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Waste Management Diaries – 3

“I’ve always thought of myself as someone who cares about the environment. I’ve recycled for as long as I can remember, I’m on my way to having a plastic-free kitchen and I always try to take public transport instead of driving. But until last year I was guilty of unknowingly contributing to 1m tonnes of waste a year, more carbon emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined, and microplastics ending up in the ocean – just by buying new clothes.” – Radhika Sanghani, writer (Read the article here.)

Clothes. We get, we use, and then we give or throw away.

Give or throw away could happen for many reasons such as…
– the article no longer fits (we have grown)
– the article is not fit to be worn by us anymore (faded, stained, worn-out, torn, broken buckle, etc.)
– we do not use it (it was bought on impulse or an undesired gift)
– we do not have space to keep it (we have more than we need)
– we are just bored with it (we’ve worn it a few times already).

Our society receives a variety of personal clothes on a daily basis. Some are deposited in the collection bins kept for the purpose, some are left by residents outside their doors along with the dry waste, and some are picked up from miscellaneous locations (most likely left by helpers who took the things given by their bosses but actually did not want them).

Some are thoughtfully ironed/folded, in a state that is ready to be worn by someone else.
Some need minor repairs (new elastic, or a few stitches).
Some cannot be reused as is, but can be “upcycled” (tops to bags, trousers to shorts).
Some are purposely slashed or burnt so that they are not wearable by others (a tradition followed).
Some will become cloth scrap for use in mechanic shops/ oil rigs or rewoven into new fabric.
Some need washing (yes, the clothes people deposit are sometimes dirty/ unwashed).

Some need to be dried before they can be put with the other clothes! Unbelievable isn’t it? Last Holi which was over a year ago, we had over 300 pieces of wet clothing discarded by residents. Volunteers and housekeeping staff took these to the terrace to dry, before they could be given to the Goonj-Tide Holi collection (read about it here).

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Wet Holi clothes drying on the terrace, March 2018

What happens to the clothes that you give/throw away?

In earlier times: Before we had a waste management system in place, the clothes that were useful to the staff on the premises would be taken by them and the rest would be put into the BMC garbage truck to be dumped in the landfills.

Now: The clothes are first sorted by volunteers/ housekeeping.
Men, Women western, Women kurta-chudidar-pyjama, Sari-blouse, Children boys, Children girls, Baby-wear, Socks, Undergarments, Woolens, Dirty/to be washed, Wearable if repaired, Good for making cloth bags, Wiping rags (for housekeeping), Fancy costumes, Cloth scrap (chindi).

While the sorting is being done (and even later), all are free to take any item they want. We’ve had many housekeeping staff, security guards, house maids and even residents take items that they find useful. Washing of dirty clothes, minor repairs like stitching, sewing buttons, putting new elastic, etc. is done as necessary (by yours truly) – to give the clothes a longer life.

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Clothes being sorted, March 2018

Over the past fifteen months, the clothes have been given to various places including Sneha Sadan Orphanage Goregaon West, Goonj, Goonj-Tide Holi collection, villages in Jawhar district, Junoon Trust Kandivali. One of our housekeeping boys had a baby so many of the baby clothes were taken by him. Cloth retrieved from the discarded clothes has been given to those who make cloth bags. Some of the clothes have been sold to local Chindiwalas and the money put into the society’s waste management fund. (The Chindiwala sells the decent clothes directly and the rest are sent to factories for recycling. Mixed fabrics are generally hard to recycle but there are places in India that do this. Interesting video here.) There are some items that we are grappling with, that the Chindiwala will not take even for free. We have some leads and will find them a place other than a landfill.

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Vehicle sent by Goonj-Tide for clothes pick-up, March 2018

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Clothes distribution at one of the villages in Jawhar district, Dec 2018

How can we be responsible with our clothes?

  • Try to extend their use by fixing small issues/ alteration/ re-purposing them.
  • Consider not throwing them, given that they will come back into style eventually.
  • Try to give them directly to people who will use them.
  • Wash and dry all the clothes before discarding them (no one, all of us included, wants to handle other people’s dirty or wet clothes).
  • Keep the clothes separate from the daily waste. Drop directly in the society’s blue collection drum.

