Monday, March 31, 2014

Save my planet


A few days back I saw someone throw a can of soda on the street. I knew the man. I asked him if he realized that the can was going to end up in a land-fill. And his as well as my children/grand children will be doing all the clean up for years to come. He shrugged and told me that he wasn't worried because they are looking for ways to recycle this and get back all the oil that went in making it! I said, oh, that's good, and asked, if it will done in his time or mine? He shrugged again. At that point I let it go.

I am from the baby-boom generation, that's people who are over 50. Our generation made the full use of innovations-old as well as the new. We went crazy with "modern" things that needed more energy---be it from coal, water or nuclear. We drove gas guzzling cars, used coal to light up our homes, keep our homes cool in summer and heated in winter with the electricity that came from oil, coal, natural gas or nuclear plants.

My generation as well as the ones that come after me, will have to keep on trying to use alternate energy sources---sun, wind and perhaps something new. Also, when we realized that our ways were depleting our earth's energy, we started planting more trees, trying to keep the rain forest safe, making smaller cars and recycle paper and plastic.


Save my planet

The eight-year-old twins, Suchi and Soori visited their grandparents in India one summer. Their parents stayed back in the US but their older siblings, Sagar and Sapna accompanied them.  Sagar, sixteen and Sapna, twelve, kept an eye on the twins and answered their queries about the Indian  ways.

One cloudy day their grandmother said, "Sagar will you please help me move the gobar-gas cylinder into the kitchen from the veranda?  

Suchi pulled Sapna's dress, "What's a veranda?"

Soori also joined them.

Sapna whispered, "It's this platform like passage in Gramma's place, that goes around the house. It has a roof and a trellis wall with doors and windows."

Soori said, "Oh, but what is gobar-gas and why does she need it?"

Sagar returned to his siblings after helping their grandma, "Okay, today we'll be eating food cooked on the gobar-gas stove."

Sapna smiled, "That's cooking gas made from cow dung."

Succhi-Soori wrinkled their nose, "Eww..yuck."

Sagar said, "Hey, the cow-dung does not go in the food, it's just the gas made from cow-dung. Our grand parents don't have to pay for electricity for cooking. They use electricity only during the evening and night hours."

Sapna said, "Don't you remember we went to play in the terrace the other day and Gramma warned us to be careful about her rice that was cooking by the solar cooker?"

Sagar said, "People use gobar-gas cylinders to run the rickshaws also. When your didi and I were younger, this area had just introduced natural gas to run cars, rickshaws and even the buses. By the time we visit this place next time, we'll have natural-gas connections in homes and then Gramma will just turn on the knobs to start the burners to cook with natural gas."

Suchi-Soori said, "Can't they afford the electricity? Mom and Dad can give them money."

Sagar said, "It's good that they save money, but it's about saving the environment and saving the energy sources, so we won't suffer, won't be short of energy as we grow older."


"Well, the way everyone burns gasoline, electricity, there won't be any left for the children when they grow up. It pollutes the air, makes it difficult to breathe, causes diseases that make lives miserable."

"Bhaiya, will this gobar-gas make stinky-smoke?"

"Not really, but the use of natural gas is cleaner, less polluting and yes, cheaper."

Soori wondered, "And the trees??

Sapna said, "Trees clean the air, when they make food."


Sapna cleared her throat, "Well, the plants make food by photosynthesis, they take in the carbon dioxide, which is pollution itself, from the air and release the good gas, oxygen. And also---"

Suchi said, "Too much information that---"

Soori added, "information that we do not understand."

Sapna said, "Well, just remember that the green leaves make oxygen that all living things need to breathe."

The twins said, "Good, let's help Grampa plant some trees---"

"With green leaves!"

All the children ran out to help their grandfather in the yard.

The End

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nothing but a bit of this and bit of that


Today's Blog is a little of this and a little of that.

As usual, these stories came from reading.



Nothing but a bit of this and bit of that

One day the eight-year-old twins, Suchi-Soori, and their twelve-year-old sister, Sapna wanted to hear a story at bedtime. 

Their sixteen-year-old brother Sagar scratched his head, "A story for such old-old, really old kids like you?"

One of them said, "But we don't want a scary one, Bhaiya."

Sagar said, "Well, I don't remember any fairy tales."

They all stared at one another.

"Okay, I got it. It's not a fiction, not a made-up story but a factual, true story."

Sagar began, "Do you ever wondered about things in the Universe? How was the world made? How many stars are there in the Universe? Will we ever read another person's mind flawlessly? How about wondering about little things?"

The twins shook their heads. 

Sapna said, "Keep it simple Bhaiya, don't riddle us."

Sagar continued, "I am just asking rhetorically, don't answer. So, why is popsicle called a popsicle and not a momsicle? Well, An eleven-year-old boy named, Frank Epperson invented popsicle accidently when he left his Kool Aid-like drink on his porch during a freezing night. The next day he found it to be delicious. He wished to patent it twenty years later to Epsicle (Epp's icicle). His children called him Pop and not Epp, so they named it Popsicle. That's the name they patented-that means they have a license to use the name."

Sapna said, "That's nice Bhaiya, tell us one more."

"Okay, one more story. The bulletproof vest was not invented on a battlefield, but it was invented by a pizza delivery guy, who happened to be a marine. When three armed men shot him in a dark alley, they missed him but the incident inspired him to come up with a vest made of Kevlar."

Sapna asked, "What is Kevlar?" 

"What is Kevlar? It is a strong, nylon like fabric that is woven in spider-web-pattern, and then interlocked to give extra strength and durability. It is resistant to heat, has no melting point!"

"Oh, that's so good, one more story, okay, Bhaiya?"

"Yep. The last one. Now, have you wondered why Facebook kept the same color scheme, since the time it was called, It seems its first user, its founder Mark Zuckerberg is color-blind. That means he can't see red-green at all, and finds it easier to see blue hues."

Sapna said, "Bhaiya, thanks for all these stories. The twins are already out and I am also going to sleep. Good night."

"Good night." Sagar went back to his books.

The End

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Education at Any Age---just a story


Towards the end of 2013, I came across an article from India---a 62-year-old, widowed mom restarted her education with her 32-year-old daughter. The mother started from the first grade and the daughter was in the fifth. Today they are both in the ninth grade, they sit at the same desk and study from one book.

Education is very important to make a living as well as to broaden our minds and get to know the world. We are not alone to live in this world!


Education at Any Age

Eleven-year-old Sapna called out her fifteen-year-old brother, "Bhaiya, will you please come and help me figure out how to get our little brother learn his alphabet?"

Sagar continued to work on his homework, "I have faith in you, you have worked with the twins, you'll figure out how to handle just one of him."

"He just runs away when I try to teach him the letters."

Seven-year-old, twin Suchi said, "Didi, remember ? You taught us our colors first and---"

Her twin, Soori completed her sentence, "Yeah, Didi, we leaned colors and numbers---just counting different things."

Sapna frowned, "I know that, but Sohan is a smart boy, he can learn his letters."

Sagar joined his sisters, "You are absolutely right, on the other hand, if he's not interested in letters, let him learn other things---count his lego pieces with him, or the number of times he can jump on the trampoline or even the plates we set for dinner! I've seen him take apart his toy truck and put it together. He is smart."

Soori added, "Yeah, Didi, we are seven members when we sit down for our supper."

Suchi, "Yeah, Didi, seven is a good number---seven days in a week. Perhaps he can count the parts of the truck!"

Sapna crinkled her nose, "Yeah, Suchi-Soori, you can teach him all that. I'll wait and then teach him the alphabet when he's ready at the age of ten or twenty! Right?"

"Hey, girls, stop arguing! Stop being nasty to each other. We'll figure out Sohan's brain and take him from there!"

Sapna said, "Well, I guess, you're right Bhaiya. What do we do now?"

