September 27, 2011

As I smell it, am loving it all the more!

                                                              (image courtesy:

Nothing like it. Hot steaming Sambar rice made with love. It smells earthy, spicy and wraps me up in happiness! Gifted by a good friend. I write gifted as I really cherish it when someone shares their food or drink with me. I consider the art of sharing food synonymous with gifting. Knock! Knock! on my door around mealtime, and there I get hopeful :)

Sambar is a great dish. But, Sambar rice is different as the ingredients mix so well and it complements fryums or pappadams. The soft, chewy Sambar rice with the crisp fryums! Yumm! This afternoon, Subha's Sambar rice takes me back to whole foods. And, just the way they do a world of good to our fragile bodies, they do good to our planet as well.

Just to dissect this whole food dish that I am devouring right now - the dal gets in the proteins. The colourful vegetables gets in all the vitamins and minerals. Rice promises a steady supply of energy to take me through the rest of the  day. The Sambar masala adds a definite twist and tango! Definitely satiating for the taste buds.

It feels good to see the vegetable gardens peeping out of the apartment balconies here. I see Spinach, tomatoes and even beans! And a whole lot of other greens and beets! A must member of the balconies here is Thulsi and Curry leaf. Seeing the little plant heads peeping out and dancing in the breeze is so heartwarming!

The other day as I was reading Savita Hiremath's post on Papamma, it took me back to the good old days when our ancestral folks found satiety and sufficiency in their own home gardens. I remember the many times when Mom shared with me stories from her own childhood.

It was the 'responsibility' of my grand mom to fend for her own vegetable needs. Vegetables and all related paraphernalia like ginger, garlic, turmeric, and spices came right from the kitchen garden. Ammachy's backyard vegetable garden was so bountiful all the year round with just the seasonal favourites. A few hours before lunch time, being her foot soldier, I would step into the green to pick the vegetables for lunch. I still remember being amused by a vegetable which looked like an ice-cream cone- green in colour- with a tapering stem and a bulb kind of growth at the other end!
(Last night I recollected its name- its called 'nityavazhuthana' in Malayalam!) Its aptly called Clove Bean as it looks just like a green Clove.

Home gardens are so much the need of the hour. Whole Foods too. I remember writing to the Editor of Kerala's leading daily about how they could really be the change agent with their powerful reach and advocacy. Just like how they started a rain water harvesting movement in Kerala with their 'pala thulli peru vellam' movement, the dreamer in me saw a home garden movement shaping up in my home state. This was at least 3 years ago. But recently, when I called home Mom told me about a packet of seeds that her neighbour shared with her. Which came free with a magazine from the media group! Small beginnings, but capable of sparking a great revolution!

As am writing this, I am dreaming of the day when I will step in to my vegetable garden to choose my pick for a meal! Thanks Subha for inspiring this post :)

September 22, 2011

A 100% water positive home in Bangalore?

 I hope you read the title of this post carefully. Aren't you staring at the Computer in disbelief? I did. In spite of knowing about BCIL's (ZED habitats) previously launched properties, I still had to hear it from the horse's mouth to convince myself.

After having lived in Bangalore for over 10 years now, in various locations, I know what water scarcity is. Everyone seems to be running from pillar to post complaining. Right from the Builders to the users, no one seems to be looking at the right solution. Which is well within our grasp, our reach.

I lived in an apartment off Hosur Main Road for a few years before moving into Sarjapur Road. The two main selling points of this apartment were proximity to the highway in addition to the 24 hour Cauvery water supply. But within a year or so, we realized that Cauvery just couldn't meet our need or greed. So, we dug our first borewell. Until then, we depended on the nameless tankers that plied in and out, day and night. Water quality? We were totally in the dark. And no one dared to find out. Even if we found out the source of water or even exposed the poor quality of water, in our heart of hearts we knew that we had no solution otherwise. Hobson's choice really.

Just a year later, the first bore well dried up. Almost painfully. I watched from my kitchen window as the drilling machine dug the first bore well. I felt the pain as they dug deeper and deeper in their quest for water. The first one took good two days of continuous drilling. As the machine cut through the layers and layers of Earth, as she bore the pain in silence, the only external manifestation was the silent whiff of dust that hovered over the green and the cars.

