Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Picnics and Plastics

Picnics are fun times. A time to forget all the troubles of the world and enjoy whatever it is that you are doing. A time to stop thinking. Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound right does it. A time to stop thinking!

We never do that. Everybody thinks. Let me rephrase. A time to stop analyzing. Yup! Fits the bill. Why would anybody analyze anything during a picnic? It destroys the very essence of a picnic, right? Wrong.

I can delve into the psychological aspect the whole “Work-play” idiom but for all practical purposes and to address an audience which by now may be losing interest in this post I’ll say it simply – We have lost it!!

We compete in games at picnics which involve rampant use of “plastic straws and plastic cups” and come back to work “refreshed”... I’m morose.

We have actually not put to good use let alone reuse the plastic. There are plenty of games which can be played without using plastic – Didn’t see too many of those.

Now I come to the crux of it all. How do you convince a bunch of “adults” who have come to “get away from it all” to avoid playing that particular game completely?

The more I think of it the more trickier the answers become. Top of the animal kingdom we may be but I think we have not taken it as seriously as we should.
- Karthik

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Honkzilla - It's in our culture!

With the Mumbai traffic police taking up the ante of the “No honking Drive” in Mumbai we may see people changing the way they use the “electronic-bhompu”. Time will tell the efficacy of the drive. Here is my take-
Let’s face it- In India we love to give a personal touch to everything, be it a little tabasco sauce in the spicy monchow soup or discussing politicians rather than politics. In India like Guru bhai said “Even business is personal”

So why should we stop honking? After all it is our way of saying “Get out of the way you tortoise” or “Please give way”. The loudness and the pattern of the honk is indicative of the temperament of the driver who is honking. So honking isn’t just about telling the person to give way but it is an expression all too personal to do away with.

Advising people is one thing but changing a culture is an entirely different ball game.

Let us take a typical roadside example. Tulsi is walking on the road rather than the pavement. She just had paani puri at the pani puri wala who works on the pavement. Ram who is in a hurry to reach his appointment with Dr. Suri is driving his Santro at a break neck average speed of 20kmph. From a distance he sees Tulsi walking on the road instead of the pavement/marketplace. The only way for him to pass a 14 wheeler travelling at 5kmph is to overtake the monster from the left, the only obstacle being Tulsi. Tulsi loves her walks as much as she loves her paani puris and she cares two hoots about the various businesses taking up her walking space. She is comfortable walking on the road as well. Ram by this time decides that overtaking is the right option. After all Dr. Suri is the best somethingologist in town and missing his appointment could be tantamount to no more appointments for a month.

The overtaking procedure begins with the well educated Ram doing the polite soft honk which says “Please stand aside. I know it’s tough, what with the stupid sandwich wala occupying the pavement. But please try”. Tulsi is still talking on the phone.

Ram decides to go for the double honk procedure – One short, one long. In other words he is trying to say “Look lady, I know your calls are important but not at the cost of totally ignoring my desperate pleas for some room”

This time Tulsi takes notice and blurts out a “Dikhta nahi hai kya. Jagah nahi hai” and continues talking on the mobile. At this point Ram loses it. He is late. He sees a stone over a tiny nala on which he presumes Tulsi could stand and give him way. Now he tries the loud long honk procedure which pretty much means “Get out of the way or else..”. Tulsi at this point cannot even talk on the phone because Ram is getting all too personal. She spots the rock and jumps on it. The car rolls past. Tulsi continues talking and walking- An easy victim for Rams galore.

Blame honking on the chana wala, blame it on the average speed on Mumbai roads, blame it on trucks in suburbs at peak hours, blame it on random parking, blame it on bad roads, blame it on signals even but don’t blame it on people. Because it is, after all “in our culture”.
- Karthik

The "Serial" Initiative

We plan to spread the message of “Reduce Reuse” plastics with the aid of a popular serial in the coming months. The idea is simple-
Use a medium which reaches out to a big audience – A television serial.
Use comedy – Ads the element of humor to the underlying serious message.

The Reason for the “serial” initiative –
Over time we have formed a perception that what doesn’t affect us today will never affect us anyway. This perception, call it shortsightedness or call it ignorance, we believe can be done away with only if people are made aware of what is going to hit them in the future.
A plastic cup - a supposed hygienic way to drink our water/ tea takes 80 years to degrade. If it’s not affecting you now think about the plastic cups thrown by mankind each day- The number which easily goes into millions is startling.

If you think it’s all being collected and recycled, think again. Recycled plastic costs 4 times as much as a virgin plastic. Do you truly believe “businesses” will go the recycling way until a “cheaper” alternative is here?

