Sunday, August 23, 2009


We're finally going home, early in September. No, the date hasn't been finalised yet, although it'll probably be on a weekend so that K can get some rest before he joins the TCS Kolkata office on Monday. We're in a mad, chaotic situation now, selling off furniture items and the car. My last few days have been and the coming few are likely to be occupied mostly with frenetic scrubbing and dusting and packing and planning. You'll find me on my knees, armed with latex gloves most of the time now, trying to get the apartment back to its former pristine condition, which is proving to be a feat of sorts as we've been here for a year now and have definitely 'used' it. My principal areas of jurisdiction include the gas range, the refrigerator, the kitchen floors, the kitchen walls that loom above the gas range (spotted with yellow from our turmeric-heavy Indian cooking), the window frames, the bathtub, basin, commode and floors and the display rack in the living room. Yesterday, I spent the entire morning trying out numerous solvents and cleaners on my turmeric-stained kitchen walls without any success whatsoever, until I returned to my faithful original, the Vim Dishwash liquid. It lived upto its record of conquests, once again, although a whole year of stains meant I had to strain my back and waist muscles for over half-an-hour, eliminating the incriminating marks. But at the end, the result was marked. The impression from half a feet away was that of a white and not yellow-splotched wall. Vim Dishwash liquid ke jai ho !

Besides this, of course, I'm checking the email every half-an-hour, replying to responses - of ads put up on and - from prospective buyers of our furniture etc, half of whom are not even remotely serious about the entire deal, and mostly just end up wasting our time and wearing out our patience. There's this one guy, an Arun from Woodbridge, who called up thrice about the sofa set and center table and car, but hasn't been able to make it yet thanks to the lack of availability of his friend, whose car was supposed to convey him here. The very first day he called, he sneezed thrice on the phone, straight into K's ear, much to the former's discomfiture and the latter's disgust and even dismay, who was seriously convinced that the said Arun might have swine flu. It was too much for me when he even suggested calling off the deal because the guy might infect us. I couldn't but rubbish that and told him firmly that he was to ask the guy to come over at his convenient earliest, although I did commiserate with K on the affront to one's hearing if one was sneezed upon so loudly and so many times in one phone call. That certainly would have been a novelty for most and not in a happy sense at all !

This afternoon saw us embark on a shopping spree for the folks back home, that ran its course right through the evening, interrupted once in the middle only for a small evening snack and marinating the chicken that is to be our dinner tonight. The weather has been dismal today, raining non-stop since 1 am early this morning, when the thunder and lightning was as bad as it could possibly get, the entire sky a grim yellow and the extreme flashes of light & sound not in the least conducive to a peaceful weekend sleep. That continued into this morning, after stopping in the afternoon for a couple of happy hours. Having checked before we left home in the afternoon, I was to discover to my chagrin that the forces of nature are after all as unpredictable as they're reputed to be. We made a trip to Bridgewater Commons Mall to check out the formalities of disconnecting our T-mobile connection but were re-directed to a direct sales outlet of the company concerned, a few miles in a totally different direction. Rather annoyed at this unexpected disruption of our list of things to do that day, we pondered for a few mins, before cheering up and deciding to go ahead with at least our shopping plans for that day.

K waits for the rain to subside :

Poor visibility :

However, as I hinted at, the weather gods played havoc with our intentions and we actually had to pull up along the wayside, for the rain became so torrential that visibility at a distance of more than half a foot was nil. After 15 mins in the car, K rebelled and announced his determination to drive on, braving the odds. I gave in, also annoyed. So we drove on to 'Marshall's' and 'Bed, Bath & Beyond' at Bridgewater Promenade and later to Walmart, to indulge in some hardcore shopping till my feet went to sleep and we had to give up and go home. The shopping saga continued late into the afternoon on the next day, mercifully a Sunday and what's more, one boasting better weather. In between, K's college batchmate Jhuma called to enquire if we could possibly return via Heathrow, since I've become really pally with her via orkut, but am yet to meet her in person. So now, we have a total of 3 invitations from friends to make a stopover at their places via home. The others are from Shobhana, my happily married and dearest school friend in Singapore and another dear friend of K and mine, Ayan, who's based in Bangalore. Now that I think about the invitations, it strikes me that we've actually gone global !

Btw, I almost forgot : we spent a most unpleasant 15 mins - hot and bothered, with menacing drops of rain leaking onto us from a grim black-grey sky - in one of the several parking lots of the Bridgewater Commons, hunting for our car. After we had almost given up, K noticed that there were two entrances to Bloomingdale and we had parked our car near the other one. I was too disgusted at my poor observation skills to experience even a passing sense of relief.

More updates soon...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I've never come across so many breeds of cats and dogs back home, compared to my experience in the last one year here. By now, one would presume I must have got over my fear of the species, considering I've been under involuntary contact with an incredibly huge number of them in this residential complex.

Heading the list is a tiny brown-white dog that inhabits an apartment parallel to ours. Its family seems to consist of a large, plump lady and her equally stout husband, who only seem to venture out of their otherwise stagnant domestic existence to walk the former. The latter is the biggest bully I've ever come across. It scares the children playing nearby, the mailman doing his duty, the maintenance personnel on their way to and from work, any and every random passer-by, whether the latter have provoked it into any such retort or not. Most people aware of its existence usually check whether it's outdoors or not before they take the path leading to/from/beside the apartment. Which is often inconvenient, since it's a shortcut of sorts at certain times. At first, I couldn't believe it really possessed a voice loud enough to scare everyone in the way it seemed to, but my complacence was short-lived. We were on our way to the Shindes' place (our neighbours) and had stepped onto the path it usually haunted, without noticing the puny canine. The next moment, before I knew it, a series of high pitched barks had caused my heart to leap into my mouth while I ran for my life in the other direction. I never stopped to find out whether its bark was worse than its bite or not. I still want to live for a few more years !

K, of course, is daring in all the areas I'd rather he wouldn't and hopeless at the points I'd prefer him to be assertive. He keeps on taunting the dog (from a safe distance, of course) and hopes some miserable fate might befall the former some time soon, the choicest option being the loss of his barking powers. In which case I'm sure the children in the neighbourhood might be as relieved as we'd be, if not ten times more. They're always scared to death that their balls or frisbees or other sports paraphernalia might land near it, which would obviously occasion a sorry premature termination of their summer activities, at least until night, at which merciful hour it's usually ushered indoors by its owners. There are rules here to ensure that the pet is always kept on a leash so that it doesn't disrupt the normal routine of others, but I suppose you can't really complain to the rental office about a dog which deserves to be kept indoors because its bark is so awfully intimidating. In any case, children and pets here command as much attention as adult human beings, and even more, if I may say so. I mean, I've heard that even your neighbour can lodge a complaint with the local pet protection society or prevention of cruelty to animals committee or some such organisation if he/she notices you doing anything you shouln't be or not doing anything you should to your pets. It sounded scary to me, almost as if you're constantly under surveillance in your own home and not doing something because you feel it's the righ thing to do, but because society can impose penalties on you for not doing so. Whatever happened to the good old concept of conscience ?

The same goes for children, except that you dial 911 or the police for complaining about any injustice or cruelty towards them. One couple we were well acquainted with told us about a dreadful incident when a policeman suddenly turned up in their house one day and demanded to inspect the premises. All this was simply because the mother had been working in the garden at the back, the father was at office and the child, waking up from a nap and unable to locate his mother indoors, had gone down the back stairs and wandered into the front-yard of the house, unattended and crying. This policeman, who had unfortunately been strolling past at that very moment, accompanied the child indoors. The mother had returned by this time and been about to search for the child herself. Instead, she was faced with a volley of candid questions regarding where they slept, where the child slept, whether the child had a room to himself (which is apparently his legal right if he's over 2 years of age), whether the child had enough toys to play with, whether he went to school etc etc. The child himself, a sweet and intelligent if slightly precocious 4 year old, was even questioned as to whether he was physically abused or mistreated or forced to do anything he didn't want to do and other such stuff. After they finished relating the incident, we were as traumatised as the couple in question had then been. For heaven's sake, do they think we'd do unmentionable things to our own children ? Granted that there are a few cases (back home, there are quite a few) where children have been scarred for life by domestic abuse, pressures and mishaps, I'd still like to believe that that's not the case in general. By far, these are all exceptions and rare instances and however corrupt the world may seem to be nowadays, the bond between parents and their offspring still holds as sacred as it has been down the ages. And in any case, I always feel that it's better to have the proper laws in place to discourage exceptional cases of misdoing rather than bodily and universally impose them on people, which leaves them feeling that they should love and treat their children well because the law enforces them to rather than their own parental and societal instincts. Too much advancement can cause our undoing, as the incident narrated above may well illustrate.

These are sad times indeed, when you have to live in fear of your own pets and offspring, alive to the dangers of treading on their carefully cordoned-off territory and not being able to make use of the best arbiter of ethics and principles in our everyday words and actions : our conscience.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Avocado

My latest crush is on the avocado. Sorry folks, I'm too old to go ga-ga over Bollywood any more, although I must admit to drooling over Imraan Khan once in a while (I even dreamed that I came across him in a library the other day !) but mostly I've got over the oh-I-shall-die-if-I-don't meet/get-this-person phase. My obsessions have been considerably diet-related, more healthy and less sinful of late.

As I was saying, I'm in love with the fruit that is called the avocado. I watched Rachel Ray, Ina Garten and Sandra Lee use it in their cooking, especially the salads, quite frequently. Well, I thought, why not try it myself ? After all, we'll be returning home sooner or later and it's not really a native to that part of the world, so let's capitalise on its easy availability here pronto. Hence, the next time we were at the Hillsborough Farmer's Market, I spent quite some time at one particular corner of the fruit section, eyeing the heap of freshly stocked avocados. Here I came up against a curious obstacle. Most of the fruits were dark green and one-fourth of the stock a grim purplish-black. I wasn't sure which one I should be opting for and what the difference between them might be. After much brainstorming, I decided the green ones looked more palatable and selected two of the same.

The Hillsborough Farmer's Market :

I was to discover to my misery that the green ones were green in all senses of the word. It was the unimpressive looking (and ripe) blackish ones that I should have shortlisted. Not having watched the cooking shows that closely, I now became a victim of my culinary ignorance. Especially since I had pounced on the first one immediately after my return from the market and been preparing to add it to a fruit salad for lunch where the sweeter fruit flavours might serve to conceal the taste of the avocado to K, in case he took a dislike to it (I'm never sure about him when it comes to a new food item). The moment I found it too hard to cut with a sharp knife, I knew something was wrong (with the fruit, silly, not me). After a lot of manual effort (with a variety of kitchen tools), I managed to dissect it, only to find the interior quite leathery and orange-green, which gave away the fact that it was yet to ripen. Disappointed, I wrapped it in a plastic bag and kept it on top of the fridge, so that it could make its slow way to maturity.

And then, as usual, I forgot all about it. Until a day when we had disposed of our trash sooner than we would, suspecting the recent stink in the kitchen to be coming from some fish we'd cooked the last night and whose bones now lay sulking in the bin. However, even after the apparently malodorous trash had been disposed of, the smell persisted and even grew worse. Finally, after considerable perplexity, the source was traced. The culprit was the cut avocado which I'd stored on top of the fridge and then forgotten all about. Naturally, I couldn't blame K for glaring at me after all the resultant chaos.

Well, at least there was a second one to look out for. This one ripened quite uneventfully and I was able to do it justice. Extracting the fruit actually requires some skill. First, slide the knife deep into the peel and then allow the knife to make its way all around the fruit, lengthwise. Notice that you'll meet with some resistance when you come to the centre, which is where the seed resides. Keep the knife aside. Gripping the would-be two haves of the fruit, apply a little force to twist them around and hence apart. Then with a large rounded spoon which you slide under the seed, lift the latter out of its cavity. The result should somewhat resemble this :

Now, all you have to do is use the same spoon to ease the fruit in small scoops out of its peel, which is like a hard cup with distinctly soft content, texturewise. The fruit of your toil is quite literally, at this stage, ready to eat.

