India: Voices of High School Students: Altruism from Youth #YouthDay #OmegaIntlSchool

India: Voices of High School Students: Altruism from Youth #YouthDay #OmegaIntlSchool

On the International Day of Youth, World Moms Network – Senior Editor, Purnima from India, met with a few young high school students. Read on to find their take on the state of affairs of the world, their life ahead in times of this pandemic, their passion, their ways of achieving their dreams and goals, and generally trying to have a positive perspective towards the world and their life.

Purnima asked 3 questions!

  1. What is your passion? What makes you most excited about? What does your heart live for? Take some time and think about the questions mentioned below. Answer the questions to the best of your ability. This is about your beliefs, hopes, and dreams.
  2. What is that one thing you would like to see changed in this world? (Examples: Climate Change, Education policy, Global unity, etc…)
  3. Tell me about that one step you would like to take to achieve question #2?

Harini Ramanan says:

My passion is writing. I am excited about creating a whole new world that can fit into a reader’s head. I am passionate about global unity. I want to promote diversity among religion, race, and more. 

Ritesh says:

I love data science, especially the field of artificial intelligence. I would love to implement this into business, as I’m also interested in becoming an entrepreneur. Despite the challenges that may come, I am determined and will work my way through.

Ritesh

One thing I would definitely like to see changed in this world is parents no longer making their children’s major decisions. Especially in India, many parents put a lot of pressure on their children to, (for example), take up a certain subject to study in the future, impeding the child from doing what he/she is really passionate about, just because the parent thinks it’s ‘not going to work out’. 

I totally agree, that parents know what is right and what is wrong and that their children should respect that, however, sometimes there is no ‘right or wrong’ decision when it comes to a child’s major decisions, after all, it’s impossible to see what the future will bring. Nevertheless, I believe that it’s not up to a parent to decide where their child’s success lies, but for the child to prove that their success is where they want it to be.

What I am about to say might sound ridiculous, but just like we children go to school, I believe that parents also need some form of education to become better parents and respect their children’s opinions and passions. Parenting is already a hard task in itself, especially when the child grows up and starts to become rebellious and doesn’t want to do what the parent wants them to do. But through education, parents could, maybe, be able to understand what their child is really interested in, and rather than pulling them away from it, help them to achieve their goals.

Selvambiga says:

I love art. When I come up with new ideas and implement it, I feel satisfied after looking at my output on how creative, hard-working, and concentrated I was toward my artwork. Sometimes when my artwork looks very similar to the one I had in my mind, I’m on cloud 9. I would say that my heart lives to achieve my goals, ambition, and also my cravings toward my likings like chocolates, desserts, and also ice creams.

I also want to change the healthcare policy to a better one providing adequate and necessary treatment to all who arrive at any hospital, be it rich or poor. I want to do this because not everyone in this world is getting proper medical treatment because it is expensive.

Mabel David says:

My passion is to share love by indirectly helping others in need especially. Spending time with people I love and who love me back gives me joy and peace. My heart lives for the new experiences I experience every day.

Nishit Joseph says:

I want to be a lead guitarist. I love playing and feeling guitar against my body. I am very excited about changing the string in my guitar. My heart lives to bring music to every corner of the world.

Adil Sukumar says:

Everyone should have a voice. I want to see everyone happy smiling. My heart lives for doing what I love.

Poojasri

Poojasri M says:

I want to see all people treated equally, no matter whether they are rich or poor, all people in the world must be treated equally.

Tania Mascarenhas says:

I want to eliminate discrimination and hate from this world. It’s very taxing to even think about this.

I’m currently working on collecting suggestions on an app called Tumblr which is a microblogging platform. Once I have collected enough ideas, I hope to start a Kindness Challenge; where each day we can represent ideas or do something as simple as baking a cake, giving a compliment or speaking to an old friend.

Vanaja Karthik says:

I would like for abusing to stop. I am going to strive for the Heartfulness movement to spread throughout the world and prioritize spirituality, love, kindness and togetherness.

