What to do with Suddenly Discovered Old Currency Notes?

Most of us keep currency notes at multiple places around the home. Sometimes just for storage (that we remember) but sometimes to keep it securely so that we can use them during emergencies, etc. It’s normal to forget about the latter until it gets discovered accidentally. It’s generally a pleasant surprise, then.

But now, with the demonetization that happened so quickly, in spite of our best efforts to locate all the currency notes around the house, it’s only human to miss certain notes. It’s again human to discover them after a while – a few months or a few years later.

I can understand if the Govt. doesn’t want to exchange a large sum of money. We ourselves won’t keep and forget huge money somewhere. But what if, we recover some money that’s not large, but not too small to ignore either? For the normal not-so-rich junta, I mean.

Don’t you think there should be a way to exchange these old demonetized currencies?

Even if we assume that it is unaccounted money (it’s not, in most cases) why can’t the Govt./Banks deduct the highest possible income tax (30%) and give back at least the remaining money in new currency notes?

Otherwise, all that old money is not only a loss for the people but also a loss for the Indian Government.

I hope and wish the Govt. will bring in some law to enable us to exchange these old notes. If they want, they could impose a small fine and upper limit. But not accepting them at all is getting too strict. Don’t you think?

Destination Infinity

PS: This post is not against Govt. policies, but is a representation of the problem faced by common man in the hope that Govt. will address them at some point.

An Epic Trip to our Ancestral Hometown (Ramayapatnam)


Recently, around 43 people from four branches of our ‘Kollu’ family tree decided to visit our Ancestral village – Ramayapatnam, near Kavali/Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India. This is the village where our grandfather’s father lived.

I have not been to Ramayapatnam before but I have heard many stories about this village from my grandmother. So I wanted to visit our ancestral place at least once and came up with the idea we could all visit our Ancestral place together. Elder family members were impressed with the idea and brought it to fruition : )

It’s one thing to visit a place, but it’s another thing to meet many distant relatives at one place — some of whom I have seen many years ago and some I am seeing for the first time.

We went to our Ancestral home at Ramayapatnam, but people who live there were out of station so we could just see it from outside. We performed some poojas in our Ancestral Temple and also visited our Ancestral beach 😉

We were surprised to know that this village has beach resorts. To add to our surprise, these beach resorts were all booked during the weekend we visited and we had to stay in the nearby town – Kavili for the night!

Almost everyone knew our great-grandfather’s family who stayed there before 3-4 decades. They even knew the names of our grandfathers – a couple whom even made it to this reunion 🙂 I think it’s important to keep in touch with our roots – it’s because of them we are here.

I feel this was an epic trip because four generations of people from three different states and four towns agreed to travel and meet at one place. If you live in the city, you know how difficult this can be – especially during these times as families are distributed all around the world.

Destination Infinity

PS: Don’t forget to watch the photo slideshow video embedded above with the highlights of this trip.

PS-2: Since we are settled in Chennai for three generations, we don’t even mention the name of our ancestral village – when asked. But now we can 🙂

Gharial (GAVIALIS GANGETICUS) Update in Bangladesh

This is a guest post by M Ashraful Kabir – Department of Biology, Saidpur Cantt Public College, Bangladesh. E-mail: ashraful.mission@gmail.com 

At three zoos in Bangladesh, there are a few gharials but they are living with the same sex. In Gazipur Safari Park it’s almost the same scenario. In some recreational parks, there are Gharials but are not productive.

If we ensure in-situ conservation in zoos and safari parks via captive breeding, there is a good chance that their numbers will increase. 

In Bangladesh, development-related activities are the major cause for the decline in gharial population. River bank erosion and Sand mining beside the river induces fear in gharials. River traffic and fishing should be restricted to conserve gharial of Bangladesh. If possible we should introduce modern technology immediately to see its number increase.

A big seminar, symposium, and meetings don’t often lead to a solution. Insecticides and other chemicals in fields are another cause for the extinction of gharials. Lack or research fund is also a problem. In Bangladesh, a few independent researchers are working towards conservation of gharials. Awareness, which is currently lacking, should increase in this field.

Table 1.Male-Female ratio (1:1) Gharial in Bangladesh

Gharials Male Female Total
Rajshahi 3 3
Rangpur 4 4
Dhaka 4 4
Gazipur 1 1
Total 5 7 12

Source:  ProthomAlo, 20 April 2016

Discussion

Gharials belong to the order crocodilia and are the only member under the family gharialidae. These are the largest animals in crocodilian, their average length being 11-15ft.

In Bangladesh, due to environmental pollution, their number is decreasing and only 5 of them were found in 2015 (red data book, IUCN Bangladesh). We need to immediately take effective steps for conservation of this nice animal. In our zoos, if we arrange for its captive breeding surely its number will increase.

Gharial and False Gharial (Tomistoma) are genetically close relatives (Janke et al 2005). Taxon is found in padma, jamuna and tista rivers in the northern parts of Bangladesh (Khan 1992; 2015). Estimated total population in 1957-1990=52, 1991-2000=32, 2000-2002=1 young (sarker et al 2003). Padma river of Rajshahi in the year 2009-2010=9, 2010-2011=7, 2011-2012=5 were found (Rashid et al 2014).

Females lay 10-96 eggs (average 60), hatch 72-96 days at 32-340 C (Daniel 2002). This is both diurnal and nocturnal. Gharial telemetry project was initiated to investigate 2007-08 mass dying of gharials – 110+ individuals in the lower Chambal river, large basking aggregations form in December and January. This 2007/08 die-off of 113 sub adult in Chambal C riverine of India was mainly due to nephrotoxin (Whitaker et al 2008).

In late June 2008 with assistance from WWF-India, the Madras crocodile bank trust and the gharial conservation alliance received ministry of environment and forests and state government’s permissions to capture, radio-tag and monitor up to 30 wild gharials. A subsequent tagging in March 9 resulted in 10 animals being tagged. Another 10 were tagged in November 2010. At present 5 gharials are still being tracked into 2013 for the 2010 group.

Its mating season is mid-February. Nesting is late-march to early-April. Eggs incubate for 2 months and hatch early-mid June. Eggs/hatchlings mortality rate is over 50% at most rearing facilities. Wild hatchlings indicate that they benefit from pre-monsoon ambient temperature and begin feeding on live fish after hatching. There is a need to accumulate accurate knowledge on gharial ecology.

Toxicity in fishes and cold weather are among the causes for its death (Lang and Kumar 2013). Fishermen kill crocodiles and monitor lizards eat its eggs (Stevenson and Whitaker 2010). It is one of the largest living crocodilians (males up to 6 m, average weight 160 kg).

It is one of the largest living crocodilians (males up to 6 m, average weight 160 kg) (Densemore 1943; Wilis et al 2007). Adults do not have the ability to walk in a semi-upright stance as other crocodilians do (bustard and Singh 1978; Whitaker and basu 1983). The presence of the species in the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar has also been reported (smith 1931).

The ghara of males are used for mating with females (Martin and Bellairs 1977). Females get maturity once they grow upto 3 m long.

From less than 200 gharials worldwide in 1974, surveys in 1997/98 in India and Nepal indicated total numbers had increased to around 1675 (ENVIS 1999), of which 436 were adults (anon 2006). However surveys in 2006 showed that the population had dropped to less than 200 breeding adults and the total population was estimated to be approximately 834 (Andrews 2006; data collected by RK Sharma 2005, 2006; Boullard and Cadi 2005; LAK Singh Pers. Comm; Tirtha Maskey, Pers. Comm.). Human influences on riverine habitat for sand –mining, agriculture, irrigation, dam, barrage, to create loss of gharial habitat. From Bhutan ghariasl are extinct, some in India and in Nepal only 35 individuals

Human influences on riverine habitat for sand–mining, agriculture, irrigation, dam, barrage, etc. creates a loss of habitat for gharials. In Bhutan, gharials are extinct. Only a few are there in India and in Nepal – around 35 (IUCN 2009). No gharials are available in Pakistan, and in Myanmar, their number is not verified.  In India in 1975-1982 released 879 gharials. It is hoped that the crocodile breeding and management training institute, situated at Hyderabad (

In India, surveys during 1975-1982 indicated 879 gharials. It is hoped that the crocodile breeding and management training institute, situated at Hyderabad would contribute actively in increasing their numbers (Rao et al 1995).

Recommendations

  • We should count the population of gharial (IUCN Bangladesh 2015 only 5)
  • Need to identify its habitat (only Rajshahi Padma river)
  • Make a plan for conservation (circular for wildlife conservation from various schools/colleges)
  • Through active action plan in zoos/safari park by in-situ conservation for captive breeding
  • Need large space
  • It needs pollution free water
  • Regulate temperature for breeding zone
  • Gharial expert
  • Emphasis on research
  • Interested teachers of various colleges could manage part-time jobs in their area of expertise
  • Apply for fund to WWF or IUCN

 

References

Lang JW and kumar P. 2013. Behavioral ecology of gharial in the Chambal river, India. IUCN-SSC specialist Group IUCN; gland, Switzerland.

Hornaday WT. 1885. Two years in the jungle. Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, pp. 39-57.

Kennion IA. 1921. Crocodile shooting in Nepal. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 28: 291.

Khan MAR. 1979. Gharial extinct in Bangladesh. Crocodile Specialist Group Newsletter., 1:2.

Maskey TM, Percival HF, Abercrombie CL. 1995. Gharial habitat use in Nepal. J. Herpetol., 29(3): 463-464.

Rao CJ. 1933. Gavial on the Indus. J. Sind Nat Hist Soc., 1(4): 37.

Sharma R, Basu D. 2004. Recent reversals in the population trends in the population of gharial on the national Chambal sanctuary in north India; implications and a suggested strategy for the conservation one of the world’s most endangered crocodilians. In crocodile specialist group Crocodiles proceedings of the 17th working meeting at the crocodile specialist group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, pp. 180-186.

Short WHO 1921. A few hints on crocodile shooting. J. Bombay Nat. Hist Soc., 29: 77.

Singh LAK. 1991. Distribution of Gavialis gangeticus. Hamadryad, 16 (1and 2): 39-46.

Whitaker R. 1976. Ghavial survey report. Mimeographed report for the New York, Zool. Soc., pp. 1-19.

Whitaker R. and Basu D. 1983. The Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). A review. J. Bombay Nat. Hist Soc., 79(3): 531-548.

Maskey TM. 1999. Status and conservation of Gharial in Nepal. ENVIS, Wildlife and Protected Areas, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, 2(1): 95-99.

Faizuddin M. 1985. Distribution, abundance and conservation of Gharials in Bangladesh. Tiger paper 12(3): 22-23.

Andrews H. 2006. Status of the Indian Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), conservation action and assessment of key locations in north India. Report of Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.

Francis R. 1910. The Broad-snouted Mugger in the Indus. J. Bombay Nat Hist Soc., 20: 1160.

Kabir MA. (unpubl). Research limitations in Bangladesh.

Anon 2006. Red list assessment for the gharial. Submitted to the IUCN red list authority by CSG.

Bustard HR and Singh LAK 1978. Studies on the Indian Gharial Gavialis gangeticus (Gmelin)(Reptilia: Crocodilian). Change in terrestrial locomotory pattern with age. J of Bombay Nat Hist Soc. 74: 534-536.

Boullard JM and Cadi A. 2005. Gharial conservation in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Dept. of national parks and wildlife conservation and WWF: Nepal.

Densmore III LD 1983. Biochemical and immunological systematic of the order crocodilian. Evolutionary Biology 16: 397-465.

ENVIS (wildlife and protected areas)(1999). Volume 2(1). Wildlife Institute of India: Dehra Dun.

IUCN 2009. IUCN red list of threatened species. Ver. 2009.1 (www.iucnredlist.org); viewed 30 September 2009.

Smith MA 1931. Loricata, testudines. In the fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilian and Amphibian. Vol I. Taylor and Francis: London.

Willis RE. McAliley LR, Neeley ED. and Densmore III LD 2007. Evidence for placing the False Gharial (Tomistoma schlegelii) into the family Gavialidae: inferences from nuclear gene sequences, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 43: 787-794.

