Friday, December 31, 2010

Question mark still looms

Related posts

A year has passed since I posted “Happy new Year?” here on the same blog.

Well, I still can’t comprehend the idea about the prominence of the stroke of midnight moment that people celebrate so passionately. As pointed out in comments to my above mentioned   post, some knowledgeable readers said it is the celebration of new beginning and farewell to an eventful year .It was said that the greetings we exchange are ways of expression that remind and reassures our friends that they are thought of and we are with them in the journey of life.

Not that I have anything against the celebrations or against those who decide to rejoice and party in grand style with all fervor. The issue is, as the curtains are drawn on a year is it just   another reason for bash?   Instead shouldn’t the year end be the moment of retrospection and introspection for what we have got or lost and what we have learned through the journey of a year.  These moments of introspection truly give meaning and purpose to the life and help us do the suitable adjustments to rudders of our flight to stay on course so that we become the person, we think, we were meant to be.

Another year goes into annals of stupor but the life goes on and the tryst to accomplish unfilled dreams continues.Wishing you everything that brings fulfillment in your life, I leave you with this beautiful verse of kahlil Gibran

"Yet the timeless in you, is aware of life's timelessness,
And knows that yesterday is but today's memory
and tomorrow is today's dream.
But if in your thought you must, measure time into seasons,
let each season encircle all the other seasons,
and let today embrace the past with remembrance
and the future with longing."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tips on house construction I : Stone work

Your house is manifestation of your thoughts and your life style. It should be built to suit your needs, requirements and budget and that sometimes may not be in harmony with the way people say it should be built. The first step is to make a chart of the requirements that you have in mind, in terms of number of rooms and the minimum size that you find acceptable for different rooms.
After this, decide whether you would like to have a basement or semi basement in the house. The cost of land, type of soil, vicinity condition and Governmental laws shall be the deciding factor for this decision. For example In Jodhpur the corporation does not allow construction of the basement due to the problem of rising ground water level. So it is always better to check if the authority will approve your house plan for given depth and height parameters. Having a semi basement is advisable if the cost of land is high and if one is planning to have an office at home which can save on commutation time. A part of basement can also serve as cargo space if your business necessitates one. If you decide to go for basement pay attention to water proofing and lay- out of sewerage line. In my opinion it is advisable to have the whole semi-basement as a singular entity where walls and partitions can be created later, as per one's requirement. Another advantage of having a semi basement is the plinth level becomes high and thus the elevation of the house looks much better.
Next decision that you have to make is about the type of structure. Two common structures in RCC are wall load bearing structures and frame structure. The basic difference between the two is in the first type, walls bear the load and pass it on to the soil directly where as in frame structure slabs and beam transfer the weights to columns which in turn bear the load instead of walls. Frame structure is suited for multi storied buildings and if you envisage changing space requirement. Besides, wall thickness will be lesser in case of frame structure. Cost wise frame structure cots roughly 25 % more than the wall structure.
Next step is to get a map prepared from an architect and its approval from the local authority of your town. Make sure that the map is in accordance with the criteria laid out for minimum drop out area that is to be essentially left in front and rear side. Many people will make you believe that getting approval is a very difficult and time consuming task. Almost everyone I know, suggested me to go through some agent and pay him hefty fees for that. Believe me; I got my map approved within 24 hours without paying a single extra penny. If one is determined not to bribe and be party to corruption way is not difficult. Just pay and obtain receipt for whatever are the laid out charges by local governing body and along with the receipt submit your plan to corporation or development authority of your town. You generally get the approval within two days .They will be giving you a copy of approved map and a letter. A Xerox copy of it should be given to your contractor/ supervisor so that it can be shown to the municipal authorities coming for snap check. In case you face any problem go to the officer in charge instead of wasting your times with clerks who will give you all wishy- washy answers.
Along with the map also have a working plan made that has the dimension of doors, walls and columns. This gives you a clear cut idea as to what will is the exact wall to wall space that you are going to get. The masonry is done in accordance with this work plan. In case you decide to get a lay out plan for electrical wirings and sanitary be specific about your requirements. For example you should have provision to switch off water pump from inside the house. The socket of coolers should be outside but the on/ off switch should be in the room. The provisions for split air conditioning should be done before hand so that there is no drilling and plumbing required after finishing.
Next comes the choice of contractor, It is very important to get all the quotes in writing with specification of mix for various works. For RCC work insist on M-20 grade that has a ratio of 1:1.5 :3 for cement, sand and coarse aggregate . A simple material calculator is available on this link , all you have to do is type in the dimensions of your construction and that gives you requirement of cement bags. Make sure these many bags go into the RCC mix. In most of the constructions mixing is done manually and there they take smaller heaps for cement and larger heaps of aggregates. Though it does not amount to huge savings for the contractors but most of them are deceitful by nature and not by need, as is said 'old habits die hard'. Companies like 'Gujrat- Ambuja' cement do the RCC testing free of cost. All that you need to do is tell them the place time and date of RCC. Their representatives will come in the van and take the sample and will notify you about the strengths of sample after 7 and 28 days.
It is essential to understand and negotiate about various other expenses. See that the contractor in his quote covers as to who will bear the cost of filling to raise the land , the cost of underground tank ,water browsers and whether the contractor will give you hardened or loose floor after stone work. These areas generally lead to dispute.It is better to make it clear to the contractor that there should not be any hidden cost involved and you are not liable to bear any cost besides what is quoted as per square feet cost for stone masonry.
The next decision that you have to make is about the elevation. I personally went for stone elevation because in this area of India stone is available for reasonable price and we have very good craftsmen who do a wonderful grinding and cutting job. The best thing about stone elevation is does not require and maintenance like paint or weather coat. Stone elevation though are far more costly then cement elevation . Vitrified tiles have good exterior range available and one can go for that also. Exteriors are matter of individual choice and the cost can vary drastically depending on designs you choose.It will be a good idea to  get quote for all the grinding and finishing in advance or you will be surprised to see the bill later , I can promise you that it won't be a pleasant surprise.
Though all the work and supervision is done by others, as most of us do not have the time to be present there all the time . I think it is better to know what is going on so that no one can cheat you easily.

