People's Basic Needs

Inspired by a Greek Gadget, This Water Device Can Transform Drought-Hit Maharashtra

It is around 7 in the morning, and the women of a village near the Pawna dam, Pune, are on their way to the river to fetch water. Among the 10-odd women is Shilpa, a young woman who recently had a miscarriage.

Shilpa has always found it difficult to carry the heavy pots of water, and balancing them—one on the head and one supported by her arm on the waist—is no easy task. The daily chore has left her with an aching back.

Today, however, she is towing along an unusual device—a water pail on four wheels. It sounds and looks simple, but is going to be of great help women like her who have to fetch water from the river every day.

The device, NeerChakra, is the brainchild of Tanveer Inamdar and Resham Sethi. Courtesy: Tanveer Inamdar.

Tanveer is a Pune-based social entrepreneur, and a meeting with the villagers living near the Pawna Dam opened his eyes to the tiring reality of their daily grind.

Speaking to The Better India, the 23-year-old said, “There have been 20 cases like Shilpa in the past two years. The families of these women comprise 5-6 people, and the daily water requirement is about 100-odd litres of water. So, they end up walking 3-4 km one way, just to fetch water. In fact, they end up making multiple trips to the river. Is there any wonder then, that the weight takes a terrible toll on their backs and bodies?”

Tanveer collaborated with 28-year-old Resham, a Research Student at the Brandeis University, USA, to chalk out a solution and the result was NeerChakra, a water transportation device.

How does the NeerChakra function? An example of a gimbal. Source: Wikipedia.

The device has been inspired by the Gimbal Ink Pot, a Greek invention. A gimbal is a pivoted support that lets an object (like the ink pot or a pail of water) rotate on a single axis.

The NeerChakra is equipped with four wheels, a braking system, a battery set, and a power generator, in addition to a gyroscopic stabiliser, which absorbs the shock to the pail and minimises water spillage.

“The wheel is a basic, yet, widely-used invention, so we wondered if it could be put to use to help women in drought-hit areas. We created the NeerChakra about six months ago to help these women, and when we experimented on the ground, we observed that it reduced a lot of their efforts!”

The 80-100 litre device is made of metal and plastic.

The container in the middle is placed in a manner that protects it from outer influences like bumpy roads. Courtesy: Tanveer Inamdar.

We asked Tanveer about how exactly can one fill and empty out water from the NeerChakra, and here’s what he said.

“We ask the women to carry a small container of water along with them. They can use this container to fill water in the NeerChakra, and have three options to empty out the device when they are home. They can use a smaller container, like a glass, if they require a small quantity of water. They can also use the tap attached to the device to pour out water. The device is completely detachable so if they need to use all the water in the device, they can dismantle it completely.”

Impact on rural women Courtesy: Tanveer Inamdar.

“The rural population in many parts of India does not have easy access to water, and the women spend approximately 30 per cent of their day on this task. This directly impacts their physical health. But it’s not just that. Because of the large chunk of time they spend on fetching water, they miss out on education as well as social and self-development,” Tanveer says.

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When the device design was finalised, Tanveer and Resham, who are also the co-founders of TREE (Technology, Reuse, Environment, and Empowerment) tested it in Shilpa’s village near Pune.

They asked about 72 women to try out the NeerChakra. The feedback was unanimous—the device saves 80% of their time and between 70-80% of their efforts every day. Courtesy: Tanveer Inamdar.

The duo holds the patent for this innovation and their next step is to ensure that the device transforms the lives of people across India.

The journey towards that has already begun. The six-month-old device has won the ‘What an Idea’ contest in Mumbai, the Heller Start-up Challenge in the USA and the Spark Challenge, also in the USA.

You may also like: Pune Students Give Free Meals to Juniors – For a Reason That’ll Touch Your Heart

The money that they won has been allocated towards the project, and the team is open to crowdfunding, direct outreach from well-wishers, corporates as well as collaborations with NGOs.

You can contact them by sending an email to teamtree8888@gmail.com.

