Monday, March 2, 2009

2nd D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas

News reports about the 2nd D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas held at Goa last week.

Brazilian architect Jaime Lerner on how to improve the quality of life in cities:

In what could be a lesson in garbage management to Goa, it was revealed that 70% of the citizens of Parana state in Brazil segregate their garbage - the highest rate of garbage segregation in the world.

The revelation came from Jaime Lerner, internationally acclaimed Brazilian architect, urbanist and two-term governor of Parana, who was speaking on the topic "The Sustainable City" on the concluding day of the 2nd D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas at Kala Academy, Panaji on Sunday.

Segregation of garbage at source was just one of the secrets that Lerner revealed, the other being children's education. Said Lerner, "We started by teaching children in schools. In six months, the children learnt to segregate the garbage and were teaching their parents."

Something else Lerner said was, "I am obsessed with teaching children about their city because when the children know about their city, they respect it better."

Lerner was ingenious in transforming his problems into solutions. For example, Lerner offered to buy garbage from the slum dwellers who were throwing their garbage and polluting the streams, provided they brought their garbage bags to the collection trucks.

Lerner, who was also consultant to the UN on urban matters, spoke about public transport and his experiences in his native city of Curitiba, Brazil. "Sometimes, there is a pessimistic approach in cities and people complain that their cities are too big or too poor. But every city can improve its quality of life in less than three years regardless of money or size. You need political will, strategy and solidarity," Lerner said.

Lerner's talk was as full of wit as it was full of pith. He cited characters from a book he wrote to explain concepts to children. The best example for quality of life is depicted by the character, the turtle. It lives inside his shell, works under the shell and both move together. "Living here, working there, we separate our urban functions. That is a disaster," he said.

Lerner cited another character called Otto, the automobile. "Otto is invited to a party. He drinks a lot, coughs too much and transports only a few people. Otto is a very demanding person who demands more space, more parking and more freeways. A car is like a mother-in-law with whom you must have a good relationship. But if she is the only person in your life, you have a problem," Lerner said. He however clarified that he was not against cars or owning them.

Relating from personal experience, Lerner said his state did not have huge funds to invest in expensive subways to control the burgeoning transportation needs. They used ingenuity. Lerner explained how by using dedicated lanes, boarding tubes and double articulated buses, they could transport four times the number of passengers per day by surface transport itself.

Lerner said, "Subways are fantastic. But it can be expensive to have a complete network. We need to have a good surface transport system. But that system has to be smart."

Going beyond the issues of garbage and transportation, Lerner also spoke of the power of dreams. He said, "You need to have a dream which is not related to your problems. When your dream eludes you, do not be frustrated. Dedicate yourself very, very strongly to your dream. One day, that dream will hit you and say, hey, remember me? I am your dream."

Rajdeep Sardesi:

The introductory speeches followed (yawn), but the star attraction beyond a shadow of doubt was the keynote speaker, Rajdeep Sardesai. He made the perfunctory references to his Goanness, about how he was a “bad” Goan, and quoted Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier, paraphrasing him to say that there’s a part of him that would be forever Goan.
His talk covered at first the positive impact of the media explosion (The Glass Half-Full), then its downside (Glass Half-Empty), and touched upon the future. This was followed by a freewheeling Q&A session.
Glass Half-Full: RS brought home the point that the media has succeeded in wresting monopoly of the news from the Government, something that was unheard of just a few decades ago. He related an incident exactly 14 years ago, when a private news channel was about to air its inauguratory episode of “News Tonight”, when at 5 pm, their office got an irate call from PBRK Prasad, Secretary to the then-PM, PV Narasimha Rao. “Who gave you permission to broadcast such a feature? Don’t you know that news is the domain of the Government?!!” After several frantic calls to several people in high places, a compromise was reached, which had shades of Yes, Minister to it: the show would be aired, but it would be called just “Tonight”, not “News Tonight” (as it couldn’t be news, as News was the domain of the Govt, blah, blah..), and it would be considered a feature of Current Affairs, not News (same reason).
Contrast this with 460 registered channels nationwide in November 2008.
However we are still probably the only country in the Free World with an Information and Broadcasting Ministry, a throwback to Stalin or Goebbels.
The media of the past was more or less owned by the ruling party, the Government, and could manipulate it to suit their own ends. RS cited the example of the VP Singh election in Allahabad, where the media created the impression that Mr Singh was losing, when in fact he went on to win by over 2 lakh votes.
We are still governed by archaic laws such as the Indian Telegraph Act (1885).
RS went on to compare coverage of seminal events in our history (1984 anti-Sikh riots New Delhi vs Gujarat 2002; Latur earthquake 1993 vs Tsunami 2004); he even stuck his neck out to say that the Babri Masjid (1992) possibly may not have been demolished had in happened in this electronic age. He argued that the presence of cameras and crew would have served as a deterrent. I’m not quite sure I agree.

Nandan Nilekani:

Stating that 50% of children living in urban areas were attending private schools even one room tenements Infosys co-chairman Nandan Nilekani said that states who did away with English at the primary school level realised their mistakes only later.

R Guha

According to Guha, D D Kosambi was a Marxist, who was perhaps despised by the Communist party of India. One was pleasantly surprised to know that his father was no less of a seeker, scholar and a humanist who learnt Sanskrit and lived in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to learn Pali language.
Dharmanand Kosambi also lived in England where he raised money for Mahatama Gandhi and eventually joined him in Gandhi Gram. He also had a stint at Harvard where he edited ‘Sacred Books of the East’.
In Sevagram, he gently let go his life in Jain tradition by starving to death. Gandhi said that “Kosambi had taught him to die with dignity.” Gandhi had started to seek funds for instituting a scholarship for students to learn Pali in Sri Lanka. But as the life was cut short by assassin’s bullet, the idea did not go much further – something which Guha feels that Goa should revive in to honour the great multifaceted personality of Goa and his equally illustrious son D D Kosambi. According to Guha it is not a surprise that son of Gandhian would become a Marxist.

R. Guha: (another report):

Speaking at the 2nd D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas on Saturday, Guha said that India is a baffling land of contrasts -- a unique entity that would be hard to recreate anywhere in the world.
From diverse ecology - highest mountains, dense forests, stark deserts and thousands of kilometres of coastline - to different cultures, languages, scripts, religions and cuisines. India is the most interesting country in the world," he said
This is proof of a unique experiment he said when compared to other models of nationalism -- one language, one culture, one religion and even one common enemy -- that is being adopted by other nations.
However, there were some who wanted to impose a similar model in India, but it didn't work. India was constructed without anyone being obliged to speak a particular language, profess a certain faith and follow a certain religion. We were not even told of a common enemy," Guha said.
The biggest threats to the nation are those who try to enforce one type of identity on all of us," he added.

No comments: