Category Archives: Lifestyle

Yet Another New Year

Finally, people bade farewell to 2018 and celebrated the advent of yet another New Year. Many people celebrated the New Year eve with a lot of gourmet food, plenty of booze and raving mad entertainment. Many of us even made some New Year resolutions to either make a new beginning or to get some things right.

New Year signifies the passing of time. A very precious 365 days are gone by which will never return into our lives. In other words, we got 365 days closer to our deaths. Death is such an insidious thing that it keeps nearing us even while we celebrate the advent of a New Year thinking that it will bring us luck and enable us to break old habits and cultivate new habits.

Henry Jackson van Dyke, an American author, educator and clergyman, in one of his best-known poems titled “Time Is” wonderfully depicted the nature of time.

Time is

Too slow for those who Wait,

Too swift for those who Fear,

Too long for those who Grieve,

Too short for those who Rejoice,

But for those who Love,

Time is Eternity.

Every single word of this poem is so true that we instantaneously start identifying ourselves with them. This poem made me think about the kind of life which I led till now. Upon introspection, I concluded that I waited, feared and grieved a lot to feel the negative impact of time. However, I rarely rejoiced to know the shortness of time. As far as love is concerned, though I loved some things and some people, my hatred for many things and many people did not allow me to derive the full benefits of the positive emotion. Maybe in the New Year, I will be able to rejoice more and ‘love all and hate none’ to improve my emotional health.

Sentinelese Can Teach Us A Lot

The Sentinelese, who rarely make news owing to their ultra-primitive and fiercely reclusive nature, made headlines after they killed a missionary. The missionary, as per the reports, was planning to establish contact with the tribe and learn their language with an intention to proselytize them.

After reading the news, many of us might have felt, “how insane… by refusing to mingle with the outside world they lost an opportunity to work in plush offices, enjoy pizzas and burgers, wear branded garments, live in bungalows, drive around in cars and indulge in selfies and social media clicks”. True, they missed out on all these things. But to this primitive tribe, these things have barely any value. In fact, some expeditions were even made to establish contact with them by luring them with material things, but they did not accept any of them.

For them a life lived in harmony with nature is paramount. The aerial view of their island, which looks pristine with lush greenery, is a testimony to the fact that they are the true children of mother nature. They are at least able to breath fresh air, eat natural food and lead a stress-free life that spares them from frequenting hospitals they don’t have. The way they are confronting the outsiders makes it abundantly clear that they are healthy and agile.

And the missionary who lost his life was trying to take religion to a place, where there is absolutely no need of it. The entire episode makes me recollect the book I read “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes”, written by Daniel Everette, a missionary linguist who undertook an expedition to the Amazonian rainforest to convert a primitive tribe called, Piraha. He went there to learn their language and translate scriptural literature into it to convert the tribe. One day, Daniel, to persuade the tribesmen to convert, shared an emotion-laden personal story with them. He told them that his step mother’s suicide made him move towards God. Then, the tribesmen, instead of expressing sympathy with him, said, “She killed herself?  Ha ha ha. How stupid. Pirahas don’t kill themselves.” That made Daniel realize the futility of his mission and slowly turn into an atheist.

These tribes, who are primitive, don’t worry about death and afterlife. As they don’t even worry about their souls, they don’t seek them to be saved. Normally primitive tribes are more rational than the so-called civilized people. They usually believe in those things which they can perceive with their sense organs and don’t waste their time in speculative theology. As the tribal societies are mostly egalitarian, they neither produce powerful ruling classes nor do they follow organized religions with powerful clergy, who aspire to control the society through deception to serve their narrow self-interests.