Tanveer and Resham’s dynamic innovation is helping reduce the everyday efforts of rural women. These ‘well-wishers’ truly deserve all the accolades that have been heaped upon them.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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Pune Students Give Free Meals to Juniors – For a Reason That’ll Touch Your Heart

In the last five years, Maharashtra has had to deal with severe droughts thrice. And, of the 112 drought-struck talukas in the State, 40 per cent belong to Marathwada belt. Last year, districts in this belt, such as Beed, received less than half the average rainfall. It is in such dire conditions that the farmers are struggling to fund the education of their children who are studying in faraway Pune and Mumbai.

Swapnil Pawar’s mother is one such parent. Each morning sees her toiling away in her cotton farm in Beed under the scorching sun. The sun saps her strength yet she wipes beads of sweat from her brow, drinks a glass of water and ploughs on. If she does not, then her beloved son, studying in Pune, will go hungry.

This is the story of many families in Maharashtra. Young people from villages travel to big cities in hopes of better education and work opportunities. The parents and their children struggle together to meet the demands of an expensive city education.

Who better to understand this plight of students than students themselves? Representative image. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A group of college-goers formed an organisation called Students Helping Hands (SHH). The organisation collects funds from well-wishers and philanthropists to fund the meals and sometimes even exam fees, bus passes, and hostel fees of students.

Swapnil Pawar, who is currently studying in class XI in Fergusson College told Pune Mirror, “I came to know about this initiative through one of my friends and I am happy that I can avail the mess services. My mother works in a cotton farm and sends me all the money she can scrape together. I was more than happy to inform her not to send money for the monthly mess as it’s been taken care of by my friends in Pune.”

SHH was started in 2015 as an attempt to help Pune students belonging to drought-affected families. Kuldeep Ambekar, Ganesh Chavan and Sandhya Sonavne reached out to their own acquaintances seeking financial help for such students. Speaking to Pune Mirror, Sonavne says, “I came to the city around four years ago and I know the hardships faced by students coming from rural areas of Maharashtra . . .We started approaching our acquaintances and they, in turn, helped connect us with sponsors from various companies and businessmen.”

The provision of two square meals a day can help these poor students save anything between Rs. 2200 and 2400 every month. As of now, at least 200 students are receiving the meal services.” Courtesy: Nivruti Tigote.

The Better India spoke to Nivruti Tigote, a volunteer with the organisation. “For these students, everything from the bus passes to a simple meal seems expensive. At the moment, many students are studying day and night for their upcoming final exams while others are burning the midnight oil to prepare for the MPSC/UPSC exams. They skip meals, walk long distances just to save some money. So we figured, why not fund at least one of these routine bills to ease their struggles?”

For those who count their income in hundreds and expenses in thousands, the guaranteed provision of daily meals is an unparalleled support. They still must study hard but at least, they can do it on a full stomach.

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“I know exactly how it feels,” Nivruti tells TBI, adding, “I come from Nanded in Marathwada. The farmers own no more than 7 acres of land there. There’s hardly any industrial development in these regions as compared to the urban areas and so, the people are largely dependent on farming. This is the background that these students belong to. And so we are trying to ease their woes.”

But how does SHH know which student needs their help the most? Courtesy: Nivruti Tigote.

“We are currently active in four colleges in Pune. At the beginning of the academic year, we distribute forms to the students who fill in their details. We also ask for their ration card, income card, bonafide certificate, and identity card as proof. Once we collect all the forms, we compare the needs of every individual to the availability of funds and work accordingly,” Nivruti explains.

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The fund drive is open to individuals and companies alike and SHH is happy to receive any help they can get. Recently, a well-wisher got in touch with SHH and offered accommodation to students for six months. The philanthropist does not reside in the city and had a 2 BHK flat lying vacant which he unlocked for a good cause.

Nivruti, who is currently doing his masters in Economics from SP College, Pune said that currently, over a 100 students are registered with their initiative and will be given free meals for a period of six months. SHH collaborates with organisations and companies who can provide financial funds or offer meal services.

If you too wish to help hardworking students like Pawar, then you can contact SHH at studenthelpinghands@gmail.com or call them at 9689794776/8600756234. Additionally, you can transfer funds to their bank account directly.

