Grandma's Tales

March 31, 2007

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 More news!

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:21 pm

Before you read this, do scroll down for the results of the survey done by CSG. It will certainly surprise the Corporation!
Here’s more information on the court order staying the construction of the joggers’ track in Palavakkam.
The court also ordered issuance of notice to the respondents – State Tourism and Environment departments, Union Environment Ministry, State Coastal Zone Management Authority, Kancheepuram District Collector and Palavakkam and Kottivakkam panchayats – asking them to file their reply in two weeks. The case was adjouned for April 16th for further hearing.
According to the petitioner V. Srinivasan of Thiruvanmiyur, the 350 metre ‘track’ was being laid with 100 metre from the High Tide line(HTL) while Kottivakkam, Palavakkam and Neelangarai and other areas on the East Coast were coming under coastal regulation Zone III in which the area upto 200 metres from the HTL has been earmarked as ‘no development zone’.
The Tourism Directorate which is laying the Joggers’ Track, did not also obtain any permission from the Central Government or the State Coastal Zone Management Authority for the work, the petitioner said.
Stating that the particular stretch of beach was known for the growth of flower beds of ”vinca rosea’, a plant used for the treatment of cancer, but the flower beds were uprooted for the work, the petitioner argued that it would be ecologically suicidal to permit such activities on the beach front itself. Further this sort of work would lead to the shrinking of the beach and prevent the fishing community from drying their nets and parking their boats.
News from City Express dated 30th March 2007.


March 30, 2007

Grammar – 32 What is good writing? 3 Conversational style

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:12 pm

I believe in writing in a conversational style. I’ll be the first to admit the style you choose should be appropriate to the topic you are writing on, but there is no reason why you should not make it easy to read.
I suspect we think anything written in plain, simple, everyday, conversational English is not serious. It is a load of fluff, probably written by a woman who doesn’t know what to do with herself during long afternoons. “You can’t dumb it down!” is their argument. “What about medical reports? Technical papers? Manuals?”
Except highly technical stuff meant for reference, everything can be expressed in plain, clear language. Most writing can actually be fun. If manuals are supposed to be understood and followed, shouldn’t they be written in easy-to-follow words and phrases? Read the following sentence.
One can easily perceive that the propositional approach leads to a hypothesis that the surface symbolic appearance of a piece of information is not important or even consequential in a learning situation…
What does this mean?  Sure it is about learning, a serious subject.  But if it is relevant information, shouldn’t it reach a lot of students?  Won’t it be better understood if the words and phrases are simplified? For example, “see” instead of “perceive”, “necessary in a classroom” instead of “consequential in a learning situation”…
When I say “conversational” style, I mean:
[1] In the way you will speak to your friend.  The word “conversation” means you are involving the listener/reader in what you are writing. Your reader is expected to respond, as in a conversation, so he/she is going to be alert.
For example, “It is meant for the literate population in all parts of the world” is stiff and formal. Try: It’s for you, dear reader.” The simple “you” makes a whole lot of difference, right? It draws the reader to what you are saying.
Write as you would speak. But without time-buyers like “As you know (if they know, why would you say it?)”, “um”, “er”, “like” (terrible!), “you know”…
[2] Imagine you are having a face-to-face conversation with a friend. What words and phrases would you choose? Take another example:
Formal: Students generally hold the view that performance in GD is directly linked to proficiency in language.
Conversational: Students believe if they know the language they can do well in GD.
See the difference?
Here are two letters. Which one do you think will help to pacify the customer?
Dear Madam,
                      With reference to your letter dated 12-8-2001, and on the basis of the recommendation given by our Service Engineer who examined your existing washing machine (Washmac 2) I am to inform you that it has been decided to replace it with a new one under our guarantee. The inconvenience is regretted. Should there be any further problem, it may please be communicated to the undersigned. We are always at your service.
Yours faithfully,
Dear Mrs. Metha,
                            You can say goodbye to the washing machine that has been giving you trouble. We are despatching a brand new Washmac 2 today to take its place – absolutely free under our unique, no-quibble guarantee.
         We are indeed sorry the old machine gave you trouble. Please let our technicians take it away when they have installed a new one.
         Have many years of happy wash with Washmac 2.

Just make sure you make no grammatical or spelling errors when you write, ok?

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 News!