We, the so-called civilized people, until some decades ago, identified each other as belonging to a certain religion, caste, race or nationality. Now, in this 21st century, with the advent of disruptive technologies and globalization, our identities have been further reduced to that of a consumer, a laborer, a devotee, a patient or a voter. As a consumer, you need to go on a spending spree on various occasions such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Big Billion Days sale etc. to keep the consumer demand up to promote growth even at the expense of getting trapped in debt. As laborers, we need to labor under the constant and continuous threat of cost-cutting, automation and offshoring. As devotees, we are supposed to stay pious and remain loyal followers of religions selling our souls to the clergy. As patients, we need to wait outside a physician’s chamber to find an elusive cure for the lifestyle diseases we get after using gadgets that promote sedentary life and consuming gourmet junk food that makes us obese. And, as voters, we need to stand in serpentine queues with an infinite patience and unceasing optimism that one day our politicos will dissociate themselves from their ultra-rich cronies and think about the poor and the ordinary.

The primitive tribal people need not worry about all these things as their identity always stays constant and they always remain humans. They don’t need to enter into a class struggle to oppose exploiters, they need not endure consumerism-induced relative deprivation, they don’t have to torment themselves with the feeling that their religion is in danger, and they need not have to live under the shadow of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Their lives, though under constant threat from various natural forces, are mostly blissful.

Therefore, the rest of humanity must let them live the way they are living. As they continue to exist, they will keep reminding us of the things we lost by enslaving ourselves to the very things we created such as money, religion and technology.

This does not mean the humanity should set aside all its achievements and get back to its primitiveness. Things, however, can’t continue moving at the same hectic pace as they are now, due to its non-sustainability. No amount of denial can conceal the truth that the threat of climate change is looming large and the prevalence of lifestyle diseases has reached epidemic proportions. So, humanity, one day, must give up its greed and adapt itself to sustainable living practices. These reclusive tribal people, with their frugal and eco-friendly lives, will keep inspiring us to realize these hard truths.

This article first appeared in the author’s personal blog: www.ramachandrareddy.in

Human life – colossally strong or utterly fragile?

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

This Shakespearean quote aptly summarizes the human life in its umpteen manifestations. It appears that no one else had a better understanding of human life and its essential fragility than Shakespeare.

The human existence on this planet earth is a great saga, a saga of unending exploration and pursuit of truth. In this exploration, many a time they emerged triumphantly and found or invented many things that made their lives progressively comfortable. However, on numerous occasions, they faced failure and found that there are many things that are beyond their comprehension. And those things that remained an enigma to the humans are attributed to supernatural power, that is God. And this God delusion led them to religion. Maybe that is why Karl Marx, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, very aptly contended that “religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand”.

Humans, owing to their superior cognition, gained upper hand overall their fellow creatures, subjugated them and have been exploiting them. They created everything. They created money, gods, religion, technology and many more.  Ironically, instead of keeping their creations as their loyal followers, they gradually enslaved themselves to the very things they had created. For most of the people, money is everything and they are ready to stoop to any low to get more of it. For many others, religion and Gods are everything and they don’t have even an iota of hesitation to kill their fellow humans on the pretext of defending their religion. And now, the humans, in their pursuit of science and technology, have developed the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). They are even creating too-many so-called useful things which are actually making humans useless.

They are developing machines that can perform each and every conceivable human activity, in the name of making human lives more comfortable. The capitalist society, in its unending pursuit of wealth, is producing too many things which are making humans progressively impotent and malady afflicted. The emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and deep machine learning are poised to create cognitive machines, which will possess human-like qualities. Their entry into workplaces will effectively make humans obsolete thus making the enslavement of humans to technology complete.

Some time ago, I was reading about René Favaloro, the Argentinean cardiac surgeon, who pioneered the bypass surgery. Interestingly, this surgeon, who saved numerous cardiac patients, committed suicide by shooting himself in his heart. Favaloro was the strongest man when he breathed new life into his patients by performing surgeries on them but proved to be the weakest man when he committed suicide by putting a bullet in his heart. His life and death signify the colossal strength as well as the utter fragility of human life.

However, most of the people, for inexplicable reasons, fail to understand this fragile and ephemeral nature of human existence and continue their materialistic pursuits till they breathe their last. This happens mostly with the well-educated urban dwellers. However, curiously, many uneducated rustic people in India come up with some deep philosophical musings, such as “however much wealth you accumulate you won’t be able to take it along with you on your final journey”.

