Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's wrong with what we eat

Mark Bittman is a food writer known best for his simple recipes and no-nonsense style. A self-proclaimed home cook, Bittman is not a trained chef but developed an interest in food through his career as a journalist.January 2009 marked the release of Food Matters, Bittman’s exploration of the link between global warming and other environmental challenges, obesity and lifestyle diseases, and the overproduction and overconsumption of meat, simple carbohydrates, and junk food. Food Matters analyzes how the American diet is taking a toll on both human and planetary health, and it offers a viable solution to this dual problem in the form of a diet––and recipes––based on reduced consumption, or sane eating. One of his talks:

How we are deceived by our own miscalculations of the future

Daniel Todd Gilbert is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He is a social psychologist who is known for his research on affective forecasting, with a special emphasis on cognitive biases such as the impact bias. He is the author of the international bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, which won the 2007 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books. Here is the video of a talk he gave during TED Talks. He believes that, in our lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes -- and fool everyone’s eyes in the same way -- Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

Chai-Pakoda (Tea-Deep Fried veggies with gram flour)

When we are kids, we loved when it rained. Lot of rains ment: No School that day, stay at home and have good food, play indoor games and in the evening have Chai-Pakoda and Mudhi (Mur-Mura or Puffed Rice). I remember, one of us used to go out and get Pakoda/Samosa from the nearby hotel and return half wet. Yesterday it rained here and we had cloudy weather. We thought, lets try Chai-Pakoda for evening snack. This is very popular snack in Western Orissa. The best way to have it is with chutney. However you can have it with chilli/tamato sauce.

How to make Pakoda?


1. Besan (Gram Flour)
2. Onion
3. Diced Garlic, Ginger, Green Chillis (optional)
4. Patato, Curliflower, Leafy Veggies (Diced and its optional)
5. Chilli Powder
6. Turmeric Powder
7. Garam Masala
8. Salt to taste
9. Baking Soda (pinch of it)


Mix all the ingridents together in a bowl. The mixture needs to be consistent and you need to be careful not to add too much water while mixing. You need to add little bit water at a time. The mixture needs to be thick enough to stick to the veggies.

Take a frying pan and pour any cooking oil suitable for deep frying. Ensure the oil is hot

Make small balls (it will be irregular) of the mixture with your fingers and drop to start deep frying. You need to fry till it turns golden brown. Ensure not to fry too much or it will not taste good.

So we are done... you can serve the Pakodas with any wet chutney (mint, tamato, tamarind...) or have them with ketchup.

Bullock Brothers Homestead - A 25-Year Permaculture Project

Bullock's Permaculture Homestead in Orcas Island, Washington: For over 25 years they have applied their experience to create what experts refer to as the finest permaculture site in North America. This site is one of the old permaculture experiment sites. You can visit for more information on what they do.

How to grow your own fresh air

Researcher Kamal Meattle (Delhi, India) shows how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used in specific spots in a home or office building, can result in measurably cleaner indoor air. Kamal Meattle has a vision to reshape commercial building in India using principles of green architecture and sustainable upkeep (including an air-cleaning system that involves massive banks of plants instead of massive banks of HVAC equipment). He started the Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park (PBC-STIP), in New Delhi, in 1990 to provide "instant office" space to technology companies. PBC-STIP's website publishes its air quality index every day, and tracks its compliance to the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact, a corporate-citizenship initiative.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

David Suzuki on Environment and the Economy

David Suzuki is a long time activist to reverse global climate change, Suzuki co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, to work "to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us." The Foundation's priorities are: oceans and sustainable fishing, climate change and clean energy, sustainability, and David Suzuki's Nature Challenge.

Here is one of the talks he gave on climate change:

How to regrow a rain forest...

Willie Smits works at the complicated intersection of humankind, the animal world and our green planet. In his early work as a forester in Indonesia, he came to a deep understanding of that triple relationship, as he watched the growing population of Sulawesi move into (or burn for fuel) forests that are home to the orangutan. These intelligent animals were being killed for food, traded as pets or simply failing to thrive as their forest home degraded. Smits believes that to rebuild orangutan populations, we must first rebuild their forest habitat, which means helping local people find options other than the short-term fix of harvesting forests to survive. His Masarang Foundation raises money and awareness to restore habitat forests around the world -- and to empower local people. In 2007, Masarang opened a palm-sugar factory that uses thermal energy to turn sugar palms (fast-growing trees that thrive in degraded soils) into sugar and even ethanol, returning cash and power to the community and, with luck, starting the cycle toward a better future for people, trees and orangs. You can visit the website of the organisation:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


While writing the last post, I remembered one more incident which I thought to share with you all. It was in March 2008, the stage was set for a annual review of all the work we did last year. Though I was a guest to the event, I was to take charge of one business. I was expected to understand the dynamics of this new business and know the team.