Through this serial we hope to educate people about how we can use alternatives. We also hope to educate people about the benefits of reusing plastic bags.

Sure enough every comedy serial deserves its fair amount of word of mouth publicity. This will further aid in spreading the “Reduce reuse” message.
We shall keep you posted about the progress we make here. Until then..

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mumbai most crowded city - Hindustan Times

This appeared on the front page on Friday 13, 2009.
Mumbai is the most crowded city in the world!!
Click on the image to go to the Hindustan Times. Chose the Mumbai edition dated 13/03/09

See the image here

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beach Bummed

Bus load of enthusiasm: From Aksa cleanup

Forty 8th grade students, one teacher and ten other volunteers (family, friends and colleagues) made their way to Aksa beach located in Malad, Mumbai on 8th February 2009. Our mission, like that of several others before us, was to ‘Clean Up’ the beach. This was the first initiative of Mumbai Rewind — a concept whose viability relies on the philosophy ‘Be Aware, Be the change, Cause a change’.

We intend to take Mumbai back to its glory days. When the traffic was managed, the pollution level wasn’t too high and the population was largely aware of their surroundings.

Pep talk: Video on Aksa cleanup

The purpose of the Aksa Clean up drive was not only to make the beach a little cleaner but also to make people aware of how we are damaging our environment each day. Ten students were asked to study a “fact sheet” which contained information like “one plastic cup takes 80 years to decompose” and solutions like “use earthen cups instead”. After the students were reasonably confident about the facts and the solutions, they walked up to strangers on the beach and imparted their new found knowledge to them.

The Great Aksa trash pile (collected by us - around 150 kgs of it): From Aksa cleanup

We collected approximately 150 kg of garbage from the beach in a span of 1 hour. The beach which stretches for around 2 km still didn’t look clean. Knowing the extent of filth on the beach we estimate that 500 people working tirelessly for 4 hours could probably make the beach a lot cleaner. Presently there are only two BMC sweepers who work for a few hours a week at the beach.

The trash at the beach comprised chips bags, chewing tobacco packets, toothpaste tubes, slippers, duffle bags, chuna tubes, cigarette packets, plastic bags of various shapes and sizes, newspapers, cardboard boxes, tooth brushes etcetera. We were shocked to find plastic bags embedded so deeply in the sand that we had to dig them out.

MUMBAI REWIND: The kids wanna say... From Aksa cleanup

The following week the students were taken through a feedback session where we discussed about what they felt about the drive and in what other ways we could help to save our environment.

We are determined to avoid the ubiquitous, ever so easy to use plastic bag and convince others likewise. If you share a similar passion and wish to be part of the change, do email us at

- Karthik, edited by Averil

Presentation at St. Anne's High School

Deplasticize your life: From Aksa cleanup presentation at St. Anne's High school, Malad

We’ve always loved going to Aksa beach. Aksa is a 2 km stretch of sand situated in the northern suburb called Malad. Malad has access to a lot of beaches; Marve, Manori, Aksa, Erangal, Madh to name a few. Marve was the commercial beach that everybody visited until the late ’90, by when the pollution and fishing trawlers killed off the beach. What’s left of Marve is a little section of land that is used by people to get into ferries that take them to Manori / Gorai.
This then diverted attention of the masses to Aksa, which was largely untouched, thanks to its reputation as a killer beach. Along with the inflow of ‘tourists’, came the filth.

The beach that we loved started to look like a dumping ground. We decided to do something about it.

We had seen and read about school children involved in cleanliness drives, and so we decided to go back to our alma mater, St. Anne’s High School, Malad to see if we can convince the principal and the students to aid us in our quest.

We went to school to meet the principal Mrs. Annie Braganza, who was more than happy to see us give back to society. She directed us to Mrs. Seema Ramdas who is in charge of the Nature Club at St. Anne’s High School. We met and discussed our plan of cleaning up Aksa beach.

Karthik has the audience enthralled: From Aksa cleanup presentation at St. Anne's High school, Malad

We needed to motivate and educate the students. A presentation was planned and delivered. Armed with a few charts and a slideshow we presented to an audience of about 100 enthusiastic 8th graders.

The presenters: Shobhit, Nishant, Karthik and Primus (below): From Aksa cleanup presentation at St. Anne's High school, Malad

The half hour session hit the spot. We got a resounding yes when we asked if they were interested in cleaning up the beach.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: From Aksa cleanup presentation at St. Anne's High school, Malad

From Aksa cleanup presentation at St. Anne's High school, Malad

The big picture: Aksa cleanup presentation at St. Anne's High school, Malad

- Primus, edited by Karthik