The Association then collected money for the second bore well. All the while realizing that we may never be able to find water in the second one. We moved out, but to this day, their water problems continue and aggravate. A beautiful property with 100% privacy- with no view of neighboring apartments, but, what's the point?

I have heard stories of my friends who live in real premium apartments, but they also face acute water shortage problems. They all depend on the nameless tankers that bring in water from God knows where! No one dares to find out.

In spite of this problem looming large on us, on our nation and on the world at large, how can we continue to live in this state of denial? Is the solution to this problem so esoteric that it needed a water champion like Hariharan to start BCIL? India boasts of so many technological achievements. We are leaders in more ways than one. But, why? why does it have to take so long for the mainstreaming of these WATER-POSITIVE technologies?

BCIL Zed Earth is not just about water. I got carried away by the amazing positive impact that the Zed Earth homes have on the Planet. Zed Earth is 70% independent from the State Grid for power for every one of its 130+ homes.

Zed Food Miles program has already started at ZedEarth with current vegetable production being about 2 tons for the year. Hats off to Hariharanji and team!

I have been able to touch upon just three facets- water, power and food! Delving deeper into the Zed Earth story, I realize that they are truly and almost unbelievably one of a kind in the world. Coming from a true green builder whose kitty has the first ever global LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental design, US Green Building Council)  Platinum certification for apartments, this must be just another logical step.

BCIL has validation to claim that Zed Earth will be by far the largest such ‘sustainable’ residential enclave in the world that relies so little on the world outside for energy or water or its waste management.

I happen to follow lot of green news and sustainability case studies. Most of them seem to be just meandering along the green surface, whereas the challenges lie deep below- where not many seems to be wanting to tread.

September 21, 2011

Consumerism begins at home

Toy vs Toy rooms. Gone are the days when children played without toys. They played with their friends. They found endless joy in stepping outside. Parents or elders found at least a few hours a day to talk to them or to engage them. Why do I even dare make a futile comparison?

We lament about the attention deficit disorders of our children. And about the low attention spans. We are so guilt ridden that every bit of guilt is neatly scrubbed away with a new gadget or a new toy. Added to their already jam-packed toy rooms or play areas.

Birthdays. Yet another avenue to worsen the already bad situation. The other day I attended a birthday party. It was supposed to be a simple affair with just a few friends and their children. Convenience and ignorance can't be tagged together. One is a much desired state and the other is the least desired vice. But, what if they go together?

Snacks were aplenty. All heavily processed. With the number of poisonous chemicals surpassing the number of ingredients. The parents beamed in pride as they took me to the table! What elaborate settings! Including my seven year old, all the kids had a great time devouring the delicacies! So disappointing; not a single item was even remotely healthy. It was really a feast to the eyes with its play of colours. You name it and it is there on the table. But what would you find at the end of that rainbow of colours? Certainly not the proverbial pot of gold!

The kids were playing in the toy room. Or rather a room stuffed with toys? Why does it have to be this way? Why do we buy or allow our kids to be gifted with so many toys? Even if we ignore the scary side effects of these toys, many of them made from plastic or related materials (read toxic), little do we realize that we are promoting a hazardous vice- Consumerism - which can manifest itself in dangerous degrees as the kids of our generation grow up and start making their own choices.

I remember reading about a sort of movement that started in the mid 90s- Which is very well not popular by any scale today. Something like a 100-a year challenge. Wherein people who pledge their allegiance to this movement decide that they will not buy more than 100 things a year! And promise to reuse and recycle as much as possible. I look around and I am pretty sure I can do without at least a few items here. Things which I thought were the sine qua non of my very existense at one point in time, after one or two uses get pushed around here and there. And then one fine day find their way out to the garbage.

Disposable income levels have gone up tremendously for my generation. Am sure many of us will be drawing the kind of paychecks that our parents couldn't even dream of in their days. Even as we grew up with middle class values, even as we got our first jobs, we wouldn't have realized how our lives would change. To the extent that we have become numb to the realities around us. We give in to convenience. To greed. To gluttony. To ill-health and health hazards that aren't far away.