By itself, the fruit tastes uncannily similar to the juicy, velvety soft 'taal-shnaash' , the fruit of the palmyra palm, very popular in Indian village festivals and now a delicacy that the urbane have mostly heard about from their parents without ever really getting to taste the actual thing (photo below) except perhaps at occasional regional festivals :

(Photo : courtesy Wikipedia )

It's only that the avocado is a trifle more buttery and less jellyish in its consistency to the 'taal-shnaash'. It tastes even better with a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper and a hint of lime juice. And as for its nutritional value, let's not even begin enumerating that for then we shan't know simply where to stop. Just look up the wikipedia entry yourself for the info. And after that, if you have access to the fruit and yet haven't capitalised on the fact, don't bang your head against the wall out of regret. I did warn you !

Last words : Despite all my eulogising, I must confess that I haven't managed to convert K to eat the fruit under consideration. He took a small bite, grimaced, described the taste as ok and insisted he could do without it. So much for trying to make one's own husband follow a healthy diet !

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Game in progress :

We accompanied the Shindes on Saturday, 25th July, to Woodbridge, near Edison, where the NY-NJ League Cricket Finals (J & J, TCS and AIG, TCS) were taking place on a school playground. Other apparently choice locales had been rejected since they refused to allow any sort of activity on the grounds without having each and every player insured. No one was keen on taking such trouble, so the school, which did not create any such fuss, was accorded the due respect. We set out at about 11 am, armed with newspapers, sunscreen, granola bars, water, caps and hats and all the other paraphernalia necessary to sitting on a carpet of grass in summer for the sake of boosting the morale of the players (K's colleagues and our friends). We were specially prepared to cheer Madhav, whose wife was in India at that moment and who was also nursing an injured back, owing to a muscle he had pulled in an earlier match leading upto the finals and who wasn't therefore in a very happy frame of mind. We were also looking forward to watching Ankesh, who had done us all proud by notching up numerous runs to our credit in former matches and had thereby gained the reputation of a bankable player. Besides, there were Ajoy, Rensil, Tridib Da, Sumitro etc who we were all quite pally with and eager therefore to watch in action.

The gathering :

The game had already begun by the time we arrived. There was quite a gathering, mostly the family of the players and others like us, who evidently considered it their prime moral duty to utilise their Sat morning by cheering their own team and booing the other. The best example of this was one worthy spouse of a player in the other team who kept on crying out at suitably spaced intervals " We want wicket !", initially with considerable enthusiasm and later it seemed, out of sheer inertia of vociferation. Poor thing, she had evidently had no breakfast and was evidently keen on having some wickets instead.

Mid-day scene :

There were several chairs, mostly occupied by spouses of the other team members and we weren't sure whether we should be impudent enough to go grab the former. After considering the matter for several awkward moments, we opted out and settled down instead on a large mattress spread out for the occasion. Most of the boys prefered to remain standing (Abhishek and K obviously feeling that their providing company to their team would somehow compensate adequately for not playing in the actual match themselves).

The boys look on :

The HR proved themselves quite well equipped for the situation, handing out packets of Lays chips and bottles of water and soda at frequent intervals and even providing mini packages of Papa John's pizza for lunch (veg and non-veg ones stacked respectively in the dicky of a car and its front seat).

Alas. Our team, which was batting, outdid themselves. I think the fact that their last practice match had taken place the very day before this one must have messed up their muscles and morale. They looked quite tired and behaved quite spent. The extreme heat and scorching sun did nothing to make things better. Wickets fell, thick and fast. Despite some ear-splitting whistles from Abhishek and hoarse cheering from another team member I was unacquainted with (to the effect of pointing out that there were too many wides and no-balls and too much 'chucking'), things didn't go well. Sumitro later said that the pitch had seemed scarily long to him while Ankesh looked quite baffled, having been bowled out from behind (he was to remain mystified for the rest of the day). Madhav looked worse than before, having strained his already injured back muscle and not being able to make too many runs in such a sorry situation, although he did hit an overboundary and I clapped enthusiastically till my hands were sore. Ajoy, Rensil, Tridib Da were back by the time we were just warming up to watch them. In short, things were pretty grim by the end of the first session.