Name of organization: Student helping hands

Account no: 38106918453

IFS code- SBIN001110

Branch- SBI Deccan Gymkhana, Pune.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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Rain Harvests to Organic Food: B’luru Couple’s Solar-Powered Home is #Lifegoals

Sustainable living is, thankfully, catching on. From being just a fad a decade ago, green-lifestyle is fast becoming the preferred way of living for many. However, this detox is not always easy.

We need to make a lot of adjustments in our daily lives while transitioning from a reckless lifestyle dependent on over-utilising resources to a more cautious and prudent one where we embrace the fact that there is a difference between wants and needs. A philosophy on which, Rajesh & Vallari Shah, have built their lives on since moving back to India from the US in 2007.

Rajesh is an ex-IITian who went to the States on a full scholarship to complete his Master’s in computers and also got a degree in MBA. He could have settled anywhere in the world with a high profile job yet he realised his real calling lay in working for the people.

For the last decade, Rajesh has been working on water conservation projects that ensure safe and potable drinking water to several villages in India.

His wife Vallari, having worked as an IT strategy consultant in India, quit her job in 2010 to pursue many roles like that of a dance teacher, a vipassana meditation expert and most importantly a passionate organic gardener.

So why are we writing about them? (L) Rajesh & Vallari’s home. (R) Vallari Shah

The answer lies in the more-than-a-decade-old green home that the duo built on the principles of love and an ahimsic (non-violent) way of life at Laughing Waters, Whitefield in Bengaluru.

Rajesh & Vallari’s home is powered by the sun, covers nine months of water requirements through rainwater harvesting, grows 80 per cent of its food organically and is also car-free!

In an exclusive interview with Vallari Shah, The Better India digs deeper into how their journey to a sustainable living began.

“The concept of ahimsa or nonviolence has always been an intrinsic part of the way we live our lives. And we made the conscious decision of extending this spirit of ahimsa beyond ourselves and to our surroundings. We are living in times where everything, from our water to our air, is polluted. And we feel, there is a lot we, as individuals-even families, can do to prevent them from degrading further.”

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle-is the cardinal rule the family follows

And their style of parenting is a reflection of this rule.

“We taught our children the importance of ‘refusing’. Needs and wants, we told them, are different and we had to ensure we only bought things we needed and not wanted. These are small practices but can be significant in the long run. Like, bringing a new toy in our home means gifting one away. At birthday parties, the culture of gifts and return gifts was non-existent. One shelf in your closet had to be empty. If all the shelves were full, it was a signal that you had too much stuff and it was time give some away.”

Here are a few steps the couple follows to make their abode the perfect example of #SustainableHomeGoals:

Drawing power from the sun

When the couple moved to Bengaluru, one of the major issues they faced was the almost six-hour long power cuts which were utterly unacceptable to Vallari. The immediate action was to install an 18-solar panel system with the capacity of 3KW. Apart from the microwave and the water pump; the lights, fans, fridge, computers, washing machine run on solar. For most of the year, barring rainy days, the family lives off the electric grid.

“We know people within our circle who continue to struggle with these hour-long power cuts. Electronic appliances and gadgets tend to breakdown due to these constant power fluctuations leading to additional costs of maintenance and repairs. In comparison, we have been using the same appliances since 2007. Our fridge or even our microwave has been running in the best condition without requiring any maintenance.”

While switching to solar was a choice the couple had made for a sustainable lifestyle, over a period of time, they have realised how cost-effective going off the grid was.

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You are what you eat Produce from Vallari’s garden

The Shah family follows an entirely plant-based diet and have cut out meat and dairy products from their life. Besides, they don’t have to depend on retailers for a lot of their veggie needs. Vallari not only nurtures a terrace garden but has also converted an open-space in front of their home into a community organic backyard.

“The space in front of our house was lying vacant. Rather than having garbage thrown in the space or waiting for it to turn into a parking lot, I thought, why not convert it into a community garden where people can grow their food,” shares Vallari.

In this 1500 sq ft of land, the Shahs grow seasonal vegetables and fruits which make up for 80 per cent of their needs. The grains and a few other veggies and spices come from the market.

The veggies include bottle gourd, ridge gourd, lady fingers, tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, beans, bitter gourd, and pumpkin apart from a few others. Some of the fruits that Vallari grows include papaya, chiku, banana, and watermelon among others.