These kids have started with a thought, put words into their ideas, are leading engagement in their community. They encourage action among adults, and lead transformation.

Special shoutout and gratitude to Mrs. Ushma Sriraman, who leads the Value-Based Education department of the Lalaji Memorial Omega International School, for her cooperation, coordination, and for her virtual hugs!

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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World Voice: Malaysian Women Balancing Business Appearance and Homelife

World Voice: Malaysian Women Balancing Business Appearance and Homelife

How would you react if someone said you needed to “look” better for work? Would you acquiesce or question it?

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/n7Cq2rdd73E

Most of the world is under different stages of working from home due to coronavirus. While Asian countries like China, Indonesia and South Korea are undergoing different phases of reopening after months of lockdown, Malaysia’s work from home “suggestions” from their government during COVID-19 has sparked some controversy.

Back in March, Malaysia was placed under a Movement Control Order (MCO), as a way to control coronavirus. Since people who could work were able to do so from home, the Ministry for Women, Family, and Community Development posted some posters on Facebook and Instagram with “suggestions” for women to make themselves presentable by wearing makeup when working from home. In addition, they were asked not to “nag” their husbands about housework or childcare since they would be coming home tired from working to provide for their family.

For most women, the idea to entertain this idea of putting on makeup and not “nag” their husbands about household chores is ludicrous. It is another way of undermining the status of women in the business world as well as in their home. Isn’t it bad enough that men and women have to go through this pandemic without having to cater to the “suggestions” of the government?

How are these ideas helpful? If anything, these suggestions are offensive and stereotyping the role of women. What’s worse is that the person in charge of the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development, Rina Harun, didn’t think this would be an issue. While the suggestions have since been retracted, it still created negative feedback. 

Women activism groups took the government’s handling of this to task. They demanded that the posters be taken down or modified. Harun maintained that the posters were aimed at giving positive pointers during the pandemic, but were they? To me, these posters added to the stress of navigating through these unprecedented events and may have even affected their home life negatively.

Was the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development well-intentioned by creating these posters? They may have thought so, but in my opinion, it backfired. While I don’t claim to know how foreign governments are run, the way the Malaysian government has been treating women during this time is discriminatory and uncalled for. I don’t think that women alone should have to shoulder the responsibilities of working as well as maintaining the home if they have partners. In my opinion, the ideas put forth by the Malaysian ministry stem from patriarchal ideals, and that’s what needs to be addressed if both men and women are to live in close quarters during this pandemic. 

To read the original article:

https://www.npr.org/2020/04/01/825051317/dont-nag-your-husband-during-lock-down-malaysias-government-advises-women

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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Discrimination Due To Menstruation

Discrimination Due To Menstruation

Universally, women and girls menstruate. The age may vary for every young girl, but the experience can be traumatic, sometimes even deadly.

I recently came upon two news items that shocked and saddened me. The first story was of an 11-year-old girl from the UK who had her period while in school. When she asked to be excused to go to the bathroom because her period had soaked through her clothes, she was refused by two staff members on two separate occasions. 

The young girl was trying to avoid being singled out by the rest of her class, possibly the whole school. Instead of being supported by the staff, she was dismissed, which traumatized her from going back to school. Since those incidents, the girl has been given a bathroom pass, but the damage had been done. According to a study done by Plan International UK back in 2017, 49% of girls and young women aged 14-21 have missed at least one day of school as a result of their period. In addition to being humiliated for having a period and pain as a result of it, the cost of buying sanitary products may be prohibitive. Period poverty in the UK affects about 10% of girls who can’t afford them and 12% find ways to create makeshift sanitary wear just to have something. There have been initiatives launched like the Red Box Project based in Bristol, where period products are given for free, but more has to be done to eliminate the discrimination felt by girls and women who are affected.

The second story was about 21-year old Parbati Borgati from Nepal who was staying in a menstrual hut during her period and died of suffocation from smoke inhalation. Borgati who had been staying in this abandoned hut decided to keep warm one cold night by burning wood and clothing and tragically died in her sleep. Menstrual huts are not unusual for women in some parts of Nepal, India, and Africa and the concept of these huts comes from years of tradition and in some cases, out of religion.