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:54 pm

A prominent piece of news today: “The Madras High Court has restrained the Tourism Department from constucting a jogging track 100 metres from the shoreline at Kottivakkam and Palavakkam (soutern suburbs of Chennai). The first bench comprising Chief Justice AP Shah and Justice D. Murugesan granted the interim injunction on a PIL filed by V. Srinivasan, who said construction of the 350-metre jogging track, well within the Coastal Regulatory Zone III constituted a major ecological hazard.
Pointing out that a similar track had been built near Thiruvalluvar Nagar and Thiruvanmiyur in 2003-2004, the petitioner said construction of similar structures would lead to the formation of a track parallel to East Coast Road. This would endanger the coastal eco-system in the entire belt. Increased vehicular and human movement would lead to pollution and affect the coastal flora and fauna.”
Ahem. In Puduchery environmentalists and fishermen mounted a campaign against the government’s proposal to build a port off that coast. And they managed to stop this disatrous move. In Goa, again, large sections of people, supported by the church, fought against the government’s shocking plan to convert entire hillsides to hotels and resorts in what was called the Goa Development Plan 2020 or something. The plan was finally scrapped.
It is a scene that’s playing out again and again. The guy gets on to his seat, whether he has a majority mandate or not, whether the election was legitimate or not, and the first thing he does when he sits down is to call for the “Development File”. Obviously the file contains details of the “Developemnt Fund”. He flips through the file, muttering to himself, “Where do I build? Here, here or I say, here!” He quickly decides on the modalities, prepares a fast-track plan (Ecology, what’s that? Don’t human beings come first? Plants and fish are for eating! Want to see them? Go to the zoo or aquarium!), calls the press and throws words like development, employment, tourism, attraction, beautification, jogging and now alarmingly, “the disabled community”. The construction gets done equally quickly and the park/track/wall/flyover/ elevated pathway/spine gets opened with a lot of fanfare.
End of the story: a couple of years later, the construction has turned to an eyesore. Fianlly, when it goes down, it takes along with it, the eco-system/the sidewalks, the beauty of the place. There is more debris, more construction material underfoot and more congestion.
The politico who ordered the “beautification” has since moved on and a new man sits in his chair. The first thing he does? You know what it is.

March 29, 2007

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 Response to Corporation’s plan