Rao RJ, Basu D, Hasan SM, Sharma BB, Molur S, Walker S, Editors 1995. Population and habitat viability assessment (PHVA). Workshop for Gharial. Study at Jiwaji University, Gwalior

Stevenson C and Whitaker R. 2010. Indian Gharial Gavialis gangeticus.

‘Petting’ Zoo @ Thrill Valley, Yelagiri Hills


Petting Zoo was an interesting and different experience for us. When compared to normal zoos where you can just watch animals behind cages, in this place you can touch, feel, hold, caress and interact directly with animals! I loved the idea and enjoyed the experience, much 🙂

During our recent trip to Yelagiri Hills, near Chennai – Tamil Nadu, South India, we went to an adventure park called ‘Thrill Valley‘. I will write a separate post about the rides available there, but it was this petting zoo inside Thrill Valley that attracted me the most and naturally, we went there first.

Of course we didn’t hope to jump over a leopard or lie down on a tiger. Those experiences are not available, at least not yet 😛 But we found many pet animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, chicks, ducks, ponies, etc. We also saw enclosures filled with water – not sure if they are planning to introduce fishes.

While dogs and cats came to us easily, rabbits were not that forthcoming. They kept jumping and running. We didn’t lift ducks – we ran behind them while they moved in a group. Of course, we didn’t go around chasing and lifting these animals ourselves – a guide was there to help us.

Animals also need our love & affection – don’t you think?

Right now there are only a few animals but I still liked the experience. Maybe if more people visit they might add new animals. I feel they could have birds also and increase the number of personnel to help visitors – there was only one person when we went.

I also wish there is a facility to wash our hands while coming out – actually there is a small house nearby and we washed our hands there, but one within would’ve been better. It seems they’ve opened this zoo just three months back, so I guess they will improve in the future.

The idea is good. I hope there will be more such petting zoos at other places also – especially in cities. Don’t miss the photo slideshow I have embedded at the beginning of this post that gives a glimpse into our experience.

Destination Infinity

Our Vishakapatnam Trip


If you didn’t already know, Vishakapatnam (or Vizag in short) is the third cleanest city in India as per Swachh Bharat rankings for 2017. Chennai is ranked at 235, fyi.

We went to Vizag recently to attend the marriage of our cousin and I have put up a few pics from that trip in the above photo slideshow. In this post, I’ll recollect some highlights from our tour.

Since the marriage was in a hotel near Vizag beach, we went to the Submarine Museum on the beach first. This was a functioning submarine which has been decommissioned, brought to the shore and converted into a museum so that people can go and see inside an actual submarine.

Walking through a submarine is a cool experience. Especially since guides were available to give information and answer our questions. They have also installed some human-like-models and information boards everywhere. This is a must-visit place in Vizag. I just wish the submarine was underwater and we could travel in it 😉

We then went to Visakha Museum, also on the beach road. This is a neatly constructed and maintained museum that showcases arts, history, culture and traditions of this region. There are three museums inside the premises and it’s a worthwhile place to visit.

Another must-see location is Vizag Kailasagiri Park located on a small hill inside the city. You can drive up or you can go in the rope car. The distance covered on the rope car is short so take your pics fast.

Apart from the large Shiva Parvati statue, there seem to be many more activities like kids’ play area, battery train, 3D movie, etc. but we didn’t have much time to see all. There is a nice city/beach view from the top of the hill.

Next, we went to Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple – Simhachalam, close to the city. This is one of the popular Temples around this place. They don’t allow mobile phones inside the Temple – these have to be deposited at the counter.

The next day morning, we went to the Matsya Darshini Aquarium which is enclosed within a fish-shaped structure, also near the beach. This aquarium has a few rare fishes but it’s quite small and not that well illuminated/ maintained. There are some nice handicraft stores nearby.

Opposite this aquarium, there is an entrance through which people can walk to the sand and access the beach. At most other points across the Vizag beach, there are stones and access to the shore is blocked. Here, however, one can easily go in and wet their legs. We took one photograph with a large gorilla there. There are other statues like the dinosaur, etc. and there are small parks, all across the Vizag beach. So take some time and explore the beach line 🙂

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How can Alumni help their Schools/Colleges?

I am involved with the alumni association of our school and we are exploring how to meaningfully connect/help our institution so that students/teachers can benefit from the alumni network, and alumni can help each other.

