth paying for it! You will discover the true you as you find yourself intricately interconnected with the world. The part you have to play becomes very clear that way. If you have been living this kind of life, it gets even more reinforced, your faith instilled even deeper when everything you do or eat or say becomes an offering to God!
Living in an urban world, how safe can we be from chemicals?
A tiny shelf in my garage still holds the chemical fertilizers, the fungus killer, the popular bleach, ammonia spray that promises a shine to my car’s windshield, a special gloss for my car’s body, some rubbing alcohol and what not.
And this is only a tiny remnant of what the previous owner of our house had. We had long disposed of those at the hazardous chemical collection center on Post Oak Boulevard.
No matter how green I have tried to be, those store-bought concoctions often seem like ‘greenwashing’ to me. Ha ha, I like the fact that someone actually coined such a word for a false green statement that works like good eyewash for the ignorant but well-meaning friend of this earth.
My toothpaste experiment is on. I have tried quite a few recipes. The last one had too much of living clay, which is nothing but volcanic ash, and I am not too excited about it. It polishes well, but needs a follow up with actual toothpaste.
How terrible is that?
I am now beginning to experiment some more with shampoos again. Will keep you posted!
Until then, if you see a special frizz in my hair or a stylized tangle, simply know I am busy in my bathroom laboratory!
Dukool Magazine’s Carbon Karma column — Small Is a Big Thing
I have been kind of a slow learner all my life. I clung to my pillow each weekday morning, chewed my bread so slowly that the school bus often left without me. I read each book from cover to cover and then read them all over again while my friends devoured libraries. I speak slowly too, leaving my listeners squirming in their seats. My friends, by then, finish their finest and longest oratory.
And those same good ol’ friends loved to turn the tables or go cold turkey on old habits. They can make things happen quick, they can plan a revolution overnight. True, earthquakes have played their part alongside the slow erosion and quiet sedimentation to create breathtaking beauty of the land. Yet, I am simply tempted to believe that earthquakes probably start with a small tremor and then add a whole bunch more.
When I look back at life, the journey I undertook never fails to impress me! I am surprised by the long distances I have covered and the details along the way. “Wow,” I say to myself. Not competing with anybody, I was pretty much the lone turtle racing against myself, one small step over the other taking numerous turns along the way.
Then it occurs to me that it actually takes one small step for anything to happen; many steps together make a journey. It takes one tiny cell to make life, one small word to mend or break a heart, one spark to light a fire. Even the winds of change blow gently to shape the terrains of our thoughts.
When I see the naturalist in me, I wonder when that seed was sowed and how long it took for that seed to germinate and burst into blossoms. I remember reusing shoe boxes to make homes for my dolls or buses for my brother. The dolls’ houses had old saree border drapes. Cigarette foil gift wraps made cute purses for them.
I remember mimicking the flighty movements of yellow butterflies with my arms outstretched or chasing the ‘helicopter’ dragonflies all around the lawn. Time stopped still in the middle of the night when we slept outdoors throughout the summer months in Banaras. Watching the lunar eclipse lying on our cots was an ethereal experience. Making pastes from the henna tree in the backyard needed new volunteers each month. I most frequently opted to have those dark, red smears all over my little hands as they kept busy on the stone sil patta.
The green streak that turned me into a ‘green freak’ was a small pulse that continues to beat to this day. Words like ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon footprint’, ‘emission control’ and ‘climate change’ get added to my nature scrapbook. In a small way, my backyard continues to be the natural playground of weeds and bugs, quite like my tousled hair that resembles a bird’s nest, with milkweeds and goldenrods spiking up high with passion flowers and salvias. I am Still on my way to becoming a forager for dandelions and chickweeds to add to my salads and teas, many steps away from my dream of having a reverse osmosis system for my rain barrel.
When friends ask how to begin making changes to their lifestyles, I tell them to start small, with a change close to their life — maybe with a less harsh house cleaner, a ‘greener’ nail polish, or desisting from the next urge for retail therapy at the nearest mall. I have watched Black Friday shopping videos on YouTube and chuckled to myself. My ‘needs’ won over my ‘wants’. The economy, I’m glad, still survived without my little contribution to its steaming and puffing engine that runs on other people’s wallets.