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:29 pm

Besant Nagar residents and beach users voted overwhelmingly to make the beach a plastic-free zone, remove billboards near the beach in a bid to protect turtles, and to restrict any construction or landscaping to the roadside, rather than in the beach. A majority of beach users and residents also disagreed with most of the components of the beach beautification plan prepared by MEASI for the Chennai Corporation, and expressed their support for other initiatives that could make the beach experience more enjoyable. These included better traffic management, zoning for vendors, and removal of advertisement hoardings.
These and other key findings were revealed through a survey conducted in mid-March of 482 beach users and residents conducted by the Civil Society Group, a collective of Chennai residents and citizens concerned about public and common spaces in the city. The survey was conducted to assess the reaction of various interest groups – including joggers, hawkers, fisherfolk, senior citizens, residents and turtle enthusiasts — to the Chennai Corporation’s beach beautification plans, and elicit their perspectives on how to improve the Besant Nagar beach.
On March 2, Besant Nagar residents, including fisher panchayat leaders from Urur Kuppam and Olcott Kuppam, had met the Corporation Commissioner at Boys’ Club, Besant Nagar. The Commissioner presented plans prepared by MEASI to beautify the Besant Nagar beach admittedly to promote tourism.
Members of the Civil Society Group urged the Corporation to involve citizens, residents and various interest groups in developing plans such as these. The Commissioner offered to consider any alternative plan or suggestions provided by the residents. The survey was conducted in follow-up to the Commissioner’s offer. Results of the survey will form the basis of an alternative plan for beach beautification to be presented to the Commissioner by early April.
91 percent of the respondents felt the beach required improvement.
56 percent of the respondents felt that traffic management was satisfactory. Senior citizens, residents and turtle enthusiasts, however, felt traffic management could be improved. It is to be noted that residents from the beachfront houses and nearby streets are worst affected by weekend traffic along the beach.
61 percent of the respondents said they would support a move to declare the beach road a one-way road.
On the issue of whether or not vendors should be in the same place or shifted to a different place, respondents were roughly equally divided. All hawkers interviewed said vendors should remain in the same spots, while a majority of the senior citizens said they should be moved to a different place.
71 percent of the respondents were aware that the beach was a nesting area for Olive Ridley turtles.
72 percent of the respondents said the advertising hoardings (billboards) can be removed in the interest of turtles.
94 percent of the respondents, including 91 percent of the hawkers, said the beach should be declared a plastic-free zone.
72 percent of the respondents said any construction to modify or improve the beach would need to be done on the road side, rather than on the beach.
Responses to Corporation’s Plans
In brief, the Corporation’s plans involve taking over substantial portions of the beach area to set up landscaped lawns, umbrellas, a walkway running over the sand dune and leading to the sea, fountains, amphitheatre, play area, cubicles for hawkers and amenities such as toilets and parking. The beach beautification plan had no component to address the problem of litter. Neither did it address the garbage dumping and sewage discharge along the beach in Urur, Olcott, and Odai Kuppams.
A majority of the respondents to the survey were not in favour of any of the alterations on the beach as proposed by the Corporation. Curiously, beach users voted even against the green strip, preferring to maintain the beach as is. This is consistent with the finding that 72 percent of the respondents preferred construction, if any, to be made on the road-side leaving the beach area sandy.
Some proposals of the Corporation, such as for toilets, received a marginal majority. However, no break-up of the results by gender was possible. It is likely that women may have voted overwhelmingly in favour of increased toilet facilities.
62 percent of the respondents said they were not in favour of the green strip proposed by the Corporation on the beach-side of the existing walking path. Only joggers and senior citizens were in favour of the green strip. Fisherfolk, turtle enthusiasts, hawkers and residents were not in favour.
75 percent of the respondents said they were not in favour of the walkway (spine) running along the centre of the beach from the road to the waterline.
83 percent of the respondents rejected the proposal to construct fountains in the beach area.
93 percent of the respondents said the amphitheatre on the beach was not a good idea.
73 percent of the respondents said there was no need for a separate play area.
52 percent of the respondents supported the Corporation’s proposals to increase toilet facilities.
62 percent of the respondents said no cubicles needed to be provided to hawkers. However, hawkers overwhelmingly voted for provision of separate cubicles, and many joggers joined the hawkers in favour of cubicles.
That says it all. If the government – local or state – is supposed to be responsive to the opinions of the people who are stakeholders in any project, they should pay heed to this survey. I don’t think a statement like, “Our people also came here and observed how people were using the beach. Our plan is based on that” will wash.

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 What now? 4

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:20 pm

I am impressed. It is amazing and at some level humbling what Internet platforms can do for civic action. So far I had only read reports of them. This is the first time that I have actually seen how online communities come together for a common concern and translate it into action with little waste of time. Note the sequence of the beach saga.
Mr. S attends a meeting of the local council where he is left staring at a monstrous plan to “beautify” the beach. Mr. S smells a rat. He knows the plan will be executed in double quick time before people can say “What!” He decides to do something about it.
He writes to the local officials and then the Commissioner why the plan is totally unacceptable. An Exnora friend mails copies of those letters to all her friends. That’s it. The information spreads like a slum fire. People start writing to friends, I put it on my blog for a whole lot of people to see. When Mr. S organises a meeting, residents of Besant Nagar, the group that will be most affected by all that civic work on the beach (imagine a meeting/concert in the amphitheatre), join him. Experts write letters on environmental and legal aspects of this proposal.
Mr. S gets the local officials to meet the residents and others. Adyar Times is now an interested, concerned party. So are the turtle group and the Tree Vigil group. Those at the meeting take a look at the colourfully made album of photographs of the structures to come. One beach Exnora guy quickly clicks away with his mobile camera and Mr. S mails the shots to the group.
Those who receive them are appalled. Members of the Chennai metroblog, who first said they would reserve judgement till they saw the plan see them in my post and are shocked into silence.
After this, the matter gets into the bullet train. The Commissioner is informed of the opposition. He appears at two meetings organised by the two groups involved. The opposition to the beautification attempt is now a combined force, manned by a younger set, which has now avataared as Civil Society Group. This is when the technology explodes.
CSG quickly organises a survey. E-mails rush back and forth in the Group site, the questionnaire is prepared, copies are made and volunteers span out to get them answered on that Saturday evening. The Commissioner begs off, but the survey is done. So is the “revised” plan that cleverly spreads out the structures to near the road to beat the CZR.  The plan is put up on the gym wall to meet the need to “consult” citizens before a large plan expenditure.
When the  Commissioner visits the beach on Sunday evening, a CSG volunteer takes him around, showing him the various sore spots on the beach. He is shown the fate of the structures constructed over a period of time. He is told why any “beautification” must start with cleaning up. Mr. Muthiah’s Madras Musings has picked up the story and his words are quoted to the Commissioner. He is asked if there is government pressure to complete the project in a hurry. He cannot but notice the displeasure of the assembled groups.
As I write this, the survey has been collated, prepared in a “results at a glance” PPT format, the meeting has been arranged for Sunday morning, the press is informed, the agenda prepared, the number of people decided, logos and captions written, the necessity for a projector discussed. All  in front of my eyes, through the site! I guess the members just check their mail, swing into action on the same computer, send out replies with suggestions, and voila! all is ready for the meeting! Astounding!
Here is a strong, tech savvy online community created by an on-shore move by the city corporation.
A personal bit of happiness is when the editor of Apollo Times called this morning to take permission to use my blog material for his story on the beach. Viva la blog!