Post-lunch, our team seemed to be picking up. The fielding was consistent and the bowling edgy. But the other team proved too well-organised and strategically sound to outdo. It was evident that the game would soon be over and we soon diverted our energies to watching the children in their activities than the game itself.

Children play their own games :

It was. The prize distribution ceremony took place almost immediately. Mr Suri, president of TCS, North America, did the honours. No mean feat that, considering he had flown in from India that very morning and must have been quite exhausted after a 20 hours' journey. He also cheered up everyone by stressing that the game had been played in the right spirit and that was what mattered at the end of the day.

Mr Suri :

The trophy, close up :

The runners up were all given mini-trophies and their captain, the legendary BRM(owing to his talent for procrastination) Ravi Rout, regaled all present with a short speech in which he hinted at another form of spirit being anticipated later, win or no win. The winning team took centrestage after that, one team member mysteriously nicknamed 'Funny' (Phani ?!) being cheered so noisily that it almost verged on booing. So much for etiquette. Finally, there was a photo session, where everyone from the respective teams, players or no, posed to oblige us.

The score-board :

The runners-up, TCS_ J & J :

The winners, TCS_ AIG :

I was secretly glad that the awards ceremony didn't last too long, because I'd left my cap on the grass under the shade of the tree where we'd been sitting and felt like my scalp was on fire, the sun was so offensively hot at that point of time (about 2.30 pm). To top it all, Sumitro announced that we had proved quite inauspicious after all. Talk of ingratitude ! We left soon after, although our departure was somewhat unexpectedly delayed by the heating up of the leather seats in Abhishek Shinde's car, which meant we had to wait haplessly in the fierce sunshine with the car doors wide open, while the car AC cooled down the seats enough for us to rest our sensitive behinds on it !

Monday, August 03, 2009


This poem was influenced by the film 'The Seventh Sign'. It's sombre and stark, something in the line of Eliot's 'The Wasteland' (dare I be so presumptious ?!) and my own nightmarish take on the world as it is now. I'd like to preface it with the following words by my favourite writer :

"But one is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing ; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one ! War, I think, has had its time and place; when, unless you were warlike, you would not live to perpetuate your species - you would die out. To be meek, to be gentle, to give in easily, would spell disaster ; war was a necessity then, because either you or the others would perish. Like a bird or animal, you had to fight for your territory.War brought you slaves, land, food ,women -the things you needed to survive. But now we have got to learn to avoid war, not because of our nicer natures or our dislike of hurting others, but because war is not profitable, we shall not survive war, but shall, as well as our adversaries, be destroyed by war. The time of the tigers is over ; now, no doubt, we shall have the time of the rogues and the charlatans, of the thieves, the robbers and pickpockets ; but that is better - it is a stage on the upward way."

(Agatha Christie, An Autobiography)


You know it’s judgement day
When sober clouds slip-sweep away,
Sweet passion holds lusty sway,
And conscience calmly gives way.

It’s time I rose to power :
Subjected fate to yield or die ;
Hammered people into puppets
To accept what truth I lie.

Many shall not simply survive ;
Evolution dreads a sharp nosedive ;
It’s not about staying alive :
I need to conquer to thrill, to thrive.

We all cannot be right,
To be right, you must fight ;
The loser’s soon out of sight…
Co-existence is God’s great blight.

Emerge then, armed with life,
Let us play the game of strife,
Throw dices for the knife,
Smoke out the Queen in the hive.

Pairs always wreak havoc,
Marriage puts love on the block ;
Friends stay alive and mock,
I’d best sail single to dock.

Peace would make the world run amok,
And yes,
Truce is simply deadlock.


