Archive for the 'Awareness' Category

Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks

They say, you learn more about a city by walking around.  You walk around Florence, Paris, Munich, Edinburgh and even New York! Delhi, a city I call home and one that is 100 years old this year, is another such city that can be appreciated on walks. ‘Delhi – 14 historic walks’ is a delightful guide book that helps you to accomplish that.

ImageFrankly, this book does not need a book review to extol its virtues. Its back cover lists its merits in simple no-nonsense words in the back cover. However, to do the book and Blogadda’s book program justice, I will first air my views for the record.

I jumped to have this book since I have been on Delhi walks (and none by INTACH to which Swapna Liddle belongs to but that I will come to later). Delhi has a fantastic cultural heritage, but most of us even while living in the city sleep-walk through it. I did.

I think I re-visited even the popular monuments Red Fort, Qutab Minar when I was studying at a college in Delhi, at least a decade after when I first visited those in childhood. That too because I had to take an NRI friend of mine around the city. I haven’t forgotten my ignorance and the embarrassing fact that I was enormously proud that I have never cared enough for these ‘cliche’ places to visit myself. And even if we deign to visit these places, we hardly see/know things. We fail to appreciate the beauty and wonder of it.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks’

BigBooks Library – A Fantastic Online Book Library Service

My obsession with books is not unknown on this blog. I have at times posted yearly updates about the number of books I have read.

This year – my reading was happily boosted by a lovely online library called Bigbooks in Pune. Now that I have moved to Bangalore, I have further realized how sorely I miss it.

BigBooks has fantastic, affordable service is a fact that was further reinforced when I started comparing it with other online book services in different cities. Some other key differences were – 1. Most online rental libraries have plans that have a cap on number of books you can borrow. All the plans in BigBooks library are for unlimited books. 2. Most libraries will charge you a registration fee and a (refundable) security deposit. However, in BigBooks, none of these are required – you just pay for the plan directly – cheapest one starts at 150 bucks a month.  (Try comparing plans and prices here, here and here.)

I learnt from BigBooks FB page and blog –the owner Rahul Maskara had also started this service in the first place because he realized for even a voracious reader as himself that buying so many books was expensive. What does a reader do to quench their appetite of books – thus, a service was borne out of a need.  He quit his corporate job and plunged into getting this start-up (Rashmi Bansal, are you listening?) onboard keeping the affordability in mind.

For just 150 bucks a month, you can read unlimited borrowings of one book at a time (3-month plan is even cheaper). Believe me; I borrowed one book every day, benefitting from their free pick and drop service. Books would be delivered at my house, at my office as per my convenience. I can’t remember an instance when the transaction was dissatisfying. However, greedy to devour their vast collection, I soon graduated to other plans – two books at a time etc.

Most importantly, their collection of books is one of the best. I am a frequent buyer of books – yet I find it hard to spend money on expensive graphic novels. Most libraries’ understanding of graphic novels is restricted to Archie, Tintin and at best, Asterix. Now, BigBooks has graphic novels ranging from manga writer Osamu Tezuka, Neil Gaimon, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Alison Bechdel and so on. All these comic books are expensive and most of the online rental libraries do not have such books in their collection.

Not only that, they have a wonderful recommendation/request system – just add your request and it is taken care of as soon as possible. Almost all my recommendations even though I was a very new customer and had not even made the first payment – were heard– I got to read all the books I wanted, just as owner Rahul kept assuring that I will.

When new books arrive in the genre of your interest, Rahul even calls you to inform and ask – A new book has arrived, do you want to read it? One might be mistaken that I was a special customer, but truth is they were doing that for almost everyone. Most of friends subscribing the service reported that they were informed and provided choice to add that book to their reading list.

BigBooks library is available in two cities – Pune and Bombay. Go ahead and support this wonderful (and extremely useful) start-up. Try out their service and you won’t be disappointed. (They do have a cheap trial plan as well.)

It is very simple to register. Next steps are to create a queue of books you want to read and then select a plan. For any help, you can call Rahul’s number (also, on the BigBooks Website): +919665401232.

P.S – Rahul, you had told me while I was leaving Pune that you plan to take BigBooks to Bangalore. By a quirk of fate, I have landed up in Bangalore instead of Delhi. Please do bring your wonderful library to Bangalore, I promise to be your first customer in the city.