Vallari adds how the harvest is always in surplus, and their friends and neighbours are the fortunate recipients of these tasty gifts! Bananas galore Homegrown cabbage, cauliflower and lots more

She uses a mixture of the kitchen waste and cow dung as manure. To keep pests at bay, she uses neem, homemade soap solution (biodegradable), turmeric, onion peels among others.

Fun fact: Since 2007 till date, they have not had to change their soil!

Soaps from orange peels to laundry detergent from baking soda, vinegar, and reetha, Vallari makes them all at home!

Rainwater harvesting

Rajesh, who has worked with water conservation for more than a decade, carefully planned the home in a way that makes it water-efficient.

Their daily usage is a minimal 250 litres.

How is that possible?

The Shahs save or reuse every single drop of water in their house. The first step towards this was rainwater harvesting.

Rainwater from the rooftop is sent via pipes, filtered through a sand bed filter and collected in three underground storage tanks with the total capacity of 30,000 litres. This water is enough for nine months of the year, the next three months they use the public water supply.

The family reuses water from the kitchen sink too. Water used for washing fruits and vegetables goes to the water the garden downstairs. Since the family is chemical-free, the water from their showers is sent up to the terrace garden.

Their washing machine is a water-efficient front loader that uses 40 litres instead of 60 and the greywater after every wash is reused to flush toilets.

Unlike other flushes that consume 10-15 litres, they have designed a flush system that uses the required amount of water while using the toilet. The first bucket of water for bathing, (which is not usually hot enough for a bath) is used for mopping or watering their indoor plants.

Also Read: Kisan Chachi to Banana King: Meet 10 Amazing Farmers Who Won the Padma Shri This Year!

As for transportation-the Bengaluru traffic was one of the reasons why the Shahs decided to go car-free. Bikes over car

Preferring to walk or cycle to destinations which are within reach, for longer distances, Vallari confesses, she uses either Uber or Ola. Rajesh, on the other hand, is a stickler for the mission.

He mostly prefers walking or cycling and when required, uses public transport.

As part of their green-living, the couple does not rely on contemporary medication at all. A practice their kids follow too.

“We do not pop pills at all. When the body is tired and worn out, the best way is to feed it the right food (raw food) and give it the required rest. It has worked out for us,” says Vallari.

While the journey to sustainable living does seem like a difficult one, Rajesh and Vallari’s story proves that if you decide to go the extra mile, there is nothing that can stop you from living sustainably. Even if it is in the middle of one of India’s busiest metros.

If this story inspired you, get in touch with Vallari and Rajesh Shah at vallari@gmail.com.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan) 

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In 5 Years, This Amazing Kerala School Has Built 100 Homes for the Homeless

Sister Lizzy Chakkalakkal is the principal of Our Lady’s Convent Girls Higher Secondary School in Thoppumpady, Kerala.

Five years ago, she discovered that one of her students was homeless. This prompted her and some of the students to take up the ‘House Challenge Project,’ through which they raised money and constructed a house for the child and her family.

An inspired Sister Lizzy decided to continue with the initiative. Since then, several homes—99 to be exact—have been constructed for the poor and homeless by the House Challenge Project for free.

The money for construction is raised through contributions from students, parents, teachers as well as anyone who is willing to donate.

Once the required amount is collected, the school facilitates the construction by bringing in workers and other parties till the time the house is ready for its occupants. Giving home and hope to the homeless. Courtesy: Sr Lizzy Chakkalakkal.

“When we think of service for the society and particularly, the homeless, most of us assume that all they need is food and clothes. While these are indeed basic necessities, a roof over one’s head is equally important. Through these homes, we are providing them security but more than that, the hope and will to build a better life,” says Sister Lizzy to The Better India.

In a week from now, the House Challenge project will hit a significant landmark—they will finish constructing their 100th house and hand over its keys to a homeless family from Chellanam. The kids are students at the school.

“While the primary objective of this initiative was to end homelessness in Kochi, I also wanted to inculcate a culture of sharing in the students. And what could be a better way to teach students about the joy of giving than to involve them in the process,” says Sister Lizzy.

Students, teachers as well as the management staff of the school have played a significant role in contributing money for the homes that have been constructed. The teacher (Sr Lizzy, right) and her disciples. Courtesy: Sr Lizzy Chakkalakkal.