Privacy is a mere mirage in this ultra-connected world.

There are many critics who opine that the biometric enabled Aadhaar empowers the government to conduct mass surveillance on its citizens, and therefore, has the potential to breach the privacy of even the law-abiding people.  Whether Aadhaar is a breach of privacy or not will depend on how the government will choose to utilize the data. However, the entire debate on Aadhaar and its likely misuse induces us to think whether we really have any kind of privacy left in this digital age? The answer seems to be a big no.

In this age of connected world, where the ever-increasing number of people are getting hooked up to the internet and where the cutting edge technologies such as IoT and big data are ready to take the world by storm, the privacy of an individual can be ensured only as long as he does not embark on the digital bandwagon and leads a highly reclusive life. But the modern digital technologies are such enticing things that people can’t resist the temptation to use internet and acquire modern gadgets such as smart phones and wearable devices. The moment people start using these connected devices, they start accumulating a digital footprint and thereby acquire a digital persona. They open their Google accounts and social media accounts such as Facebook and twitter and start putting a lot of data willingly in the public domain. That is when exactly the tracking starts. Search engines such as Google and Bing know a lot about their users though they don’t brag about it just to avoid a furor from privacy advocates.

They have the browsing history of their users stored on their servers and from that information they can easily get to know about their tastes, preferences and habits and even the products they purchase and the services they use. Google knows which product you are searching for, which ad you clicked and thereafter on which online store you placed an order. They even get to know which brick-and-mortar store you visited to buy a product if the location history in your smart phone is enabled. Though there are many privacy settings that you can make on your browser, they are not as private as you think.

Now the question arises as to why the search engines track our browsing history and why the email service providers scan our mail. It all happens in the name of improving our user experience by personalizing our search results. But in reality they use all the data and the insights they derive from it to strengthen their ad networks, which are a golden goose for them.  Well, as the saying goes, ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’. The supposedly free search engines and the email services are not actually free and we are paying for them by letting a lot of our personal data fall into their hands. Netizens all over the world are concerned about the shrinking of their personal space and are tilting towards the technologies and services that don’t indulge in data surveillance. Perhaps that is why search engines like DuckDuckGo and browsers like Tor, which enable people to stay anonymous in the digital space, are increasingly getting popular.

Social networking sites know the ideas you hold and the ideologies you subscribe to. People who pursue their ideologies with passion often wear their heart on their sleeves and rant a lot on the social media. They remain under the impression that they are just exercising their freedom of expression, and therefore, are oblivious to the fact that they might be getting snooped on. The seemingly harmless activism of someone could be perceived by the law enforcement agencies as an early sign of a potentially dangerous act of sabotage.  Governments all over the world use mass surveillance technologies to snoop on their citizens on the pretext of maintaining law and order and protecting the unity and sovereignty of their countries. The Edward Snowden affair already brought out how the US intelligence agencies carried out extensive internet and phone surveillance on their citizens and on its allies. Even the Indian government, according to reports, has set up a mechanism called Centralized Monitoring System (CMS) to monitor communications on mobile phones, landlines and the internet with the stated intention of strengthening the security environment in the country.

Well, what could be the methods to work anonymously if you are an activist and want to exercise your democratic right to dissent without attracting the attention of law enforcement agencies? Experts advice securing your computers through various methods. The only way to keep yourself absolutely secure in this information age is to work on a standalone or air gapped computer and use flash drives to transfer files from one system to another. But hackers and security agencies found sophisticated methods, especially malwares, to jump the air gap and infect the so-called secure computers.

If you feel that you can escape being tracked by suitably managing your digital footprint, you must know that this is only the beginning. The emerging world of IoT will make it much more challenging or almost impossible to protect one’s privacy. Once IoT is fully deployed each and every conceivable object and appliance humans use will transform themselves into WiFi capable and sensor enabled smart objects. These smart objects have the capability to communicate with each other and even with their users, and in the process generate vast amounts of data about their users such as what they eat, how long do they rest, their interactions, their movements, their health status and what not. The enormity of data they generate and the magnitude of efforts that are needed to capture and analyze the data raise many doubts as to whether it is humanly possible to execute the tasks without giving scope for any data breaches. IoT technologists take pains to assure us that they are putting foolproof measures to ensure data safety and privacy protection. Irrespective of the kind of measures they put in place we will find it progressively more difficult to lead a life of anonymity and we become increasingly vulnerable to privacy breaches and all kinds of attacks. Well, what is the way out?