“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”
– Annie Leonard, Proponent of Sustainability

This is the third post about Waste Management at Whispering Palms Xxclusives, Kandivali East, Mumbai.

 

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Waste Management Diaries – 2

When we talk of plastic, what comes to mind? Quite likely a plastic bag. 

Plastic carry bags are banned in Mumbai. Even then, plastic bags and other plastic wrapping continue to play a major role in our lives.

  • Food stuff – bread, biscuits, chips, toffees, cereal, rice, dhals, sauce packets, packaged vegetables, dosa batter, milk packets …
  • Household supplies – toothbrushes, detergent powders, shampoo sachets …
  • Bubble wrap, medicine blister packs, gift wrapping, clothes packaging …

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These and much more, all contribute to the plastic bag/ wrapper waste we are generating on a daily basis.

Can plastic bags/ wrappers be recycled?

Clean milk/curd/oil packets and clean single-layer standard 50-micron plastic packets are easily recyclable and can be sold to the local recycler. These plastics fetch Rs 10-20/kg.

So what happens to the rest of the plastic bag/ wrapper waste? As they have ‘no value’, most of this ends up in landfills where they will lie for a thousand years. Or they will get into the sea and be served in the fish we eat!

What does our society do with plastic bag/ wrapper waste?

Our society generates enough plastic bag/ wrapper waste to fill a Tata Ace truck in one month. That’s a huge quantity. Every day, we sort the plastic waste and then store the non-sellable items till the time they can be sent for responsible disposal.

In the past: Once in two months, the waste was being transported to Urja Foundation, a Thane-based NGO, along with plastic waste collected by nearby societies/individuals. Those contributing plastic waste would also contribute for its transportation. Urja Foundation would then add our plastic waste to whatever they collected in Thane, and send this to Rudra Environmental Solutions in Pune. Rudra is a social entrepreneurship organisation that extracts poly fuel, gas and road plastic filler from plastic waste. While it was satisfying to see that the waste was reaching a reliable recycling centre, we were concerned about the distance it was travelling and the associated costs. So we’d been looking for other solutions.

Now: Under the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) model, companies that produce multi-layered/ hard-to-recycle/ non-recyclable plastic bag/ wrapper waste (such as Dabur, Unilever, Patanjali, P&G, etc.) are supposed to put in a mechanism to ensure that their products’ plastic packaging, once discarded by customers, are collected for recycling/ processing.

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Through our waste management networking, we have touched base with a plastic recycler appointed under the EPR model, Shakti Plastic Industries, with factory at Palghar. Along with this, we have found a low-carbon footprint method of transporting the waste. When the factory truck comes to Mumbai for deliveries, it usually returns empty. It therefore has capacity to pick up our waste on the way back. We have had one truck-load of plastic bag/ wrapper waste collected from our society by them.

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What can we do to with respect to plastic bags/ wrappers, so that we reduce our negative impact on the environment?

  • Ensure recyclability – by cleaning and drying our milk packets, shampoo sachets, etc.
  • Reduce the plastic bags/ wrappers that reach our homes
    • carry our own bags to put our shopping
    • carry our own containers (e.g. if we are visiting Hot Chips, carry our own container to put our chips instead of getting the chips packed in a plastic bag)
    • do not use garbage bags of any kind to line our garbage bins
    • do not accept plastic carry bags from our puja flower vendor, tender coconut delivery man, grocery supplier, etc.
    • do not use shiny gift wrapping, and discourage others from giving us gifts wrapped in shiny gift wrapping
    • avoid “I am not a plastic bag”/ compostable/ bio-degradable plastic bags – they are only industrially compostable and do not compost / bio-degrade in the normal course, they contaminate other plastic waste and they are expensive
    • do anything else that will help reduce plastic waste.

“We humans have become dependent on plastic for a range of uses, from packaging to products. Reducing our use of plastic bags is an easy place to start getting our addiction under control.” – David Suzuki (science broadcaster, environmental activist)

This is the second post about waste management at Whispering Palms Xxclusives CHS, Kandivali East, Mumbai.

WPXX Waste Management Diaries – 1

Waste Management. This is a hot topic at Whispering Palms Xxclusives CHS, Kandivali East, Mumbai (WPXX),  these days, and one would not be wrong in attributing this majorly to the society’s composting efforts.

While interacting with residents over the past several weeks it has been most fulfilling to note that there are many who are aware that we are responsible for the mess we have created in our country and we have to try to set things right. There are many though, who still feel that they have no role to play, oblivious of the gravity of the waste situation, some relying on their good fortune to buy them out if the need arises.

The society was pushed to start managing its waste in an organised manner, through segregation at source, by MCGM’s 2017 notification. All credit to the MC and members of WPXX for taking strong steps to ensure compliance. In November 2017, we formed an informal team of waste management volunteers comprising of residents who felt they had the time and the inclination to implement the waste segregation guidelines developed for the society. It is this group that laid the foundation of the solid waste management system we have in place.

It has been an eventful one and a half years of managing WPXX’s waste, but I realise that very few residents actually know what happens to their waste once it leaves their front doors or society premises. Through this series of posts I will be informing residents of the different things that have been happening in the society with regard to our “waste”. The aim of this series is to improve awareness among our society members – recycling practices, challenges, solutions, local initiatives, and the like.

In this first post, I will focus on the waste that we have been recycling for the longest – Tetra Pak.

What is Tetra Pak?

Tetra Pak is the cardboard carton in which milk, juices, sauces and such items are sold. While it looks like cardboard from the outside, it is actually made of different materials – paper, plastic (polyethylene) and aluminium, in different layers. As it is multi-layered, it is difficult to recycle. This is why the manufacturers of Tetra Pak themselves are involved in its collection and recycling.

How is Tetra Pak recycled?

  • At the recycling plant, the Tetra Pak cartons are emptied into a huge drum called a pulper, along with water. This works just like a food mixer.
  • Hydra-pulping for a short duration separates the paper fibre from the polyethylene and aluminium to produce a brown-grey pulp.
  • The paper pulp is recovered and converted into pulp sheets. These sheets are used to make different grades of paper and paper products such as writing sheets, envelopes and tissue paper.
  • The residue which is a mix of polyethylene and aluminium (called polyAl) is also recovered. Using high heat and high pressure polyAl is transformed to tough and lightweight boards. These composite boards replace wood and are used for making furniture and roofing sheets.

(Source: Tetra Pak website)

What does our society do with Tetra Pak?

  • Our society registered with RUR Greenlife, the Tetra Pak recycler in Mumbai in June 2016. When we started, residents were required to voluntarily deposit their Tetra Paks. On accumulating 1,000 Tetra Paks, we received a Tetra Pak collection bin.
  • Now, some residents continue to drop their Tetra Paks into the collection bin. Others put them in the dry waste blue bag for door collection.
  • The Tetra Paks are accumulated by our housekeeping staff. Once we have a sizeable number (which is about once a month), they are collected from our premises by Reliance Fresh Home Delivery vehicle. (They can also be dropped off at Sahakari Bhandar/Reliance Fresh stores)
  • On average, we generate 40 Tetra Paks per day in our society. (A Tetra Pak of any size is counted as 1 Tetra Pak.)
  • We have sent over 20,000 Tetra Paks for recycling
    • For 6,500 Tetra Paks we received a bench made of recycled Tetra Paks.
    • For the next 8,500 Tetra Paks we will be receiving another bench soon.
    • There are different products including school benches that can be donated.

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What do we need do to help proper recycling of Tetra Paks?

  • Rinse the Tetra Paks and fully dry them before putting them in your dry waste bag. You may cut the pack to make it easier. If they are not rinsed and dried they become smelly and not recyclable.
  • If there is a cap or straw, you may leave this on/in the pack – these also get recycled.
  • If you want, you may drop your Tetra Paks in the collection bin placed at D Wing.

Tetra Paks cleaning

Till next time, take care! And don’t forget to rinse and dry your Tetra Paks.

Mrs Pringle, the Richmond Road neighbour

16-17 Richmond Road is where Spartan Heights Apartments is located. This is one of the early multi-storied residential buildings of Richmond Town built in the 1980s, but in the 1960s, this is where Mrs Hetty Pringle (and a few other families) lived.

After my grand mom died a few weeks ago, my mom and I were looking though the old photographs and some of the things of the old days that hadn’t been given away or thrown out. This brought back memories of growing up in Richmond Town… the friends, the hobbies, the homes, the neighbours… and Mrs Pringle. 