The Sapling Project: Pune Chapter

This post is an endeavor to make you aware about a Pune initiative called The Sapling Project, which involves planting trees in Pune.


 The idea is to distribute the saplings and encourage participants to plant it at their locations such as at their house, society, institutions or any other place. Idea is to avoid planting it in some park or some common area because in such case participant won’t be able to go and take care of the saplings after they are planted. I know they are right, the white carnation tree I took to work dies on a weekend.)

If it is planted at your house/society, it would be possible to monitor the health and progress of planted saplings.
 
You can find more details about the Sapling Project in Pune on their site here. The Sapling Project is brainchild of two guys, Ranjeet (@ranjeet_walunj) and Satish (@bombaylives), whom I have had opportunity to meet at Bombay.

Please send it across to your friends and spread the word. If you are in Pune and  interested to participate as a volunteer,  please write directly to Libu. His contact details are:

Email: libu.baby@gmail.com
Mobile: 9881460654
Twitter: @libu
 
Hope to see your participation. Thanks! :)

P.S: Venues and timings for The Sapling Project in Pune:

Kalyani Nagar (Jogger’s Park): 7.30-8.15 a.m.
University Camp (Near Jogging Park): 8.45-9.15 a.m.
F.C Road (Near Vaishali, Roopali, near FC Road): 9.30-10.15 a.m.
Law College Road (Lane next to Barista): 10.30 a.m.

Interview with the Braveheart, Dr. Ritu Biyani

Today I bring to you an extraordinary story of a courageous woman, Dr. Capt. Ritu Biyani, who is based in Pune. She is a woman who has worn several hats – a dental surgeon in army, first Lady Officer paratrooper from the army dental corps, a mountaineer, skydiver and a thorough nomad.

Her story can be an inspiration to you, me and everyone who has faced, even for a moment, the dreaded fear that – This is it. The precious life that you have so far taken for granted, may no longer be there.

Dr. Ritu grappled with this fear in 2000 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought back and survived.

It is after the struggle for survival is over and acceptance for the inevitability of the situation seeps in; comes the hardest part – rebuild your new life. How you choose to do it, is where heroes differ from the common folks.

Dr. Ritu decided to dedicate her life for educating people on cancer, preventive measures and offering supportive care for those afflicted with it. She decided to reach out. To thousands of women and men, living along the length and breadth of the entire country. Yes, the length and breadth of the country. Literally.

She drove solo across the country, the four tips of India, along with her 14-year-old daughter Tista in a Ford endeavour for 177 days! Distance covered – a whopping 30, 220 kms! First woman to go on such a solo drive, she, along with her daughter Tista holds Limca Book of Records for first mother-daughter  duo  expedition on cancer awareness across the country.

Here’s a quick Q and A with the lady herself:

Why a road journey? Why this need to reach globally and not focus on just local awareness?

(Naughtily smiles) Yes, a good question when going only local could have made me famous as well, at least locally. But cancer is not a local problem. It does not recognize geographical, cultural, political, socio-economic boundaries.

I am a doctor, and yet I was taken unawares by breast cancer at a young age of 40. So my thought after survival was what about so many of the other women who in the course of multitasking in their different roles in daily life are unaware of their health. They keep their own health on low priority.  It is imperative that they must be forewarned and be groomed to prevent.

Traveling is second nature to me.  I am at peace when I am at roads. So I thought I would travel to people with my story, with scientific facts and basic awareness about cancer. I focus on oral cancer and cervix cancer, besides breast cancer.

That explained, I have undertaken several local initiatives like cancer walks, workshops etc. in Pune.

Continue reading ‘Interview with the Braveheart, Dr. Ritu Biyani’

Blog Action Day 2009: Environment and India

This post is part of Blog Action Day.

Every time we talk about environment, we tout and talk about Al Gore and his over-hyped documentary An Inconvenient Truth. What’s more, I have also mentioned him in my previous climate change posts. I thought it is time we recall some Indians who have done the  good work.

Here are my top 5, with a bonus thrown in.  8)

Continue reading ‘Blog Action Day 2009: Environment and India’

A Rescue Operation

My phone rings. It is my neighbour.