People who go online have to understand the fact that this connected and information-rich century comes with certain risks. It appears that we can no longer aspire a risk-free environment where we can lead a life of complete anonymity. We need to be careful about what personal information we put on the public domain and who can see it. As far as the confidential information such as financial details, credit card numbers, business correspondence and health records are concerned, there should be ample safeguards to preempt the potential intruders when we hook into the networks.

People should also realize the fact that this conflict infested world is turning increasingly precarious and they should get ready to sacrifice some of their privacy to lead secure lives. However, at the same time, there is no guarantee that the government will use data surveillance only to maintain law and order and to safeguard the unity and sovereignty of the country. Governments try to persuade people by saying that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. However, the people should be mindful of the fact that the data surveillance could also be employed to exercise control over the behavior of individuals and societies and even to resort to pernicious social engineering, which could prove to be inimical to the future of democracy. It is this eventuality the people and the civil society should be conscious about and stay ever ready to thwart any attempt in that direction. The need of the hour is to tread cautiously without cultivating the feelings of paranoia to equip ourselves to face the impending ultra-connected world.

This article found place in the local English language newspaper, Telangana Today in Blogs section. The link is given here-under.

https://telanganatoday.news/is-privacy-a-mirage-in-this-connected-world

Human cognition and non-vegetarian food.

On a Sunday afternoon, my wife was preparing a non-vegetarian dish and the spicy aroma had filled the air. My son, who was glued to his computer screen, got distracted for a while and asked me “dad, how come we humans are able to gain upper hand over other animals, capture and disembowel them, and eat their flesh?”.

I thought for a while and asked him to figure out the differences between humans and other animals. He said, after pondering over for a while, that humans can walk upright on two legs and other animals can’t. Okay, but what is the most important quality that distinguishes humans from other animals? This time he appeared clueless.

I told him, albeit with my limited knowledge, that humans have superior cognitive capabilities, and animals, whose cognition is certainly inferior, are no match for humans. My son, who is ever curious, asked “but dad, how did humans develop superior cognitive abilities? I once again thought for a while and said “among all animals, only humans can exhibit complex levels of manual dexterity. They can move their hands in different directions. And their opposable thumbs, which can move quite opposite to the other fingers, gives them the capability to grip a variety of objects and have a close look at them. This ability to have a close look at various objects and analyze them had resulted in the evolution of their brains. This evolution conferred on them a talent for creativity and innovation. And that is how humans managed to outsmart other animals and birds.

After listening to me, my son came up with another question. What if the birds and animals also acquire as much cognitive capabilities as humans have. Then we can’t certainly have non-veg food. They also invent various weapons and go with all guns blazing at we humans, when we try to capture them with an intention to slaughter.

Texting sends penmanship packing.

Gone are the days when the people would use pens to put their thoughts to paper. They would write long essays and poetry to give vent to their creative thoughts. Pens and books were valued and considered to be precious belongings. Friends and near and dear ones would exchange long letters containing a range of heartfelt emotions. Poetry and literature played a very important role in the lives of educated people. In an essence, those days were the days of penmanship.  But all that changed with the advent of computers, internet and smartphones through which people started texting.

People are no longer putting their pens to paper. Instead, they started texting and their texting doesn’t comply either with standard spelling or usage. Now we are passing through the era of not only paperless and penless offices but also paperless penless homes. The arrival of the digital revolution has turned many people into internet addicts.