Mr and Mrs Pringle

Mr & Mrs Pringle

Pringle name plate

The Nair family shifted to Bangalore from a small town in Kerala in 1948, when mom was about two years old. Grandpa worked in the Survey of India that had its office on Richmond Road, so the family decided to move to the same locality. They lived on Serpentine Street-Leonard Lane. Living on two roads actually meant that the bungalow was so big that it extended between two roads, Serpentine Street and Leonard Lane, but its address was 12 Serpentine Street (new 24). The large compound had four fruit-laden guava trees, ideal for climbing. There were two entry doors with typical trellis work and two entry gates, one on each road.

Mr Hedge at Leonard Lane house

Uncle Hegde (a family friend) at 12 Serpentine Street, but this pic is facing Leonard Lane

When the landlady said she needed the house back, in 1964 the family moved to Richmond Road, to the Spartan Heights compound. And this is where they got acquainted with Mrs Pringle and four other families that lived within the same compound walls.

layout of rchmd rd house

My mom drew this layout of the compound. It was a corner site, with Convent Road on one side and the entry gate facing Richmond Road. In those days, this was a rent-controlled property, so people who got allotted the houses needed to be connected to the government in some way.

Dr Sideanur had been living in an RCC roofed house at the rear end of the compound. He was a busy Allopathic doctor who practised at a clinic set up in the front of the compound. He subsequently bought the corner piece of land in front, built a house and moved there. He had a separate entry gate and he continued to run his clinic from the same place, complete with a compounder who would dispense the medicines prescribed.

When Dr Sideanur vacated the back house, the Nair family occupied it.

The Moses family lived in the house at the Convent Road corner. Like the other residents, they used the main gate to enter their house. Mr Moses was working in the government at Vidhana Soudha. He must have been in a senior position as a car would pick him up everyday to take him to work. His children Christine, Sheela and Angela studied at Baldwins, and Henry at Bishop Cottons.

With these two houses abutting Richmond Road, the middle portion of the premises was where the entry gate fitted.

The main central building was occupied predominantly by the Dr Roye family, with children Janardhan, Dhanpal, Radhika and Indira. Apart from being his residence, this was the campus of the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy run by Dr Roye. Yes, a full-fledged Homeopathy college, with a classroom full of benches. A formaldehyde tank to hold dead bodies for anatomy lessons was located somewhere in the compound. Janardhan finally married Angela Moses.

Also living in the main building was Dr Anthony, the third doctor in the premises. The type of medicine he practised is not recalled, but he used to get very few patients. It was a general observation that he might have been living off his wife who was working in the education department of the government. Grandma was happy to have Malayalam-speaking company.

Mrs Pringle’s house was adjacent to the Anthony’s, on the same side of the main building. It consisted of two rooms and a bathroom, and her door opened out to face the Nair’s house at the back. She didn’t get along with the Anthonys and it seems that she was initially quite crotchety and unwelcoming of the new Nair neighbours. However, it didn’t take long before she started getting friendly with the family.

Mrs Pringle was an early riser. Her door would open promptly at 6:30 a.m. to let in the morning sun, and grandma Mrs Nair would promptly send her idlis (or whatever was being cooked) for breakfast. Grandpa Mr Nair was very helpful to her and she loved the pretty garden that he maintained in front of his house. She was particularly fond of the youngest Nair daughter Pappi (Ramani) and gave her a tiny ivory elephant and a coin in a tiny metal box lined with cotton wool and dry leaves, for luck to get a job after MA. She had a good collection of smart dresses, all with matching belts. Once in ten days, a cycle rickshaw would draw up carrying one of her Anglo-Indian friends, and the two old ladies would have tea together.

box and charm

Mrs Pringle’s good luck gift to Pappi aunty

One morning, Mrs Pringle’s door didn’t open. When Grandpa went near the house he heard a groaning sound. The door was forced open and they found Mrs Pringle on the floor. She had fallen off her bed during the night. Grandpa arranged to take her to St Martha’s Hospital where the doctors discovered that her hip was fractured. She was in hospital for a few days, but they couldn’t operate on her because of her age. The doctors advised Grandpa to take her back home, which he did, and he got a full-time maid to take care of her. Mrs Pringle was very independent and she didn’t like someone taking physical care of her. One day it was found that the maid was cursing the old lady under her breath, so she was dismissed and a new one appointed. The onus was on Mrs Nair and her college-going children to ensure that Mrs Pringle was properly cared for, and keep a watchful eye on the goings-on in her house.