“Poonam, do you know that there is a dog lying outside your house?”

“Really?”

I instantly got up from my bedroom and went to check at the door. Sure enough, there was a large black dog laying in front my gate. He had a huge wound, yet I could see he was breathing. There was also a huge odour. I silently closed the door.

I was soon on phone to find a vet. A colleague, R, who is also an animal rights activist, said she would get me some help. Actually this whole effort could not have been made without her help. First she gave me the number of a voluntary organisation called Paws.

Continue reading ‘A Rescue Operation’

Swine Flu Diary

I sneezed.

Immediately I checked if my nails were blue and that if I could breathe properly. Now I definitely wasn’t getting fresh air. I was standing in queue at a closeted billing counter of a departmental store. It was definitely hard to breathe fresh air there.

Other than me, everyone wore masks both inside and outside the mall.  Why not, I am in swine flu capital, Pune. I have to check my symptoms at every sneeze or cough, to be sure.

I do carry a scarf these days to cover my mouth like a bandida, but it’s a suffocating feeling.

Interestingly, Pune girls, even before we had heard of swine flu, have been tying headscarves (instead of helmets) while driving as protection against pollution. Their headscarves are unique in that cover their entire face and head except eyes.

Pune Girls Wearing Headscarves

Pune Girls Wearing Headscarves - Pic courtesy Eric Parker's Photo stream

A new Police Commissioner tried to ban headscarves in vain, amidst the hue and cry of Pune girls. So, owing to use of these headscarves I think, Pune girls at least are safe from air-borne swine flu contamination. :)

Continue reading ‘Swine Flu Diary’

Educational Institutes at Loggerheads: Students in Lurch

Staff Selection Commission (SSC), a government recruitment body has refused to recognise the degrees from Distance learning programmes run by Delhi University (DU).

degree_void

Picture by Ashish

The memorandum sent by SSC says: “If the universities offering Distance Learning Mode of Education are not recognized by the Distance Education Council (DEC), the degrees issued by it are not valid. Graduation is essential qualification for the above noted examination.”

This has left several DU distance education students in lurch, regarding the validity of their graduation degree and eligibility for various jobs.

This is story of a friend, Deepak Sharma, a student of SOL under Delhi University,  in his own words:

Continue reading ‘Educational Institutes at Loggerheads: Students in Lurch’

Dare to Stand, Dare to Die?

I have always spoken how only writing about issues may not be enough. We may need to be part of the system, such as be in politics. Having said that, I have always known that it is easier said than done. One reason I can’t join politics is that I need a regular income to pay off my bills and loans. I don’t have enough money and time it takes to campaign. I am not alone in it, it is same with almost all of us aware citizens.

There is another bigger reason for our aversion to take part in Indian politics, which we all know but are shy to admit it. Standing up in political arena against corrupt biggies is also about risking your life. Just as Bahadur Sonkar, Lok Sabha (LS) candidate from Indian Justice Party (IJP) candidate found out hard way.

Bahadur,  a Dalit leader who was contesting in LS elections from Jaunpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, was found hanging from a tree near his home on 14 April, 2009. His chief opponent was BSP’s Dhanajyay Singh, who is a Don-turned-politician.

Continue reading ‘Dare to Stand, Dare to Die?’

Link Diary: March’ 09

This centrestage link is from my friend, Hypermom, who wrote about women driving in Bangalore.

Manofroma has written a very informative post about a beautiful young woman whose body was found in the coffin in Appian Way. Nothing new about perhaps finding a body in coffin, only her body was as fresh as it must be 15 centuries earlier. Manofroma invites an ‘Indian perspective’ on the same.

March 23 was death anniversary of our martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Jai Hind: Proud to be an Indian reminded us on their blog. This is their last year’s detailed post.

For humor, here is a clip called ‘If Three Stooges were Makers‘ from Daily Cup of Tech. Go on visit his post to laugh.

Meanwhile, Vikas has started another blog on river rafting in Rishikesh, hop over his blog to read his adventures in detail. It was a nostalgic experience for me. :)

Finally, polling for MovieManiax Awards is still on. Vote now.

Results for MovieManiax Awards will be announced on 7th April.

P.S: This is the shortest link dairy post I have ever done.


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