The tradition of “chhaupadi” In Nepal is part of a long-standing belief stemming from Hinduism that during a woman’s menstrual cycle, she is deemed unclean. As part of this tradition, women are banned from being in the kitchen, using kitchen utensils, sharing meals, going to the temple or being with their families, and are segregated to huts made from mud or stone. The huts are no bigger than closets and these women brave the elements and pests on their own. 

In recent years, women’s rights activists have fought to end “chhaupadi”.  Even the government of Nepal has outlawed menstrual huts since 2005. They have gone so far as to criminalize it this past August for those who continue to force women to use them, but unfortunately in some western villages of Nepal, these actions have not been as successful. While tradition can be blamed for the continuity of their use, guilt plays a huge part in it as well. In areas where menstrual huts have been used by women for generations, it is difficult for them to turn their backs on what’s been viewed as part of their way of life. 

One of the ways that “chhaupadi” is being discouraged is through cash incentives. Recently, a rural governor has offered to give $5,000 rupees to any woman who rejects using menstrual sheds. While it seems like a great solution, it’s not sustainable since so many still use these sheds out of tradition and fear of being ostracized by their families for not following this custom.

My experience with menstruation did not result in tragedy, but it was still traumatizing for a thirteen-year-old girl. I was on a family vacation when I got my period while playing outdoors with my cousins. I felt some discharge on my underwear and thought I had soiled myself. I ran to the bathroom and was gripped with fear when I saw blood on my underwear, unaware of what was happening to me. It wasn’t until my aunt knocked on the bathroom door to see if I was okay that I told her about the blood. It was then that I was educated about “periods” and what I should do next and in the future. 

Why was I told about “periods” by my aunt, as opposed to my mother? As someone whose mother came from the Philippines, the word “period” was never discussed in her household, so I was never educated about it by my mother. This was a silent “problem” and no one was allowed to talk about it to anyone, especially men. Gender roles play a big part in a lot of Filipino families, and “periods” are seen as female problems. While there have been strides over the years to ensure that young women in rural parts of the Philippines are educated about menstruation as those living in urban areas, the perception of having a “period” is still seen as a woman’s problem. 

In light of last year’s Academy Awards event in the US  where the award for Best Foreign Film was given to a documentary short made in India titled, “Period. End of a Sentence.”, there has been a great amount of awareness brought towards the issue of menstruation. Created by Rayka Zehtabchi, the film showed how menstruation is still a taboo subject in rural parts of India and that even the word “period” evokes shame for girls and ignorance for boys. Education about menstruation plays a huge part in breaking the taboo it has affected generations of girls and boys. What struck me was how the girls reacted towards the word as opposed to the boys. The girls were painfully self-conscious saying the word, while the boys were quite unaffected by the issue, even worse, had no idea what the word “period” meant.

The film follows some women in rural Hapur district, just outside of Delhi, India, and exposes the contradicting points of view regarding menstruation between genders and as seen by older generations, but there were positive results as well. Discussing the subject of menstruation and the necessity of safe menstrual products like pads was crucial for both genders. Another positive outcome of the film was creating job opportunities for these women so they could feel empowered. That opportunity would come from an unlikely source, a man named Arunachalam Murugunantham from Tamil Nadu. 

When Muruganantham found out that his wife was using newspapers or filthy rags for her period, he decided to create sanitary pads that were safe and could be purchased at a low cost. Muruganantham created a pad machine that made sanitary pads using cellulose fibers from pine wood pulp, which was great for absorption and retaining the pad’s shape. Traditionally, men have never been involved with anything related to menstruation, especially in rural parts of India, so it’s no surprise that Muruganantham’s wife, Shanti, was not supportive of his invention in the beginning.