A levee burst starts with a hairline crack on its wall. The Apple product you swear by started in a garage not too long ago. College graduation for all of us started with the alphabets on a clean slate. The long road of the world’s revival can start with just you and me taking one little baby step of living on less. Let’s take our baby steps today, perhaps around the Earth Day this month! It’s never too late.
Rebuilding My Nest
(Dukool Magazine, Carbon Karma)
It is spring again, and I am spending more time outdoors after the long Houston winter.
Midwest folks may snicker at my mention of Houston winter, but it was a long one this time. My skin and soul are now yearning for some fresh warm air. Our birdfeeders are seeing a flowing traffic of squirrels and a few varieties of the feathered brethren once in a while. My husband, in deep consternation, would chase the squirrels, flailing his long arms all around the garden; and they would be back again before he caught his breath inside.
At long last, wisdom prevailed. And we are amused watching nature’s competition as they grabbed the sunflower kernels in their cute little paws and munched away guarding their territory. The birds gingerly pecked at whatever they could find at the edge of the garden waiting for their turn for luck to shine. The nest building is on at full swing, little twigs and leaves disappearing into the higher branches to prepare for the arrival of the young ones. It’s baby time!
It was about this time that we thought of making some changes in our own nest too. Many little repairs were long overdue and throwing in a few refurbishing and remodeling, it was easy to find a contractor who claimed to do them all with perfect ease and dexterity in exchange for a neat packet of dollars. But, in reality, it was much more than what I had realized it to be. The upheaval that it created proved beyond doubt that a human home is technically far from being a nest. It is far from anything that can be branded as natural.
On an appointed day, two carloads of people arrived at our house. We soon realized that most of them knew very little beyond the usual courtesies in English but nodded their head in agreement to all our instructions and suggestions. By the time we realized it, certain tiles on the floor were sitting in the wrong places, and the light fixtures were getting ready to sit in the wrong points on the ceiling. Worst was the washing of the paint brushes in our driveway leaving a trail of colored water along the street three houses down. The only consolation was the fact that these paints were the top of the line paints, endorsed by all environmental standards. Free of volatile organic compounds the paints were least harmful, almost as good as lemonade. Yet, my embarrassment over this paint-washing met with a shock when my neighbors seemed more worried because of the temporary esthetic jeopardy it had caused. Really, they were more worried about the looks, and not so much about the paints contaminating the storm drain water. The HOA officials magically arrived and took pictures of the light brick colored paint’s diluted remains. My husband alone got the men hose down the mess for a couple of hours and then, it began to rain hard. All this while, I was teaching yoga totally unaware of these developments.
Being green made the task of remodeling slightly daunting. I soon realized that almost everything was manufactured in China. I could have as well ordered a pre-fabricated house shipped to me from China. The tiles, the grout, the Brazilian cherry hardwood planks were from China. Brazilian hardwood from China sounds like an oxymoron, quite like an Australian Koala born in a Canadian Zoo.
Whatever construction debris had to be discarded was not natural, whatever we purchased to replace that is not available directly from nature; it was a guilt trip all the way. Piling up along the curb were objects that would sit in the landfill for eons waiting for something to happen to them. The carpet recycling center had rejected our samples earlier. Too synthetic to be recycled, they said. Recycling centers and hazardous waste centers are all far flung points on the map and zipping through town in my vehicle unloading junk added enough carbon in the air to make breathing uncomfortable.
Looking around the nicely painted home with its new carpet on the stairs and remodeled bathrooms, I spotted things that were changed simply because they were not ‘in’ anymore – sturdy wall to wall bathroom mirror, the molded plastic countertop that was fashionable just twenty one years ago. The towel holder had to go simply because it does not match the brushed nickel faucets we have ordered. I am certain the birds don’t do that, things are never passé for them – twigs, leaves, grass, straw are forever a good deal.
Testimonial Piece for a company selling marketing training modules to sales teams.
Finding clients was never easy for Janice Bell. As CEO of the growing business of interior design, Kinnear Office Furnishings, Janice always had to grapple with the challenge of her sales team networking with the right prospects who would eventually become their customers. Before training her sales force with Smith Training and Consulting’s flagship program for the 5-step Networking Method of contacting and landing appointments with new prospects, her team was quite stressed out over finding the right contacts. “It’s often tough to figure out the key persons in a company who makes the decisions regarding office furniture. It’s not always the CEO but someone down the line. So, we can’t just buy a mailing list, we need to spend a lot of time networking to find the key persons in a company”, said Janice.