Knowing that she would have to move on some day, even before her fall, Mrs Pringle had kept a black dress in a box telling the Nairs that this is what she would wear when she dies. When she did die, in 196x, the hearse carried her body clothed in the dress of her choice, to All Saints Church on Hosur Road. During the funeral service, the priest made special mention of the kindness of the Nairs who cared for this 88 year old as one of their own. She was buried at the Hosur Road Cemetery.

Organised as she was, she had written her last will and testament. In this she left all of the money she had saved to Mr & Mrs Nair, stating that it would be useful to Mr Nair as he was building a house. When going through her belongings, it was found that she had a nephew who was in Great Britain. The lawyer wrote to the nephew informing him of his aunt’s death and will. The nephew was planning to come to India to check out her belongings but the lawyer dissuaded him, telling him that there wasn’t very much, and that as his aunt was very fond of the Nairs who had taken care of her, it would be appropriate for them to handle everything.

Thus it was that all that Mrs Pringle owned passed into the hands of Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa arranged for her clothes to be given to people in need. The furniture became an integral part of the Domlur house that was built partly with her money. Though the house itself no longer exists, some of her possessions are still with the family. Mrs Pringle’s prayer-hymn book and Bible are on mom’s book shelf, her writing table adorns the stairway of Pappi aunty’s house. There must be some other things as well.

Pringle prayer book

Mrs Pringle’s prayer-hymn book

Pringles writing table

Mrs Pringle’s writing table

Mrs Pringle, wherever she is, would probably be happy to see the picture of herself and her beloved husband, alongside members of the Nair family with whom she spent her last years.

There are friends,
there is family,
and then there are friends that become family  

Written with inputs from mom Rukmani, Pappi aunty, recollections from Grandma’s stories

A walk around HAL Colony

‘Where you grew up becomes a big part of who you are for the rest of your life. You can’t run away from that. Well, sometimes the running away from it is what makes you who you are.” – Helen Mirren (actor)

HAL (Vimanapura), the heartbeat of India’s aircraft industry is where my husband Srivathsa lived all of his childhood and school-college years. And life for the family revolved around HAL Hospital where his father Dr Nagarajan worked. This week, we took our sons for a walk down the streets of HAL Colony.

HAL Hospital jn

In the old days, there was a daily commuter train service to HAL. There was no road median and the track ran right next to the road (where the blue-roofed shelter stands in the pic above). Train speeds were low and the level crossing into the hospital was unmanned. Once, our relative Vasanth Joshi’s car stalled right on the track, but the steam locomotive couldn’t stop and rammed right into the car. The Herald was smashed and Vasanth was lucky to have been able to jump out in time.

HAL Hosp Main road

HAL Hospital Main Road with a median

Even after the train was discontinued, the tracks remained for several years. Now, for the most part, this train line has been made into a park with a walking track.

train tracks lr

The fenced area across the road is the erstwhile train track

The first quarters Dr Nagarajan lived at was M6. In less than a year he moved to M11 that had 24 hours water, attached toilet and enclosed veranda, where his mother joined him (in 1964), and then his young bride Leela came to live here. The family moved houses twice more in the 30-odd years of living at HAL. Srivathsa was born while living at MD9 and the last house they stayed at was MD1.

MD9 (and MD8) no longer exists as it was demolished and the space was taken by HAL School (just as well… it was full of ghosts “they” used to say), but we saw MD1 from the outside. MD = Medical Department, but it seems the house now has a non-medical occupant.

MD1

MD1 home 1986-1993, now has a higher wall and gate, with an inner gate as well

The house was three-bedroomed with helper’s quarters, and had bigger rooms than MD9. My mother-in-law recalls that the kitchen (where she spent a lot of her time) was so conveniently located that she could see everyone who entered the gate. Also, the milkman would deliver the milk right into the kitchen through the window.

