Thursday, November 30, 2006

Open to the elements!

One of my favourite subjects when I studied Energy Engineering, was Energy Efficient Buildings. These are just buildings that are built in such a way that artificial energy requirements are minimised. This is done by designing the house such that it makes optimum use of naturally available light and air, and you need not rely on artificial lighting and cooling. The materials that you use to build the house also matters.

Actually, our ancestors knew perfectly well how to build energy efficient homes. If you walk in from the hot sweltering sun into an old house with a courtyard, your face is greeted with a cool breeze, and your feet tread upon a deliciously cool floor. Where does this coolness come in on this hot day? Just a little planning and design.

And now we have lost it. For as usual, we are aping the west. The sleek glass buildings that we see so much, that look so posh and sophisticated and appealing are perfectly suited to the western climate. The glass windows are excellent absorbers of heat, and the building is automatically heated, thus reducing their heating requirements in winter. But in a tropical climate like ours, it only serves to heat up the interiors further, which we then try to counter by pumping in precious energy to power the air conditioners. So, due to glass windows, now the air conditioners have to do the work of reducing temp from 35 deg to 24 deg, rather than 28 to 24 deg (In summer, in Bangalore). And when there are power cuts, the problem could have been solved by simply opening the windows - but ah no, the windows here cannot be opened. So you have a backup of diesel generators which results in more energy wastage.

Building such energy guzzling buildings in a place like India is almost as silly as building an igloo in a desert.

If you want an example of an Energy Efficient Building, visit the office of The Energy Research Institute in Bangalore, very near Airport Road in Domlur. They have constructed the building in such a way that artificial lighting is not necessary at all. As far as I could make out, there was no air conditioning either, and no fans. Yet, there was a lot of air movement, and a cool, pleasant atmosphere. One more specialty of this place is that this building stands next to an open drain, the smell from which hits you when you go past it. But inside the building, there is no hint of a stink. You can get an idea about how it was accomplished, here.

And building such buildings is not expensive either. You just need an architect and an engineer who know the basics. But renovation or modification of an existing building to become energy efficient can be expensive.

Even our department in our college was built with these principles. The college is situated in an extremely hot place. Even then, we did not need to switch on fans even if the temperatures outside were 30-35 deg. Only when it went to 40 deg, did we switch on the fans. As for lights, even on the cloudiest day, we haven't switched on the lights in our classrooms. In fact, I wouldn't even have known where the light switches were, had we not had special classes in the evening by a visiting professor!

To give you a slight idea of the type of construction and materials used -
1) The South and West facing walls, which experience maximum solar radiation, had no classrooms or windows, but were covered with granite, which doesn't absorb heat, instead creates a cooling effect
2) The building had a courtyard, with classrooms all around... and a courtyard is perhaps the best design to create cool breezes.
3) The walls had insulating materials between bricks, which again minimized heat absorption.
4) The floor of the terrace, again, was specially constructed such that heat is not absorbed.

There is a lot of information available on the internet too, if you are interested to look. But when reading up on principles, you should remember that the principles change with the place and latitude. What might be a perfectly good design in Australia, will be totally useless in India because the angle of the solar radiation is totally different in the two hemispheres. Similarly, even a building in Bangalore (moderate climate) will be different from one in, say, New Delhi (extreme climatic conditions). Our department building was designed for a very hot climate, so it concentrated on minimising heat absorption.

Design of a building is one step - the next step involves using energy efficient light fixtures, etc. The third step involves incorporating solar water heating, and solar photovoltaics for taking care of a part of the energy requirements of the building - all these make up an energy efficient building.

And the best part of such a building is that it is a pleasure to be in it - it creates the effect of lots of space - it looks beautiful. In fact, schools should be specially designed with these principles in mind - a lot of light and air is conducive to learning.

So, if you are going to build a house, do give this a thought, will you? :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A reco.

I will be back with some posts, but I couldn't resist telling you about this very funny blogger - Raj of Plus Ultra. I have been reading his blog for over a year and he has only been getting better.

