Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How green are we?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can incorporate little changes into my lifestyle in order to make it more environment – friendly. So I’ve listed down a list of thing I do on a conscious basis to be friendly to the environment. These are very simple things that you could also do. More importantly, I’m also looking for ideas and suggestions on other simple little things I can do to be more clean and green.

  • We are lucky that the house has four balconies, and lots of glass doors and windows, so we get fresh air and lots of sunlight and don’t need to switch on a single light in the house till 6pm. Even after that, there are only two lights switched on in the house at any one point – one in the living room, and one in the room in which we are at that point.
  • Till lunch time, we don’t use electricity at home for anything other than the geyser, and the fridge. The maid uses the rice cooker to cook rice only if we are in a hurry, or if she is using the pressure cooker to make dal. Other than the one hour of television I watch during lunch, and the laptop and internet I turn on late afternoon, I use no electricity till the evening.
  • In my opinion, the most difficult change I have effected is in reducing the usage of the washing machine. I’m one of those who just cannot stand unwashed clothes, so I would run the washing machine almost every other day, even if it was only for one tee! Now I keep the laundry bag in the kitchen balcony so that I am not tempted to unload it into the washing machine every time I look at it. I've also developed a simple rule of thumb for doing the laundry – I put clothes in the washing machine when I’m about to run short of underwear!
  • I’m seriously re-thinking the idea of buying a microwave. As of now, we heat food on the stove, and it is perfectly convenient. Since I’m no cook, the primary purpose of the microwave is to heat food, so I might as well forgo it since it is going to be additional electrical instrument in the house.
  • Another thing I’ve recently started doing is to make sure none of the switches in the house are on, when the instrument is not in use. For example, we leave the TV turned on at the main, and switch it off at the remote. Or the mobile charger is plugged in and switched on, though the mobile is not connected to it. The modem is switched on, even though we aren't using our laptops. I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I’m just making it a point to turn these switches off too, unless they are in use.

  • I never, ever litter, ever. I always put it in a dustbin, and in the common scenario of not finding a dustbin close by, I actually put it in my bag and take it home! I also shamelessly nag and harass everyone around me into not littering the streets. Clearly, it’s only the first and most basic step towards better waste disposal facilities and waste management, but hey, it’s a start!
  • I feel very guilty about using those black bags for the kitchen dustbin. However, if I don’t use it and throw kitchen waste directly in the dustbin, the bin, the kitchen and consequently the house will stink to the high heavens, over time. Alternative suggestions for disposal of kitchen waste are very welcome. I’m thinking of composting the kitchen waste, but I don’t know if I am actually capable of doing it – especially since we grow no plants and will have no use for the compost!

  •  For a long time now, I refuse plastic bags in shops, unless I am buying a lot of stuff and can’t carry it all in my hands. I’ve decided to be more proactive about that now, and take my own carry bag with me when I know I am going shopping. I did that the last time I went to Avenue Road to buy books, and I have to try and remember it the next time I am about to step out on a shopping expedition.
  •  In the two weeks since I have moved to Bangalore, we used the air-con in Nike’s car only once, on a very hot afternoon. We have decided to cut down drastically on using the air-con in the car. It is difficult to avoid it if we are out on a very hot day, but since we mostly go out in the evenings, it’s not such a big deal. Of course, in the evenings, the noise from the traffic and the pollution are irritants that tempt me to roll up the window. Actually, this is much more difficult to do when we are going somewhere with other people. Everyone always insists on turning on the air-con, even if we are out in the evening or night. When I protest, they always claim that it’s too noisy or polluted so I just have to shut up and sit back. Sigh!
  •  I’ve also decided to try my hands at gardening. I’m going to buy a couple of plants in terracotta pots, place them in the balcony where they can get lots of sunlight, and water them every day and watch them grow and marvel at my green fingers! Of course, in all likelihood, this will go the same way as the other two hobbies I took up recently – colouring and jigsaw puzzles – and die an early, unlamented death.

