Why Do We Refuse to Believe in Global Warming?

I’ve read about global warming for nearly two decades now. Earlier, it was a concept.

“The world could get too hot to live.”

Then, it was a slight warming. “Perhaps the world shouldn’t be getting so damn hot, because it’ll be destroyed.”

And yet, though there are certain factions who are alarmed about it, the fact of global warming is yet to sink into our collective mindsets.

It is hard to believe in global warming as anything more than reality, especially to us living in the cities, disconnected from nature. If the summer gets too hot, we crib and turn the AC on higher. If the winters seem colder, we pull on an extra blanket. If the food prices go up, we crib but shell it out.

Very rarely do we connect these things to global warming, or to our actions.

Global warming is not an isolated thing. It isn’t about eating beef, and leading to a rise of methane in the air because of excessive cattle rearing. It isn’t about using ACs or deodorants. It isn’t about deforestation. At least, not about all these alone.

I’ve been aware of our impact on the environment for a long time. Infact, with a family like mine, it was hard not to be. My mother would ensure that we switched off the lights and the fan in a room when we left it. She told us not to waste food. Some lessons stuck. Some didn’t. It wasn’t about the electricity bill or water bill. It was about the fact that we were taking something from the environment. She sowed the first seeds for our consciousness, though what we’ve done beyond that is entirely up to us. Perhaps I would’ve gotten around to thinking about this, but it might have taken more time.

I’ve grown up around farmers, and know what? Even farmers didn’t blame ‘global warming’ for freak rains and floods and droughts. They just called it nature. Sure, it is nature, but how long are we going to pretend that we aren’t impacting it?

The coral reefs are dead. There are several species that perhaps died out before we could even discover them. Every one of our actions has a reaction.

Yet, when a government proposes building an airbase on an uninhabited island, they don’t talk about global warming and how the destruction of species on that island would impact the broader ecosystem. This could be the same government talking about it otherwise, but they cannot afford to in that case because national security trumps global warming.

A real estate company that’s holding marathons to talk about this phenomenon is destroying lakes and rivers, forest lands. While they would market their apartment complexes as ‘green’ they wouldn’t talk about the price paid for it, and by that I don’t mean in terms of rupees. They wouldn’t talk about the ecosystems they’ve destroyed to build these apartments.

 

We do not have a consciousness about our every day actions. Actually, it is not possible to be. It is about living our life the way we want to. Plastic bags are convenient. We want to come back to a cool room, so we keep the AC running through the day. We want a cool car when we are driving, and keep the windows up and the AC running.

We throw around plastic bottles, bags and more on beaches. Various things that get into the water and choke animals and birds.

It used to make me wonder how this wasn’t just common sense. This wasn’t something that I was taught, at least not consciously. Do we really have to tell people that they are killing themselves and the world?

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Travel The World Under $5000: Myth or Reality?

When I was 21, I wanted to travel the world. Well, that dream was the same since I was about 5 years ago and I found that the world extended beyond my road corner. Except at the age of 21, I was intent on finding a way to pay my way to travel the world.

Blogging was yet to become a full-time profession but there were fascinating travel blogs around any way and they all talked about ‘How to travel the world under $1000’ or ‘Quit Your Job & Travel The World’. But honestly, none of these seemed quite plausible at the moment. It required savings, planning and a whole bunch of other things, including one crucial element – a passport that allowed visa on arrival to a lot of countries. And that typically meant a U.S. or a European passport. Strike 1.

Secondly, coming from a country whose currency was at a disadvantage to the dollar, $5000 was a hell lot of money. At the average conversion rate of 65 bucks to a dollar, that was over 3 lakh Indian rupees. That’s the entire year’s salary of a starter job. So when I did the math, I realised that these blogs were written for people who were talking in $$$. Strike 2.

I needed an entirely new system for people like me. The ones who did not have the advantage of holding passports that entailed visa on arrival to all the cool places. The ones where airlines were yet to introduce the concept of ‘air miles’, let alone crazy last-minute deals.

My typical travel trip? Struggle to get a last minute train or bus ticket to a place that wasn’t longer than 12 hours. Then struggle to get a room that suck away my week-long budget and then fit in the rest. But I’m not complaining. I found some awesome deals, learnt to bargain (sorta) and had some great experiences.

Of course, I couldn’t ever fly off to Spain because I found a cheap airline ticket. I had to get a visa etc. But there was so much more to do here!

I discovered hidden cafes in Goa. Nearly missed my train in Hampi and then slept the rest of the day waiting for the train on the dusty platform. I found fantastic beach-side shacks that offered a great view of the ocean but nothing else in terms of comfort.

Traveling internationally as a U.S, U.K or European passport holder is a very different story from traveling as an Asian. We are more budget conscious (and naturally develop a calculator in your head when you’ve to figure out how much exactly you are paying for that slice of pizza in euros). So as an Indian, the under $5000 travel, did seem like a myth.

 

Conversations with Cabbies #1

Introduction

Uber & Ola (India) have introduced a new dimension to our lives. As a user, of course, the convenience of calling a cab to your doorstep. The bigger change, however, is to the life of the drivers.