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do".

  Contd …….in part II : Finishing

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back to blogging

It has been a long gap of ten months since I last posted on this blog. Indiblogger ranking of my blog has nosedived from 82 to  46  and I have not been able to keep constant touch with some of my blogging friends.

The reason that kept me away from writing was my preoccupation with construction of new house . The idea of custom built house by builder did not appeal to me for two main reasons . First ,I wanted to built it the way that suited my requirements . I wanted a floor of the house for my classes , desired  plenty of natural  light and air and wanted optimum utilization of space . Second, I am a firm believer of value, so, did not want an exponential  relationship between quality and price.  I did not compromise on quality of material used , yet  managed to keep the price under check.

It was quite a satisfying  experience , with a series of lessons learnt that I  would like to share with  you in forthcoming posts under the heading "Tips on house making". I intend to do it in three parts namely 'stone work' , 'finishing' and lastly 'furnishing'. Hopefully the information will be useful to the people planning to get their house constructed in near future.
In the mean while I would like to share some pictures of my house .

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Poverty Eradication over seven course dinners

“Common sense is so uncommon” and our official machinery proves this axiom right time and again. Latest in the series of tomfoolery is the decision of forest department to conduct a seminar on poverty eradication in tribal belts. The subject event will be held in the costliest five star hotel at Udaipur where many rooms have been booked and lavish arrangements are made for the delegates by an event management firm.  The distressing part is that money spent will be from 400 million rupee aid received for the proposed poverty eradication program.

A British tabloid once called India a ‘poor country of rich people’ where beds are more fertile than the land. It definitely sounds an overstatement considering the progress we have made especially in service sector. Global perception about the country has definitely altered but not a lot has changed for a poor man in the country. A couple of steps ahead of polished uptown locale are bound to bring you face to face with pathetic scenes of the human life vegetating in slums. We talk about being an IT superpower and still a portion of the population is forced to sleep hungry .India truly is kaleidoscope of extremities.

The poverty can be reduced not by doing charity to poor but by giving them work near their place of habitation. Strengthening of infrastructure, apt conversion of population into human resource and a thorough check on corruption are the only ways we can reduce poverty. It sure cannot be done in this extravagant get-togethers of elites who still cater to the misbelieve that poverty can be reduced by floating another scheme , setting another committee and by demanding another allocation  .

I was truly not able to come to terms with logic of our education minister and his brigade of supporters who think that exam and education are the only reason for stress in students. Now this news of planned poverty eradication program in this extravagant manner makes me understand whose poverty and whose stress they want to reduce…

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why are we, the way we are?

In this post, I am trying to analyze psychological influence on complexity of human nature and behavior. It might help not only to develop a greater self-awareness but also in enhanced understanding and  acceptance of fellow humans.
Understanding of human nature is definitely far more complex than that of computers and robots. Unlike robots, human response to stimulus is not solely controlled by the logic and programs. The reason for complexity lies in the fact that we the humans, besides having a logical mind also possess a compassionate heart that is capable of feelings, emotions and sentiments. Our brain subconsciously makes a simultaneous record not only of events but also of feelings that are associated with these experiences. Two gel together and decide our response to the situations that we face in life.
There are variety of viewpoints in psychology that attempt to explain personality formations and human behavior each has its exclusivity yet each suffers from certain pitfalls .In this post I mainly focus on “Transactional Analysis” in uncomplicated and lucid form.
In its simplest form theory of transactional analysis is based on PAC model that divide the ego states of human into Parent Adult and Child domains. Stored in the PARENT domain are the advice and admonishments that we receive from our caretakers and elders in our early childhood. CHILD domain contains our reactions to those advice that are often unexpressed but lie recorded somewhere in psyche. The ADULT state, undoubtedly the most important one is the recording of our experiences based on our actions .In a nutshell, Parent relates to teachings, adult to thinking and child to feeling. In a balanced human being these three domains should be separate and should not overshadow one another.
Consider a situation .Every parent teaches the value of truth to their offspring and ‘never lie’ is one advice probably everyone has heard in childhood. Now when the phone rings on a Sunday morning and father tells the child to inform the caller that “papa is not at home”. It is not safe for child to ask the parent that why is he being asked to lie? At this instance a feeling is definitely aroused in child that is in conflict to the advice stored in the parent. In later part of life experiences may teach us that sometimes it becomes imperative to lie. The difference is some people lie for their own convenience and some lie only to avoid a discomfort or pain to someone else and this is where values come into picture. This degree of transgression and perversion is decided by adult according to their affordability of truth.
In language of psychoanalysis a question is called Transaction Stimulus from ‘Agent’ and reaction from the other person called the ‘Respondent’ is named Transaction Response. A ‘Game’ is an ongoing series of complementary transactions visible or concealed progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. Mostly a game is dishonest, and the outcome has a dramatic quality. On the other hand an ‘Operation’ is a set of transactions undertaken for a specific, stated purpose. Let me simplify with example, if someone frankly asks for advice or opinion and gets it, that is an operation. On the other hand If someone asks for advice and after it is given it is contradicted or turned in some way to the disadvantage of the giver, that is a game. Here adult of respondent is trying to defeat the parent subconsciously. Outwardly, a game looks like a set of operations, but after the result it becomes apparent that these operations were really maneuvers and what appeared as honest request was but a move in the game. You can experience the game when next time you get a call from some financial company agent who sounds too concerned for your physical and financial health while at the root he is trying “To make a kill” to complete his business target.
All effective and successful communications must be complementary. It must be a two way process between the receiving ego state to the sending ego state. For example, if the stimulus is Parent to Child, the response must be Child to Parent, or the transaction is called ‘crossed’ which results in an ineffective communication that upset either one or both parties. Continuous crossed transaction lead to break-downs in relationships. Wise people realize this in time and instead of winning battle of tongue settle to triumph with heart.
Robert R. Brown has aptly observed that “Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn't taken the time adequately to understand” An understanding of Psychology helps you understand others and more than that your own self .As famous psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, says “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I firmly believe that every parent and teacher should have basic knowledge of psychology to avoid the scars on souls of children. Our actions and words have great influence on the next generation. To illustrate and link upbringing with our seemingly innocuous actions and words let me site one more example from my earlier posts written in Hindi. The first steps of every toddler are a moment of joy for every mother and we know that falling is an inevitable part of process of learning to walk. Have you noticed the reaction of mothers when the child falls after taking a first few steps? Some mothers stand at their place and motivate the child to come to her, child may be crying but she encourages the baby to continue and come to her. Love is showered on the baby when he or she accomplishes the task of reaching the mother. By doing this the mother has indirectly taught the child the importance of accomplishing the task that is initiated. In contrast many mothers may go and pick the child, because they can’t see the baby crying, but then will that baby not look for care and support every time he faces a hurdle. The worst reaction is that of a mother who runs to pick up the child and then beats the floor and accuses the floor of making her baby fall. Such people will generally blame someone else for their mistake.
I came across this story Written by Barbara Dunlap , I can't resist the temptation to share it with you .....
Once there was a very small person who had feelings. He had many feelings and felt them every day. His family liked him when he showed his feelings, so the very small person started to wear his feelings on his sleeve. One day one of the small person's parents said that they didn't like to see the FEAR feeling anymore, so the small person tried to pull it off. The parent said that they would give the small person some TOUGH to cover over their FEAR. The small person found it very difficult to cover the FEAR with the TOUGH, so the other parent and the grandparents all helped. It took many days. "Now you look wonderful," said the parents when it was done. "We've covered some of your feelings with TOUGH, and you'll grow into a strong person."
The small person grew a little older and found a friend. The friend also wore his feelings on sleeve. The friend said one day, "My parents want me to cover up my LONELY feelings, and to be different from now on." And they were. The small person decided to cover over his LONELY feelings too, and he also  got ANGRY from another adult. The small person put big patches of ANGRY on top of their LONELY. It was hard work to cover over the LONELY feelings.
One day when the small person (who was now not so small) went to school some of his LONELY feelings started to show. So the teacher kept him behind and gave him some GUILT to cover his LONELY feelings. Sometimes when alone at night the person would look at his feelings. He would pull off the TOUGH and ANGRY and GUILT to look at his LONELY and FEAR. Then he would have to take a long time putting the TOUGH, ANGRY and GUILT back again.
One night the person noticed that his LONELY and FEAR were growing, and beginning to stick out from under the patches. So the person had to go out to find some more ANGRY to cover the LONELY, and got all the TOUGH that his parents could spare to cover his FEAR.
The person grew older and became very popular because everyone said that he could hide his feelings well. The person's parents said one day that he had a PROUD feeling because the person had been so TOUGH. But the person could not find anywhere to put the PROUD feeling because the TOUGH was getting so big. The person had trouble finding room on his  sleeve for any other feelings - the TOUGH and the ANGRY were all that showed.
Then after a time the person met another person and they became friends. They thought that they were a lot alike because they both had only TOUGH and ANGRY feelings that showed. One day the friend told the person a secret: "I'm not really like you - my TOUGH and ANGRY are only patches to cover over my LONELY and my FEAR." The friend pulled back the edge of his TOUGH and showed the person his FEAR; just for a second.
The person sat quietly and did not speak. Then carefully he too pulled back the edge of his TOUGH and showed his FEAR. The friend saw the LONELY underneath. Then the friend gently reached out and touched the person's FEAR, and then the LONELY....... The friend's touch was like magic. A feeling of ACCEPTANCE appeared on the person's sleeve, and the TOUGH and ANGRY had become smaller. The person then knew that whenever someone gave him ACCEPTANCE, he would need less TOUGH, and then there would be more room to show PROUD..... SAD ....... LOVING.... STRONG.... GOOD.... WARM... HURT... FEAR......
Isn't that lovely  ? Every parent every guardian and every teacher should read and try to understand the essence of this story .One good thing that pope had said was  “To do violence to emotions is the worst crime one can do, sometimes it is worse than killing”. So next time you want to say “You are wrong”,  please note that “I don’t agree" means nearly the same and “You have not sent” and “I have not received” convey the same meaning. You can’t be nice to everyone but at least be kind to everyone as everyone is fighting one’s own battle of life and for many it is not easy. 
 Human mind, soul and heart, so eccentric yet so beautiful. As a urdu poet says
"Nahin dekha kahin jalwa jo dekha khana-e dil mein
Bahut kabe mein sar mara bahut dhoonda kabine mein"
This translated into simple English means " I am yet to see anything more divine as human heart , after I have searched and bowed my head at all the mosques and temples for majesty".
I wonder if there could be anything which is more easily destructible than human soul...????