It is not that there are no other blogs on my blogroll that are worth mentioning. But the fact is that I feel that considering how good Raj of Plus Ultra is, he is not read by a proportionate number of readers. And when I see some other moderately funny bloggers praised to the skies, I keep saying in my mind, "But you haven't read Plus Ultra!" So I decided to bring the voice out of my head onto my blog -- this is my tiny attempt at publicity for him. And no, he is not giving me any commission for this. Just a fan's attempt to thank someone who always makes her smile!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Succumbing to the insistence of my dear well-wishers and pushers, I sent along a little something to Deccan Herald, and it has been published in today's edition (Nov 25th, 2006), in their "Right in the Middle" section.

They haven't edited anything except for the very last line, which they have modified to mean the exact opposite of what I wrote originally!

You can read it online here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan - Broadcast Schedule

The Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan is an annual festival of music, conducted by All India Radio. Every year, since 1954, it has been broadcasting concerts of known and upcoming artistes as part of this festival.

This is something I look forward to each year, a veritable feast for the soul. Every night for about a month in December, I go to sleep with the strains of beautiful music in my ears - and what could be more relaxing?

This year, the broadcast starts on December 2nd, 2006.

Everytime I get comfortable in the feeling that the whole world is getting net-savvy, there comes a rude realization that it is not yet so. An example in the present context is that I couldn't find the Broadcast Schedule of the Sangeet Sammelan anywhere on the net.

I finally found a handbook of AIR, which gives the entire schedule, and as my own little contribution to the music lovers of India, I have typed out the entire schedule, along with the dates, time, and categories.

Do tune in, and hope you enjoy it!


2/12/2006Saturday9.30-11 pmVeena SahasrabuddheVocalH
4/12/2006Monday10-11 pmJayanthi KumareshVeenaK
5/12/2006Tuesday10-11 pmBarun Kumar PalGuitarH
6/12/2006Wednes- day10-11 pmMadhav Gudi VocalH
7/12/2006Thursday10-11 pmTrichur V. RamachandranVocalK
8/12/2006Friday10-11 pmArvind ParikhSitarH
9/12/2006Saturday9.30-10.30 pmAfroz BanoLight Classical VocalH
9/12/2006Saturday10.30-11 pmNissar Hussain KhanTablaH
10/12/2006Sunday10-11 amH.C.VermaVocalH
10/12/2006Sunday11-12 noonNityanand HaldipurFluteH
10/12/2006Sunday9 30 –11 pmKunnakkudi R.VaidyanathanViolinK
11/12/2006Monday10-11 pmVijaya JadhavVocalH
12/12/2006Tuesday10-11 pmRajendra PrasannaFluteH
13/12/2006Wednes- day10-11 pmVishakha HariVocalK
14/12/2006Thursday10-11 pmAlka Deo MarulkarVocalH
15/12/2006Friday10-11 pmAmarnath MishraSitarH
16/12/2006Saturday9 30 – 11 pmN.RamaniFluteK
17/12/2006Sunday9 30 –11 pmUstad Mazhar Ali and Javaad Ali KhanVocal DuetH
18/12/2006Monday10-11 pmNiladri KumarSitarH
19/12/2006Tuesday10-11 pmCheppad A.E Vamanan NamboodiriVocalK
20/12/2006Wednes- day10-11 pmShanti SharmaVocalH
21/12/2006Thursday10-11 pmBasant KabraSarodH
22/12/2006Friday10-11 pmChittoor G.VenkateshanFluteK
23/12/2006Saturday9 30-11 pmAbhayNarayan MallickDhrupad- DhamarH
24/12/2006Sunday10-11 amBharat Bhushan GoswamiSarangiH
24/12/2006Sunday11-12 noonBaldevraj VermaVocalH
24/12/2006Sunday9 30-11 pmN.RavikiranChitraveenaK
25/12/2006Monday10-11 pmMambalam SistersVocalK
26/12/2006Tuesday10-11 pmDinkar PanshikarVocalH
27/12/2006Wednes- day10-11 pmPraveen ShevlikarViolinH
28/12/2006Thursday10-11 pmKalyani LakshminarayanaVeenaK
29/12/2006Friday10-11 pmNisha ParasnisVocalH
30/12/2006Saturday9 30-11 pmBuddhadeb DasguptaSarodH
1/1/2007Monday10-11 pmDesur D.S.D.SelvarathinamNagaswaram K
2/1/2007Tuesday10-11 pmShubhra GuhaVocalH
3/1/2007Wednes- day10-11 pmBahauddin DagarRudraveenaH
4/1/2007Thursday10-11 pmT.V. ShankaranarayanaVocalK
5/1/2007Friday10-11 pmVishwanathVocalH
6/1/2007Saturday9 30 – 10 30 pmSamaresh ChoudhuryVocalH
6/1/2007Saturday10 30-11 pmRadheshyam SharmaPakhawajH
7/1/2007Sunday 9 30-11 pmBombay sistersVocalK
8/1/2007Monday10-11 pmSandipan SamajpatiVocalH
9/1/2007Tuesday10-11 pmSaumitra LahiriSitarH
10/1/2007Wednes- day10-11 pmM. ChandrashekharanViolinK