She is thankful that she took the opportune moment to sign up for this training. Interior furnishing is not a small investment for her clients. So it is quite hard to sell these products in spite of their superior quality. Networking is key to her sales team and so they do not like to be pulled off the road to take a very long and laborious training. The training named Networking for Sales Results required only two days of on-site training. So, not much time was lost. Its twelve 20-minute training videos can be accessed anytime from work. These modules are very well crafted and hence popular. The cherry on the topping is the 6-month one-on-one coaching and support for each sales person to ensure that they master their skills. Right from the start the training provided value.
Janice raves about the training every chance she gets. “It’s a very effective program for all who rely on networking. The effectiveness of our sales team has increased by giant leaps and bounds, about 20-30%, after taking this training.” The stress of aggressive networking has now changed to their strength – “We’re getting our foot in the doors of a lot more prospects than we did before,” she said. Janice is now a happy CEO.
Keep It! Just in case.
(Dukool Magazine – Carbon Karma)
The day my grandmother died, her memories and belongings remained behind, heavy and silent. Her bed, her dressing table adorning the brass paaner dibba to hold all her beetle-leaf juicy treats, the rickety coconut broom that brushed the bed free of dust and her treasure trove of all the little things my “thakuma” considered precious. The bedroom, at some point, after the initial shock and grieving, had to undergo some change to fit into the new rhythm of life without her. That is when we discovered them all.
She had many little things – fancy plastic beads for ornaments, variety pickle jars which we liked to taste often, Horlicks jar of coconut “nadoo” sweets, plastic cases of insignificant knickknack, the little dowats of ink from the Saraswati puja which we had filled with creamy milk and wrote with twigs on banana leaves with the hope to become better students. “Why would anybody hoard these?” someone asked. Nobody knew for sure. Now, after all these years, I think I know the answer. Her fear of needing them again seemed so much more compelling than the casual confidence of throwing them all away.
My mother too held on in very creative ways. The clay pots that came home with hot roshogolla were stacked up and painted to make fancy showpieces. Empty eggshells on medicine bottles were dressed with paper to make dollhouse characters. Her aunt, the popular Bipishima, stitched frilly cushion covers from old skirts and fancy dresses from discarded curtains.
All this recycled creativity was prompted by a tight shoestring budget. When money didn’t come easy, the mind thought up all kinds of uses for things. Hardly anything was discarded besides broken glass or uneatable food scraps and dirt. Hand-me-downs were cherished and borrowing was totally acceptable.
Moms, in spite of all changes, are still the loving entity micromanaging the affairs of health and nutrition, deciding every morsel of food for the family, signing up for doctors’ appointments on time and rushing to the PTO meetings. They are spending time with children to follow a butterfly, to sit in the park and to feed the birds in the backyard.
Many are thinking of indoor air quality, carefully choosing the body care and home cleaning products that protect the air and the water. They simply never call it quits if they know it is good for their children. So, there may be hope.
The predominant ‘green’ voices out there have more often been men than women. Starting from Bill McKibben to Hollywood heroes like Robert Redford and the hilarious Ed Begley Jr. They have shaken the world along with Rachel Carson and Sylvia Earle.
But, nothing can compare the steps each mother can take while being less wasteful, creatively reusing in as many ways as possible.
It’s time to think. Which category of green mother are you? Which shade of green is your mom? Celebrate that, and add another coat to make it a shade darker.
AquaSmart Readers’ Theater
That “Sinking Sensation”: The Story of Brownwood
Naturalist 1: Today, I will take you all on a tour of the Baytown Nature Center.
Naturalist 2: And I will tell you about the rich history of the place.
Tourist 3: Oh, you mean there’s some hidden treasure we could find? Tell me about it, I might find it.
Tourist 2: You said rich history? What’s rich about history? History is so boring. I thought we came for a nature walk.
Tourist 4: We are so close to the Houston Ship Channel. Is this marsh part of the sea?
Tourist 1: You are right. We’re close to the sea. I can see the San Jacinto Monument from here.