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year ?

Another year gone. I am sure for most of us it was a bagful of experiences, many of which will remain with us in memories and a few, might have already transformed into lessons.

Inboxes and mailboxes are filled with wishes that in someway bring warmth; it feels nice to know that our existence is recognized by people in form of SMS or mail. In my personal view the idea of “NEW YEAR” suits the markets. For an individual or group has anything changed over night? What is it then at the root? Hope for a better tomorrow? Better in which terms? How can we express the antique of days in us with only the sounds of our yesterday and today?

 “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons This line from T S Eliot's poem hangs around and goes through my head almost daily. I try to understand what he meant but then the meaning of it changes from different window panes of my mind. Some of us measure time with setting and rising of sun and most of us measure this by the device tied to our wrist or kept in our pockets. It is for each one of us to decide how we intend to give meaning to the time.

Life is a process, a constant journey to become the person we think we were meant to be.An anguished longing to attain the destinations we plan to attain .Life is about a purpose which is not limited to a New Year resolution   and this day  definitely has more to live for than an occasion to party. Jeremy Irons sensibly said “We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams.”

Happy New Year .......You may suffix it with exclamation mark, a period , a comma or a series of dots .For me it is a question mark , I am ignorant  and in humility to  my ignorance lies my answer.
For yours, I am waiting……. ..


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