Street smoke in New York City



I always wondered why there was smoke emanating from the streets of New York City, very commonly seen on TV and in movies. Turns out that this is actually steam. The city actually has a steam system which carries steam under the streets of Manhattan. There are businesses that use steam. Very often steam can be seen rising from manholes on the street.

The survivor tree


The survivor tree was recovered from the rubble of the twin towers after the 9/11 attack. It is the only living thing to have survived the deadly terrorist attack that took place in 2001. The tree was badly burnt when it was found and had just one branch left. It was transplanted and cared for. In December 2010, it was brought back to the site of the twin towers and now stands part of the 9/11 memorial. It’s a symbol of hope and faith and represents all humanity.

At the Smokies: Tourists disturbing animals




On a recent visit to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, USA, I noted how well-maintained the premises of the national park are. However, it seems like they have to put in place a mechanism to stop tourists from venturing too close to the deer. While there are signboards telling tourists not to venture out of way or disturb the animals and plants, I saw several tourists who taunted the deer and tried getting too close. It only scared off the animals. In several places there is barb wire, but that didn’t really stop them. Wish there were guard towers or better fencing to discourage tourists from doing this.

Masonic temple

Masonic temple

I took this picture in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I wasn’t sure what a Masonic Temple was then but was curious assuming it to be something historically important. Turns out that these are actually lodges, associated with Freemasonry. And by lodges, the reference is not to the physical place but to the assembly of people. This is probably where they meet and work.

The symbol that you see on the doors is said to be one of the most prominent symbols of Freemasonry. It includes a square and a compass. The letter G in the middle is said to represent God.

UNCSW side event: Fight to stop violence against women

The United Nation’s Commission on Status of Women (CSW) is currently meeting in its New York headquarters. This year the theme is on prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. The Commission, under the UN Economic and Social Council, is in its 57th year. Member countries participate during the ten days and at the end recommendations are made for governments to implement in their respective countries. Apart from the states, NGOs are also allowed to participate and hold side events.

A meeting such as this is extremely relevant to India, in the backdrop of increased reported cases of violence against women, the Delhi gangrape being a case in point. It was in this context that the Control Arms Foundation of India, The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, and the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network organised a panel discussion on ‘Six Decades of United Nations Commission on Status of Women’.

Panelists at the CSW side event. Left to right: Vanessa Farr, Rashmi Singh, Jody Williams, Minou Tavarez Mirabal, Arvinn E Gadgil, Binalakshmi Nepram

Panelists at the CSW side event. Left to right: Vanessa Farr, Rashmi Singh, Jody Williams, Minou Tavarez Mirabal, Arvinn E Gadgil, Binalakshmi Nepram

Panelists included Minou Tavarez Mirabal, Chair-International Council, Parliamentarians for Global Action, Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil, Deputy Minister, International Development, Norway, Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Rashmi Singh, Executive Director, National Mission for Empowerment of Women, Govt of India, Vanessa Farr, Feminist Freedom Fighter, and Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Gun Survivors Network, and Secretary General, Control Arms Foundation of India.

The two-hour event focused on the need to prevent violence against women, the role that men need to play in strategies, and demilitarisation. Vanessa Farr emphasised on the direct link between violence against women and global militarisation. “The enemy is poverty. There are no weapon systems in the world to prevent poverty”, she explained. Saying no to arms and ending impoverishment are key in this process, Farr said.

The sole male voice on the panel, Arvinn Gadgil said that specific people need to be asked the question, ‘What makes you adamant on this issue?’ The need for political will and putting pressure on parliamentarians, echoed.

Binalakshmi Nepram, hailing from the northeast Indian state of Manipur spoke of her own personal experience. She pointed to the state rank of the Department of Women and Child Development in India, and reduction in budget allocated to the department.

The CSW meeting concludes on March 15th.

Rules to follow in a classroom!

A notice for students, put up in a classroom of a private school in Bayonne, New Jersey

A notice for students, put up in a classroom of a private school in New Jersey

My elder sister is a teacher in a private school in New jersey. She teaches students between the ages of three and six. This notice she put up in her classroom is probably representative of the kinds of things the kids in her class did. ‘Use walking feet’ and ‘Hands on your own body’ – definitely sounds interesting!