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 What now? 3

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 7:33 am

This mail from Sharadha of Civil Society Group sounds like the final call. Unless, of course, I hear from Mr. S.
Nity – You could also add traffic regulation/parking issues around the beach area. As I told you over the phone, Tara Murali is coming with various suggestions for these problems , which she is going to present to the commissioner on sunday. We can nail him down for some action regarding these issues. Once there is a consensus, translating all these ideas into a formal plan can be the next step. Should I request the commissioner to ask his architect to be present too?Also here is my 2 cents worth…let us not interrupt the commissioner or the architect while they are talking. There will be plenty of opportunities given for us to talk. Thanks. So folks, let us all gather on sunday at the boy’s club with an open mind and together, I think we can make this happen. 🙂


March 28, 2007

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 What now? 2

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:46 pm

The Civil Society Group is now taking an active part in preservation of the beach. Their members conducted a survey on the beach. They are now putting together the results in the form of graphs so one can scan the results at a glance. They have also been to a Besant Nagar architect for a new plan for the beautification of the beach, a plan that will take into account the ecological and CRZ concerns. Armed with all this the group and its well-wishers will meet the Commissioner. Here is the mail from a member of the group.
Have confirmed the meeting with the Commissioner on Sunday (1st April) at 11.30 AM at the Boy’s club on Elliots beach.
Tara Murali has requested for a projecter/screen. She has some powerpoint presentations.Nity, can you find out if there is white screen that can be rented too, along with the projector that you were talking about?
Press meet/release – Nity, can you help with that too.. I have a few numbers of press people that we can call. Let us get the ball rolling ..:-)
To which, the person addressed as Nity replied:
I can certainly churn out an english pr if we can agree on the key points to emphasise. my suggestions:
1. No construction on the beach.
2. Emphasis on litter prevention by regulating plastics and vending zones, providing adequate numbers of trash cans.
3. Highlight key findings — of relevance to vendors, fishers, walkers and turtle enthusiasts.
4. Provision of toilets
The press release would restrict itself to the process and outcome of the survey.
ciao, nity
I’ll try to be at the Boy’s Club on Sunday morning to see what happens.