This does not mean people are not reading. They are certainly reading but they no longer have the patience to read long texts. Their reading had become shallow and incomplete. Because search engines provide them with too many sources of information and they don’t have enough time to explore all of them. These are the days of snippets and soundbites. When we watch television, all we get is a bunch of soundbites. And while we browse the internet we get to see snippets. This ultra-brevity doesn’t allow us to get a clear and precise picture of the actual happenings. So the news we get through various websites and television channels is not only ambiguous but untrustworthy.

During my school days, our teachers taught us to write an introduction first and conclusion last while writing an essay. However, these days, web content writers are using inverted pyramid method, following which they are incorporating their most important points in the first hundred words. Because the netizens don’t have the patience to read beyond that. Sometimes I feel that had Hamlet been around he would have texted “2 B r nt 2 B, tht is d ?”.

This article got published in THE HINDU Open Page.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/How-texting-sends-penmanship-packing/article14496007.ece

Buying Kinley? Now get ready to buy ‘Vitality Air’.

Well, there is a jocular saying, which I bumped into some time ago while browsing the internet. It is, “all my life I thought that air was free until I bought a bag of chips”. The sentence makes sense. Doesn’t it? As you are all aware that when we buy a pouch of potato chips, you find that it is half empty and the void is filled with air to prevent the breakage of the crispy, fragile chips. We are already buying ‘Kinley’ bottled water and now, we the city dwellers, should all get ready to buy ‘Vitality Air’ bottled air.

Clean drinking water and fresh oxygen-rich air are no longer free

During my childhood, I always felt that water and air are free forever. I even very well remember my social studies teacher teaching us that water and air do not have any prize as they are abundantly available in nature. Being a man with a rustic background, I first saw some wealthy-looking people drinking from branded mineral water bottles in the 90s, that too when I reached Hyderabad in search of a job. At that time, I was under the impression that people who drink mineral water are wealthy and suave, and the people who fetch water from bore wells and municipal taps are either poor or middle class.

The population explosion has put a lot of pressure on the societal resources. The greed of realtors made many lakes and tanks vanish. The indiscriminate drilling of bore wells has resulted in the depletion of the underground water resources. The rapid industrialization and the resultant pollution made most of the water bodies go useless. Rampant deforestation and the overexploitation of the natural resources have resulted in the global warming, which triggered a menacing heat wave in many parts of the world. The people in many parts of India are experiencing severe drought and the crop failures are looming large.

Buying Kinley? Now get ready to buy 'Vitality Air'. #pollution Click To Tweet

All this has contributed to the phenomenon where the hitherto free natural resources like water acquired the status of a commodity, and even the poorest of the poor are forced to spend from their meager earnings to buy water. This is a very precarious situation. However, the worst is yet to come.

Now the ‘Vitality Air’ is a commodity 

In cities like Delhi and Beijing, the pollution has reached the intolerable levels and the people are suffering from pollution-related ailments. The city dwellers are living precariously and they are yearning for fresh air. Sensing the opportunity, a Canadian company called Vitality Air started selling bottles of fresh, oxygen-rich, clean air in cities like Beijing and Delhi. Vitality Air captures fresh air from some localities in Canada, where nature is preserved in its pristine form.

The mother nature is preserved in its pristine form at Banff National Park in Canada . Some of Vitality Air’s bottled air is sourced from here.

The mother nature is preserved in its pristine form at Banff National Park in Canada . Some of Vitality Air’s bottled air is sourced from here. Image credit: Roy Tennant (taken from http://freelargephotos.com/)

The nice looking aluminum canisters, into which the air is filled, resemble the bottles of perfume spray that are seen on our supermarket shelves. In China where the people are gasping for breath in the smog-infested cities, are buying them with a lot of enthusiasm. The clean air bottles are priced anywhere between $14 and $20 dollars depending on their sizes. The company started selling the bottled air even in India. According to the Hindustan Times, these canisters are made available in 3-litre and 8-litre cans, which cost anywhere between Rs. 1,450 and Rs. 2,800.

The situation is truly ominous. These developments are pointing to an impending disaster, and if the world community blindly moves ahead with its current lifestyle oblivious to the pernicious changes that are taking place, we will be pushing the future generations into a hellhole.