Explaining this further, Sister Lily says, “During celebratory occasions like their birthdays, these children have voluntarily come forward to donate money, and that truly helped this initiative gain momentum. Initially, only students and staff were helping to raise funds, but, as word spread, people from all walks of life joined in.”

The project is not limited to the families of students from the school; it has also built homes for the differently-abled and widowed mothers.

“In today’s date and time, constructing a simple house doesn’t amount to much, and our efforts have proven that. By teaching children, we are striving to take forward the message that together, we can end homelessness,” shares Sister Lizzy.

The school takes community engagement very seriously. Students of Our Lady’s Convent collecting relief for the flood victims. Courtesy: Sr Lizzy Chakkalakkal.

Last year when floods ravaged the state, it adopted close to 150 families to help them get back on their feet. Additionally, a total of 12 fully-constructed houses were handed over to families from Kuttanad as well as flood-hit villages from Ernakulam district.

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To know more about the House Challenge Project or track their progress, you can follow Sister Lizzy on Facebook here.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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Sun-Powered Superfoods: Meet the Hyderabad Entrepreneur Behind This Win-Win Idea

Srinivasa Chakrawarthy Ravuri

In this fast, consumer-oriented world, the distance between the farm and the fork is rapidly increasing. Along the way, farm-grown products lose their shape, colour, texture and most of their nutrients.

In a nutshell, they more or less become simple vectors for artificial flavours and only add quantity but not quality to the dish.

Sunplay—the brainchild of Srinivasa Chakrawarthy Ravuri—is attempting to change this trend by harnessing the power of the sun.

A nuclear physicist by training, Srinivasa completed his education from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and spent a decade working in various laboratories across the globe.

In 2007, he decided to relocate to India to do something on his own.

In this exclusive interview, Srinivasa speaks to The Better India about Sunplay, a baby that he is nurturing. He also speaks of his challenges as an entrepreneur in India.

Energy as an exciting prospect

“Not getting the job I wanted and having to leave behind something I cherished working on led me towards ‘energy’. I was looking for something that would keep me occupied for as long as I continued to work, and I felt that harnessing solar energy would be the way forward,” says Srinivasa.

India is blessed with an immense amount of solar energy, and Srinivasa felt that while there were various players in the market, most of them were focused on a limited set of opportunities.

He realised that the power of the sun could be used for numerous other applications. “I spent almost one year looking around and figuring out what I could do,” he says.

The journey toward making the solar concentrator

“I started with making a solar concentrator in which we used low-grade heat,” he shares.

He explains, “Solar energy is variable and by default, a low-energy source. So one needs to concentrate the energy over a small area to make it effective. There were certain designs available in the market, but I wanted to make something better—tailored for specific applications.”

He continues, “I would spend half a day at the workshop where I built a solar box that could trap energy—this was something that I thought would be very easy, but turned out to be rather tough.” Solar device

“I had no experience of building things. From sourcing the nuts and bolts to designing the unit and then actually building it—I did it all,” he recollects.

He designed dehydrators and ovens and experimented with various materials such as teak wood and glass. The challenge was to ensure that there were no crevices from which the heat escaped. He used glass surfaces and other materials that would gather more radiation and trap the heat, spreading it over the active area evenly.

The idea was to build something simple; Srinivasa reiterates that the intent was to build something functional, not something extraordinary to harness energy.

A cylinder conundrum

When he moved to Hyderabad, Srinivasa had to use a gas cylinder which had to be procured via unofficial channels.

He says, “Since we were struggling with the cylinders, one day my wife asked me why I was unable to solve this issue, given my area of expertise. It was that question that sparked the need to make a device which we could use to cook.”

He mentions how—when he started—he was wary of cooking food on a low-energy source, but the results surprised him. Mr and Mrs Ravuri

“I found that the device I built miraculously cooked food very well and also maintained the quality. Then I started working on it and improving it,” says Srinivasa.

Device made, no takers found

While Srinivasa went ahead and created the device, he realised that no one was buying it and hence they were making no money.

“People were buying imported devices that were sleek and looked good. No one was interested in purchasing something that was bulky,” he shares.

