It’s a public holiday today in Baghdad, but we are in office

Today has been declared as a public holiday in Baghdad to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, the seventh of 12 principal Shiite imams, who died in 799. Shiites walk for hours, and often for days, from across the country to reach the mosque in Kadhimiyah, known for its twin golden domes. The mosque was built atop what were believed to be the tombs of Imam al-Kadhim and his grandson – Imam Muhammad al-Taqi, the ninth of 12 principal Shiite imams.

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims converged on the golden-domed shrine as security forces tightened security after a wave of deadly attacks across Iraq. Many of the main streets in Baghdad were closed in recent days to prevent attacks on the pilgrims, who travel on foot.

The traffic restrictions caused hardships to many of my colleagues. Many of them couldn’t come to the bank yesterday. The working hour was reduced by one hour since Sunday. Yesterday, it was decreased by two hours so that all the employees could reach home safe and in time.

The holiday has been declared today only in Baghdad province. Therefore, all our branches outside Baghdad province are working as a normal business day. So, the banking system will be fully operational today. The branches need support from head office as well as some transactions need authorizations. All routine checks are to be carried out to ensure the transactions are booked and recorded properly. So the back office is open today.

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An empty Baghdad road

I am in the office to supervise the back office work and for authorizing the required transactions. I stay in the office complex and hence it’s not a problem for me. Mustafa stays close by and so he has come. Ibrahim also can manage to come to office walking, so he too has come today. The vehicles are not allowed on the road today in Baghdad. As the Baghdad branches, and Head Office are closed, so the volume of work is much less today.

“If you have a work instead of a job, every day is holiday” ― Paulo Coelho

Happy World Environment Day to everyone! Today is also World Environment Day. Let’s make it everyday.

Earth Hour tonight

This evening, around 1.3 billion people will go without light at 8:30 pm and at 9:30 pm, and at 10:30 pm, and for the rest of the night, just like every other night of the year. Having no access to electricity, darkness after sunset is a constant reality for these people.

At the same time, another 1 billion people will participate in “Earth Hour” by turning off their lights and non-essential appliances from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm in symbolic support for climate change mitigation.

Yes, anything to save the environment. But do we really have to wait for this each year to make a difference?

After so many years of announcing the scientific basis for climate change, is token symbolic support the way to move forward? Or should we instead be thinking of ways to actually cut carbon emissions?

There are a few of the things we may do like Carbon tax, Carbon costing, going for alternative green sources but the operative word here is action. Now, it’s a time to move ahead from one-hour high-profile symbolism to real, concrete actions, if we are to move forward towards climate change mitigation.

Also, we should not forget to reach electricity to the rest of the world, for whom observing “Earth Hour” is a luxury.

Hot tea with bread pakora

Breaking fast with hot tea and bread pakoras in the morning is lovely. Hot tea in earthen cup has a different smell and feeling. We enjoyed it today at Gopiganj during our journey from Allahabad to Varanasi.
Babai sipping tea from a kulhar – earthen cup. These kulhars are eco-friendly, bio-degradable, hygienic, use & throw.

A road made from waste plastics

Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company (JUSCO), a Tata enterprise, was carved out of Tata Steel from its Town Services Division in 2004 in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand (India). Jamshedpur is known not only for its steel but also for green and clean city.

Jusco has constructed a road in Jamshedpur, made from waste plastic. According to the contractors, 90% of bitumen is amalgamated with 10% of plastic that includes everyday waste ranging from carry bags to miscellaneous items like biscuit and gutka packets. These products are shredded into small pieces and mixed with the liquid before laying it on the road.

A plastic-cum-tar road is 25% better than unmodified roads and is almost 200% resistant to soaking up water. The maintenance cost of the road is very low, while its durability is high. The roads reportedly need no repairing for at least five years.

This is a good way to recycle the plastic and preventing further damage to the environment.

I feel happy and proud to be a part of this city. We have an apartment in Jamshedpur. Unfortunately, my mother breathed her last in this city.

An Odisha tribe gets global recognition for green farming

The tribal community of Koraput, Odisha has been chosen by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for recognition under its Globally Important Agricultural Heritage sites programme.

A decade ago, Raita Muduli, a tribal woman from the Koraput district, was introduced to a nature friendly farming system, which not only changed her condition but also got her tribe the UN recognition.

It all started after the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation – run by eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan – introduced them to organic farming.

Muduli, along with Chandra Pradhan, another member of her Porja tribe inspired other people in the village to take up the system and now almost eight-nine villages are involved in the environment-friendly agriculture system.

Earlier, they were using a large amount of chemical fertiliser for farming. But then they shifted to organic methods. They are using cow-dung for manure. For preventing crops from getting infected, they prepare insecticides in a traditional manner using neem leaves and other plants found in the forest that have medicinal qualities.

The tribe produces several varieties of rice, wheat and cumin seeds. This green method of farming has almost quadrupled the annual yield in the last few years, while the profits have risen several times.

Muduli, along with Pradhan, were felicitated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the 99th Indian Science Congress at Bhubaneshwar for practising the ‘Koraput Traditional Agricultural System’.

It may also seen as the recognition of tribal peoples’ contribution to biodiversity and knowledge systems, whilst increasing attention to their natural and cultural heritage.

Sarhul – A tribal festival in India

Sarhul is one of the grand festivals of tribals in Jharkhand and Odisha. This festival is celebrated on Chaitra Shukla Tritiya, the third day of bright half in Chaitra month. Tribals celebrate ‘Sarhul’, a festival marking the beginning of New Year, by worshiping trees. This annual festival is celebrated during the spring season when trees and other elements of nature are worshiped. Sarhul literally means ‘Worship of Sal’. Sarhul festival is dedicated to Dharti mata. The mother nature is worshiped during the festival. Sarhul is celebrated for several days during which the main traditional dance Sarhul dance is performed.

Sahrul is also an occasion for sowing seeds and indulging in festivities. Tribals believe that they can use new crop mainly paddy, leaves of the trees, flowers and fruits of the season only after this festival is celebrated. During the festival Sal flowers are brought to the sarna (sacred grove) and the priest propitiates all the gods of the tribes. After worshiping trees, the village priest locally known as Pahaan puts a few rice grains on the head of a hen. Locals believe that prosperity for the people is predicted if the hen eats the rice grains after they fall to the ground, but if the hen does not eat, disaster awaits the community. Also, pahaan predicts the rainfall in the coming season watching a pair of twigs in water. These are age-old traditions.

Tribes all across Jharkhand celebrate this festival with great fervor and joy. Tribal men, women and children dress up in colorful and ethnic attires and perform traditional dances. They also drink a locally made beer, called Hadia,  brewed out of a concoction of rice, water and some tree leaves and then dance around the tree.

Happy Sarhul!