Category Archives: Articles published in The Gulf News

Published!

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Dear Friends,

I am very happy  to inform you that I am taking my passion for writing a step from my blog to the ‘Off the Cuff’ section of the Gulf News. After reading my work, the Editor has willingly agreed to publish it.

Today, the first post was published. Please read and let me know what you think. Wishing you all a happy weekend.

Organically perplexed

Thanks to extensive marketing techniques, coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we now have even a new brand of bottled water that claims to be organic

Published: 17:12 June 29, 2017Gulf News

Pranitha Menon, Special to Gulf News

Every morning, after the cows were milked and fed, my maternal grandfather would walk up to the vegetable patch that bore the fruit of his hard work and his passionately green fingers, a basket in hand. He would scrutinise every one of his beloved plants, pulling out an unwelcome weed or a half-eaten ripe vegetable — the remnants of a stray mole’s dinner after it had eaten its fill, as he carefully chose the day’s harvest.

Most of what he brought back would get a touch of grandmother’s magical fingers and become lip-smacking dishes for a hearty lunch. The rest would be dried or pickled and carefully stored in enormous jars that would join the many others in the dark confines of the attic and found their way back into the kitchen only on a rainy day.

At home, father made his way to the vegetable market every evening with a cloth bag in hand. The place would be abuzz with vendors who occupied every inch of the sidewalks, selling their day’s fresh harvest. I watched father make his choices — sometimes striking a bargain and at other times giving into their demands.

There was the old lady who had spent the day picking and bundling up fresh herbs and leaves that father bought without a second thought and almost always paid a rupee extra earning him a blessing in return.

There was the smiling coconut vendor who gave away a tiny piece of sweet white coconut meat to children who accompanied his customers, a goodwill that earned him many customers with happy, hungry children in tow.

Those were the days when ‘organic’ was confined to the Oxford dictionary and goodwill was yet to become a marketing technique.

Left in a dilemma

This week, when I was at the supermarket, I spotted bunches of fresh green palak leaves stacked to perfection on one side with its equally-fresh organic counterpart stacked on the other. I was left in a dilemma as to whether it was healthier to feed my family to cubes of cottage cheese simmered in blanched and pureed palak leaves that have been treated to a good healthy dose of pesticides, or a crisp green batch of the same that have been treated to manure (or dung) from organic-fed cows and generously watered with freshly-treated sewage water.

As my not-so-green fingers and pathetic gardening abilities, that I have not inherited from my maternal grandfather, forbade me from growing my own batch of herbs, I thought that my family will be better off on a diet minus the delicious ‘palak paneer’. I instead chose a batch of perfectly-rounded, red hydroponic variety of tomatoes. I have not bothered snooping around at Google’s doorstep trying to find faults with the hydroponic technique of farming, as ignorance, in this case at least, is bliss.

As I glanced upon the white glistening crystals of organic sugar, I willed my mind not to think of the not-so-organic techniques employed to give it its beautiful white sheen.

At the poultry section, I came across a variety of eggs, priced exorbitantly, that had a picture of a fat, healthy and happy hen that appeared to be smiling. Upon checking, I learnt that the smiling hen had actually been put on a vegetarian diet as the owner had decided to go on a mission to improve humanity’s brain function and immunity with this brand of eggs. We must applaud the owner for this creative marketing strategy and forgive the fact that this person is just earning some extra bucks in the process.

Thanks to extensive marketing techniques, coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we now have even a new brand of bottled water that claims to be organic. Yes, you heard it right — ORGANIC water.

There is already the Smart Water that apparently improves brain function, Vitamin Water to boost your health and Diet Water to make you skinny.

What could be next, a new range of gluten-free water or trans-fat-free water?

Thank goodness that even in this world of ruthless industrialisation and inhumane marketing strategies, somebody still cares about our health.

Pranitha Menon is a freelancer based in Dubai.

http://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-cuff/organically-perplexed-1.2050884

Time to go back to basics

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This is an article that I wrote for The Gulf News Daily and was delighted to find it published in the Newspaper. This was written for the topic Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  I wanted to share this joy with my virtual friends as well as remind you all about a beautiful past when life was so much simpler and the Earth was so much happier. 

I, like every one of you, am definitely for the evolving technology and resulting convenient means of living but can’t we do it all with a thought for the home that we live in? 

Please let me know what you think!

During my last visit to India, a trip to the supermarket found me at the counter with a value bag of diapers and packets of milk, but no handy bag to carry my purchases home. I trudged home clumsily balancing my purchases, having refused to buy a plastic bag. In hindsight, I am pleased that my annoyance not only saved me the money that the supermarket charged for a single plastic carry bag, but also the journey of another plastic bag from a supermarket counter to the already rising pile of undecomposed plastic, not to mention the cost of manufacturing, storing, distributing and recycling them.

Before the plastic revolution, every visit to the market place or even to a nearby bakery or provision store meant carrying with us a cloth or jute bag to bring home our purchases. Vegetable vendors would put all purchases directly into our bags, while a monthly trip to the provision store saw us take big jute bags that could carry the load of our monthly purchases.

A list of our requirements were handed over to the owner of the store who sat behind his desk, surrounded by sacks of rice and pulses, with an array of glass jars that contained several mouthwatering treats ranging from chocolates, sugar-boiled candies, home-made cookies and savories. The owner would call out the items on the list as his deft workers measured and wrapped up each item in newspaper, held together by a jute rope with such precision and speed. Apart from a handful of necessities that came readily wrapped in colorful plastic, every other purchase was bought loose as per our requirements.