Muruganantham’s goal of educating young women about safe sanitary pads through his pad machine and the rise of a micro-economy from selling them in local stores at a low cost has given these women the confidence to provide for their families. It was amazing to see the transformation of these women from being shy and silent about the topic of “periods” to feeling empowered and ready to provide for themselves and their communities as a result of Muruganantham’s invention. 

The success of “Period. End of Sentence.” is an indication that more has to be done to enlighten parts of the world about menstruation. In today’s world where women from Western countries can speak freely about reproductive health, it’s heartbreaking to see other women that are still suppressed either by tradition or guilt to speak out about issues that harm them or lose their lives, just like the women who died in the menstrual huts. It is my hope that this film continues to break gender inequity, not just in India but in other parts of the world where women are banished just because they have their period. No woman deserves to feel invisible or worse, lose their life due to a lack of education, especially about their bodies.

To read the articles regarding this post, click below:

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/bristol-schoolgirl-period-refused-toilet-uk/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US_Jan_17_2019_content_digest_template_test_single_image

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/nepal-woman-period-death-fire-hut-menstruation-hut-illegal-parbati-bogati-a8760911.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/12/17/787808530/menstrual-huts-are-illegal-in-nepal-so-why-are-women-still-dying-in-them

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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ASIA: Colorful Roses From South India Spread Fragrance Around the Globe

ASIA: Colorful Roses From South India Spread Fragrance Around the Globe

Next time you present a bouquet to your loved one or while welcoming a guest, thank the people of few villages in Krishnagiri district in south Tamil Nadu in India. Millions of these petite and fresh flowers spread fragrance in UK, Germany, Australia, Singapore  and Middle East. They bloom in plenty in Krishnagiri district in towns like Thally, Kelamangalam, Denkanikottai, Shoolagiri and Hosur. Though these places are just an obscure speck on the map of India they are some of the important floriculture address of the country. How do these colorful flowers bloom here? Does the hot and humid climatic condition of the country suit them? The response is a little dicey.  The way the flowers are grown in the gardens, situated at an altitude of 1000 feet above mean sea level is the answer to the questions.

Untouched by pollution and tourists these rose gardens are tucked away in small villages spread all over the Western Ghats on the border of the two states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.     

All along the well-laid roads that meander on these not too tall hills dot rose gardens where men, women and children, with a covering on their head, tend to rose saplings. A few feet away, in what seems like a plastic house and net structures, stand long rows of flowering plants. Inquiries reveal that these ubiquitous plastic shields are polyhouses.

Flowers in full bloom inside a polyhouse

Though they look like simple gardens, they are large farms where the flowers were grown using modern technology. The polyhouse is a structure made of translucent material like glass or polyethylene which help the plants grow and develop under controlled climatic conditions.    

Narrow paths from these polyhouses lead you to hi-tech floriculture companies. It is here these flowers are plucked at the right time, cut to size with the right machines and preserved in huge cold storage rooms before being packed off to the local market and local airport, to be flown abroad.

Those who manage them are not local farmers but engineers, IT and management professionals.

Bright roses, rich marigolds and huge carnations is the capital that drives them to invest more and more in this industry. One such businessmen who turns over crores annually is Jitendra Kumar Bajoria, who hails from Bagalpur in Bihar State.

Author’s daughter in a polyhouse growing marigolds

Attracted by the nip in the air and the lush green landscape, this entrepreneur developed a rose garden on an acre two decades ago. Enthused by the results he decided to go commercial and took a big business plunge. He set up huge flower farms on 65 acres, – Maa Floritech _  at Agalkottai in Denkanikottai taluk in Krishnagiri district in 2006. 

As time flew by, the farms became hi-tech but shrunk to 45 acres.  “We boosted production by modernizing the farm and using Israeli farming technology, said Kush Chokhani, manager of Maa Floritech, Agalkottai village.”   Using  Israeli technology, cultivation of roses and carnations grew in leaps and bounds on these farms.  They did not just increase in numbers but in varieties too. “Today we have 82 varieties of chrysanthemums and 25 varieties of roses on our farms,” said Mr. Kush. 

