Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Phased out

It's like my life (okay, yours too) was written down and set in a series of phases before I grew up and spelt Phases correctly.

Phase 1 was when you were the tiny person, first in diapers, then in squeaky shoes, then in your first school uniform and hankie pinned to your pinafore, who cried when upset and who barfed in the car with enviable consistency. You got spanked once daily and hated your mum for about 10 minutes before toddling off to either look for something to eat or something to do. Then your mum served you dinner, you ate, farted, and went to bed.

Phase 2 was when you didn't realise that the charm of adolescence and then early teenage has nothing to do with growing up, but in being able to laugh incessantly at everything. A teacher slipping and falling in the hallway could convulse you as much as dirty sexual jokes. That gift of perpetual merriment actually pulled you through the tough teenage years when we either started looking really gawky or developed permanently good skin. Either way, we laughed.

Phase 3 was when we entered college and realised a) that the dirty sexual jokes in school were plain silly and the opposite of funny and b) that school was such a cool place to be in, a truth that we missed completely when we were still in school. Stupid only. We were initially flattered, then daunted, then finally hysterical at being forced into premature adulthood. Then we turned 18 and were reminded that legally, we were adults now. Nobody ever noticed that I was never legally sane, 18 or otherwise. And legal adult meant we could have our own bank accounts and could vote, but could not have sex or our own landline phones without the parents hacking us to pieces. You realised for the first time that there are double standards to everything.

Phase 4 was learning to accept that we were legal adults. Everybody hated it, especially the realisation that there are two types of adults - one, the adults who do cool stuff like have jobs and make money and buy their own houses, while the other did silly things like give exams and study and beg for an increment on their pocket money. But what you hated most was those little adults, some from your own class, who studied and made money and actually enjoyed being an adult in every sense. Phooeey.

Phase 5 was changing colleges for your graduation year. Along the way, you realised just how much life had taught you so far (Nothing) and just how much you needed to learn (Everything). We did our degree college studies, did our parents a favour by passing the exams mostly on the first attempt, made some really kickass friends and yup, learnt how to get the laughter back in our lives when there was very little funny happening in the first place.

Phase 6 was graduating but not feeling any pride over it because heck, we started working four days after the final exams ended. And come on, we expected to pass, we're not that dumb (mostly). We enjoyed the job immensely till we stopped enjoying it - then with typical pigheadedness, we quit and sat at home till the next job came along. In this phase, we changed jobs like we changed our minds - suddenly and without warning. And did not regret it either.

Phase 7 was when we turned into our parents and started thinking about settling down and saving money and not overspending and not go changing jobs like we changed our minds. Okay, so we thought about it for about five minutes, but bhavnaon ko samjho. Then we compounded our own miseries by actually falling in love for no reason other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. And to prove that we really hated our own guts and wanted nothing more than to get back at ourselves for no earthly reason whatsoever, we got married. Then we further sealed our fates by having children.

Phase 8 was when we looked at all the seven phases in our life and wondered, Man, why have I lived so long?

Phase 9 was when we decided that there was nothing we could do to change ourselves, mostly because we must learn to accept the way we are, and also because it is too hot. Then we toddled off to bed because the burden of existing was too much to carry on our shoulders just then.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Editorial II

Fence sitters no more
When rulers and detractors agree

Maharashtra’s politics is taking an ominous turn. Though the ruling parties in the state publicly condemned the recent anti-migrant agitation launched by MNS chief Raj Thackeray, the latter’s views are now being cautiously agreed on by the same quarters.

The ongoing Budget Session of the State Legislature has been a study on the migrants debate receiving guarded but official sanction across all party lines. The Shiv Sena has, in as many as five different discussions on housing, employment, infrastructure, Belgaum and crime in this Session alone, boldly called for ‘outsiders’ entry to be stopped in Mumbai.

Previously, the ruling parties vociferously opposed such unconstitutional statements, most of which came from the Shiv Sena. But lately, there has been subtle agreement from as many as three major state politicians – CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, deputy CM R R Patil and Finance Minister Jayant Patil. While Deshmukh said that there were “ways to stop migrants” from coming to Mumbai, he added that post-2000 slums would never be regularised - a clear message that migrants could make living arrangements or stay out of Mumbai. R R revealed a statistical finding in the Legislative Assembly that migration and crime rates in Mumbai had both risen in five years. Finance Minister stated that people from other states should come to Mumbai to be productive, not just fill the city’s slums.