We had a surprise visit by a senior member from the management. This guy was supposed to talk abut the goals for coming year and share his vision of the business. Then came the presentation and on the first slide has these four words: "GET MORE FROM LESS" and for next two hours was discussion on the coming tough times in financial sector in India and around the world.

As senior managers, we were asked to prepare for an economic slowdown, credit crunch, increase in lending rates, attrition and no new manpower and so on. However, the challange was no to let the share value go down, profitibality go down. The whole exercise was to get more productivity and profitibility from less people and less resources. This ment more work for us, less time for ourselves and family, less salary hikes, less bouns, less promotion, may be more layoffs.

Now when I look back to the discussion, I ask myself what is wrong to "LIVE MORE FROM LESS"? Though the businesses won't let you do that. They will bomb you with thousands of ADs in TV, Newspaper, Internet. They will tell you that, your life will change when you buy their brand. You will feel better with their brands and not a small brand or non-brand (Though manufactured in same factory) good. These companies want consumers to spend more, buy new goods so that their business can run. They ask their employees to GET MORE FROM LESS and want consumers to SPEND MORE GET MORE.

The whole experiment with downshifting your life is to LIVE MORE FROM LESS. You can enjoy your life, have more time and freedom with less resources and consumer goods also. If can get the same thing, but a non-branded or not an established brand with less...WHY NOT?


Need-Want Matrix

I learned about Need-Want Matrix when was working for a large company and was into managing a large group of people. We were working on a Five S project implementation. Five S is a reference to a list of five Japanese words which, transliterated and translated into English, start with the letter S and are the name of a methodology. This list is a mnemonic for a methodology that is often incorrectly characterized as "standardized cleanup", however it is much more than cleanup. 5S is a philosophy and a way of organizing and managing the workspace and work flow with the intent to improve efficiency by eliminating waste, improving flow and reducing process unevenness. This concept is great for improving productivity or efficiency. This process also reduces waste.

When I was reflecting back, I found that the Need-Want matrix is really a good concept for decluttering our lifestyle also. Though I implemented in my work, I never practiced it in life. In my downshifting journey, it really helped me.

Most of the time, we plan to acquire what we want and not what we need. When the basic requirments are taken care of most of the things are wanted and not needed. I may need a car for four people, but I want a expensive large one. I need to buy a TV, but I want a large LCD. These are two examples, however when you replace all needs with wants the equations completely changes.

So when you want something, check out if you need it. People may ask why to do that. Is it frugal or we are going backwards? When we are asked toimplement the same at work to get more from less, why not in life to get more time and freedom.


I have been away for some time now from work and my past lifestyle. It is been a big change, after I tried to align myself with my values and what I want my life to be from now on. When I reflect back a year or so...I find today I have much more time for myself then I ever had. Also, I got to spend lot of time with my family.

However, some people asked me WHY now? and WHY at all? This is a really good question. I also asked myself these question when I started. Though I wanted to downshift, but earlier I thought, let me give myself ten years and then start. But, now when I look back, its better to start now then ten years later. For me it is to getting a better balance between time and money. You can get caught up in working hard and creating money then spend more to counteract that. What matters is the difference between what comes in, what goes out and whether you enjoy what you do.

The starting place for me was, when I got a break. We are so busy in our day to day work and future planning that we don't get time to reflect on the journey. When I got a chance, WHY not? Also, its important to understand that, the journey is unique to the individual. What, When is good for me may not be good for others.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A picture to remember

I took this picture during our Dallas trip. After few tries, I could take the pic of this cute little squirrel.

"Pakhal" - Receipe of Western Orissa

Pakhal is the typically rice cooked and soaked in water. It is very popular in Orissa. I remember most of the people in our region eat Pakhal during summer. It is recommended during summer to avoid heat stroke. The "Basi-Pakhal" or Pakhal which is kept for 12-24 Hrs and left for fermentation is very good for summers.

There are many additions to Pakhal. It can be combined with curd, onions or fried whole masala can be added. So lets learn, how to make Pakhal.


Step 1: Cook rice and allow it to cool down. You may or may not drain the water. However, I suggest not to drain it. The water in which rice is cooked is rich in carbohydrates. For "Basi-Pakhal" you can leave it for 12-24 Hrs.

Step 2: Take some day chilli, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, two cloves of garlic fry that with litle oil.

Step 3: Pour the fried mix into Pakhal.

Step 4: Add curd into it, if you want.

Step 5: Salt to taste.

Serve Pakhal with vegetable fry, curry, fish fry or any side dish.

In Western part of Orissa, we eat Pakhal with Tamato Chutney (Patalghanta Chut Chuta), Sag (Cooked leafy herbs) and Potato Fries (Alu Bhaja).

Try cooking the simple yet great receipe...

Cusine of Orissa

I am a foodie and like travelling to different places to explore the culture and food habits. I found lot of websites and resources of Indian cuisine. However, when we talk of Indian food, most people think of either South Indian and North Indian food. Then you have sub-divisions like Punjabi, Andhra, Kerela or Mughlai and so on.

Indians follow different religion, cultures and the food habits reflects it. If you travel around India and taste the food of different regions, you can know the history and culture of the region.

I found very little references on cuisine of Orissa. People often think that food habit of Orissa is same as Bengal. That is why, there is very little information on oriya foods in Internet. I have found some websites coming up in last few years only. With in Orissa also we have different types of cuisines. We mostly talk about the food of eastern region. However, the tribal regions of north and south orissa, western region also have very rich food history. Since I come from western part of Orissa, I thought, will write on the history, tradition and food habits of western Orissa which is lesser known.

I will also try to go down the memory lane and find out what my mother and grandmothers have been cooking for generations. I hope to find out some old recepies and update them in the blog.

Will keep posting...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dryland Permaculture

I had posted some videos of Bill Mollison on Permaculture in tropical region. Lets look at the dry climate now. We have seen deserts taking over green pastures all over the world. Deserts were caused by changes in geological and climate of the region. However, lot of the deserts are created by us. There are various reasons for it. In this video, Bill Mollison shows us how to rebiuld the soil and restart the greening process.

Bill Mollison showing how permaculture can heal deserts in various parts of the world:


Greening the Desert

People laughed at Geoff Lawton (Permaculture Designer) that it is not possible to green the desert of Jordan. If it can be done in Jordan, it can be in lot of other places where we have very little rain. I had posted some videos of Geoff in earlier posts. This one is small but very encouraging.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Fisherman Story

One of my favorite stories – you might have read it before...

There was this city banker who was on a holiday near the beach. Though this place was far from the city, it was a very good fishing village and a unpsoiled beach. He saw a group of fisherman enjoying the sunset, drinking and singing. He thought that they must have got a good catch today and celebrating. He went near them and asked one of the fisherman, how the fishing is going on. One of the elder fisherman said its going good. The banker as usual started asking some question to know the nature of business.

He asked the elder fisherman, how many boats he has. Fisherman said, he has a small boat and he goes to the sea in that with his son. The banker said, I can arrange you loan from the bank and you can buy five large boats. The fisherman asked then what.. banker said, you can keep some people and go far into the sea and catch more fish. You can supply the fish to the city and make millions. The fisherman asked, this banker "What you will do if you have million dollar?" The banker said: "I will buy a house near the beach and drink and live happily." The fisherman said, don't you see thats what I am doing now.

Again, this idea might seem so basic that it doesn’t need repeating. And yet it is resisted by many people as a knee-jerk reaction. A basic level of material resources are needed, yes. But beyond that, it really makes no difference. So why do we resist it or even feel the urge to attack such a statement? What does it challenge inside us? If one honestly tries to answer these questions, the answers can be revealing.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Downshifting - Starting the journey

The blog is a result of our (me & my wife) downshifting journey. However, I decided to write about it little late to wait and see if I am on right track. Its time that I recognize and share my downshifting journey.

It all started when I found that life is not only about earning and spending. There are much more than that...which I failed to recognize for ten years. So back in Aug 2008, I started this journey.