Growing the saplings

How are saplings actually grown and tended?  “The specialty of Agalkottai are the following. Altitude (1000 m above mean sea level, red soil (ideal for roses), temperatures always hover around 23 – 30 degrees centigrade (good for chrysanthemums, marigold and roses),” said Mr. Kush.  

The cuttings are planted in straight rows inside the polyhouses. Apart from air, water and soil the flowers need nutrients too. “We give them at the right moment when they get depleted in the soil. Thanks to Israeli technology nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur and potassium are sent through pipes embedded in the soil. Similarly whenever there is an increase or decrease in temperatures inside the polyhouses, the technology helps to control it. For instance, there are tiny fogging machines (fully automated drip and fogger system) which sprinkle water over the plants when it becomes hot,” said Mr Kush as he turned on the fogging switch.

It is a sight to watch these tiny robots swirl around and sprinkle water on the plants. For a minute, you are transported to a rainy setting.  “Also when it is cold outside, the temperature is survival- friendly for the plants as the polyhouses stop the greenhouse gases from leaving,” explained Mr. Kush.

Though there are less pests and insects inside a polyhouse, Mr. Kush opines that there is a need for regular consultation regarding the right kind of fertilizers and fungicides for the plants. “We are always on the look out for a a breakout of pests such as thrips, mites and aphids. The plants are susceptible to Powdery mildew ( a disease) when there is less humidity.”   

Horticulture officials in the district are of the view that these enclosures also ensure disease control, fertigation and other agronomical practices.  Thus the farmers of the region are assured of harvesting flowers such as carnation, gerbera, marigold, orchid and roses throughout the year without  worrying about crop loss or damage.

Controlled cultivation

Micro irrigation system ensures right amount of water for the roots (cuts water use by 80 per cent). Mainly the poly houses boost starch production as the carbon-dioxide emitted by the plants at night is retained inside the enclosure.

These polyhouses offer other sophistication too like the photo-synthetically active radiation (PAR) lighting. Plants grow tall under these lighting. But when they reach a specified height, lights are switched off and flowering commences.  Thus the Israeli technology helps control photosynthesis, humidity, good aeration, temperature and other conditions.

Rose buds capped with synthetic mesh

Once flowering commences, care is taken to cap each and every rose bud with a synthetic mesh to control its size. Rose stems ready for harvest during sunny days have to be pre-cooled. Soil and water need to be tested regularly. According to Mr. Kush, one cannot succeed in hi-tech farming without personal attention.

Once the flowers are in full bloom, they are harvested, precooled for 12-16 hours at 8-10 degrees in a cold room. The stems are then de-leafed using machines 25 % from the bottom. The stems are then graded for length. They are then bunched based on the length. “A bunch consists of 20 roses. They are wrapped after cutting and packed in a preservative for storing in cold rooms. They are taken out based on the orders,” explained Mr. Kush.      

Profitable farming

“We keep updating ourselves with new techniques and news about market conditions,” said Mr. Kush. There is regular knowledge-transfer to workers about upkeep of plants, weeding, transplanting, cultivation methods, irrigation, nursery development de-leafing and cutting. The workforce are not only from Tamil Nadu state but also from Northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkand and West Bengal.

While men prepare the flower beds, carry buckets of water and remove weeds, women are involved in harvesting, de-shooting and other light jobs.

Roses being packaged for export

Based on their skill they earn approximately $ 4 to $ 5 every day. With a growing demand for these flowers, it will definitely attract more entrepreneurs . Indian chrysanthemums, roses and marigolds are sure to find a place in many a bouquets in every part of the globe soon.

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004. She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world. she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health. To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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INDIA: Robots, Go the Food Way

INDIA: Robots, Go the Food Way

India, basically an agrarian economy has made great strides in various fields and especially in the field of robotics. The robots have gradually entered into sectors such as defence services, agriculture, manufacturing industries and so on.

The petite man-like machines have therefore created career opportunities for many entrepreneurs in the food industry too. Do we need any extra talents to make a mark in this field?