Sagar nodded and said, "Sapana, We have all learned from one another as well as from our parents and teachers. I know, the three of you together will figure it out."

Sapana put her hands on the twins' shoulders, "He's not going to help us. Let's all be his teachers before..."

One of the twins said, "Or just leave to his school to teach him."

Sapna said, "As I was saying, before he goes to his teachers not knowing anything-nothing-nada-zilch. Let's put in him a spark for learning with games of numbers, colors, letters and more. We can do it."

The twins shouted, "Yeah, we can do it. That's three right there-nothing, nada, zilch and he has three sisters! One, two and three! We don't want him to turn into a dad and then go to school with his kids!"

Sagar joined them, "Girls, education at any age is good. Go with nothing-nada and zilch."

They found Sohan, napping, surrounded by his cars and trucks.

Sapna said in low voice, "Poor baby, needs his nap before he learns... we'll let him sleep."

And they snuck out of his room.

The End

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, March 9, 2014



There are addictions and there are addictions, ever since I can remember, smoking was a big NO-NO, it still is. Drinking in my youth was not much behind. There is no social smoking like an occasional glass of wine for adults.

Smoking in the car, even with the windows open or the air conditioning on, creates pollution that exceeds official "safe" limits, scientists say.

It is said that opium was the addiction of last century. Recently I became aware of a Cafe shop sign that said, we do not have WIFI. Converse with your loved ones.

An article I read went on to say that many young people don't read, don't spell or write decently and are often inarticulate. The reason? Smartphones! Smartphones-Internet is the new opium.

Aah, can we do away with the smartphones?


I can't give it up, I need it

Eight-year-old twins,Suchi and Soori ran over to their sister, Sapna's room, "Didi, Didi, come quick, our gerbil escaped from its cage."

Sapna checked her messages and got busy writing the replies, "I'm busy. Tell Bhaiya to help you."

"But Didi.."

"Tell, Bhaiya. I'm busy."

"Come on Soori, Bhaiya is not even home, she's just too busy. We'll have to do something to get him back in the cage."

"How bout we take Soham's drum and bang it everywhere in our room and coax him out."

"I'll get a steel plate and bang on it with a spoon."

The twins banged on the drum and the plate.

"There, there, he's gone to dad and mom's room. On, no, Mom's shoes!"

The twins chased their pet all over the house, Sapna stayed in her room, with the door shut, busy with her smartphone. 

"Oops, it went in Bhaiya's room, let's chase it out to our room."

The twins followed their pet.

Sagar opened the front door, "Hey, girls, what's with this banging? Is it your new music practice?"

Sagar followed the ruckus to  his room, hands in his jeans' pockets he said, "Will someone explain why are the chairs and my closet in a mess?"

"Bhaiya, our gerbil's hiding in your room!"

"Uh, oh, go get me a steel plate and a spoon, and the three of us will get him out."

One twin went to pick up another plate while Sagar opened the back door.

Together, they chased the gerbil out of the house. 

"Bhaiya, are we going to chase it back in his cage?" 

"N---O---no. Go to the backyard and look at the free birds and squirrels, your new pets." Sagar straightened his room, "Where is your didi?"

"In her room with her phone."

Sagar marched to Sapna's room, "Didi, what happened to your babysitting?"

Sapna turned off the phone, "I am keeping an eye on the twins, I was just checking my homework."

"You said this morning that you were all done and we could take the twins out to play later in the afternoon."

Sapna looked at the floor and then the ceiling, "Well..."

Sagar took Sapna's smartphone and put it in his pocket, "Let Mom and Dad decide about you phone."

Sapna lunged towards Sagar, "You can't do that. I have a right to have that phone, it's mine."

"Tell that to Mom and Dad after you tell them about the gerbil escapade. Now everyone get ready, I have my soccer practice, you can play there."

The children and the parents returned home at the same time in the evening. The twins hid behind Sagar as he told them about the runaway gerbil, Sapna sulked in her room.

Mom went to Sapna's room, "Sapna, what happened?"

