A blog to protest against demolition of slum

Here is a blog set up by the residents of a ghetto to campaign against the “outsourcing” of the basti (slum) to the Aga Khan Trust for beautification

“The residents of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti have set up a blog after learning that the Delhi Municipal Corporation has handed over the basti to the Agha Khan Trust to beautify the place.

Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin is not an unauthorised/resettlement/slum area as is being looked at. Most of the residents are living here for centuries. They inherit culture and traditional life. This is one of the oldest population outside the Walled City. With a history of more than 800 years. This basti is one of 132 villages that come under Lal Dora. The community of this area has a right to lead a life according to their customs and traditions. Indian Constitution guarantees everybody right to live and earn their livelihood.

This area has great religious significance amongst Muslims. The Tablighi Markaz and Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin are of great importance to muslims. People prefer to live here by choice. The people of this area are peace-loving but recently they are panicked on learning that the entire area has been handed over to Agha Khan Trust for development and beautification. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has started demolition against encroachers. Other Govt. agencies like Archeological Survey of India (ASI) have stepped up surveys and visits pointing irregularities in Building Laws all over.”

Hat tip: Shivam

Nain Singh of the British Secret Service

An interesting account of Nain Singh .walked 1200 kms at survey the road from Nepal to Lhasa :(VIA) ALGOMANTRA

“Nain Singh walked twelve hundred miles in the employ of the British Secret Service. Dressed as a pilgrim, he was dispatched to survey the road to Lhasa. Singh was specially trained to walk every pace at exactly 33 inches. His pilgrim’s rosary, on which he counted several million of those paces, was used to click off the distances. The rosary had only one hundred beads on it, instead of the sacred 108, and if any of the numerous guards, police, and customs officials had bothered to count he would have been instantly killed.

Singh’s pilgrim outfit had a few other special modifications. His tea bowl was used to hold mercury to find the horizon. His walking stick held a thermometer, which he would dip into the tea water just as it came to a boil and thus determine the altitude.

The biggest sacrilege, though, was Nain Singh’s prayer wheel. A prayer wheel is a holy object containing the Tibetan mantra “Om! Mane Padme Hum!” (“Hail! Jewel in the Lotus!”) written many times on a scroll of paper. The scroll is put inside the wheel, and when it is spun the prayers are sent upwards. In Lhasa, and later in Dharamsala, huge prayer wheels will contain a million prayers, all sent with a spin of the mighty discs.

Inside Singh’s prayer wheel was his route survey, careful notes that showed the altitudes, the landmarks, and the distances that he walked. The route survey was brought back to Dehra Dun where Captain T. G. Montgomerie, the man who hired Nain Singh, was building a map.

The maps of India, indeed the maps of much of the world, were built by such linear route surveys. A man on a horse would be sent out in one direction and told to write down the distances he traveled, any landmarks, and any other significant information.

Back at headquarters, the route surveys would be collated together and slowly, maps of the country would be built. Later, the process became more systematic with the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, a massive undertaking that established well-known points of latitude and longitude and then gradually built triangles between the points until a full map of the coast and interior of India had been built.

The explorers, especially the romantic heroes such as Singh, are the ones that we often remember, but it is the process of collation and coordination that makes the exploration possible and real. For every Nain Singh, a Captain Montgomerie is needed.”

Have you seen a gold-digging ant-lion lately in the Indian desert ?

An amusing account of ant-lions and gold-digging in the Indian desert:(Herodotus) via Algomantra

“The earlest surviving European account of khrusôn murmêkôn (gold ants)—or murmêkoleôntes (ant-lions) as they were called much later—is found in the Historiês Apódexis of Hêródotos (ca. 430 B.C.E.). Druce (1923) retells the story of these unusually large and viscious “ants”:

[The] scene is laid in a northern district of India, where there is a desert in which ants abound in size somewhat less than dogs but larger than foxes. They burrow under ground and heap up the sand which contains gold. The Indians go to the desert to collect this sand, each man provided with three camels harnessed together side by side, that is on either side a male, and in the middle a female on which he rides. The female must only just have been parted from her recently-born young. The Indians being thus equipped set out at such a time that they will arrive at the hottest hour of the day, for during the greatest heat the ants hide underground. They bring with them sacks which they fill with the sand and then retun as fast as they can. For the ants detect them by the smell and pursue them, so that if the Indians do not get a good start while the ants are assembling, not a man could be saved. The male camels in time slacken their pace, but the females mindful of their young hasten on; and in this way the Indians return safely with their gold (pp. 354-355).”