Even milk was collected in glass bottles that were placed at our doorstep that later upgraded its packaging to plastic, which were recycled at the end of the month. The last Sunday of every month saw my brother and me waiting for the ‘paper-bottle’ man, who would buy old newspapers, bottles, plastic cans and milk packets.

It was a simple life with simpler needs, which yielded little to no waste after ‘selling off’ what could be reused to be recycled. The plastic revolution, the advent of supermarkets with its wide variety of readymade purchases with customers spoilt for choice, is no more a luxury but a burning necessity in our technologically advanced easy life.

The Indian government’s ban on plastic carry bags (or their exorbitant rates) might seem like a drop in the ocean, but it’s the beginning of a mission that is a worthy cause!

 

Here is a link for the same : http://gulfnews.com/your-say/your-view/time-to-go-back-to-basics-1.1928233

Fishing for Trouble

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enas-planitis-pnigetai-sta-plastika

 

 

Originally published in The Gulf News

The oceans are our biggest resource supporting the greatest abundance of life on our planet. A rich oxygen source, the oceans provide livelihood, recreation, beauty and are an important source of protein in our daily diet. Yet, these life-giving oceans are our biggest dumping ground too. The paradox that we can continue to tap into the ocean’s abundant resources and yet put all our garbage in, very well expecting it to thrive on indefinitely has taken its toll on life in the ocean paving the way to near extinction.

The dying off of marine life around the globe is not as mysterious if we take a look into the unethical practices and inhumane activities contributing to this environmental hazard.

Overfishing is having serious impacts on the marine plethora. We are not only working towards wiping out species but also starving marine animals that are dependent upon fish for their survival. Unconventional fishing methods used are causing destruction to sea floor habitat and scooping up of unwanted fish that are conveniently tossed aside into the water are adding to the trouble.

Shark finning is an inhumane practice resulting in an extraordinary impact on the marine ecosystem.

Rising sea temperatures and depleting oxygen in the water, dropping the ocean’s pH levels, as a result of global climate change and burning fossil fuels are driving marine creatures towards the poles into habitats that are smaller and less inhabitable.

Pollution is running rampant in the oceans with coal-fired power plants being the largest industrial source polluting water bodies with its industrial waste – mercury. Mercury is absorbed by organisms on the bottom of the food chain and works its way up the food chain right into our dinner plate. Adding to this woe is the ever increasing plastic and other garbage littering the oceans as is the case of the giant patch of’ plastic soup ‘ that sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Are we a race of people who destroy more than we build? After dying fish and dying oceans, could we be next?

Man. Machine…and an uncertain future

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human versus machine

Originally published in The Gulf News 

Once upon a time, on a day dating back, a few decades were a race of mankind who woke up to the alarm of their body clocks.  Every day was governed by the vicious cycle of a routine. Daily chores ranged from hand washing every piece of laundry to using the mortar and pedestal to grind spice mixes and batter, fresh butter was hand-churned from buttermilk and cooking was a herculean task atop firewood stoves. Children spent hours climbing trees and exploring backyards when they were not at school and the only time spent at home were to sleep and eat. Social gatherings meant a day spent talking to each other enjoying a good meal, song, and dance in the company of dear ones.

On this day, can we phantom a single day without the machines that govern our life?  These wonder gizmos that make jobs simply disappear with a click of a button or connect us to the world with a touch of a finger or kill long hours entertaining our lonely spirits with songs, movies, and games.

Machines have gradually taken up our jobs helping us put man’s time, energy and skill to better use.  Whether it is an electric washing machine transforming hour-long task into a job accomplished with the push of a button or power tools and gadgets that make construction immensely efficient or computers that make complex calculations look effortless, machines are indispensable.

The advent of artificial intelligence and robotics have given us limitless ability to explore the unknown without having to worry about its consequences.  Space explorations have best been carried out with the help of this technology where robots give scientists a visual experience of terrains that are inhospitable to us. Robots have aided the exploration of the vast expanse of the unchartered territory in the deepest depths of seas and oceans. On the medical front, robots are used to aid complex surgeries, improvising both patient care and rehabilitation; a combination of robotics coupled with cutting-edge communication technology have made remote surgeries a possibility. Robots have been used in locations where man’s reach is limited as in the aftermath of accidents in mines, oil rigs, and nuclear power plants or in an event of a natural disaster like an earthquake or post a hurricane disaster. Scientists predicting the availability of self-driven vehicles in the near future are proof as to how far we have advanced in this field.

These man-made contraptions can outstrip human abilities in terms of memory, navigation and search yet lack the reliability, flexibility, creative intelligence and sensitivities of a human mind.

Will man’s ambitious thirst for further advancement in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics challenge human supremacy?

Will the need for automation of jobs that require increased precision or those that require routine repetitive physical or mental work leave a class of workforce unemployed?

Expecting a machine close to the creative intelligence of a human mind in the near future seems implausible but only time can tell what bigger breakthroughs await the future of artificial intelligence.

Expecting a machine close to the creative intelligence of a human mind in the near future seems implausible but only time can tell what bigger breakthroughs await the future of artificial intelligence.