[Source: All India Radio Booklet (typed out with some corrections).]

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It's a long way to Tipperary......

TP Kailasam is one of Karnataka's better-known humorists. Though he passed away about sixty years ago, he is remembered quite often even now in many contexts. A host of delightful stories, anecdotes and witticisms are attributed to him.

He was a very interesting person. He reportedly could blow smoke rings and spell out his name with them. How cool is that! (I mean, not his smoking, you know what I mean!) He was a master punster, and often refered to himself as "Typical Ass".

Most anecdotes are best told and understood in Kannada, but here is one interesting story. Once, while Gandhiji was staying for a while at Nandi Hills, there was a concert by the great violinist T.Chowdaiah. Gandhiji, enjoying the magnificent music, turned to Kailasam, who sat next to him, and asked, "Who is this great man?" Immediately, Kailasam replied, "Oh, Bapuji, you are a great non-violinist, but this Chowdaiah is a pakka violinist!" He was rewarded with a wide toothless grin.

On another occasion, somebody asked Kailasam, "You say that Sir M.Vishweshwaraiah is blessed with sixth sense, does that mean that nobody else has sixth sense?" Kailasam replied, "Oh sure, you do have it too, but in your case it is called non-sense."

Anyway, this space will not suffice if I begin to relate his anecdotes, so let's leave it at that.

Recently, I had been to a wedding reception, where there was a live Sugama Sangeeta (Kannada Light Music) concert. I did not recognize the male singer, but the female singer was the gorgeous M.D.Pallavi (I know her better as Vidya of Mayamriga fame).

[Sidenote: In Mayamriga (A popular Kannada soap directed by TN Seetharam, that was aired a few years ago), Pallavi played the role of Vidya, a singer, who walked with a limp. During this concert at the wedding, at one point, Pallavi changed her sitting position, and as she did so, she gave a slight grimace and rubbed her foot. The first thought that popped into my head was, "Oh, her bad leg must be giving her trouble... ". Even as I started thinking this, I realized what I was doing... "Oh man", I thought, "That was just in the serial.......... Pallavi's leg, in reality, is just fine..." If I, who hardly watched a dozen episodes of Mayamriga, could get so attuned to her reel personality, then what about those people who watch soaps with total dedication? Reminded me of this post of mine. End of sidenote.]

So, during the concert, the male singer sang the song "Namma Tipparhalli Balu Doora". I remembered it as a song I had loved as a child, but had long forgotten it. I was thrilled to listen to it after all these years. I vaguely remembered that it was composed by TP Kailasam. This, and another song, "Kolikeranga", had been two of my favourites.

"Kolikeranga" is a spoof of the English poem "Constantinople". The story goes that when Kailasam was studying in London, an English friend of his sang "Constantinople", and claimed that this kind of a song cannot be composed in any other language. And Kailasam, as a challenge, composed "Kolikeranga" right on the spot.

I googled and found that even "Namma Tipparhalli Balu Doora" is a spoof of an English marching song, "It's a long way to Tipperary".

You can listen to both these songs, sung by C.Ashwath, a well-known singer in Kannada, here.

Both these songs have the first few lines of the English original, and then the Kannada version, as a continuation. Do listen to them. The English original "It's a long way to Tipperary", is such a beautiful, evocative song... full of old-world charm. I just fell in love with it.

