Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things in Harmony

This morning started beautifully. I woke up hearing the call of birds which was following in matching rhythm by alarm a minute later.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Understanding the Universe

Guruji said a beautiful thing yesterday:

To understand the universe, you can study all the shastras or you can understand one thing - taal.

That's the journey I am on. To understand taal or rhythm.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Going Green in India Pt 2

Getting produce is also less fuel consumptive because produce sellers visit all residential areas on a daily basis, so if your local vegetable or fruit person tends to carry good quality produce, then there is no need to drive to get them. Supermarkets only arrived in India after I arrived, so I have also been seeing this dynamic change. Supermarkets means lower prices and more variety, and day long availability, so the practice of getting produce from the shak bhaji wali is diminishing. At the same time, these supermarkets have opened up on every other corner, so they are a minimal distance away to travel to.

I don't have a vehicle, so my primary mode of transportation is walking and rickshaws (buses are not available on my daily travel paths). Rickshaws in Ahmedabad are run on natural gas, so they are more friendly than petrol vehicles. When we were choosing where I would live, my primary concern was geographic location, so even rickshaw usage is minimal.

Water consumption
The dishwasher and laundry machine are two very large consumers of water. Dishwashers have yet to create a strong presence in the residential sector and laundry machines have only been making headway in the last 2 - 3 years. So thats another plus. While people use laundry machine, clothes dryers are still not heard of. Machine washed or hand washed, clothing is dried on a clothing line.

Also because I get a tiffin for my meals, I don't actually create a lot of dirty dishes. The wonderful woman who makes my food does not need to use extra pots/pans to make food for one more person, so my water consumption with respect to dishwashing is also lower than before.

When I was living at the ashram, 1 bucket baths were the norm. Now its a mix of showers and bucket baths, but most definitely the limited capacity of my geyser serves as a friendly reminder to end a shower sooner rather than later, particularly in the winter.

One area where there is more water consumption is mopping. Mopping has to be done much more regularly in India due to the high level of dust.

In India, perhaps due to the high voltage, all electric sockets have switches to turn them on and off. So as long as you remember to turn off the switch when not in use, you don't have to worry about stand by electric consumption that occurs in phone chargers, etc.

Clothing Recycling/ Reuse

Clothing should be reused, especially if it is gently used. It takes even less effort to have clothing reused in India. You can easily find people to give gently used clothing to. Usually families tend to give them to their hired help (people who clean, cook, drivers, etc). Also because getting clothing stitched is so common, clothing can be easily altered. My mom found a great tailor/ designer who created "new" saris that follow today's trends from saris she has had for over 10 - 20 years. He uses dyes, embellishments, borders, etc to create beautiful new pieces. There is no need to buy new saris from stores as these old ones are reincarnated so well. I have found myself really enjoying the idea of reusing material to make new things.
Worn out t-shirts, etc can always be torn up and used as mops and cloths to clean windows and dry dishes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Being Green in India - Part 1

For a while now, I have been trying to be more and more "green" in my day-to-day living. The topic keeps appearing with increasing regularity, so it is something that comes to mind often. I think it takes less effort to be green in India, particularly with regards to two major waste streams - trash and food.

Waste Disposal/ Recycling
For example, if you look at waste disposal, yes there are no official recycling systems, BUT there is a very large recycling system in place in the form of rag-pickers. (Note: I, by NO means, am supportive of the lifestyle and work of these women, but definitely have a lot of respect for them as I have met many rag-pickers and they are inspiring women.) For those uninitiated, in India, thousands of people, mainly women and children from what I seen, earn their daily income by sifting through landfills of trash, finding things (recyclables) that can be sold to a local middlemen. (Note: they are very underpaid and often exploited, but good news is that there are a lot of people and organizations working with ragpicking communities to improve their lives). Things such as high quality plastic, needles, metal, etc are collected by these women and then make their way through a series of middlemen before landing up somewhere where it is recycled. So trash that is thrown out is recycled at some level.

Even before the stage where trash get thrown out, there are people who regularly visit residential areas collecting old newspapers/cardboard, metal, etc and they will buy these off of you, so recycling comes to your door!

BUT that does not give free license to produce waste. The plastic bags on the streets of India are a huge problem. They clog drainage systems and can cause cancer in the cows who eat them. Unfortunately, many people put of food for dogs and cows to each in plastic bags.

Food Waste
In the West, for food waste, techniques such as composting are suggested. In India, there many options before that stage. If I buy excess fruit, before it goes bad, I can give it the many on the streets who don't get regular meals. In my society, we also have a animal feeder outside the gate, where people put out food for the animals to eat. I keep my vegetable and fruit peel, etc in a container that I empty in the animal feeder, so even that things that humans won't eat are consumed. One important thing to keep in mind though is again not placing the food in a plastic bag.

Eating Locally

Another way to be green is to eat locally and seasonally. Before I came to India, I had very limited knowledge about the seasons of produce because you could get everything all year round, but in India, that is not necessarily the case (though I have noticed this changing over the last three years). The lack of availability of non-seasonal items means that you eat whats in season. Living in a state with lots of agriculture also means that most of the produce is local. In addition, there is not a very high degree of produce import from what I have seen. I think this is because the normal diet is still very much Indian (vs eclectic mix abroad) which is based on locally available produce.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Excited =)

After many requests it is finally happening. Guruji is going to have weekly philosophy/ spirituality lectures for small groups of people. I take philosophy classes with him, so this will be an add-on to that. He gives lectures on different topics such as death, tantra, basics of buddhism, different philosophical schools of thought, etc in many countries around world, but not many know of this side of him in Ahmedabad. Its great opportunity for those interested in topics like this and wonderful way to bring that energy together and of course learn lots of new stuff.