Sunday, August 31, 2008

Close my eyes to God

August 29, 2008
h/l: Crafting God with her eyes closed
Mumbai resident makes Ganesh idols blindfolded, is a five-time Limca record holder

Mumbai: A lot of people make Ganesh idols at home. Only a few make them within a matter of minutes, still lesser numbers give away idols for free and hardly anyone can make them blindfolded. Sion resident Rama Shah (48) has managed all these for the last eight years.

Shah has been making Ganesh idols out of clay and a ‘secret ingredient’ that she uses and can make miniscule idols in about 40 seconds while larger ones take about half an hour. Ever since she was a child, she was interested in making different things and experimenting with various materials.In year 2000, she said, she inexplicably started dreaming of Ganesh idols. “I would dream of idols in different poses and colours. Then I would wonder why I was dreaming of the elephant God. Finally, I decided to make Ganesh idols and put all my skills to the test.”

Shah found that she loved crafting the idols but decided that she would never sell them. “I feel that there is something divine guiding my hands when I make these idols. I work in a room alone and undisturbed, and I give away the idols free to people who come to me for a murti. Many times I am able to advise them on which one to select. Almost all of them come back and tell me that after getting the idol home, their troubles have vanished,” she said.

Since 2000, she has made 80,000 idols and is aiming to reach the 1,00,000 mark. However, she made her first blindfolded idol out of irritation because a lot of people doubted that she was making all the idols herself. “Once a man kept asking if I had made so many idols myself. I retorted that I could make one blindfolded in front of him if he wished,” she said.Last year, she created a record when she made 500 different Ganesh idols in 20 hours non-stop, and without using a block or mould. “My name is featured in the Limca Book of Records five times already,” Shah beamed.

The material she uses gets hotter and hotter as the work progresses, and she said, most people are not able to work with it for more than a few minutes. “But every day at least four to five people come to me and take away some murtis. That makes me so happy that even though my hands hurt with the constant work, I feel like making more,” she said, gesturing towards the hundreds of idols she has arranged in her living room.

After crossing the 1,00,000 mark next year, Shah plans to teach the art of making murtis blindfolded to visually challenged persons so that they can make a living.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blackmail, is all.

Article Rank

Friday, August 22, 2008

Recycle that thermocol

August 21, 2008

h/l: With love from Pune: thermocol furniture
intro: First of its kind plant readies to turn waste thermocol into 100% remoldable furniture at cheap costs
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: While thermocol is a great material to build models out of or to pack away that old TV set, it is the bane of waste recyclers. It neither burns nor does it reduce to invisible units, and if set alight, the result is a molten mess that solidifies when cool and gives off acrid vapours.

Hence, Dr Rajendra Jagdale, Director General of Pune's Science and Technology Park (STP) helped set up a very special plant at Ranjangaon that would tame the otherwise monstrous thermocol into a friendlier avatar. In layman's terms, the plant would treat discarded thermocol to mould it into furniture items that are cheap, durable, recyclable and fire-proof. Interestingly, items made of this material can be used even for street furniture and picket fences.

"The thermocol is converted into fine powder, after which it undergoes a special process that makes it ready in the form of sheets. These can then be used to make a variety of things ranging from floor panels to window frames," Dr Jagdale told Sakaal Times.

The facility and the technology is the first of its kind in the country, though the technical know-how originates in Korea. "The Ranjangaon plant is almost ready, after which the manufacturing process using the treated thermocol would be done at another unit at the MIDC area," Dr Jagdale explained.

He is understandably excited at the prospect of using thermocol in this manner. "Ranjangaon is home to a host of electronics industries, and the area generates about 10 tonnes of thermocol waste daily. The civic conservancy workers do not pick up thermocol pieces since you can't destroy the material. Ragpickers too steer clear of it because one doesn't get more than Rs 3 per kilogram of thermocol while selling it," he explained.

The ecological and monetary benefits far outweigh any concerns about the costs of setting up and running the two plants in Pune. Once ready, the material looks just like wood but it is much lighter. Plus, several tests on the completed material have proved that it is waterproof and termite-resistant, it can withstand temperatures up to 900 degree Celsius and hence it is fire-proof and the best part is, it can be broken down completely and moulded into something else.

"Basically, you can use items made from treated thermocol in any season and in any manner since there are no hazards attached to it and it can't be easily damaged. This is an eco-friendly attempt to create lasting furniture without resorting to wood, thus saving trees," Dr Jagdale said.

Getting furniture made out of it would also be cheap at Rs 75 per square feet, a fraction of the cost as compared to wooden ply. An environmental benefit would be the chance to earn carbon credits if one gives up waste thermocol directly to the plant.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Too much...

It was a bad day. After Laxmi Chhaya last year, I covered the Bhendi Bazaar building collapse today. And after a long time, I cried while reporting.

I was strangely unmoved all throughout when taking pictures of the site and watching with a sick feeling in my stomach when the rescuers unearthed a bit of rubble and I could see the crown of a woman's head. Part of her green saree could be seen poking out of the rubble a metre away. Then I breathlessly waited till two young men, both miraculously alive and answering questions, were patiently pulled out. A woman who was pulled out shortly before them didn't make it.

Neither did over six children, some of them as young as two or three years old. All of these were mere statistics, though, which every reporter notes down since that is the stuff news reports are made of.