"Mom, the twins are supposed to keep their mouse in his cage, it's their fault they let him escape."

"Sapna, don't let them hear you call it a mouse, it's a gerbil."

"Whatever, it wasn't my fault, how about my phone?"

"Well, we will have to change the plan on it by reducing the minutes or let it work only at school hours or something...I don't know, I'll talk with Dad and we'll decide."

"NO...please don't do that, Mom, I am sorry I didn't keep an eye on Suchi-Soori, it won't happen again."

"Well, I don't know."

"Mom, I promise. I'll be more responsible and use my cell wisely, please, Mom, please?"

"Hmmm. Consider it gone for this weekend. You might get it back on Monday after Dad and I talk about it. In the mean time, take your sisters and see if you can find the gerbil in the backyard."

The End 

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Less is More


Last weekend was for a short visit from children and grandchildren, and I missed my column, my apologies to the readers.

I wanted to write about Less is More.  Hmm, children and families visiting for less time, and that certainly did not feel like more. Then again, the story that follows is about collecting more things as we go through life when our aim is to collect less. 


                                                                      Less is More

Sapna and Sagar talked as they packed their books. Their eight-year-old sibling twins, Suchi and Soori walked in.

Soori frowned, "Bhaiya, why do we have to pack? We just finished our exams." 

Suchi, "Yeah, and why do we have get rid of the dolls and toys that we love?"

Sapna interrupted, "I don't think Bhaiya asked you to get rid of ALL your toys, just some."

Soori pouted, "I don't want to get rid of even one toy. They are my favourite."

Sagar laughed, "All toys are your favorite, I understand. I'll help you pack."

Suchi smiled, "Will you help me also, please?"

Sagar nodded and followed the twins to their room.

Twelve-year-old, Sapna raised her eyebrows, "I am confused. Bhaiya, I guess you know what you are doing. I am going to put my things in the boxes." She left.

Sagar said, "Okay, girls, let's do this quickly and then I can do mine. Soori, please get the biggest box here-that's for your toys."

Suchi said, "Shall I get mine?"

"Yep, both the boxes side by side. Now each of you pick up your most favorite toy and put it in the corner of the box."

Each twin brought a big doll and put it in the box. The dolls took more than one third the space in the box. They kept piling more toys and soon the boxes were full. The twins still had most of their toys in their closet.

The girls stood by their boxes, Soori said, "We don't have more space and we don't have another box."

Suchi pouted, "I don't want to leave the closet-toys behind."

Soori said, "How did we run out of box?"

"The doll, the doll is too big!"

"Let's carry the dolls in our backpacks."

"Yeah, let's."

The girls pulled out the toys, threw the dolls on their beds and repacked toys.

Sagar stood aside and played with his cell phone with one ear on girls' conversations.

"Bhaiya, we don't have room for the rest of the toys."

Sagar said, "You did fine with the dolls, take some toys out, and rearrange."

The twins stuffed some smaller toys in the backpack and put more toys in the boxes. By lunch time they collapsed on their beds.

Sagar asked, "Suchi-Soori, what about the leftover toys?"

"We need another box."

"Mom said only one big box for toys. Even if we stuff smaller toys in our clothes box, we have too many toys."

Sagar clapped, "You got it kiddo. You have too many toys. What can you do?"

"Uh, leave them behind, or give them away?"

"We'll take them to India for the poor kids."

Sagar said, "We're not going to India for two years."


"I got it, we'll give them to the veterans."

"Veterans are grown up people, they don't play with toys."

"Maybe we can give them to children's charity."

"Bhaiya, can we do that? Give the toys to a charity?"

"You sure can. Less is more, girls, less is more. We'll ask mom or dad about the charity names and you can help give them away. Suchi-Soori, now maybe you can do the same with your clothes."

"Yeah, less is more, less is more. Let's get rid of more of our clothes and keep less, let's start now."

The twins got busy with the clothes box and Sagar went to finish his own packing.

The End

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah