“Had a very relaxing time in the resort. The management is very helpful. They will take care of Houseboat booking, the taxi, ayurveda massage. The food is delicious. The huts are made in the traditional style. A taste of the green concept making use of sunlight as much as possible. The location is in the lap of nature. One thing was missing was Internet in rooms but it is available at reception.” –Rajat Shukla
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Thursday, June 20, 2013
It feels like a carnival at Ukkadam, home to the Periyakulam Lake. It is the final Sunday of volunteering, as the monsoons are expected any time now. School children are shrill with excitement, college students jump out of buses laughing and shouting out greetings; picnic umbrellas dot the area. The CRPF, the police and people from the Armed Forces work together in precision, as if performing a drill. Three hundred NCC cadets take up position. A large group of employees from a cement factory talk animatedly, while nearby, the entire team from a Tamil daily has shown up. “Instead of being only the observers who write about events, we unanimously decided to pitch in with volunteer work,” says one of them.
More cars and buses turn into the site, entire families on two-wheelers drive in. Several senior citizens take charge and direct people to the various areas from where they will begin digging. Bhanumati mamileans into a microphone and belts out a popular film song: Anne anne sippai anne; namba ooru nalla ooru, ippo romba kettu poche anne. The song is greeted with whistles, applause and requests for more songs. Mrs. Pandian, retired Botany teacher, sits on a bench taking down the names and contact details of those who have volunteered. Cousins S. Athmika and V.P. Shivani have been dragged out of bed on a Sunday morning by their grandfather. Someone from Krishnagiri offers to give a demo on how to bathe in one and a half litres of water.
Mud is shovelled into shallow metal and plastic basins (in blue, green and red) and passed from hand to hand. Snatches of IPL talk and loud instructions fill the air. Musicians join the fun. The murasu, melamand thapattam set the pace, and as they vary their pace, from slow to brisk, the tempo of work also increases. There is clapping and dancing. When they are not digging, people are taking pictures on their smart phones. Tempo travellers carrying tea, coffee, biscuits and buttermilk serve free food to the volunteers. Coimbatore’s famous Annapoorna has sponsored upma, khichdi and sweets for everyone.
Periyakulam used to be one of Coimbatore’s biggest lakes – spanning 320 acres, with a catchment area of 63 sq km — but it was gradually asphyxiated by water hyacinth, raw sewage and garbage till it became mere shimmers of water in a sprawling, muddy area, with orange specks interrupting the brown expanse. Last year, Siruthuli, the NGO dealing with water bodies in Coimbatore, took up the matter with the Government. The permit to work on the lake came through at the end of April and on May 1, the de-silting operations began under the direction of Coimbatore Corporation, Siruthuli, Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore (RAAC) and the Vijayalakshmi Charitable Trust. Corporates have also pitched in. And the people of Coimbatore have showed up every Sunday to lend a hand.
In a little over a month the landscape has changed. Where there was once just garbage and undergrowth, there is now clean and scrub-free ground. Round-the-clock work has cleared the humongous mess and made way for bunds. Five Poclain earth movers swing, dip, scoop and dump vast quantities of soil from one place to another. More than 8000 volunteers pour onto the bed of the lake and imitate those actions. Forming a human chain, they bend, scoop, pass and throw pots filled with soil on to a growing mound that is part of a 20-ft wide, six-and-a-half kilometre long bund around the lake. Four islands have been painstakingly created at the centre of the dry lake. Saplings will be planted on them and along the bund. Seventy per cent of the work is complete.
“When I was a kid, I used to think Periyakulam was an ocean,” says 60-year-old A.R. Basheer Ahmed, who has always lived near the lake. “It was huge. Karuvelam trees grew in the middle of the lake and I remember the birds singing.” He and his friends played around the lake. Basheer is just one of the 700 others residents of Ukkadam who have come to help. “We want our lake to regain its lost beauty. At a time when divisive forces are at work, we need to join hands for more such causes,” he says. He hopes there will be a walking track created around the lake, just like old times.
Why do they do it? “I know machines can do the same job we are doing and more efficiently, but the personal satisfaction we get is unmatched,” says N. Thulasidas, vice-president of the Indian National Cement Worker’s Federation, who has come with a 52-strong team. “We came prepared for more than just two hours of work. When people come together for a cause such as this, it will definitely succeed. We hope we will soon be able to boat on this lake.”
Lalit Mahesh, who has just graduated from school, has come here with friends from Pollachi. He says, “People can do what earthmovers cannot. They can inspire. To see the work happening firsthand is very satisfying.” Lalit is well aware of the water situation in Tamil Nadu and the world. “Tamil Nadu faces an 11 per cent water deficit,” he says. “By 2045, that deficit will increase dramatically. Already, one person out of three in the world has no access to potable water.”
For 51-year-old B. Ganesh, the lake represents livelihood. It provided his daily catch for 18 years. But it became progressively difficult for him and his fellow fishermen to eke out a living. “The lake used to be so beautiful in the mornings when I set out with my friends for my daily catch. We used to enjoy drinking the fresh water that was available in plenty even a decade ago.” The fishermen have volunteered with clean-up efforts in the past, and they welcome this drive wholeheartedly as well.
M. Lukman, a fruit vendor, has spent all his life near the lake. “It teemed with birds, and the greenery and water made it look like something out of an English travel channel,” he says. He hopes this initiative will improve the plight of other wetlands as well, as the livelihood of several fishermen has been severely affected. “Plenty more needs to be done, but I have faith that the lake will be restored to its original glory.”
Many people share this belief. What is happening at Periyakulam is more than just physicalshramdaan, or donation of labour, as R. Raveendran of RAAC says. “When the lake comes alive, we will know we had something to do with it. This ownership will ensure that we will never let it come to such a pass again.”
- courtesy THE HINDU
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Thursday, May 2, 2013
People’s tweets get significantly more positive in mood the greater the distance they are from home.
Feeling low? Over-worked, anxious, bored with life? A holiday will do your mood a world of good, there’s scientific proof. This is the latest dispatch from an emerging discipline in which social-networking media are mined to gauge people’s moods and opinions. Twitter is one of the most fertile sources of information for this kind of study, partly because comments are less guarded and self-conscious than responses to questionnaires (the social scientist’s traditional means of sampling opinion) but also because huge amounts of data are available, with automatically searchable content. What’s more, Twitter feeds sometimes come accompanied with useful information such as the tweeter’s profile and location.
Previous studies in the field of “twitterology” have, for example, monitored the spread of news, the demographics of different languages, and the correlations between obesity and expressions of hunger in particular populations. Since changes in public mood like brewing social unrest will show up on Twitter and other social media, governments, police forces and security organisations are showing an increasing interest in mining networks, raising questions about the right balance between privacy and security. Meanwhile, spotting the emergence and propagation of trends are a gift to marketing departments.
The new study of the link between happiness and geographical location takes advantage of the “garden hose” public-access feed for Twitter, which makes freely available a random 10% of all messages posted. This provided the researchers with four billion tweets from the year 2011 to analyse.
The researchers were interested in how the mood expressed in the messages correlated with the location from which they were sent, they sifted through this immense data set to pick out those tweets that were accompanied by the precise latitude and longitude of the sender’s mobile phone – a facility optionally available for tweets, which uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate the message’s origin within a 10m (32ft) radius. About 1% of the messages included this information, giving a data set of 37 million messages sent by more than 180,000 individuals from all over the planet.
However, identifying where the sender is situated doesn’t in itself reveal what the researchers wanted to know. They were interested in how the message content varied with distance from home. But how could they know where “home” was?
It turns out that positional information disclosed by our mobile phones reveals this pretty clearly. In 2008 a team of researchers in the US used the locations of mobile phones – recorded by phone companies whenever calls are made – to track the trajectories of 100,000 (anonymised) individuals. They found that, as we might imagine, we tend to return over and over again to certain places, especially our homes and workplaces, and only rarely venture very far from these locations.
In much the same way, researchers could figure out the most common locations for each individual in their survey, and how widely the person tended to roam from those places. They found that people generally have two such preferred locations, just a short distance apart, which they attributed to the home and workplace.
How, then, do the messages differ when individuals are at home, at work, or further away? To assess the “happiness” of a tweet, the team of scientists developed what they call a ‘hedonometer’: an algorithm that searches the text for words implying a positive or enjoyable context (such as “new”, “great”, “coffee” and “lunch”) or a negative one (“no”, “not”, “hate”, “damn”, “bored”). On this basis the ‘hedonometer’ assigns each message a happiness score.
The findings report that the average happiness score first declines slightly for distances of around 1 km (0.62 miles) – the kind of distance expected for a short commute to work – and then rises steadily with increasing distances of up to several thousand kilometers. What’s more, individuals with a larger typical roaming radius use happy words more often – a result that probably reflects the higher socioeconomic status of such jet-setting types.
So it seems we’re least happy at work and most happy when we are farthest from home. At least, that’s the case for the roughly 15% of American adults who use Twitter, or to be even more cautious, for the English-speaking subset of those who chose to ‘geotag’ their tweets. One key question is whether this sample is representative of the population as a whole – Twitter is less used among older people, for example. It’s also an open question whether expressions of happiness in tweets are a true indicator of one’s state of mind – are you less likely to tweet about your holiday when the weather is awful and the family is fractious? But such quibbles aside, you might want to consider that costly flight to Bermuda or Kathmandu after all.