Naturalist 1: Even under these waters you will find history, the foundations of modern civilization!
Tourist 3: Underwater modern history? I am confused.
Naturalist 2: An entire neighborhood of houses and swimming pools sank right here. The name of the subdivision was Brownwood. This is now the Baytown Nature Center.
Tourist 4: Oh dear! A whole neighborhood went into the waters? That’s terrible!
Tourist 1: How did that happen?
Naturalist 1: Yes, we are coming to that. This was a high-end neighborhood made in the 1930s for people who worked for Humble Oil, now known as Exxon. Exxon, at that time, was growing fast and was to become the largest oil and gas company in the world.
Tourist 3: Ah, now you are getting to the “rich” part. They must have buried gold!
Naturalist 2: The executives built big homes on large plots with swimming pools, rose bushes and green lawns . . . and then, very slowly, people began to realize that this place was gradually sinking.
Tourist 2: Uh-oh!
Tourist 4: But, please tell us why! Anybody would have loved to live in this beautiful place by the bay. Poor souls, to have lost their homes like this.
Tourist 1: Was it just an accident or was there an actual reason, like, REASON. I mean, could this happen to my neighborhood?
Naturalist 2: Good question! If there is a reason, then maybe it can be prevented. Right?
Naturalist 1: The whole process of sinking started in the 1960s. Many areas of Houston sank a few inches. A few experts had started noticing it and were talking to people. But, you know, very few people actually wanted to listen and learn. Many industries were coming to Houston. Factories were being built!
Naturalist 2: When thousands of people move to a certain area, suddenly there is a need for many important things. What is that most important thing that we all need?
Tourist 2: Water?
Tourist 1: Dollars. Then you can buy all that you need.
Naturalist 2: Err . . . it’s water. We simply can’t live without water. The new settlers all needed thousands of gallons of water. And where do you think they got it from?
Tourist 1: From the faucets, duh!
Tourist 3: Simple. There’s a lot of water underground.
Naturalist 2: You are right. They got it from water that naturally occurs underground. Everyone thought they could suck out as much groundwater as they wanted, without considering the consequences. Now, think of Houston soil. It is so gooey. It’s clay. It cannot hold up for very long when the water bed under it is sucked out. Sinking in is the ground’s only option. This is called subsidence. (suh b-sahyd-ns)
Tourist 4: Why don’t we just stop using groundwater? Will that stop the whatever-you-said; the, uh . . . sub…si…dence?
Naturalist 1: Sure, it will! Houston soon learned to switch from using groundwater to using surface waters like lakes and rivers for most of its needs. But, by then the city had lost this neighborhood. The city now draws 71% of the water from Lake Houston, Lake Conroe, Lake Livingstone, and the Trinity and Brazos Rivers. Only 29% of the water Houston uses now comes from groundwater.
Naturalist 2: Most of those flooded houses have been removed and this marshland is now the Baytown Nature Center. What used to be a human neighborhood slowly became a natural water ecosystem with many species of fishes and birds, reptiles and amphibians! But you can still find pieces of human homes.
Tourist 2: You’re right! I thought I saw pieces of beautiful tiles somewhere, and something that looked like part of a paved road . . .
Naturalist 1: And even some old swimming pools.
Tourist 4: Wow! Call them natural salt water swimming pools in the bay!
Tourist 1: Oh, so that’s what you meant when you talked about the “rich” history of this place. A rich neighborhood sunk right here, not a shipload of gold or something . . .
Naturalist1: You got it! Ha ha . . .
Tourist 3: I appreciate your telling us this story. It looks like we should be careful about using stuff from nature.
Tourist 2: Or else there are bad consequences, like this one!
Tourist 3: Although we now mostly use surface water, we still need to stop wasting water, such as by not keeping faucets running and stuff.
Tourist 1: Who cares?
Tourist 4: We should, because . . . we don’t have too much water in the rivers and lakes anyway.
Naturalists: So, it’s always good to . . .
Tourists (chorus): Conserve!
Monkeying the Right Way
(Dukool Magazine – Carbon Karma)
Besides monkeying around, monkeys can be good copycats. The credit for mimicry, by some stroke of luck, has gone to the cats. These feline pets are not only notorious for not accepting to be trained; they simply hold the human heart ransom to their pure whims. Monkeys, lemurs, and apes of all kinds, on the other hand, are born to copy behavior to a hilarious perfection. I cannot speak for the kinds around the world but the ones in India that live so close to the humans, right in the middle of their daily chores, are probably the best in copying.