“Not exactly, if you have the expertise and the interest to excel in your business and attract customers, success is yours,” say the duo Karthik Kannan and Venkatesh Rajendran, who took Chennai by storm with their robot-theme based restaurant, a few months back.

Launched early this year, this restaurant located on the Old Mahabalipuram Road is a crowd puller. Despite a spacious waiting lounge, on the ground floor, one can see serpentine queues to grab a table in the restaurant.

What is attractive about this theme? Robots, of course, says Karthik. People are curious about how they work here. he says as he leads us to the dining space on the first floor. Soon as you step out of the lift, you are caught unaware by a robot extending its tray to you. Unable to hold back a guffaw, Karthik points out that it is just a selfie corner and there is more suspense waiting for you inside.

Heading straight to the glass door before you, he takes you inside a dimly-lit restaurant. As your eyes get used to the darkness, the scene that unfolds looks straight out of a science fiction – a line of tall robots, with bright red eyes, turning around on their wheels.
Of the four robot waiters or servers, two are clad in a saree to suit the Indian style. Children vie with adults to reach out to the food on trays carried by the robots named Gia, Sana, Alice and Atika.

So, how do the robots locate the tables? Founders Venkatesh and Karthik have introduced a unique order system with phone tabs. The tablets display all categories of food available – Thai, Chinese et al. Once the order is placed by the customers, it is sent directly to the kitchen. When the ordered dishes are ready, restaurant staff arrange it on a tray carried by a battery-operated robot which promptly delivers it to the respective table.

Venkatesh Rajendran and Karthik Kannan

Venkatesh Rajendran and Karthik Kannan

On reaching the table, it alerts the guests to take the food from the tray and tap its hand after they are done with the task. It then proceeds to the kitchen on a fixed track around the tables.

If children, out of curiosity, go near the robots carrying the orders and block its way, alerted by sensors fixed inside them, they stop immediately. As one can get a seat only through booking, there is no jostling inside the hall to walk alongside or touch the moving machines.

In addition to the robots, the restaurant has also employed waiters to enable customers to adapt themselves to the new concept.
Why this concept? “The concept of ‘Theme-restaurant’ is taking Chennai by storm now. I am an architect (specializes in interiors) and my friend Venkatesh, a former IT employee, is currently in the food industry. Both of us wanted to combine our expertise and introduce a new concept in the city. Also, during my visits to China, I noticed that robots were a big hit in restaurants. Thus was born this concept,” explained Karthik.

How did it begin?

Karthik who imports building materials from China has his office there. Two years ago, when the concept of theme restaurants was catching up in Chennai, he took up the task of doing interiors for 747 Flight Theme restaurant. Here, he designed the dining space similar to the interior of an aircraft to give aeronautic experience to the guests. It was then Karthik met Venkatesh and they conceptualized theme Robot. It was a leap of faith for both of them and they plunged into business. While Karthik handled the interiors, imports and robot repairs, Venkatesh handled the business operations.

But the effort was fraught with challenges. The duo had to study the working of the robots (each costing Rs. 4 lakhs), obtain training in installing and servicing them. Off, they flew to China to understand all these concepts and avoid being bogged down by emergencies.
“I took up a 15-day training to solve any issue related to the running of the machines. Actually, it is easier to handle them. They are like any other electrical gadgets. You just have to charge them once in 24 hours and take care of their wheels if needed. They will not throw up an emergency and if there is one, I can handle it,” says Karthik confidently.

But, what really shook them was routing the robots to India. Little did they realize that they will face a hurdle with the customs department. “As this concept was new to India, the Customs Department did not have a unique code assigned to the product (assembled robots). We, therefore, had to pump in a lot of details about parts of the bots, convince them and use special permission. The entire operations took us 2-3 months as officials of many central departments had to be approached,” explained Karthik.

We are glad, we did it, despite odds. Today, the concept is a success and they cater to customers from down south and far from north India too. Some of the dishes their guests come looking for is ‘Wow Paneer’ and dumplings (vegetarian) and Mayonnaise chicken (non-vegetarian). But both look forward to their and myriad varieties of home-made kulfis.