Reading Kalidasa on Kindle: an amalgam of old and new.

Kindle and Nook have revolutionized the way people read.

The e-readers like Kindle have revolutionized the way people read and acquire knowledge. Image Courtesy: goodereader.com

Reading is to the mind…

Reading is the most productive and purposeful habit one can cultivate. Joseph Addison, an English playwright, poet and essayist, aptly stated, “reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”. Our minds have to be exercised if we want them to remain sharp and alert. However, reading is not an activity which everyone enjoys.

Once upon a time, books were found only in monasteries. Monks would painstakingly transcribe the ancient manuscripts on palm leaves, tree barks and parchments. In those days, monasteries became the centers of knowledge and learning because of the presence of wise men and books in them. After the introduction of the printing press, books started to become available to people, but only the rich could afford them. With the revolution in the printing technologies, books came within the reach of the common man and the monopoly of certain sections of the society over the knowledge had vanished.

However, reading habit is slowly diminishing with the passage of time. People have become more career oriented and restricted their reading only to their respective subjects, that too to the short-term reads. Poetry has almost gone extinct. Simple and lucid prose, that too very short, has become the order of the day. This is an age of microblogging where writers tweet their 140 characters, that too in an internet slang, and the readers, who are hard-pressed for time, feel satisfied with reading those 140 lettered sentences. The facebookers don’t have the time, except to click the ‘like’ buttons below the pictures shared by their near and dear ones.

Kindle and Nook revolutionized reading

As every other human activity, reading has also undergone a revolutionary transformation. People are no longer storing the hard copies of their favorite books in almirahs and flipping through their leaves. E-readers like Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK have brought about a complete change in the way people read. E-readers are the fad of the day. If you own an e-reader, you need no longer allot a room in your house to store books. You need no longer visit a brick and mortar bookstore to browse through their collection of hard copies to own some of them. And, you neither have to keep a dictionary with you to deal with the dearth of your vocabulary nor do you have to refer to encyclopedias to fill the gaps in your knowledge. And, you don’t even have to look for a proper ambiance to read your favorite books.

An e-reader like Kindle or NOOK can store a small library in its memory. You can just search online for the title you want, pay online and the ebook will be delivered to your wi-fi connected e-reading device. The e-readers like Kindle and NOOK have everything you need to read a text and master it. They have inbuilt dictionaries and you can even access online knowledge resources like Wikipedia. And, you can read them sitting wherever you want, either in the bright sunlight or in a pitch dark cave. The e-readers have truly made the lives of bibliophiles enjoyable and exciting.

The other day, I was searching for some books on Amazon portal and found that most of the books authored by the 5th century classical Sanskrit writer, Kalidasa, are available in Kindle editions. Kalidasa wrote his books on palm leaves and we, in this 21st century, are reading his books on Kindle and Nook. This is indeed an amalgam or the ancient and the modern.

My Dad’s Bicycle.

Representational image. Courtesy: Google Images

Representational image. Courtesy: Google Images

It was around thirty years ago, when I was in Std V, my dad, who would usually walk home from the office at the end of the day, rode a second-hand bicycle to home. I felt excited when I saw him dismounting his new vehicle and curiously enquired about its ownership. He told me that he bought it from one of his superiors. I remember the day very well because I immediately borrowed my father’s new possession and started riding it. And while riding, as I was still in a nascent stage of acquiring the bicycle riding skill, upset it and crashed it to the floor, which caused its pedal to bend. I got a thorough dressing down from my father and hence remember the day in a vivid detail.

My dad, being a third class employee with a state government, would draw very less amount of salary in those days and with that salary, he could only afford a second-hand bicycle. After thirty years, many things changed in his life, but one thing remained constant. The bicycle! It is not the same old bicycle. Only frame and carriage descended from the original one and all the other components changed. Now, with its paint completely peeled off and its looks completely deteriorated, anybody else would have scrapped it without any second thoughts, and would have replaced it with a brand new motorbike or scooter. But my father doesn’t do that.