Among various points discussed, here are some activities which I thought would be useful. Please add your suggestions in the comment box below.

  • Career counseling & Guidance on selecting college courses could be done for students to guide them on the existing scenario in colleges/job market, entrepreneurship.
  • Sports, Teachers day/Children’s day Competitions could be conducted for students & alumni.
  • Sapling plantation, Donations to orphanages, Cleaning of beaches and other such activities could be organized to inculcate social consciousness.
  • Culturals, hobby-related competitions could be organized for students on a regular basis.
  • A fund could be created and maintained for the benefit of students & teachers in case of emergencies.
  • Helping needy students to get educational loans at affordable interest rates to pursue higher education.
  • Creation of interest groups like photography, movie making, wildlife, trekking, astronomy, etc. could be organized involving students & alumni so that both can benefit from the activities and learnings.
  • A few events involving the general public (like exhibitions & carnivals) could be organized so that people around the area can see and interact with the school.
  • A book exchange/book rental library could be created with both academic and general books donated by the alumni to benefit students.
  • Discussions & speeches by alumni from various fields & colleges (from both India & abroad) to enable students to get different perspectives.
  • Organizing educational trips/internships for students in companies where alumni maybe working or know someone.
  • Organizing short-term student/faculty exchange programs.
  • Collecting information and guiding students about national/international events, competitions, and other opportunities.
  • Connecting students interested in certain fields with experienced professionals (from the alumni network) in that field.
  • Having active social media outlets like facebook pages, blogs, etc. where student-alumni activities, student & alumni accomplishments can be highlighted.
  • Organizing debates, talks, talent exams to improve the aptitude & soft-skills of students.
  • Organizing mock-parliament sessions where students could be given the opportunities to speak about issues, areas of improvements not only in the school & their area, but also in the society at large.

Destination Infinity

 

Board Exams for Class 11 in Tamil Nadu – A Good Idea?

The very premise that students will study and teachers will teach only if there is a board exam is RIDICULOUS.

Forget the question of whether we need the newly introduced XIth Std board exams inTN. Do we actually need such teachers and students?

Here are some good points for and against this decision.

If you ask me, we don’t even need an education system which drives students towards mugging up/memorizing the course content, vomit it verbatim, and clear their exam papers in “flying colours”.

Until we work on an understanding-based/practical-oriented curriculum right from Class I and stop the scramble to obtain “lucrative” engineering/medical college seats that promise riches irrespective of the students’ aptitudes and interests, it won’t matter even if there are board exams for all twelve years starting from Class I.

Until then, we will keep producing useless engineers who don’t have a clue about engineering (me included) and doctors whose only focus will be to maximize their Return on Investment.

We reap what we sow. Karma.

Destination Infinity

PS: This is my 1000th post on this blog 🙂 

1000 Blog Posts on destinationinfinity.org

Are School Uniforms Necessary? NO.

While our schools get away with strict policies on student’s dress codes/clothing with almost no one questioning them, I feel that we can do away with school uniforms. In this article, I have written why I feel school uniforms are unnecessary.

Let’s look at reasons why people seem to want school uniforms.

  • School uniform encourages equality and prevents discrimination. 

This is plain wishful thinking. Let’s admit that there is inequality at every step of our lives and we can’t do much about it. If not with uniforms, there are thousand other reasons to discriminate and people often amuse themselves by discriminating. When the student goes out the of the school. Wait, even when the student is wearing a uniform and is very much within the school, he/she is going to experience discrimination at multiple levels.

So why hide behind the veil of uniforms and try to conceal the fact that we are a discriminating species? The only thing uniforms seem to be promoting, in my point of view, is hypocrisy.

  • Uniforms teach students to dress smartly and formally after they join corporate companies

They can also learn how to dress smartly and formally after they join work. There is no need to be trained 12 long years for that.

  • Uniforms enable one to take pride in being a part of the organization

If a uniform is required for this, and not other important factors like quality of education, etc. then I wonder why schools even exist.

  • Uniforms discourage discrimination, social conflict, bullying & crimes

Why not ask all the prisoners to wear uniforms and roam freely on the streets? Uniforms prevent crimes, right?