What are their plans for the future? Two months ago, Karthik and Venkatesh launched the themed Robot restaurant in Coimbatore (another major city in south India). They have plans of introducing the concept in all the states in the country. “We will source the bots from China and sell it across the country. Anybody with normal intelligence and sound knowledge of handling electrical goods will be able to manage the robots and do not need any special training session,” said the duo.

They further explain that they are willing to share the expertise with interested cafeterias, pizza outlets and in the hospital sector. They are open for franchises as well. Currently, they are authorized sole distributors of these robots for the Indian Market.

The robots are only an additional attraction and have not replaced the restaurant staff. But will they eventually do away with the human resource? What do you think?

Photo Credits: The Author

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004.
She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world.
she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health.
To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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INDIA: State of Kerala Ravaged by Floods, Still Gasps for Survival

INDIA: State of Kerala Ravaged by Floods, Still Gasps for Survival

Map of Kerala State

Map of Kerala State

Heavy rain during June and July is a normal phenomenon in the state of Kerala in South India. This year, the effect of the South-West monsoon was more profound not only in Kerala but in the neighboring state of Karnataka too.  Though meteorologists are of the view that it is not unusual, climate experts feel that it is a fierce reminder to India about climate change.

Though Kerala experiences heavy rain due to the South West monsoon, this year the rain was unprecedented not only in Kerala but in major parts of the adjoining state of Karnataka too. Even in their distant dreams, people of Kerala did not expect to face a calamity due to rain, which was a normal phenomenon all these years.

Kerala Ravaged by Floods

Kerala Ravaged by Floods

On August 9, large parts of the state woke up to large-scale devastation as the monsoon renewed its date with the state. There were flash floods and landslips in several places and the State Disaster Control sources were caught unawares.

Within 24 hours, death toll began to rise and the Indian government employed personnel from the Army, Indian Air Force, Navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to the worst-hit districts of Kozhikode, Wayanad, and Malappuram.

People Wade Through the Flood Waters

People Wade Through the Flood Waters

“On August 12 we were given the first alert, when the authorities said they would be opening the Idukki dam (built on the Periyar river), which was reaching full capacity after a span of 26 years, if it overflows. Unfortunately, heavy downpour forced the authorities to open all the sluices within 24 hours and there was chaos and disaster all around,” explained Bindu, a resident of Ernakulum, presently relocated to Chennai. Deadly landslides bashed Idukki district, which was known for its tea and cardamom plantations, winding roads and scenic resorts. As Idukki is situated at a high altitude in the Western Ghats, people were unaffected by natural disasters such as storms or hurricanes but little did they think that torrential rain would displace their livelihood. “Our place was always referred to as Kashmir of Kerala. My heart bleeds when I see my hometown battered brutally,” said Anand Kuttan, whose entire family is employed in the tea plantations in Munnar (Idukki district).

By August 13, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a red alert to eight districts – Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and  Kannur. It was extended to others in the next few days.

But the scope of the disaster had outpaced efforts to cope with the disaster and the state had set up several flood monitoring stations and all of them notified extreme flood situation. The two regions that bore the brunt of the rain fury (August 19, 20) were Kuttanad and Chengannur.

Fishermen

The government took all efforts to help stranded residents. They involved all kinds of aircraft and boats. But, the real heroes who stood by the government and rescue personnel were the fisherfolk. They hurried to the flooded areas with their boats in which they navigate the high seas. In fact, they were the first to rush to Chengannur to rescue the marooned by the Pamba river. Said Bindu, “While the Army and government agencies could only  concentrate on towns, the fishermen deftly reached out to those in remote areas.”

The fishermen battled the adverse weather, held on to trees to veer the boats in the right course and faced the challenge of a strong water currents. They helped rescue heavily pregnant women, infants and almost swam in and out of all homes in a number of villages looking out for disabled persons and elderly.

“Women had no stamina, especially the elderly.  They had very little endurance, especially after the loss of property and near ones, they could not bring themselves to board the rescue boats,” added Bindu.