Photograph/poster : courtesy Carlos Latuff

Sunday, August 02, 2009


From : THE TIMES OF INDIA, 31-07-2009


Vision of pollution -free Kolkata
Subhro Niyogi TNN

What will happen if the high court order is followed in letter and spirit and all polluting vehicles are booted out. You will live four years longer. Babies will be born healthier. And Kolkata will no longer be the asthma and lung cancer capital. Automobile engineers and experts are confident that air toxicity, which is at alarming levels in Kolkata, will dip sharply once the old smoke belchers are gone. There can be only one outcome the city's air will become cleaner. There will be a perceivable drop in carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and other toxic elements , state pollution control board chief scientist Dipak Chakraborty said on Thursday , just two days before the blanket ban on pre- 93 commercial vehicles, including twostroke non-LPG autorickshaws.

Clean Technology

Kolkata's air quality is among the worst in the country, which gets even more dangerous in winter. If the government cracks down on 15-year-old vehicles, there will be a remarkable change from day 1 itself , said automobile engineer Prabir Kumar Bose, director of the National Institutes of Technology in Silchar and Agartala. New vehicles have more fuel-efficient engines. Not only do they use less fuel for combustion , the process is more complete. Hence, there are less pollutants in the emission, he explained. The vehicles that face the phase-out axe were built at a time when engines in India did not incorporate lean burn technology . They emit a lot of particulate matter because of incomplete combustion of fuel. Technology has since advanced manifold. Now, the amount of fuel to be fed into the combustion system is electronically controlled . It is much more efficient, Bose said.

City Livable Once More

The epidemic-type situation, specially with regard to child asthma and lung cancer , will change. Kolkata will become a livable city once again with a better quality of life, said Centre for Environment director A K Ghosh, pointing to a National Cancer Research Institute-Calcutta University research that showed how lung cancer among non-smokers was at an alarming level in Kolkata due to vehicular pollution. The study had conclusively shown that the so-called lifestyle diseases heart attack , kidney failure, lung disorder, impotence and memory loss could also be triggered by air pollution. Researchers found evidence that foul air is responsible for rise in morbidity and mortality. Pollution is the catalyst that triggers cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in Indian cities. Urban stress, sedentary lifestyle and genetic disorder compound the risk, acting as a fatal cocktail, says Twisha Lahiri who was the lead author of the study. The team had initially focused on high incidence of lung cancer in Kolkata (a shocking 18.4 per 100,000 against 11 per 100,000 in other metros). But it soon discovered that while lungs took the first hit (45% people in Kolkata have reduced lung function), nearly all vital organs were subsequently affected by pollutants.

Now Or Never

Ultra-fine particles (0.1 micron) slip into the bloodstream, and invade the heart, kidney , liver and brain. During autopsy in unnatural deaths, we have found that pollution affects the brain. It causes transient loss of memory, an Alzheimers-like disease. Continuous exposure to high levels of pollution, as we have in Kolkata, could even effect the gene pool. Already, a lot of congenital problems are being detected among children in this city. Since it takes 15-20 years for a disease to manifest , it will take a while to know how bad weve been hit, said Lahiris co-researcher Manas Ranjan Roy. Alarmingly, nearly 50% of children in Kolkata suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma among the highest in the country.

Live Longer

But doctors are confident that if the polluting vehicles stop plying, average life expectancy can go up by at least four years. If we dont act today, life expectancy will dip further. Pollution is gnawing at life, corroding organs and even affecting babies in the womb. It is responsible for rise in pre-natal diseases, said Institute of Child Health professor and National Neonatal Forum of India secretary Joydeb Roy. An hours stroll in Kolkata is equivalent to inhaling particulate matter and toxic gases in 20 cigarettes. If the foul air is cleaned up, healthier babies will be born and they will grow up as healthy children, said Roy. Neurologist Sandip Chatterjee is confident that the increasing incidence of Alzheimers and brain stroke will be checked once pollution subsides. Pointing to a Dutch experiment on the effect of diesel emission that was nearly 70% less polluting than the fuel in use in Kolkata, he said a half hour exposure had led to significant changes in the brain. A series of experiments in Mexico City showed that pollution led to collection of peptide AB42 that causes Alzheimers . In Taiwans Kaohsiung, a study of 20,000 hospital admissions showed incidence of brain stroke was higher when the city recorded higher levels of pollution. In California, there were several cases of firefighters suffering from brain cancer due to inhaling diesel fumes. Since all these cities are less polluted than Kolkata, that is what is happening to our brains too. Hopefully, everyone will understand the need to cut down on pollution and act responsibly, Chatterjee said.