MD1 in lr

MD1 inside… The bougainvillea plant of the 1990s still remains

8th A Road

The MD1 road is now called 8th A Road

One of the most gruesome memories of the road is the murder that took place at Sr Devdutta’s house. The domestic help was strangled and the three children Monica, Jessica and Rebecca were tied up while the thieves burgled the house. The children of the neighbourhood were all geared up to solve the case like Sherlock Holmes but were shooed away by the police.

Another terrible incident was the suicide of domestic help Sarla of Dr Manwani at MD8. No one knows why she set herself on fire at night, but it was concluded that this was one of the reasons for the ghosts in the area.

HAL Primary School was Srivathsa’s first school, 1974-1975. He used to just climb over the wall of MD9 to enter the school. It is now called HAL Public School, a full-fledged CBSE School till Std 12, for HAL employees’ children.

HAL schoolHAL school 3

The FC and FD houses where many friends lived were on different roads. Don’t know what FC and FD stood for, but FD houses were the bigger of the two.

FC5-FC8 was one building, next to MD9. The Bapats (Priya, Reena) lived at FC7 with a blue Fiat car, and the Sandhus (Bubbly, Lovely, Sweety) at FC8. Bapats later moved to MD9.

One memory of the building is that of a cobra that they’d seen slither into the gap below the front gate pavement slabs. The local snake catcher was called to catch it.

Another memory is of the day Srivathsa and his sister Anu went to Sandhus’ house, and found the door locked. Instead of walking down the stairs, Anu decided to slide down the cement banister and came crashing down. Both sat injured and crying.

Vasanth recalls the time Sandhu uncle bought a 5-inch B&W portable television from Singapore. A big gang would crowd around it to watch cricket, Chitrahaar and movies on Doordarshan, while Sandhu aunty prepared hot parathas.

FC5 to FC8

FC5 and FC6 (downstairs), FC7 and FC8 (upstairs)

FC5 n FC6

There were only four FD houses. The Dhingras (Amit, Kuky) were at FD4 upstairs, and the Sandhus moved downstairs to FD2 from FC8. Madhav Rao family (Rama, Uma, Bharathi) were at FD1 and Pillais (Raji, Vishwam, Suba, Babu) at FD3 above them.

When the Dhingras moved out, the Sharmas (Vidhi, Rituraj and Vineet) occupied FD4, when the Sandhus left Bangalore, the Pillais moved down, and when Madhav Rao left, the Jankiraman family (Kalyan) moved in.

Whoa! Can’t believe we’ve kept track of move-ins and move-outs, but it’s nice to recall all the old neighbours.

FD2 and FD4

FD2 and FD4

The Joshis, Vasanth and Meera, lived at FC3. Anu recalls that little Rohan would be at the balcony facing the main road, waving to the other children. Venkat lived at FC1 and he finally married Vidhi.

FC3

FC1-FC4

Unlike earlier days, the entire colony (now called Tejas Enclave) is bounded by granite walls and guarded gates.

tejas enclave lr

The Tejas Enclave entry road

Large trees, many of them probably close to 100 years, would be doing well to keep out the heat and pollution. The main road has a nice footpath but it was surprising to see a lot of rubbish thrown in several places in a defence-related colony – it needs a good clean-up. And if the houses are given a coat of paint, the colony will start looking as good as it used to in the days gone by.

Written with inputs from Srivathsa, Anu, Dr Nagarajan, Leela Nagarajan, Vasanth, Krishnaswamy
Pictures taken on 5th November 2018

Chuskit – a film to watch

I’ve known Priya Ramasubban for many years, because of our association with Bangalore’s lakes, and though we’ve talked on the phone, I’d never met her face to face. This was going to change. Her full length feature film Chuskit was going to premiere at the Jio MAMI’s 20th Mumbai Film Festival on 27th October and I had decided that I must plan my time so as to be able to attend the show. I’m sure I wouldn’t have travelled 25 km on a warm Saturday afternoon in Mumbai to watch a Ladakhi children’s movie, directed by a south Indian filmmaker… if it wasn’t for the filmmaker.

Poster of film festival

Film festival poster at Matterden Carnival Cinemas

For those who may not know, Priya has traveled the world for over fifteen years making films for National Geographic, Discovery, History Channel and other major international broadcasters. She has written and directed Lost Kings of Israel (National Geographic), Divine Delinquents (National Geographic), several episodes on the long-running series Digging for the Truth (History Channel), episodes on the series Into the Unknown (Discovery Channel), an episode on Monster Fish (National Geographic) and several others notable productions. Priya was one of the six people chosen from all over India as a part of a screenwriter’s lab organized by the National Film Development Corporation where she got the opportunity to evolve her story for Chuskit under the mentorship of award-winning Dutch writer Jolein Laarman.