When a big monkey deftly opened our refrigerator and walked out with a large loaf under his arm, I found it so intensely funny that the idea to chase him simply did not occur. My neighbor, the ardent worshipper of myriad gods and goddesses was alarmed to find monkeys in her parlor one day ringing the sacred bell in the right way at the altar while his pal sat on the sofa in style holding the phone to his ear. But the best one is best saved for last. Cunning little conniving monsters that they can be, my friend from Lucknow recently vouched for them for being the most wise too. Growing up in that town in north India, she has seen them routinely drinking out of roadside water faucets and always closing the faucets back like any conscientious human is expected to do.
Now, that made me think. I marveled at the urban adaptation of these intelligent creatures. I chuckled to think that many humans carelessly leave the faucets half closed without a care for the precious resource. Overflowing water tanks are a common sight in India, just as common as the long queues of buckets to fetch water from a trickling water source, ironically in the same city. I cringed at the memory of the yoga teacher who cherished her yoga sessions in India as an expat. She boasted of creating a hot-yoga environment by running a steaming hot shower for ninety minutes straight. In my imaginary kingdom of nature’s righteousness, I would have jailed her for life in an arid desert for a penance to restore every drop she had wasted.
In India, you don’t have to pay for water. Quite like the Native Americans, Indians consider water to belong to all without any ownership or responsibility. How each one of them harps on that philosophy is purely relative, ranging from being the providential gift to the liquid that could be treated at will. Wasting filtered water, dumping heaps of plastic wastes in ponds and rivers, flushing effluents in rivers are just some of the evidences screaming to be heard. We will never have the fortune to ask the smart primates on their thoughts on water, but I am sure they regard it with more respect than most of us ever cared to show.
When I come to think of it, closing the faucet after drinking is not the only praiseworthy thing they do. In fact, I am in absolute awe over their social behavior in their little communities. In the bustle of the oldest town of Benaras, monkeys literally throng the temple grounds, especially the one dedicated to the Hanuman, the famous monkey god immersed in perfect devotion to Lord Ram. Perched in the stately trees in the few acres of lush greenery, the monkeys feast on the savory laddoos offered as Prasad, or food offering. Their reps would walk along on their hind legs by the humans asking for a sweet or a banana with their arms outstretched. The kindhearted always spared a couple for them, and the monkeys walked away happy, to share with their folks. But, not a single selfish person ever got away without giving – their entire offering snatched at an opportune moment as punishment.
Even when a large fruit fell from a tree, the furry family would sit in a circle on their haunches patiently with their palms cupped to receive their share while the leader in the center neatly scooped up little portions for each of them. That could serve as a significant nugget of management training on resource allocation. The sharing, the caring, I wonder if that is their natural behavior or something they have learned from us. My thought keeps going back to the monkeys that close the faucets all the way after they are done. I feel it is high time we copied the monkeys back. It is time we learned something good from them.
The Curve That Lies Ahead
Once upon a time, like always, there was a king.
To add a twist to the story, the king was not doing his job of looking after his subjects. One day, an old saint came begging at his door. He asked for a few grains to be given in a certain mathematical order – on a plain chess board, all he wanted was one grain of rice on square one, two grains on the second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, doubling all the way to the 64th square. The king thought he was a fool to ask for so little, that he could as well have asked for a small bag of rice. Very soon, if you do the math in your head, you will figure out yourself – the amount filled a bowl and then a bag and then huge baskets and cartloads that had to be pulled by hundreds of animals. Halfway through the chess board, the king was on his knees begging for mercy for no kingdom on earth could have enough grains to satisfy the condition that he had agreed to. Now, if we were to chart the numbers, through each successive square, into a linear graphical representation, the line would resemble the letter J, starting out shallow near the origin and then shooting up the y axis in leaps and bounds. The story has it that the king learned his lessons and decided to forever share his wealth with his subjects in the most benevolent way. The reality in the world today, however, is not so simplistic.