The popular mode of private public transport was the auto rickshaws in many cities till the advent of these cabs. Infact, the only place that did have cabs was Mumbai, fondly called ‘kaali peeli’ describing the yellow and black coloured cabs.

However, the arrival of app-based cab service turned the ecosystem upside down. Cab  and auto rickshaw drivers typically were on the low-end of the earning scale. Rickshaw drivers were also perceived as time wasters, who bought an auto and just worked when they wished like.

With Uber & Ola, suddenly the earning potential exploded multi-fold. I’ve heard stories from the older cabbies about earning more than 60 grand a month (the salary of a 3-4 year experienced IT techie – one of the most coveted jobs in India). Infact, I did have conversations with many cabbies about how they not just earned enough to pay off their car loan, but were able to buy a couple more cars and were running it with part-time or full-time drivers.

This rags-to-riches stories attracted people from smaller towns and soon, we had a a ton of people flooding in to be cab drivers. And then reality set in. Companies yanked incentives, the drivers had to work insane hours but the legend lived on. And so they continue to work as cabbies.

When you meet as many people as a cabbie does, there are bound to be great stories. I’m sharing some of the ones I’ve heard directly from them.

Story 1:

The journey was for more than an hour. It was close to 10.00 PM or later, but there was a bit of traffic (when isn’t there traffic in this city!).

“I was just getting ready to switch off the app when your call came in,” the driver said. Now, this is a story that I’ve heard before, and sometimes leads to requests for extra money. My typical answer to this the question “Where do you stay”.

He said he didn’t have a house in Bangalore. Infact, he bought the car 4 days ago and had come in to the city 3 days ago from a little town about 3 hours away. He had been sleeping in his car for the past two nights, and bathing at the public bathrooms when he got a chance.

I had heard stories of such newbie drivers before but most of them had a friend in the city where they could crash for a couple days.

“I don’t really want to stay with anyone. I actually don’t want to stay in this city itself. I’m going to head back tonight.”

He went on to say that he was sick of the city, the attitude of the passengers and the incredible chaos.

Manju was a farmer. The delayed monsoons a few months ago hit his family hard, and he claimed that he had to get tankers ‘from far away’ to water his fields (which smelled a lot like bullshit). He bought this car because the money from the farm was low, and thought he could earn good money. After 3 days, he realised that he would rather work on the farm instead of being yelled at by passengers, find a hovel-like house where he could sleep and spend all waking hours fighting through the nightmare of Bangalore traffic.

Manju’s Last Words: “People don’t have patience. They want you to come to a location and come right now, even if they can see that the road is blocked. They want you to find a place that they do not know. And they yell at you no matter what.”

Why I Struggle To Join The Electric Car Wave

I first heard of Tesla back in 2008. Electric Vehicles (EVs) were yet to become commonplace like they are today. But Tesla was fascinating to me personally, as a tech lover, and the fact that EVs could look cool. The EVs I had seen till then honestly looked like funny little toy cars.

Of course, I never thought about owning an electric car back then, though I did think if I ever made the switch, it would be to a Tesla. Since it was a dream, affordability didn’t even enter the picture.

A decade later, when we are talking about EVs, global warming, pollution etc, EVs become an important part of our lifestyle. Or they should. Unfortunately, for a common man like me living in India, EVs are still a distant dream.

The look and feel of EVs has changed much in a decade. Reva, the electric car by Mahindra, was India’s most popular EV. But it looked like a little toy car, especially with their bright yellow, which was the most popular one. They’ve been around for nearly two decades or more. One of my college professors owned one, and she was a bit of a joke (not just because of the car). As an adult, I have to admire her eco-consciousness but back then, it just was funny.

Now, as someone who is concerned about the amount of carbon we’re pumping back into nature, I’d love to shift to an EV. But my choices are still limited to Reva, now known as E2O, alone. The car, along with its name, changed the way it looks as well. It looks like a compact little car, and I’ve seen it go pretty fast on the highway as well.

However, E2O comes with a price tag of over INR 10 Lakhs. That’s on par with any mid-sized car in the Indian market. Assuming you are willing to pay the price for being environmentally conscious, is the Indian infrastructure ready to support you.

I live in one of the largest metro cities in the world, and one of the most developed. Yet, I’ve not seen a single EV charging station in the city, let alone on the highway. That essentially means, despite owning a car worth 10 lakhs, I cannot take it out of the city. The E2O has a range of 140 kms approximately.

There have been several conversations about setting up EV charging stations, and apparently the future will even have stations where you can just swap out your battery instead of waiting to charge. Sounds great. But that day is not today and I’m not even sure when that day will come.

In the meantime, I remain an average middle-class Indian citizen who cannot afford to own two cars – which is what would be required if you want to own an electric car and drive out of the city frequently. In simpler terms, this means that being an eco-conscious motorist remains the privilege of a non-middle class citizen, or compromising your lifestyle heavily.