How Pollution Is Affecting You

Macrophages a vital defense mechanism against bacteria and virus get so busy fighting the pollution that they forget the real function, leaving the lungs vulnerable to bacteria and virus attacks. During this, an enzyme called elastase is released which degrades the lungs elastic tissues.
Ultra-fine particles (0.1 micron) break down low density lipoprotein measure, forming a plaque on the arterial wall and reducing the space for blood flow. This triggers heart attacks.

They stimulate blood clotting mechanism, causing thrombosis or cardiac arrhythmia.

Gene pool could be affected. Congenital problems are being detected among kids. It will take 15-20 years to know how badly we are hit Lung cancer is highest among metros at 18.4 per 100,000 ( national average 11 per 100,000 ). 45 people have reduced lung function. 50 % children have respiratory problems .
(* National Cancer Research Institute-Calcutta University research)

From : THE TIMES OF INDIA, 01-08-2008


City Breathes Easy As Pre- 93 Vehicles Comply With Order
Team TOI

Kolkata: A new Kolkata was born on August 1. Or should we say the city of joy went back to the golden days of the early 1980s ? It certainly felt that way. Minus the toxic fumes, minus the smoke-belching buses and autos, Kolkata was sheer delight on Saturday.
A survey done by Saviour and Friend of Environment (SAFE) and commissioned by The Times of India confirmed that the air the city breathed on Saturday was never this clean in the last two decades, thanks to the enforcement of the high court order to ban pre- 93 commercial vehicles.
It was as if Kolkata had travelled back in time, to the days when cars didnt jostle for every inch of road space, buses were fewer and autos were yet to arrive. Commuters, even though inconvenienced by the withdrawal of autos and older buses and taxis, loved the transformation. At Shyambazar crossing, where the hydrocarbon count plummeted to just 1 ppm from 19 ppm, people stood on the road in disbelief. Many got down from cars for a breath of fresh air.
Readings taken by SAFE at Dunlop crossing, Shyambazar five-point crossing , Park Circus and the Rashbehari Avenue-SP Mukherjee Road crossing revealed that hydrocarbon levels (which cause liver, kidney and brain damage, and even cancer) dropped by more than 50%. Oxygen count shot up by around 15%, leading to a drop in the percentages of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Suspended particulate matter which causes bronchial diseases and is chiefly responsible for making Kolkata the asthma capital of the country nosedived by 50%. The findings vindicated the green activists stand against older vehicles.
"This was bound to happen. The sharp drop in the hydrocarbon level proves that older vehicles are the major culprits. They emit unburnt fuel into the air that pushes up the hydrocarbon level to dangerous levels. Let us hope that Kolkata will breathe freely like it did on Saturday ", said green activist Subhas Datta, who had filed the petition seeking the withdrawal of 15-year-old vehicles.
After a decade's struggle against pollution , it was a green letter day. As many as 32,000 non-LPG autos, 3,000 buses/ minibuses and 6,000 taxis of pre-1993 make as well as 22,000 trucks stayed off the road. Chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti confirmed that there had been near total compliance by transport operators in Kolkata and there were no major flare-ups . Transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury admitted to some violations on the outskirts but assured that the drive against polluting vehicles would continue unabated.
The 3,000-odd green autos usually crowded out by the black & yellow cousins that use adulterated fuel and spew toxic fumes ruled the roads on Saturday . Though there were no autos on some routes, commuters didnt seem to mind.

Brand new LPG autos cross the second Hooghly bridge while entering Kolkata on Saturday

I can't help saying it now : " Jai ho !"


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