Friday, 5 July 2019

(Don’t) Waste the Thunder, Recycle

6:30 PM, I pressed the doorbell of my flat. As I was waiting for my brother to open the door, my eyes fell on a dozen cold drink bottles gathered in the polythene lying by the dustbin (No thanks to my cold drink addicted little brother). I picked them up and brought them inside. In about 30 minutes, I repurposed these bottles into these cute pen holders. What motivated me to do this at the end of a tedious work day? Because I imagined them being dumped in a place called Ghazipur Garbage Mountain and contributing to the horrible stink that will ruin my evening tea in my balcony.

Friends, I live in Kaushambi, Ghaziabad and at a very short distance of Ghazipur Garbage Mountain. When I saw it for the first time, I mistook this giant structure for Delhi ridge, extension of Aravalli (poor geography, I know).  Living here for past two years, it has been my worst nightmare come true to stay so close to this ticking bomb. When I visited the flat for the first time, I imagined the spacious balcony as the perfect spot for stress busting. Little did I know that this would be the most depressing spot of my house, thanks to the view it offers.

This Mt Everest of Rubbish is 65 metres in height and is about to cross the height of Taj Mahal(75 m) by year 2020, making it the 8th wonder of the world for sure. Each season, the site exposes us to new perils. In summers, the fires last often for days due to the methane gas being emitted from the dump. The flood of smoke curling up from the dump gives the impression that the city is on fire. During monsoons, it stinks of deadly and noxious gases. Poor me, I was such a fan of the earthy scent produced when first rain falls on dry soil. And now that scent is foreboding. In winters, it is not visible from distance, thankfully the fog obscures it. But you can imagine the composition of fog in the nearby areas. It is a sureshot way to hell.  True, I am not an early riser, but thought of having a morning walk (trek) in the Ghazipur surroundings wakes up the procrastinator in me instead and makes me bury my head in the cushions harder. The nights are worse with the smelly storms erupting in the crystal mountain by the alarm. The conditioning of gust of wind with horrible smell has made me stop associating the wind with the pleasant weather. At times I wonder, how much my lifespan has shortened by staying in the vicinity of this filthy mountain of doom (sorry mumma, your fasts won't be able to undo much).

Going along with the sarcastic rave reviews of this site on google, I stopped nearby to click a picture. The mound resembles a reclining ogre with smoke coming out of its many cervices and an unbearable smell seeping around. I am not sure whether I will be able to visit the world's most beautiful place, but definitely I have photographed the worst place in this world and was lucky enough to have a close look. This surely is the best place to feel death with the vultures and other bird of prey circling over the smoking mountain doom. Stray cows, dogs, rats and hundreds of waste pickers comb through the heaps of filth. Dozens of trucks shamelessly disgorging trash. The toxic leachate drained into Yamuna like rivulets of molten lava. It is not just a passive disaster, as predicted by many. In 2018, a section of the hill collapsed and buried two people alive. It is surrounded by the ghost flats, thanks to the advertisement of "Garbage side view" by the doomed builder. Another fun fact, the name Ghazipur and birds of prey hovering above the dumpyard, are shared by North India's largest Vegetable and chicken market.

I have posted these pictures of the site on to the Swatch Bharat twitter handle, but to no avail. Who on the earth can clean this festering mess? Who has the will? Can something be done? I can't answer these questions. What I can do is to tame these small demons (plastic bottles)  into cute little pen holders  and prevent them from landing into the ticking bomb.

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.

#saynotoplastic  #recycle #beatplasticpollution #refusesingleuse

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Book Review: Brief answers to the big questions by Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, the most renowned scientist after Einstein, narrates a coincidence that he was born exactly 300 years later, i.e. 8th Jan, 1942 after Galileo died, i.e., 8th Jan 1942. It dawned upon me to find another coincidence, that I was born on 50th birthday of Stephen Hawking, i.e.,8th Jan 1992 :D.

He has brilliantly linked science(physics to be specific) and mathematics with the real life social and humanitarian problems, thus bridging the gap between elite scientist and common man.
He has been able to present the science in a very engrossing and lucid  way. The big questions he deals are: Is there a God? How did it all begin? Is time travel possible? What is inside of a black hole? Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Will artificial intelligence outsmart us? How do we shape the future? Should we colonize space? Can we predict the future? Will we survive on earth? 
I wasn't expecting concrete solutions for these questions, but Stephen Hawking is able to explain these complicated and highly unpredictable questions in a way that everyone would understand while providing food for thought and firing the imagination of the reader. 
The complicated and intellectual stuff is blended with his sharp sense of humor- comments on Trump, stupidity of human race etc. Initial 4-5 chapters are science laden. While the last three chapters are crucial for the present world- the future of our planet, colonization of other planets, and the rise of artificial intelligence. He charts his strategy to save us. He suggests science to be the only savior to these problems.
There are far too many mentions of Star Trek(have put it in checklist) surely underlining his vision for the future of humanity. Few harmless repetitions are out there giving a feeling that all the independent essays are just sequenced up, lacking a coherent compilation. The justification lies in the fact that the essays were written as independent modules by Stephen Hawking and the book was completed by his academic colleagues and family member after his demise. The final touch up might deserve more attention.
To sum up, the title does justice to the content, a great introductory collection of essays to big ideas. It is a masterpiece for school students, under graduates or layman to understand the very basic problems of science and their importance in life.  As he lived his life with optimism, never give up attitude and a great vision for humanity, he suggested scientific literacy to be an essential component for future.
I would recommend this intellectually stimulating book to the leaders of global world, including politicians to realign their priorities to what matters.
Quotes I liked from the book:
"If you look behind every exception person there is an exceptional teacher"
"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up. Unleash your imagination. Shape the future."

(Don’t) Waste the Thunder, Recycle

6:30 PM, I pressed the doorbell of my flat. As I was waiting for my brother to open the door, my eyes fell on a dozen cold drink bottles ...