I decided to leave a well paying job in a metro and do nothing for some time. Now when I look back at this period I found, how much I was missing. It was like a rat race...You go to college, find a job, work hard and move up, earn more money, buy car, home etc.. get married and keep working hard to earn to sustain the life style. This is a typical case of a college educated young man/women in India. Most of the time the job chooses you and not vice versa. I guess this is more to do with the social and cultural fabric of India. I have found very small percentage of people get to do what they love starting their childhood.

So I decided to stop in the middle of the race and moved away to watch it for some time. It was amazing to find, how much I have missed in this ten years. we chase big goals and forget the small joys that come to us every day. Will continnue...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rural Life in Japan

People associate Japan with hi-tech industry and big cities. However, young people from cities are moving to country side to take up farming and living a slow and environment friendly life. Take a look at this video...

Slow Life In Japan


The Future Of Food

In this clip of a documentry, the grim reality of food production is shown. We have become so dependent on chemicals that food production has became an industrial process. It consumes more fossil fuel than any other industry. The damage it is doing to the environment will take thousands of years to fix.

The clip of "The Future Of Food"

Farm Of The Future

Rebecca Hosking in a BBC Documentry "Farm of the Future." She moved to her farm, to find out the present state of farming and changing the process which will have less impact on environment and will not be dependent on fossil fuel. In the process she discovered that the present farming method and food production will not help England. The same is true for lot of other developed countries and going to be true for developing countries also. This is a wake up call for the global farming community as well as others.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bottled Water Vs Tap Water

We have seen the increase in bottled water consumption over the years. Traditionally water has been a public resource and was supplied by government bodies through tapes. However, the bottled water companies with the fancy ads started impacting the minds of people. How much we pay for these bottled water? I think some cases more than milk. Moreover, the environment impact is huge. The plastic water bottles take 1000 years to decompose. We buy the bottled water and throw it in garbage bin. We don't care where it goes and dumped. So if you are buying bottled water, you are paying thousands times more than tap water and also helping in polluting the environment. Its easy to carry a bottle around and use simple filteration method at home to filter the water.

abc News clip on Bottled Water vs Tap Water:

CNN News Clip:

One more clip:

Know more about bottled water:

Think Out of Bottled Water

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Masanobu Fukuoka - "The One Straw Revolution"

Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese farmer who developed what many consider to be a revolutionary method of sustainable agriculture. He is also the author of The One-Straw Revolution and several other books examining both his philosophy and his method of farming. The essence of Fukuoka's method is to reproduce natural conditions as closely as possible. There is no plowing, as the seed germinates quite happily on the surface if the right conditions are provided. There is also considerable emphasis on maintaining diversity. A ground cover of white clover grows under the grain plants to provide nitrogen. Weeds are also considered part of the ecosystem, periodically cut and allowed to lie on the surface so the nutrients they contain are returned to the soil. Ducks are let into the grain plot, and specific insectivorous carp into the rice paddy at certain times of the year to eat slugs and other pests. The ground is always covered. As well as the clover and weeds, there is the straw from the previous crop, which is used as mulch, and each grain crop is sown before the previous one is harvested. This is done by broadcasting the seed among the standing crop. Also he re-introduced the ancient technique of seed balls(Earth Dumpling). The seed for next season's crop is mixed with clay, compost, and sometimes manure, and formed into small balls. The result is a denser crop of smaller but highly productive and stronger plants.

Natural Farmer Masanobu Fukuoka conducts a workshop for making seed balls at his natural farm and forest in Japan.

Seed Ball Story

Water Harvesting - History Vs Modernity

Water is key to survival of any life form in this planet. However, we have ignored it for long. We have infact polluted the planet with all these new inventions. Our ancestors knew how to work with nature and harvest rain and preserve fresh water in our planet. When I visited small villages in Western Orissa, I could see many small ponds (Bandh) and large water bodies with earthen dams on one side (Kanta). Rain water was stored in these large water bodies and was key source for agriculture and other uses. There were lot of wells which were used for drinking purpose. These days we find very few of them. We instead dig hundreds of feet to draw water.

Here are few videos posted. By Mr. Viswanath. The case study is of some villages in Puri district. There are very few old wells remaining and more people use deep bore wells. However, as the area is near to cosat, the water of deep bore well is either salty or traces of iron is found. In both the cases it is not good for use. With rain water harvesting and building ponds and large water bodies to collect rain water and wells near them will certainly help tp solve the problem.