  • Uniform makes students take studies more seriously and study without distraction 

If uniforms are going to make students study better, I wonder what are teachers for and what those millions of tuition and coaching centers are for!

  • School officials can recognize their students faster 

Even an emblem on one’s shoulder or a badge/ID card in one’s pocket will do the job. I wonder if schools want to brand/advertise their schools through uniforms?

  • School uniforms support unity in diversity

One of the easiest things for the society to do is to rest happy that at least in schools we have ‘succeeded’ in eliminating all forms of discrimination and hence have achieved unity in diversity, all because of a uniform!

Think about this – parents not only have to buy multiple sets of uniforms (white on Mondays/PT periods, colored – on other days, etc.) every year, they also need to wash and maintain them. And uniforms are expensive. Some schools even create an additional revenue stream by selling or recommending the ‘only preferred seller’ for their uniforms.

Freedom of expression is thawed. Yes, we are free to express ourselves in any way we want and our freedom of expression, including clothing, is guaranteed in the constitutions of most countries. But not in our schools!

It doesn’t allow a person of a particular sect/tribe/religion to wear/not wear what they might want – wearing a head scarf, not wearing shoes/tie – for example. If I don’t prefer wearing shoes and I am comfortable wearing chappals, why not allow me to? Why compel people to wear shoes, coat and tie in a country where temperatures easily cross 40 Deg. C? Isn’t this sadism?

Destination Infinity

Our Houseboat Trip @ Kerala


Once we were done with our chilly tree house trip on the hills of Munnar, we traveled to Kumarakoam for our houseboat trip.  Although we saw a few videos on houseboats of Kerala prior to this trip, we were not sure what to expect.

Personally, I loved this experience better than the tree house one because of the warmer temperature and the relaxed/lazy ambiance. All I had to do was sit down and relax. Of course, we also watched one movie 🙂

Actually, we went to this trip before about 10 months. If I remember it right, we were sailing on a river that flowed through Kumarakoam. From there we sailed to Aleppy, halted the houseboat on the shore there, spent the night inside the boat, and then returned to Kumarakoam on the morning, next day.

The houseboat is almost a mini lodge – Ours had a living room with TV, sofa, recliner chairs; bedroom with AC, attached bathroom with geyser, kitchen and even a couple of staff members for driving and cooking! We had informed the tourist agent that we wanted veg food and they served some nice Kerala food for us.

Of course, the river on which the boats ply has scenic views, but watching different types of houseboats on the way was an experience in itself. Since there is not much you can do on the boat or in the immediate vicinity, a one-day trip should be sufficient.

If you were looking for an affordable alternative to hiring a private yacht, you should not miss the houseboat experience. Even if you can hire a private yacht, you should try a houseboat for the unique experience.

We loved it.

Destination Infinity

You can see a few photos from our trip in the above-embedded Youtube video.

‘Know Your Rights’ Information Session by Arappor @ Chennai

“Know Your Rights” is an information/discussion session organized by Arappor this Sunday – Apr. 30, 2017. This event is free of cost to attend for anyone – prior registration by filling up this online form is required.

Time: 3.30 P.M. to 7 P.M.

Place: Jyoti Indira Thirumana Mandapam, Ramasamy Street, Sri Devi Karumariamman Nagar, Valasarawakkam, Chennai – 87. (Behind Tanishq jewellery shop) (Google Maps link for location)

It seems Arappor organizes such sessions regularly. Refer to their Facebook page to know more about their activities and upcoming events.

In this event, the organizers are expected to share their knowledge on how members of the public can interact with Govt. officials and get things done more effectively without paying bribes, etc., among other topics.

Some sessions that you can expect at this event include,

  • How to use RTI – Right to Information
  • How to obtain driving license, etc. without paying bribes
  • How to take up issues like bad roads, open drainage, etc. with officials and how to get it sorted
  • How to safeguard our natural resources like water bodies
  • What are our rights with Police and how to interact effectively with them

For further information about this event, refer to this poster and this FB event page.

I will be going this weekend and will write a blog post covering the highlights of this event once I am back. Glad to support a good initiative through this blog.  I believe that a little contribution from all of us will go a long way in improving our democracy.

Destination Infinity