Monday, October 31, 2016

Borders can't stop the wind... neither can they stop pollution

Panchi, Nadiya, Pawan Ke Jhoke...
...Koi Sarhad Na Inke Roke

These are songs from a famous Bollywood movie - Refugee.

While in the movie, these take a romantic note. For me, these have a different, more philosophical, deeper meaning.

Borders can't stop the birds, rivers and the gusts of wind that just blow over them.

The wind simply blowing over borders, lines on a map that separate countries and their people, bring with them moist air that give rains, they bring with them warm currents that herald the end of winter, they also bring destruction in the guise of hurricanes and cyclones.

But for today's mankind, winds also bring something more -- dirt, dust and noxious, even toxic gases.

The subject of air pollution, especially in the context of South Asian countries -- Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka -- takes a completely different magnitude following a particular incident in the last days of October or first days of November.

This is Deepawali - traditionally the festival of lights, when families decorate their homes with little clay lamps - diyos, candles , prayed to Godess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, to bring prosperity, and Ganesha, the cute elephant-headed god who removes obstacles in our path.

Deepawali made everyone happy.

However, over time, Deepawali has also started to have an ever increasing more malicious (for us, both individually and collectively -- as co-residents of this planet) counterpart -- Firecrackers.

This year, after Deepawali, the levels of pollutants in parts of Indian capital Delhi's atmosphere were 30 times the World Health Organisation's recommended level. (BBC,

Levels of tiny particulate matter (known as PM 2.5) which can reach deep within the lungs reached as high as 750 micrograms per cubic metre -- more than half above the 'hazardous' level of 500 m-p-c-m. (ibid)

A young girl sits on broken wall inside an informal glue factory where workers process waste leathers to make glue in Hazaribagh area near Buriganga river in Dhaka (Bangladesh). UNICEF Photo.
A young girl sits on broken wall inside an informal glue factory where workers process waste leathers to make glue in Hazaribagh area near Buriganga river in Dhaka (Bangladesh).
UNICEF Photo. (source:

What does this mean? 

This means the air people -- all people, including the children, the elderly, the pregnant, those with chronic respiratory illnesses and those who set the firecrackers alight -- are breathing toxic air.

UNICEF, the United Nation agency looking after children's issues and lives, published a new report yesterday.

In this report, it said that about 300 million children in the world -- 1 in 7 children -- are living in areas with outdoor air so toxic (six or more times higher than international pollution guidelines) that it can cause serious health damage, including harming their developing brains. (UN News,

These 300 million are among more than 2 billion children who live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international health guidelines -- 620 million of them (31%) live in South Asia. (ibid)

Around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits. Source: UN News Centre (
Around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits.
Source: UN News Centre (

What happens in part of the world affects the other.

While mankind can build walls to try to keep wars out, or dam up rivers to attempt to change their course, man cannot control wind.

Wind will flow and it will carry with it pollution, into the lungs of children who had noting to do with it.

Time has come that people, all over the world look at the issue of air pollution, and especially pollution that can be easily avoided.

I implore everyone -- stay away from firecrackers.

There are many, many other ways to enjoy festivities with equal or perhaps even more fervor but in ways that do not damage our environment and especially the air we and especially our children breathe.

This is the least we owe them... allow them to breathe freely and an air that is healthy...

--- my own story ---

Years back, when I was 12 or 13, or even younger. A fireworks factory in India caught fire and exploded. This happened just a few weeks before Deepawali that year. Many died and many among them were children, no older than I was. They were all toiling to make crakers that the factory owner could sell and make a profit.

I made a conscious decision that day that I will not burst any firecrakers.

I told this to my father, who told me that he respected my decision and that the money saved would be used by the family to "have fun as a family."

This decision I took was in acknowledgement of the conditions that the children who died and hundreds of thousands of others found/find themselves in. I was not old enough or learned enough to think of environment at that time.

I still feel for and work for children who are forced into servitude, working for hours on end in various sweatshops and factories around the world.

And I still think of the people who perished that year, making fireworks so that they would have some money for sweets or toys to celebrate Deepawali with.

I have not burst crackers since.

Monday, October 24, 2016

US-based Nepali singer Shweta Punjali wins "Best New Talent" award

New York, 22 October: New Nepali singer Shweta Punjali has won the Best New Talent award for her song "Achammai Lagyo Malai" at the recently concluded 2016 Nepali Music Video Award.

"It is an incredible honour to receive this prestigious award!" said Shweta, whose debut album -- Udaan -- was launched last year amid much fanfare at Kathmandu's Theater Village.

"I would like to thank everyone for their encouragement in making my debut album come true, especially Durga Lal Sir, Nhyoo Dai and Anil Dai for their guidance and support," she added

Achammai Lagyo Malai, one of the six songs from Udaan has been written by master lyricist and poet Durga Lal Shrestha and its music composed by noted music composer Nhyoo Bajracharya.
The music video of this song is set in the picturesque mountains of Nepal in Sindhupalchok, Kavre, and Bhaktapur districts, and along the Sun Koshi river. The video was directed by Anil Tandukar and stars Shweta herself.
Achammai Lagyo Malai was also nominated for the Best Music.
Another song from Shweta's Udaan, "Bato Heri Rahechhu," also directed by Anil Tandukar was nomiated as the Best Music Video (Diaspora). This song is set in the pristine waters off Thailand's coast. In addition to herself, the romantic video features Shweta's husband, Vibhu.
"This award will encourage me to take my music forward and I hope to bring newer and exciting songs for all my fans," Shweta Punjali added with excitement.
With its 2016 edition held last month in United Arab Emirates' Abu Dhabi, Nepali Music Video Award recognizes singers, composers and technicians for their music videos.
Earlier this year, Shweta was also nominated for the Best Newcomer at the 2073 Tuborg Image Award for her song "Kasto Bhet," also from Udaan.