Then Sandeep and I went to JJ Hospital, and kept well out of the way of grieving relatives seated in a line outside the building. So far, so impassive. Then the body of a little boy was brought out on a stretcher uncovered. I saw his little face scratched and his rigid limbs either broken or caked with dried blood. His eyes were open, so were his little lips - in a scream or in surprise? The child probably died in his sleep, at least I hope he did. Then a group of women peeped into the open ambulance and recognised the child as one of their neighbours'.

And suddenly, I was crying. Crying like I'd lost my own child. The other reporters there looked at me strangely, Sandeep patted my shoulder. I kept seeing the sorry little face with its unseeing eyes and its torn clothes and its utter helplessness in its death. I can still see his little body all taut in death and subjected to curious stares even from strangers - who doesn't want to look at a corpse?

A little girl of four also died, and today was her fourth birthday. A young woman who had come to the city just 15 days ago to be with her husband died as well. I filed the story, updated the death and injured toll and then cried inside because there are such few occasions that actually move a reporter.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oh woman...

August 7, 2008

h/l: State women are strange paradoxes
More educated than before but harbour regressive attitudes about domestic violence and gender roles

Mumbai: The adage 'it is difficult to understand women' is probably true. Now the government has published findings that can back this claim. As per the National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS 3) findings published for Maharashtra, the State's women are more emancipated than before but a surprising majority believes that a man is justified in beating up his wife.

This startling contradiction comes through in the report compiled for Maharashtra by three contributors, all women - Sulabha Parasuraman, Sunita Kishor and Y Vaidehi - who are affiliated with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS).

As per their findings, "More than half of the women in the State have had sexual intercourse by the time they are 18 years of age, while half of the men have had sexual intercourse by the time they are about 24 years." However, this is not a sign of sexual liberation, but because many women are marrying at early ages.

"The earlier age at sexual intercourse for women than men is a consequence of the fact that in Maharashtra first sexual intercourse largely occurs within marriage and women marry at younger ages than men," the report says. Interestingly, a high 74 per cent of married women participate in making decisions for their households, either independently or jointly with their spouses.

The higher numbers of decision-making women abound in the State's urban areas, with 'women in nuclear households and women employed for cash being more likely to participate in the household decisions,' the contributors say.

"About 20 per cent of women have a bank or savings account that they themselves use, higher than the national average of 15 per cent," is an interesting finding. But with this rosy picture of women's empowerment, come a few startling findings.

"About 51 per cent of women believe that it is justifiable for a husband to beat his wife under specific circumstances. Women are most likely to say wife beating is justified if a woman shows disrespect for her in-laws (41 per cent) or if she neglects the house or children (34 per cent). Forty-eight per cent men agree that wife beating is justified under specific circumstances."

And yet, about two-third of women believe a woman can refuse to have sex with her husband if he has a sexually transmitted disease, if he has had sexual intercourse with other women, or if she is not in the mood.

Higher levels of education among women has resulted in a greater awareness of contraceptive methods both for themselves and their partners. "About 65.8 per cent women felt that having two children was enough, while only 3.1 per cent wanted three children. Correspondingly, 14.6 per cent men wanted three children," the findings reveal.

Also, more women want sons instead of daughters and a huge 80.1 per cent women aged 30-39 years want at least one son. The figures are much lower for men.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Goodwill hunting

Sadashiv Vaidya was very happy with this copy. And though his story isn't the only case in the world, it just goes to prove that whatever one's circumstances or geographical location or financial standing, a story is a story.

July 30, 2008

H/l: Rs 20 lakhs and a story of hope

Intro: How a man fought hard for his freedom and how he is teaching other men to do the same

Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Sadashiv Vaidya is a fiercely private man. But since his acquittal in a dowry harassment case filed by his wife three years ago, the 48-year-old electrical engineer has decided to make his private hell public. In the coming weeks, he and his two children will recount their story on national television in UAE, where they live.

"My kids have been with me throughout my trial," an emotional Vaidya told Sakaal Times. "Both of them told the court that they wanted to live with me. They helped me build evidence against their mother who was cheating on me with my best friend. Now that I am acquitted of all charges, I want all those men who are suffering to hear my story," he said.

Though not unique, his story is an interesting one. After Lata, his wife of over 15 years, filed a dowry harassment case against her husband in 2005 and demanded two crore rupees in damages, Vaidya decided to fight the charges. "She didn't want the children's custody, all she wanted was the money she thought I would give her. The day she filed the complaint, I went to jail.

But I got bail the next day and had to fight hard for the next three years to secure my acquittal. I had cleverly gathered a lot of evidence against her which proved her complicity in the adulterous relationship," he said. In fact, his acquittal without a monetary settlement in just three years is perhaps the fastest in the history of dowry harassment cases in the country.

However, Vaidya is still on the run because he had invested in bonds in his and Lata's name and he perceives a threat to his life. "If I die now, she will get the money. So when I come here, I don't tell anyone about it," he said, adding that all his money should go only to his children.

From May 2005 to January 2008, Vaidya has spent over Rs 20 lakhs only on litigations and is unable to secure a permanent job in Abu Dhabi because he must fly to Mumbai every month for court appearances. "This case ruined my life. I will never marry again but I am committed to helping other men fighting the dowry law."

For this, he and his two children will tell their story on TV and in the print media so that others may learn from it. "I have counselled about 25 men in UAE free of cost about the paperwork they must keep ready and how to gather evidence for court," Vaidya said.

"The justice system works for you if you know how to make it work. If you are innocent, you owe it to yourself to prove it," he signed off.