The modern day world is experiencing this predicament like never before. In this mindlessly consuming society, we humans are using resources in just the same exponential way. More so in America. Population is growing, and each individual is asking for more than ever before, mountains are pulverized, rivers sucked dry, soils wrung out of juice. We walk into a store and the things on the aisle shelves seem to be talking to us, pleading us to put them in our carts, the television advertisements make our lives look so far from perfect, simply lacking in that one thing they are advertizing for. Our lives have often become a long list of taking, with hardly any giving back to nature. The story of discarding and trashing is equally horrible. As if the dense forest were constantly sucked underground only to become huge landfill pits.
The driving energy behind this is, of course, fossil fuel — gasoline is the queen of the show. From the moment we open our eyes and make that significant cup of coffee to wake wide up, to drive to work, to participate in that complex line of production and demolition, fossil fuel controls it all. It almost defines all our purchases, hobbies, volunteering, even the apparent inaction like meditation or plain old snoozing. Every glow of the light bulb or whiffs of cold air from an air-conditioner has a heap of coal burning not too far away from home. Electricity does not get manufactured in China. The wind currents stop at no state borders to seek travel rights. That hemp yoga mat I bought the other day may have come from China with the raw materials coming from India or Bangladesh. The earthy wall décor that I gave to my niece for her birthday claimed to be an Indonesian craft but deftly manufactured in China and packaged in Honduras. There is an aura of gasoline that keeps us going. The plain old full bellied siesta in the front porch of the house back in your grandfather’s time was nothing beyond expending some oxygen to keep you alive and happy during this whole experience. But now? It is an electrical and technological feat to be able to catch that same siesta. We are now indoors in the plush comforts of a huge mansion that we modestly call ‘home’. While Mr. A is sleeping in one room, the entire house, he has been trained to believe, needs cooling. Even if he has no time to visit certain parts of his own house in weeks, those corners need to be cooled too by the most efficient air-conditioners and fans, simply because he has been made to believe in it. All the fans, most likely, are turned on, to cool the house. Fancy lamps add glow to a room even during the day when the sun is offering it for free anyway. We sometimes fall asleep with our headphones stuck deep into the ear pits, not daring to be without music even in their most dreamless sleep. Into that cell phone, we program the alarm clock to go off at a certain time. The cyclic process of production and consumption goes through another cycle with all its banalities – picking out those extra clothes that we will hardly wear, to own the gadgets that we will hardly use and yet, not having them to call my own can be as embarrassing as it is frightening. The fact that resources are depleting faster than they replenish fails to frighten us. Not doing business-as-usual is an option we do not dare to consider. It’s like accelerating along a path that ends in a precipice. We keep ignoring the signs that warn of the dead-end ahead. It reads ‘Danger’, ‘Slow down’, ‘Turn around’. We are in our plush cars that accelerate like a cheetah. Totally ignoring the signs, we drive on like there is no tomorrow. The road does not wind back down to the bottom; it simply ends at the edge of the peak. There on, there is only a flat wall dipping into a fathomless pit. Sadly, this is no Indiana Jones movie with a happy ending and a ledge to hang on to.
A dam across the river does not accidentally crack up one fine day. It usually bears the ravages of neglect over a very long time. The hairline cracks are overlooked until it is too late. A time lapse video of several thousand years of this earth can tell us of all that it has borne. Yet, there is hope. Problems urge us to find the solutions. A cloudy scenario must not dampen the spirits, for the sun shines right beyond the layers of even the darkest clouds. But, it surely is time to take stock of things, to get to action, to seal that significant crack, to stop that J curve from shooting out of the graph paper. It will take every figment of the imagination to stop the well-oiled machinery of production. It is possible, but not easy. Are we ready to try?
Slowing down will need some screeching to hold the brakes down. Yes, some sparks will fly too. The corporations are mighty giants that control all that gets made for you and me. Not buying what we never needed is not the plan they have charted out for us. It is comparable to swimming against the current in the Niagara. Yet, people are building communities of mutual benefits, slashing down the production line. We may be on a Titanic of overproduction that comes face-to-face with the monstrous hidden iceberg. It is high time to get the swerving challenge into operation.