While saying the same things but in a different manner as the hardliner MNS and SS, the ruling combine is officially, and for the first time, blaming some of Mumbai’s chronic troubles on migrants – who, they say, tax the city’s resources, create slums wherever possible and add to law and order problems. Interestingly, every important discussion in this Session has taken this view at some point, but ministers have carefully balanced their rhetoric by saying that everybody is welcome to Mumbai. The state’s understated acknowledgment of the burden of running Mumbai has so far just stopping short of blaming migrants for leaving lesser opportunities for the locals.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lifestyles of the poor and hungry

H/l: State's kids hit by heart disease

Intro: About 1,000 ages 5 to 10 children have heart ailments, while others have skin and eye disorders, says health department

Byline: Vrushali Lad

Slug: Special Report

Mumbai: The state's financially backward children can only blame their poverty and lack of overall health awareness for a staggering new truth: 979 school children aged five to 10 years have been found to have heart diseases.

The figures have come to light from a School Health Report 2007 compiled by the state's family welfare department. As per the 37,00,000 Below the Poverty Line (BPL) school students surveyed in the last year from July to October 2007, the department has identified heart diseases, anaemia, worm infestation, night blindness, otatis, scabies, skin problems, eye diseases and dental defects among the children.

Speaking to The Herald, deputy director of the family welfare department Dr Vithal Khanande said, "It is stunning but not surprising that such small children have heart problems and other diseases also. Of all the heart disease cases discovered, we found that the children suffered from congenital heart disorders caused by developmental problems, or in other cases, when fevers or other illnesses were not treated on time, it affected the child's heart.

There are also some cases with ventricular septal defects. However, it all boils down to these kids' lifestyles – not enough nutritional food, no prompt medical treatment and no awareness of most diseases by the parents."

The state's kids are also falling prey to anaemia (59,667 cases), worm infestation (1,59,138), night blindness (10,845), otatis (15,865), scabies (17,887), skin disorders (15,391), eye diseases (19,341) and dental defects (1,35,186). The figures in each district are then considered for free treatments under the Jeevandayi Arogya scheme, and wherever necessary, operations are conducted at government-designated hospitals and clinics free of cost, the public health department said.

A Rs 1,95,00,000 corpus has been set aside for treating these children, public health minister Dr Vimal Mundada told The Herald.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Rice and shine

March 30, 2008

H/l: India clicks to feed the world
Intro: Nation's web users are playing a vocab game to feed the hungry daily

Byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Each of us has, at some point of time, experienced what it feels like to forgo a meal. This may be fuelling India's participation in a unique 'feed while you learn' internet-based game, through which our country is opening up its heart to feed unknown hungry souls in other countries.

The website www.freerice.com allows the user to play a word vocabulary game in which with every right answer, the user donates 20 grains of rice through the organisation to the end user. Hence, the more you play, the more you learn and hence, the more rice you end up generating for the benefit of a hungry stranger.

India is the fifth highest rice generator on this programme, after US, Canada, UK and Australia. 22 countries have officially subscribed to the programme, and India is not one of them. Thus, India is the only non-participating country on the Top 5 list.

Add to that the fact that India's growing internet connectivity is helping such an endeavour in catching on very quickly.

"The response from India has been great. It is our fifth most popular country and it is contributing about two million grains of rice per day," said Martin Penner, Public Information Officer, World Food Programme of the UN, via email from Italy.

Freerice.com gives users the option of setting the difficulty level of the game and to listen to how the word is pronounced. "Hence, you feed your mind by learning new words in the English language, and while you learn, you end up feeding a hungry person somewhere. It's that simple," Penner told The Herald.

This is how the game works: the user can set the difficulty level and choose to hear how the word is pronounced. You will be given a word and multiple choices of which only one is the meaning of the given word. Every correct answer results in 20 grains of rice being added to your total. The rice grains are totalled once you stop playing and are paid for by advertisers.

The UN's World Food Programme volunteers then distribute the rice to the end users in four countries currently – Nepal, Uganda, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

The freerice.com website works on a no-profit basis and is linked with the UN's Food Programme since October 2007. "We get about five to 10 million page views a day, an average of about 7.5 million. Daily visitors are in the 3,00,000 – 5,00,000 range," Penner said.


Get cracking on your vocab:

- Go to http://www.freerice.com

- Select the difficulty level by clicking on Options

- If you get a word wrong, you will be switched to an easier level

- If you get a word right, you will be switched to a harder level

- There are 55 levels in all. Players generally complete 48 levels

- A tracker on the site registers how much rice you have donated even if you abandon the game mid-way