I was keenly awaiting the introduction of non-sedan hybrids, till EVs would develop enough by 2030. We aren’t really that far away from 2030 but far enough. India, however, decided to skip past the hybrid stage.

What this means for me? I’m going car hunting for yet another petrol car.

A Rant on Shopping

Four hours on the street and not a single thing bought. Three hours online and all I have to show is a single little top that, lucky me, was on a sale.

The modern woman today is apparently particular about what she wears. The modern Indian woman is apparently even more exacting.

Why then in the hundreds of sites and apps are similar products of bad quality? Where are the rich fabrics, the fun designs? And if you do come across one or the other, they come with a hefty price tag with it.

Shopping today is no longer fun. It is a riot of clothes, bad tailoring, worse fabrics and makes you wanna scream. Every time you see those little list “5 must haves in your wardrobe”, you wanna slap the writer because you know most of that is paid. Or the writer has a fantastic salary or an inheritance.

The common girl simply cannot survive fashionably in this city. Reading the listicles online make you wonder if all those good things are simply eluding you.

I’m someone who appreciates quality. I hate this concept of fast fashion where you clothes not only go out of style in a few months, but fade away as well. As someone who has my favourite clothes from a decade ago (and yes, many of them came back into fashion as well!), I choose my clothes with care and love and I want them to last.

But in the days where ‘subscription’ is the norm and not buying, fast is preferred over quality, fashion doesn’t allow you the same luxury. From what my fashion-conscious friends tell me, there are some brands that do last but the price tag… well, I mentioned that before already right?

There was a time when I bought Ferragamo and Bardot and dailywear were brands… but it is all so boring today. Putting together a look requires more effort… even the t-shirts are badly shaped! The $2 t-shirt fits me better than the $20 branded wear.

And since this is a rant, I can perhaps conclude it – where the hell do you get quality, funk and prices for normal human beings?

Women Empowerment

 

Women are supposed to be easier to market to than men. Why? Because women are apparently more susceptible to suggestions. We tend to take things at their face value. If an ad says “use this shampoo and you’ll have awesome hair”, we will go try it out. Is it because we’re trying to constantly aspire for a better body image or we are just fools? I think it is the former.

Because women aren’t fools always. They know how to take advantage of a situation.

Recently, a friend of mine got into a spot of trouble on the road. She was backing out for a legit parking spot, and someone coming in the wrong direction banged her car. She started fighting with the guy and demanded he pay to fix the damages. A crowd collected, and they were pretty supportive of her. But as usual, there were some who were supporting the guy and telling her to let it go.

A plump old aunty came to my rescue, my friend said. She started arguing with the guy much more loudly, and finally threatened him in Hindi “If you don’t back off, she’ll put a molestation and rape case on you. We’re tear her clothes a bit and then we’ll see how you won’t pay damages.”

The statement shut up most people and apparently the crowd dispersed quietly. My friend was too shocked to do anything more than take the now-subdued guy’s number and move.

This isn’t the first time such a thing has come in conversation. Another lady advised a friend to complain about someone who was troubling her (in a absolutely non-sexual way). “Tell the cops he attempted to rape you,” the lady said. The disturbing part was she actually meant it.

How does this India co-exist with an India where women who have been subject to this atrocity kill themselves?

We thought that women being raped as a form of punishment was abhorring enough. Now, we find out that women are filing fake rape complaints to get their way. What makes it worse is that a woman is ready to destroy a person’s reputation and life for something as trivial as a fender bender. Or because someone complained about the dogs in your apartment.

On one hand, we are facing serious issues regarding women empowerment. We are facing issues in getting the cops to take molestation and rape seriously. We want them to be educated and be sensitive towards people who’ve suffered – men or women. And on the other, we have women who are misusing these laws to further to their own agenda.

Cases of sexual harassment have become the norm. And today, I find it hard to believe anything that I read. A comment on a nail polish colour could be construed as sexual harassment.  A opinion about how someone has become fat is considered as sexual harassment.

Is this what women empowerment is?

The Art, the artist & the price tag

Art deserves its due. Every artist struggles to create art – be it a painting, a photograph, a piece of dress or a pot. I completely agree with that.

My tastes lie towards more earthy, hand made products rather than the factory-produced nonsense. And I agree that the effort an artist has put in deserves a good price. A labour of love for a home of love.

In recent times, there has been a vast array of products that are sold on ecommerce sites – either under the banner of ethnic stuff or as ‘by the artisan, for the artisan’. And these products are priced so high that it makes me wonder who on earth is making all this money. Does an earthenware pot truly cost 2 grand? Does a terracota coffee mug cost one grand a piece?

I’ve grown up surrounded by such beautiful things. Handwoven rugs, kalamari paintings, a zari-embroidered pillow cover,  a terracota vase. These were, once, poor man’s decorations.

Today, these are ‘kitsch’ and are sold at outrageous prices. Because they are currently considered cool. I cannot wait for the days when these are not cool again and prices go back to normal. When I can walk into a local store and buy the things I like without having to sell a kidney.

While art does deserve it due, it shouldn’t be unreachable to the common man.