And if you are a Kannadiga, do concentrate on the lyrics of the Kannada versions - they are hilarious. And if you don't catch the lyrics, you can find them here. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

And here's to more such accidental discoveries!

Monday, November 13, 2006

James and James

So India is planning a Manned Spaceflight program. Coincidentally, this news came at just the time I was finishing a magnificent book, "Space", by James Michener, in which he writes about America's space mission. The key word in the plans about India's space mission is, to do it "ahead of China". And the keyword in America's space program was to put a man on the moon "ahead of Russia", who had already sent a man to space. Interesting!

I have gushed about James Michener earlier in these pages. But that will not stop me from gushing again.

Michener's books are unique. He chooses a subject, does extensive research on it, and then writes a story about it. The result? You get all the information about that subject, in the form of a gripping story.

All books I had read so far involved countries. For example, in Hawaii, Michener traces the history of Hawaii right from its formation, to the first dwellers, through the centuries to the present. His facts are correct, historical details are factual. But he makes a story out of it. Instead of telling you, "Hawaii's first inhabitants were people of blah-blah origin", he brings to life a family, with its own joys and sorrows, and makes that family migrate to Hawaii. He writes about the family, its experience and travails, and then moves a century forward and writes about the grandson of the family he had talked about previously. He traces the developments of the habits and culture of Hawaii through these jumps in time. Sometimes, in the regular dealings of these people, he pops in a real historical character, like a scientist, or a national leader, and gives him a role too in the story. So it hits you from time to time, that what you are reading might be a fictitious story, but somewhere, such a thing must surely have happened to somebody.

So ultimately what you are reading is a engrossing story about one or two families. But what you are absorbing is the entire history and culture of Hawaii. I mean, could it get better?

Another mind-blowing book is The Source, which creates the same magic with the land of Israel. Hawaii and Source are my favourites, but the others are no less magnificent. Covenant(About S.Africa), Poland, etc. There are a lot more short stories which I haven't read yet, and some books like Caravans(about Afghanistan) and Sayonara(about Japan), which are short novels that just give you a story, but Michener doesn't miss sprinkling it with large doses of culture and history.

Space is the first "non-country-centric" kind of book I read - it traces the beginnings of interest in Space missions, starting from the Second World War. It tells you everything that you need to know about what goes into a Space Mission, by means of stories of half a dozen exceptional men. Wow, what a book!

You come out of reading any book of his, with a sense of fulfilment.

The other James couldn't be more different. James Herriot. The much-loved author who wrote about his hysterically funny experiences as a countryside veterinarian.

The first book of his that I read was his first book, If Only They Could Talk, and he had me hooked right from page one. This book is about the first year of his veterinary practice, and he starts the book with how he has been called in the middle of the night to attend to a cow which has been in labour for a long time, but hasn't delivered the calf yet. So, says Herriott, he was knee-deep in cow muck, in the dirty shed in the middle of the cold night, with his entire arm inside the cow, trying to feel the calf, and then he thinks of the picture in his course books, which dealt with calving, and wonders at how different the picture was. He says, in his own words -

"The didn't say anything about this in the (course) book, I thought, as the snow blew in through the gaping doorway and settled on my naked back.

My mind went back to that picture in the obstetrics book. A cow standing in the middle of a gleaming floor while a sleek veterinary surgeon in a spotless parturition overall inserted his arm to a polite distance. He was relaxed and smiling, the farmer and his helpers were smiling, even the cow was smiling.

Ah, such joy!

The feeling you get after reading James Herriot is one of "Nirmal Anand" (Pure Joy) (Now which movie is this phrase from?)

While Michener needs to be read with concentration, and can get heavy at times (Pleasantly heavy - never a dull moment), Herriot gives you hours of laughter. Herriott's books are probably the only ones that have made me put the book down and clutch my stomach and laugh. And while I would recommend Michener only to the "Vidya Arthis" (those who seek knowledge), I would recommend Herriot to everybody looking for some hours of pleasant reading - yes, even you, who says "Ohhhh I can't read even one page of a novel". Because it is light, it is fun, and you require no effort at all. And it is always lovely to read an affectionate account of those loveable creatures that we call animals.

So, whenever anybody asks me who my fave novelist is, it is quite simple for me to answer. "James, and James"!
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