Priya and self pic

With Priya before the show

I reached the Matterden Carnival Cinemas in Lower Parel in South Mumbai early enough to be able to do a little socialising. The venue for the screening of the children’s films (the collection was called Half Ticket) of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018 was a traditional single screen theatre, known to locals as Deepak Talkies. The theatre’s been very comfortably revamped with an ambience that takes me back to the days of Imperial, Plaza and Galaxy in Bangalore.

The film is loosely based on the true story of a paraplegic Ladakhi girl Sonam. The star of the film is Chuskit whose dream of going to school ends when she is rendered a paraplegic after an accident in the winter snow. While her friends start school, Chuskit is confined indoors and generally has her strict grandfather, Dorje for company. Though the school is inaccessible to those who cannot walk, she continues to be hopeful of going to school. Life at home gets harder with regular battles with her grandfather who tries to make her understand that school can’t handle her needs. Caught in between their struggle are Chuskit’s parents and her enterprising brother who want to respect the old world views that Dorje represents, but also want to keep Chuskit’s spirit alive. Chuskit will have to get her grandfather to yield or she will have to accept the reality he has chosen for her. (I don’t want to be a spoiler and reveal beyond the information made available to the press.)

Chuskit poster

The film was great! Beautiful scenery in Ladakh, fresh faces on the big screen, good acting, music that lingers, and an inclusive story line with readable English subtitles. The film does well in capturing the day to day life of people who live in the hilly villages of north India and gives us glimpses of the Buddhist traditions that they follow. 90 minutes well spent, if you are fortunate to catch a show in your city.

Post the screening, we had an interactive session with members of the Chuskit team. Worth mentioning is that the team had many women – director/screenplay writer, acting coach, producer, costumes, editor, etc. Priya had written the script in English, which was translated into Hindi and then to Ladakhi. All the actors were recruited through local auditions, and filmed fully in Ladakh. We were told that the initial winter snow scenes were shot first and after a point the team didn’t have money to continue shooting. On receipt of fresh funding, shooting resumed after three years, and this was done with the same cast. While changes in the adults are not noticeable, it is interesting to see the children a bit grown up.

the team answering questions

The team answered questions after the show

There were many children who attended the show and they were provided space outside the cinema hall to write their comments. One comment that struck me said that children’s dreams can come true, and adults shouldn’t ignore them but should help in making the dreams a reality. At a different level, it is not just children, but those who are differently abled (young and old). We need to make our infrastructure and facilities convenient for them to live their lives just as we do. I sincerely hope that this film is able to find distributors who will take it to the masses and to our government, to improve awareness and sensitivity, in the hope of positive action.

Special Police Officers in Bangalore

There was a time when the Bangalore City Police used to take the help of common citizens to maintain law and order in the expanding city.

In 1990, someone realised that HAM radio (amateur radio) operators had great potential to assist the police. In those days with no mobile phones, quick communication was possible only between the senior policemen who carried walkie talkies. The HAMs had an advantage over most policemen as they were licensed to carry wireless handsets (also called 2-metre), and operate them on certain frequencies (144-146 MHz). HAMs in Bangalore were very active on 2-metre and someone would always be available in case of an emergency.

So on 9th October 1990, several HAMs, who volunteered to work for the police for a certain number of hours per week, were appointed as Special Police Officers (SPOs) by the then Commissioner of Police, Mr R. Ramalingam.

Uniformed occupations (like the police) have always attracted me, so I was thrilled to bits to become a Special Police Officer, complete with ID card and certificate. It was minus the khaki police uniform, but being an engineering student, our khaki workshop clothes almost covered this.

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ID card

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We were given patrolling duty in the areas near our homes, and I can recall at least one instance when one of the SPOs was instrumental in busting a crime.

While the Police Act gives provision to appoint SPOs, I’m not sure if the practice is continued in Bangalore. I found that Aurangabad, in 2017, was working towards recruiting 10,000 civilians as SPOs, to assist the local police.

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