Part I

Part II

Part III


Square Foot Gardening

We all think that gardening takes lot of time and energy. That is true with conventional way of gardening. It takes lot of space, water and energy. The same can be achieved with 80% less resources with square foot gardening. This process uses space, soil, water to its highest efficiency. With this method we can setup a garden in any kind of space. It is espically useful for urban areas. Have a look at the video by Mel Barthomolew, the originator of this process.

You can also visit for details on suqare foot gardening.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Permaculture in Tropical Climate

The videos shows how permaculture is practiced in tropical climate; in places like Africa and India. We can use the permaculture design to compliment the local climate. Permaculture can be practiced in any kind of climate system.

Tropical Permaculture Strategies - Pt1

Tropical Permaculture Strategies - Pt2

Tropical Permaculture Strategies - Pt3

Tropical Permaculture Strategies - Pt4

Harvesting Rain Water

Water is the most important resource for any kind of food production and living. Though most of the planet is full of water, we can't use it. Every year we dig deeper to find water to drink or irrigate. The other alternative is to build large dams and block flow of river.

We can use the small swales and dams to harvest the rain water. The combination of swales and dams can also be used for passive irrigation. In this process we slow down water flow. This enables the land to absorve more water. Depending upon the land size we can build a small or large dam or swale system. So lets see the video...


Establish a Food Forest

When we talk of forest, we only think of wild trees and plants. We never think that forest can also be a source of food. The conventional method of food production requires large flat lands, machines, chemical fertilizers, pesticides etc... We can never think of food production with out any of these. However, with the Permaculture principle we prove it. This design system draws the design from nature but recpacling some part of forest with edible and useful plants.

Geoff Lawton who is a permaculture expert shwos how to establish a food forest. This video takes us through the entire process of permaculture design.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Smart Use Of Urban Roof Top in Bangalore, India

In urban landscape of Bangalore, there is a house which is unique. In what way?... How may you have imagined paddy(rice) growing on roof top. Well there is one couple, who have changed the way of rice is grown. I was born in a village in India and then moved to cities. I have seen large rice fields with full of water and people working. I had never thought that it is possible for some one to even think of growing rice on roof top in a city like Bangalore. After watching the video, I am proven wrong. It is possible and successfully practiced by Mrs & Mr Vishwanath in Bangalore, India. I know, I might sound like mad...but check out guys.. the video posted by Mr. Vishwanath in Youtube.

Simple and smart solution for complex issues and working with nature is going to be the key to survival. We are witnessing the Peak-Oil phenomenon. I am sure the way we are using fossil fuel, the planet can't sustain such use of fossil fuel. We all need to wake up to this fact and start working together to save this planet for our next generations to live.


Ecological Architecture - A Technology Demonstrator Building in Bangalore

While doing some research on eco-architecture, I came across several people who are working in this field. However, as an Indian, I was very much interested to see if some one who is working on this. I knew Mr. Laurie Baker did great work in this field. People in Auroville, India also practice sustainable community living. However, I was delighted find a couple in Bangalore, India: Mr S. Vishwanath and Ms Chitra Viswanath who not only talk about sustainable living but demonstrated this through their living. They are also doing great work in rain water hervasting and you can find it on their website. If they can live and show how to live with nature and and not against is possible in big cities, I am sure all of can start by taking baby steps towards sustainable living.

Find more about rain water harvesting at:
You can enjoy the video and see the eco-building and the simple, yet very effective technology used.

Part One:

Part Two:

I am sure you enjoyed it...Thanks

Towards Permaculture

I had never heard about the word "Permaculture" till few months ago. While searching Youtube for videos on sustainable living, I came across one video of Bill Mollison. Thats how my search and learning for permaculture started. Permaculture stands for Premanent Agririculture. It was first developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren during 1970s. The start was a kind of silent revolution and slowly the message was passed on to thousands across the glob through their teachings and books.

Permaculture principles follows nature and its design. The same design is the foundation for any permaculture design. Do visit the site for details:

You can also check Youtube videos on permaculture:

The Permaculture Concept - Part One

The Permaculture Concept - Part Two

The Permaculture Concept - Part Three

The Permaculture Concept - Part Four

The Permaculture Concept - Part Five

The Permaculture Concept - Part Six

I hope you enjoyed these videos...