March 27, 2007

Grammar – 32 What is good writing? 2

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:00 pm

You may have great ideas and may have collected fine phrases to express them in, but if you fail to avoid grammatical errors, you put off your readers. You really can’t expect all your readers to be grammar duds, can you?
Check the right usage of the words you have. (Malapropism in a previous post)
Check the sentences for slip-ups in grammar – the commonest error being the non-agreement of the verb and the subject. I was rather surprised to find this sentence in an article written by a well-known columnist.
Today’s younger generation of Indian women seem to associate the garment with an earlier era…”
See the trap here? You write “women” and automatically use the plural verb “seem” (singular would be “seems”) . This sentence is about the younger “generation”, which is singular. “Indian women” is the object of the preposition “of”. Pitfall, right?
So check your verbs, check the subjects whose actions they talk about. Take care to see you have used “few”, “a few” and “the few” correctly. You have used “fewer” and “less” in the right places.
I find fewer books of fiction in this library, but there is less noise. Get it?
Read them a few times to see your words say what you want them to say. During the Nandigram episode, the anchor on a popular English TV channel kept shrieking “Fresh reports of clashes between the police and the agitators!” for three consecutive days. How could there be “fresh” reports? The reports were the same. No one was writing them differently every time they took place. The police fired on the agitating people. Only, this happened after a lull.  What she wanted to say was, “Reports of fresh clashes“.
Do you see the huge difference in meaning here? Word order, the placing of adjectives and adverbs in the sentence, are equally important.
Now, take the quiz and correct these sentences.
[1] Central Station is one of those rare films that leaves you feeling both happy and sad at the same time. (Read previous grammar posts if you need help.)
Dora’s one of those bitter, mean-spirited, cynical women who rarely mails any of these letters that people pay her to write.
But his road shows, where he mingled with the public freely disregarding the security, has created concerns for the Centre.
[4] Articles like this really shows what is happening in Chennai. 

[5]The woman down the street is one of those wonderful people who is always planning something fun.


Have fun!

March 26, 2007

More on Mozhi

Filed under: Games People Play,Movie,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 5:30 pm

Here are lines that I feel should reach a lot more people than it would as a simple comment.
vasundhar | |
Mozhi is one of the talked-about movies these days. I assumed the credit should go to Jothika for her improved performance(True). But the story did not end quite there.
I rely more on blogs for reviews because, they are not corporated (Did it sound like contaminated or corrupted ) Quite likely).
That’s how I linked to your blog, which made me realise what “Mozhi” has is not glitz but radiance. I want to applaud, TEAM MOZHI, Ability Foundation, and YOU. For bringing it to the notice of people around the world.
Thanks a lot,
I added the movie in my list for Apr 6 2007 in Chennai.
Thanks, Vasundhar, for those kind words. A movie like this comes our way rarely and we ought to celebrate it, and more to the point, support it. Mozhi’s success is a direct attack on the producers’/directors’ excuse for making abusive, stereo-typical movies – “This is what the public wants!” The public has now proved that sensible, well-made movies that provide clean, wholesome comedy will be appreciated.  To make a successful movie, one need not indulge in gory violence, repeated fights and flight scenes,  totally despicable  dance sequences and dialogues that are base and derogatory.
Mozhi vindicates public taste. In a sense, it also shapes public taste by breaking myths about disability. Make a good movie, we will watch it. Don’t take short cuts to make money.
May I compliment you on the wonderful phrase “It is not glitz, but radiance”? I loved that!

March 25, 2007

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 What now?

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:09 pm

This came in the mail just now.
Dear friends,
Mr. Rajesh Lakhoni IAS., Commissioner, Chennai Corporation, met us as scheduled
at about 5 PM today at the Gymnasium, Elliot’s Beach, Besant Nagar, and the Note already circulated to you was handed over to him and explained. He was taken on a walking tour around the Beach sands discussing in situ the various points in the Note on the beautification of Elliot’s Beach. He also agreed to meet us again next Sunday 1st April morning to hear the presentation on the studies conducted by the Civil Society Group, at a time and place to be confirmed. Best wishes,
The Civil Society Group is a group that consists mostly of women. These women came together under the name Tree Vigil to prevent the corporation from cutting the huge trees on Besant Avenue on the grounds that they were a traffic hindrance. Today, before the meeting started, they had mounted pictures of the filth in and around the beach that needed to be attended to at once. One of them made a presentation on her laptop explaining the problems on the beach. A couple of cameramen were shooting pictures and NDTV spoke to members of CSG.
Answering the complaints from those gathered, Mr. L said that the corporation had to have a plan on paper before it could be discussed with concerned groups. He did not explain why the plan was not made public to the beach users till they wrote letters asking for it. Asked about the proposed construction that would encroach the beach space, he said that the present structures had to be set right. The beach had to be available for all sections of the society. Asked why the beach needed fountains, an amphitheatre and a play area for kids, he was non-committal. He kept repeating, “We need a plan to discuss. We will discuss it.” He wouldn’t say anything about maintenance either.
Here is a picture of the Commissioner walking around the beach.

The tall guy in the green shirt is Mr. L and the one in the blue T-shirt is Mr. S.

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