Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to draw a cow-II at Vellore,Tamil Nadu,India

It gives me great pleasure to begin the written documentation of this trip through the western coast of India from Vellore, Tamil Nadu.

For many days over the last 3 years I’d been sitting by the side of a road drinking chai at film school wondering when I’d finally know enough to set out and capture exactly these people, these stories of India and make them seen to the people who’ve forgotten how to see .That day is here. I have 52 tapes of adopted footage.The edit is on..

A group of young Americans and Indian students (Yale graduates,climate change analysts,university students),a solar powered band(the members of the band are nuclear physicists, film makers, lawyers,conservationists), a Czechoslovakian(film maker,conservationist) entered the school premises where the little children happened to be starting their day singing a nursery rhyme, ‘Frère Jacques’ (or ‘Are you sleeping,brother John’ in French). Little Tamilian children singing French somewhere in the middle of nowhere..

The founder,Ramu Manivannan talks about why he set up this school for the rural kids of interior Tamil Nadu, he talks about Gandhi..
(for those who disagree with Gandhi,...he inspires a lot of people,as I proceed with my writing,I'll show you how...he's turning out to be the role model for people who take things in their own hands and help themselves..more on this later.)…

Manivannan talks about how you can’t get anywhere if you don’t learn first
how to take care of yourself, your land, your soil,.
unless you know how to mend your own clothes,
unless you know how to plant that tree you study about,
unless you know how to put bricks together and build a wall..
they're called life skills..
You haven’t learn anything unless you couple all of this with learning language ,geography, science, math.

(that's Solar Punch up there,our band preparing to sing with the kids)
'it's about integrating mainstream curriculum with life skills like farming,weaving and natural building,about non violent conflict resolution,about the energy and teachings of different traditions being a part of the learning...',says Ramu.
They have built their own buildings in this school, they make their own food grown in their fields, they teach these,the children of farmers, organic farming,they have their own vegetable patches. The kids learn while the adults unlearn.

200 years ago, the villagers of the area cut down the tropical forests down to chase the tigers away. Today they’re growing it back inch by inch. The tigers must come back.

This is Matthew from England,who's been working here since last year with his friends.This year he got down more friends they're doing a natural building workshop with 10-12 students from all over the world so they'll get started building a kitchen for the kids with biogas in mind,he's getting into rain water harvesting,organic farming and growing a food forest(a forest that mimics natural forests but supplies food and material for living).

I’m attaching pics of them…the videos will follow when I have clearance.
watch this space.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I thought while i'm talking of far flung things I might as well share some far flung reading...take time out to read Ian Parker's article in the New Yorker here...
It's about the Bonobo. It's one of the 4 great apes along with the orangutan,chimpanzee and gorilla...only the least researched...can you believe the species were given their name only in 1954?! And the researchers couldn't work in the field till 1972 because of the war in Congo!

Here are some excerpts from Ian's visit to Congo...this guy can get really funny at times,I wish all my school readers were written like this..(!)..

"Live bonobos had already been seen outside Congo, but they, too, had been misidentified as chimps. At the turn of the century, the Antwerp zoo held at least one. Robert Yerkes, a founder of modern primatology, briefly owned a bonobo. In 1923, he bought two young apes, and called one Chim and the other Panzee. In “Almost Human,” published two years later, he noted that they looked and behaved quite differently. Panzee was timid, dumb, and foul-tempered. “Her resentment and anger were readily aroused and she was quick to give them expression with hands and teeth,” Yerkes wrote. Chim was a joy: equable and eager for new experiences. “Seldom daunted, he treated the mysteries of life as philosophically as any man.” Moreover, he was a “genius.” Yerkes’s description, coupled with later study of Chim’s remains, made it plain that he was Pan paniscus: bonobos had a good reputation even before they had a name. (Panzee was a chimpanzee; but, in defense of that species, her peevishness was probably connected to a tuberculosis infection.) Chim died in 1924, before his species was recognized.

For decades, “pygmy chimpanzee” remained the common term for these apes, even after “bonobo” was first proposed, in a 1954 paper by Eduard Tratz, an Austrian zoologist, and Heinz Heck, the director of the Munich zoo. (They suggested, incorrectly, that “bonobo” was an indigenous word; they may have been led astray by Bolobo, a town on the south bank of the Congo River. In the area where Hohmann works, the species is called edza.) In the thirties, that zoo had three members of Pan paniscus, and Heck and Tratz had studied them. By the time their paper, the first based on detailed observations of bonobo behavior, was published, the specimens were dead, allegedly killed by stress during Allied air raids. (The deaths have been cited as evidence of a bonobo’s innate sensitivity; the zoo’s brute chimpanzees survived.) As Frans de Waal has noted, Heck and Tratz’s pioneering insights—they wrote that bonobos were less violent than chimps, for example—did not become general scientific knowledge, and had to be rediscovered."

"......When a researcher has access to a species about which little is known, and whose every gesture seems to echo a human gesture, and whose eyes meet a human gaze, there is a temptation simply to stare, until you have seen enough to tell a story. That is how Hohmann judged the work of Dian Fossey, who made long-term observations of gorillas in Rwanda, and the work of Jane Goodall, at least at the start of her career. “They lived with the apes and for the apes,” he said. “It was ‘Let’s see what I’m going to get. I enjoy it anyway, so whatever I get is fine.’ ” And this is how Hohmann regarded the Japanese researchers, for all their perseverance. The Wamba site had produced a lot of data on social and sexual relations, and Kano published a book about bonobos, which concluded with the suggestion that bonobos illuminated the evolution of human love. But “what the Japanese produced was not really satisfying,” Hohmann said. “It was narrative and descriptive. They are not setting out with a question. They want to understand bonobos.” Moreover, the Japanese initially lured bonobos with food, as Goodall had lured chimpanzees. This was more than habituation. At Wamba, bonobos ate sugarcane at a field planted for them. The primatological term is “provisioning”; Hohmann calls it opening a restaurant. (As an example of the possibly distorting impact of provisioning, Hohmann noted that the Wamba females had far shorter intervals between births than those at Lomako.)..."....

...while we're here you might want to look up Frans Lanting's(Nat Geo ace photographer) coverage of the Evolution of Life through his photographs here..:), the picture above of the elusive Bonobo is also his...
I now have a new thing to add to my wish list :) : I must hang around bonobos in Congo for awhile.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to draw a cow

I've decided to start a process of sharing some of the insanely brilliant insights of the purest citizens of India,the people in the lands far flung,in the middle of nowhere, I came across as I work,something more useful I figured than just sharing my views on the degeneration of IQs in the cities.

I've been working with a bunch of people[the Indian Youth Climate Network(IYCN) to be precise] who went on the road from Chennai to Delhi through villages and small cities in 3 battery charged vehicles,one vegetable oil fuelled buggy and a solar panelled truck recording people's initiatives to battle climate change.
You would be surprised by the absolutely contagious spirit of the super positive people empowering themselves all over the country...from killing their usage of LPG completely,to fully solar electrified establishments,to devicing methods to make their water potable without waiting for any govt to move it's freaking ass!

To give you some context,after Indira Gandhi's great Green Revolution (which you must remember from your geography books)which piled our fields with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the 'green' revolution left the soil completely infertile(just that what we never read about it)...just like a drug abused body which needs rehab quite desperately.
Some people have started the healing process and it has been my pleasure to document the 50 odd hours of footage shot on the road!We don't hear about these people,have you realised? Just like we don't hear about the entire continent of Africa ever in the news till they play cricket there!

I actually woke up to the 72% of our population who have no faces,no voices in our media because of this road trip.

Now,for the people who're still wondering about who funds this kind of a tour in the first place,could I please announce that the air around you is changing because of global warming. Some people are waking up to it and doing something about it,while others who still think it's a cause meant for those activists on the streets are probably going to be in for a rude shock when this recession really kicks in. And well if you're part of the urban ghetto and can't get yourself out of bed and don't feel energised to do quite anything,here's a cause to puzzle over if you're quite done with figuring the meaning of life.

I intend to document the solutions found on this road trip gradually on this blog for those interested in reading more,but let's start with us,the urbane who are just not helping,starting with the Nano.
When I heard about the TATA Nano coming out in the numbers it was claiming to come out in,I felt completely helpless. Here, we were trying to push zero carbon or battery operated cars,and while our budding automobile designers in an Eames' NID were still busy building fuel guzzling hot rods for their chance to go abroad on an exchange program,Ratan Tata was releasing a bunch of cockroaches called Nanos on the streets to increase the average individual's carbon footprint.
so now we'll have more cars on our superb roads
more people letting go of riding buses or trains because they now have cars
more cars bought per household
more petrol being used
more petrol needing to be shipped in
..this list just won't end.

anyway, a couple of days after this thought,I heard about someone already putting a plan into place with a super vision,
this is Shai Agassi,talking on TED....have a look

and this is where you can see instantly how this guy has made govts go for change!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

aliens in my pudding

national anathema

yesterday i went to a see the fast and the furious.
the national anthem was played.
i was on a phone call outside.
i came in to find 6 indians on top of my friend from the abroad.
he speaks very little english.
so he spoke.
and they screamed.
they were screaming because he sat down 5 seconds before the anthem finished.
they yelled, " We have let you into this country!"
what lovely nationalism.
their almost 60 year old father yelled with them.screamed of people disrespecting his age.
in the intermission a young lawyer from the group came forward and with a sickly sweet smile asked only for an apology.
apologise to whom, for what country?

i stand for national anthems.I wait for a film's credits to roll completely.i don't correct american spelling.
god made ten commandments.
we still kill.
we still steal.
we still sleep with our neighbor's wives.

which law?
which canon?
which country?
which colour of skin is everyone yelling about?

the guy with me by the end was so sure they would never get the point,he was ready to maybe apologise for the arising of such a situation.
he told me to stand behind him because he thought these indians would jump me next for defending him.those indians.

must we apologise for created situations now?to ensure peace?
will we still nurture extremists amongst us?
the mob loves to rant.i stand. i know my brother stands.
but that's all i'm sure of anymore.
i know we both stand.
well,that's a number,I guess.