The Better India Magazine – An Unrelenting Protagonist
Shri Ganga Narayan Ghosh, at 87, is one of those rare Indians who still live their lives in complete righteousness. Leaving a glorious professional life as a mechanical engineer in the corporate sector and in a successful engineering business, Shri Ghosh had decided to dedicate his life to social work when he turned 49. “I simply wish to see a clean and healthy India.” Besides other social services, he dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the research and design of ideal bins that can meet the needs of India’s garbage. India’s garbage content is different from that in the western countries. Simply copying the western machinery will not solve the problem. He visited 192 cities in India and 80 cities of the six continents to explore all systems in use. Living in America by circumstances, for the last 16 years, Shri Ghosh continues to travel to India every year to create a network of committed people.
Any foreign tourist or immigrant child visiting India wonders about the filth that is strewn all around in the ground and in the water bodies. Shri Ghosh chose to work with garbage because it affects public health in a huge way. Besides looking dirty, strewn garbage can clog drains and cause flooding. Open heaps of rotting garbage secretes an oozing called leachate which gets washed away with rain and contaminates surface water and eventually groundwater. Garbage piles also releases methane in the air which happens to be a highly inflammable greenhouse gas.
Shri Ghosh’s patented designs are unique in three different ways. They are covered, which keeps birds and animals from grabbing its contents. Secondly, they are elevated. During monsoon, the bottom does not get submerged and corroded. The third, and perhaps the most unique, feature of them all is the sloping bottom. The slope creates an ‘angle of slide’ which helps in emptying the contents of the bin once the front hatch is opened. The contents automatically push out of the opening due to the pull of gravity. Specially designed handcarts, and regular open-top trucks for the very large bin, can be strategically placed in front of the opening to collect the discarded materials. This is a huge relief to the garbage handlers. They hardly have to touch garbage. It is impossible to empty out a flat bottomed bin with moist content. Even the top surface of these bins is sloping — rain water cannot accumulate and corrode. People cannot leave bags of trash on it. This helps cut manufacturing cost, too. Reducing the surface area means less metal and less paint. “The opening through which garbage is pushed inside by the users will allow the material to fall downward in a heap. Cubic bins can never fill up all the way to the top anyway,” says Mr. Ghosh.
These bins come in three sizes. One is tiny, perched on a pole with a swivel. Emptying its contents is very easy — place the handcart underneath and turn the bin on its swivel; and the entire content will slide out. Once released, the bin springs back to its original upright position. These can be used at bus stops, railway stations, parks and footpaths. The mid-size bin is ideal for small communities, housing complexes, markets and schools. The base stands are firmly set in the ground with clamps or cement to prevent theft. The handcart, too, is unique — the container is detachable from the wheel base. This makes it possible for garbage handlers to lift it to a truck and flip it empty. For the largest bin, a truck can stand directly under it. This bin is ideal for large markets with wide roads where a truck can approach.
Anyone who is interested in manufacturing these bins is most welcome to contact Mr. Ghosh at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be happy to share his designs without any financial interest. He believes that large scale production will lead to employment generation. He has written elaborate training booklet for welders. He is currently writing his book on India’s garbage issue as well. He has also started a Facebook page names Garbage Solutions to spread awareness.
Each of these three bins has been donated to various organizations. All three of them are in use at the Thakurpukur Cancer Research Center, Kolkata. The mid-size bins are being used by Ramakrishna Belur Math near Kolkata and the Ramakrishna Mission in Mumbai, besides many other institutes.
Shri Ganga Ghosh is also designing toilets for rural and semi urban areas. He is highly concerned about this hurried toilet construction all over India. “Simply installing toilets by the thousands is not going to be a long-term solution. Installing toilets without adequate septic tanks or a plan for the responsible disposal of their contents will lead to serious groundwater contamination.” That’s another environmental disaster by itself.
Now, Where are we Headed?
Assuming that we are off to a great start, and that we will also reach a perfect win-win point where you are happy with my work and that I am thrilled with your success, there are quite a few things we can do together.
If you are comfortable with my information packet, give me a call to discuss. The first call is free. I only quote after I have a clear idea about the project. There are no obligations to work together after I have quoted my price. We are free to either sign a contract, or go another route if any of us felt we were not a perfect fit.
On the other hand, our success goals could coincide to make a great copy. And that could open new doors. I look forward to establishing that long-term professional relationship with your company.
At your service,
(Balaka B. Ghosal)
The Green Writer