I and my sister, many a time, requested him to scrap the dilapidated bicycle and we even proposed to get a new moped for him. He bluntly refused to accept any motorized vehicle and insisted on retaining his favorite bicycle, and even chastened both of us for advising him to scrap it. He loves it very much and strongly feels that it served him a lot in his life and scrapping it would amount to sheer ingratitude. The bicycle is not even properly lubricated and any new person would find himself huffing and panting after he rides it for ten or fifteen minutes. Some people even derisively call him as a rider of a dilapidated, ugly looking bicycle. But he never cares. Bicycling every day is what enables him to keep ticking. Now he is around 75 years old and he rarely visits a physician.

Many people, including me, thought that my dad is very regressive and doesn’t fit into this 21st-century lifestyle and culture. However, after closely observing the blind pursuit of material things many people are engaged in, I started feeling that there is some message in his lifestyle. You may feel tempted to come to the conclusion that he can’t afford to buy a moped or a scooter, and that is the reason he still rides a bicycle. But that is not true. He may not be able to afford a car but a good moped or a scooter is certainly not beyond his affordability. However, he doesn’t want to acquire one and he is fully satisfied with his old, loyal carrier. At a time when the exhaust fumes from the motor vehicles are causing damage to the lungs of the people and governments are imposing car-free days, his lifestyle appears healthy, cost-effective and sustainable.

toxic air

Toxic air is triggering drastic measures.

Cars not only occupy most of the space on Indian road but also pollute a lot. They carry very less number of people.

Cars not only occupy most of the space on Indian roads but also pollute a lot and carry very less number of people.

The level of pollution in many Indian cities, especially Delhi, has shot up in such a way that it has become untenable for the people to live in them. Reports say that the number of children who are developing respiratory illnesses in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) has gone up drastically and the doctors started advising them to leave Delhi if they want to regain their health. This is indeed an alarming situation.

Toxic emissions from the exhaust pipes are the major cause of pollution.

Toxic emissions from the exhaust pipes are the major cause of pollution.

A few days ago the Delhi high court observed that the city of Delhi has become a virtual gas chamber, and directed the central and state governments to come up with a comprehensive action plan to bring the pollution levels under control. It is reported that the two major causes of air pollution in Delhi were dust particles and the vehicular emissions. The Delhi Government, after the high court’s intervention, plunged into action and announced a slew of measures to combat the pollution. The foremost among them is ‘odd/even’ number formula for cars. According to the formula, cars with license plates ending in even, odd numbers will be allowed to ply on alternate days.

cycling promotion fund

Promoting bicycling and pubic transportation are the only solutions available to overcome the problems of pollution and traffic congestion.

Private vehicles, especially cars, not only occupy a lot of road space but also pollute a lot. If we closely observe the number of cars on Indian roads, and the number of people who travel in those cars, it becomes very clear that cars occupy disproportionately large space of the roads and also carry very less number of people. In most of the cars, only the driver, who happens to be the owner of the car, is seen.  The successive governments, instead of promoting public transportation, promoted car manufacturing companies. With the increase in incomes, people prefer to buy more and more cars, that too diesel powered cars which comply with poor emission standards.

Bikers and pedestrians rule the roost in Japan in spite of the modernity and prosperity.

Bikers and pedestrians rule the roost in Japan in spite of the modernity and prosperity.

The car culture in India is a result of aping the western style of consumerism and conspicuous consumption, which is not at all suitable for us. In India, the roads are too narrow and full of potholes. Even the government doesn’t show much interest in the expansion of the road infrastructure. The population explosion and the resultant increase in the number of vehicles that hit the roads had put enormous pressure on Indian roads. The ever increasing number of private vehicles, especially cars, are causing traffic congestions, pollution and accidents. It is high time that India took note of the unsustainability of promoting cars and other private vehicles, and start promoting a robust and viable public transportation system, in which all the people, irrespective of their socio-economic status, can travel together safely and comfortably. Let us hope that the measures taken by the Delhi Government will prove to be the first step, which will lead us towards  a clean, affordable and safe public transportation system.