“They had to be cajoled and even bodily-lifted. We Keralites are attached to our homes and we could not bear to see it ravaged,” wailed Suresh her brother.

Relief operations

Sanitary Napkins Being Transported to Kerala

Relief Materials Being Transported to Kerala

Rain battered Kerala breathed easy only after August 19. According to officials over 2.55 lakh people were displaced and there was a steady rise in death toll.

But, despite being handicapped in all ways, Keralites rose up to the occasion. They did not panic, though their morale was badly down. Several NGOs and private relief teams swung into action from nearby Tamil Nadu and all over the country. Relief material began to pour in and they were housed in over 7, 24, 600 relief camps all over the state.

Rainfall pattern

Rainfall Pattern

Rainfall Pattern

According to the IMD, in just 20 days (August 1 – 20), Kerala had received the highest amount rain in 87 years. Idukki district alone received a breaking record of 1419 mm in August (till 20). Scientists opine that this is a once in a century rain which has displaced more than 1.3 million people in the state.

According to farmers, they have received nearly two and a half times the normal amount of water across the state, during mid-August. “We depend on the right amount of rain at the right time for our livelihood and food. How do we cope with this situation,” asked, Lakshmanan a farmer of Ernakulam?

Thousands of hectares of agricultural land are under sheets of water. Paddy and banana were the worst hit by the flood and they are yet to know the actual loss which they expect to be very high. The state has also lost poultry, milch animals, and ruminants.

Expert warnings ignored

The floods have washed away multi-storeyed buildings, commercial establishments, bridges and eroded roads. Several tribal communities, hilly areas and villages are still surrounded by the swirling flood waters and totally cut off from the rest of the state.

The flooding also affected the Kochi airport as it has been built on the floodplains of the Periyar river. According to officials, the airport has been carved out of paddy fields. “All rivers have a floodplain that is used to hold water and if the government does away with such an integral part of the water body, who can we blame now?” ask activists and experts.

Rainfall Pattern in mm (1960 - 2016) in Kerala

Rainfall Pattern in mm (1960 – 2016) in Kerala (Courtesy: Regional Weather Forecasting Centre and Area Cyclone Warning Centre, Chennai)

With millions displaced in flooded Kerala, climatologists warn that devastating floods of this enormity will become a norm if the Indian government has a callous approach towards climate change.  This is a major challenge that is staring at the country now and most of its plans to deal with it are more rhetoric and lesson planning and policy decisions.

Eco-system of Western Ghats

The situation has created awareness among the residents about the importance of preserving the environment and its role in climate change.

After reading the report submitted by scientist Madhav Gadgil (headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel formed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2010), many of us feel that the problem faced by the state due to the floods was partly man-made, said Aparna, a resident of Ernakulam.

The report submitted in 2011 by Madhav Gadgil had identified that nearly 37 percent of the Western Ghats, covering an area of 59, 940 sq km was ecologically sensitive.  Here, good natural vegetation and forests spread over 1,500 km cover six states – Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and includes protected areas and world heritage sites.

A high-level working group had also recommended that state governments should prohibit projects and activities in the ecologically sensitive area which have a maximum destructive impact on the ecosystem “Wish we had taken proper steps to preserve the fragile eco-system of the Western Ghats and followed environmental laws. Above all, we feel that the government should have strongly recommended a ban on new industrial and mining activities.”

Families in districts such as Idukki and Ernakulam, where destruction was gargantuan are critical about the attitude of the government. They opine that without a concern for the environment, hotel owners, real estate sharks, and land mining mafias were encouraged to set up business here and this has spoilt the ecosystem of the state.

Wetlands and lakes, which is where the floodwaters should have taken refuge have all given way to concrete structures. “If the government does not form committees and involve more officials to conserve the environment, all the highlands, Midlands and coastal plains in the state will suffer damage of increased magnitude due to unjustified human intervention,” opine some of the residents of Kerala.

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004.
She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world.
she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health.
To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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