So I hope this post gave you some ideas on things you can do to be a greener household. And if you have tips or ideas that I can incorporate, shoot them away!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A journey that (mini) nightmares are made of

Well, now I’m back in Bangalore. I’ve been ‘back’ for about 10 days now. The initial idea was that I’d come down on the 28th to attend FB’s wedding, stay for a couple of days, and go back to Vizag. I was supposed to move to Bangalore ‘for good’ (which duration is about 1- 2 years in my mind) in early March.

However, Nike got quite sick of sleeping on the hard, cold floor in his friend’s place, and went about house hunting with much enthusiasm and extravagance (by which one means that he recklessly upped our budget till he found the house he wanted) that he found a place for us just one day before I was about to leave for Bangalore - and so I hurriedly packed some of my stuff in two large suitcases, imperiously ordered the long suffering parents to pack the rest of my stuff in large cardboard boxes and send them to Vizag - and proceeded to have a miserable journey to Bangalore.

Now I booked a second a/c ticket because I knew I would be traveling with a lot of luggage but as my luck would have it, I got the side lower berth. While the smaller of the 2 suitcases fit below the birth, it was impossible to fit in the larger suitcase. I asked the family sitting in the main coupe opposite me if I could put my suitcase between both their lower berths, to the corner, but they very rudely refused and shut the curtain in my face! And the corner space between the lower berths in all the other coupes were taken up with luggage.

So I had no choice but to keep my large suitcase on the side upper berth - the side upper berth would be occupied only at Vijayawada, from when I would have the pleasure of occupying the tiny little berth with the humongous suitcase till the next day. However, the suitcase was jutting out of the berth, so I had to keep an anxious eye all the time to make sure no one walked into it, and could not relax for a moment. Finally, one man walked into it, and hit his head against the jutting edge of the suitcase, and roundly blasted me for it.

I finally found the compartment attendant, literally begged him to put the large suitcase in the cupboard with the bedrolls, and lugged the damn thing from one end of the compartment to another and put it in. Satisfied with myself, I then had dinner and sat down to watch a movie on the laptop, only to realise that I’d forgotten the adapter, and the laptop shut off at a most interesting point during the movie. I didn’t yet give in to despair - I bravely decided to go to sleep.

Now I’m one of those people who really struggle to sleep in trains, even when comfortably ensconced in air-conditioned compartments, warmly covered in blankets and rugs, with a soft pillow under my head. So I tossed and turned for over two hours before I finally fell asleep. Only to be woken up in half an hour by an old man, requesting me to take the top berth, because his wife couldn’t climb up. I end up with a terrible cold every time I sleep on the top berth, on account of the a/c vent blasting across right into my face, so I asked the old man to request some one else - but he said he didn’t want to wake up the sleeping passengers (hello! What was I doing when you woke me up? Aerobics? )

I of course gave in, and went to the top berth and slept. The a/c was on full speed. I normally don’t use a rug on trains but it was cold enough to warrant in so I did. But even then I was shivering. I put part of the rug against the a/c went to reduce the cold blast of air, but only yogis and rishis can probably sleep with their hands up in the air like that. Finally, after shivering my skin off, I gave up, and got up and went and stood outside the door to the compartment, and paced around for well over an hour. The lady who took my berth thankfully got off at Chennai, which we reached at around 5am, after which I went back to my berth and got some shut-eye.

The next morning, as we neared Bangalore, the attendant refused to part with my luggage until I paid the exorbitant sum of Rs.300 as storage charges! Considering how little sleep I got in the night, I might as well have kept it on my berth itself! I finally got custody of my suitcase for Rs.150.

I got off at Cantonment station - and the platform is quite low, so you have to climb all 3 steps to get off the train. This was such a struggle with those huge suitcases, and the narrow, steep steps leading to the compartment - I tottered all over the place, trying to lug those suitcases from the train door to the platform, let the suitcases fall, and finally fell myself - while three fit young men lunged about and watched the spectacle. I’d just picked myself off the platform and dusted myself when Nike came rushing up to help!

And that, dear reader, is how I got to Bangalore!