For several years they had absolutely no revenue and had to make do with whatever savings they had. He shares, “Then I found some colleagues who were interested in the technique I was using. They wanted to use the technology to make a device that would generate distilled water using solar energy.”

Unfortunately, for Srinivasa, that device too was not marketable because there were many compact machines available in the market.

“The pressure at home was mounting. While I was making these devices and doing service to others, there was absolutely no revenue I was able to generate,” says Srinivasa.

Entry into the food business

Getting into the food business happened by chance. Recounting the time he made a foray into it, he says, “I remember feeling that the food business is rather risky as it would make us responsible for the health of others. I felt it would not be possible to do that.”

While he was toying with many ideas, he visited one of his senior professors. Before leaving, the professor offered him a packet of ragi malt.

That packet was the turning point for Srinivasa.

The Eu-ragi moment

“I remember coming back home and seeing how much everyone loved the malt. The trick was in the way the ragi was roasted. That got me thinking about how it is made. I soon realised that given the technology we had worked on, we would be able to roast the ragi to perfection,” he says.

That was when the journey of Sunplay began, in 2013. Srinivasa and Syamala started studying various techniques of grain processing, and in three months, they had their first ragi malt product ready. Food Science

Given how conscious Srinivasa is about maintaining high standards of quality, the grains go through many stages before being ground to flour. The ragi used is washed several times to remove dust and husk and is then sprouted.

This is the juncture at which his food business and his passion for solar energy connect.

Using solar dehydrators

The solar dehydrators facilitate a controlled dehydration of the sprouted grains; the sprouting/fermenting process mitigates, to a large extent, the anti-nutrients inherent to grains.

Srinivasa was able to dehydrate the grain in an efficient and hygienic manner, effectively. He was also able to retain the flavour and nutrients of the ragi grain—lost in industrial scale dryers and roasters—by roasting them using solar energy.

The solar dehydrators also facilitate in the removal of anti-nutrients that come in the way of nutrient assimilation in the body and sanitise the product from germs.

The couple started attending farmer’s markets to find buyers for their product. “People found it very interesting and purely by word of mouth, we started selling it,” shares Srinivasa. At the farmers’ market

Sunplay now has several products which can be found at the Good Seeds Organic Bazaar and the weekly Sunday organic market at Lamakaan in Hyderabad. On offer are ragi malt, rava and flours of ragi, wheat and jowar, sprouted methi seeds, raw banana and sweet potato flours, crunchy almonds, solar-toasted peanuts, and herbs.

It has been quite a journey for Srinivasa— from nuclear physics to being a manufacturer of food products. His passion for solar energy helped him carve a niche in the hyper-competitive food products business.

Sunplay’s USP lies in its unique means of using solar energy to process the ingredients, while preserving their natural nutrients and flavours. We hope to see their products made with sustainable methods in stores across India one day.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

You May Also Like: This Ex-Microsoft Director Returned to India to Put Jackfruit on the Superfood Map

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Court Orders Dealer to Pay Buyer Rs 3.5L: 8 Things to Check Before Buying Used Cars

Every morning my father gets up an hour earlier than he must—a ritual which started right after he bought his car seven years ago. Post the morning tea and newspaper routine; he lumbers outside with a bucket full of suds and an old cloth.

The car waits patiently on the curb for its owner, hardly daring to breathe. My father begins the dusting and the cleaning, the waxing and the polishing, and lo behold, in a trice, the car is happily basking in the sun—squeaky clean and lemony fresh.

Once I asked my dad why he had to clean the car every day, even if it doesn’t require cleaning. His—response? It was his pride and joy.

Whether brand new, or second-hand, we tend to become attached to this prized possession. With the standard of living making cars pricier with each consecutive model, the option for used cars becomes a viable one. Why spend a bomb when you can buy the same more cheaply and then change it for another vehicle after a few years without feeling too guilty?

If it sounds like a good plan for you, then we ask you to mind the pitfalls! Representative image. Source: Wikihow.

Recently, after a customer filed an official complaint against a Mumbai-based car dealer, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDR) Madurai directed the dealer to pay Rs. 3.95 lakh to the complainant.

N Sudha had purchased a three-year-old car from the dealer at Rs 3.4 lakh. Shortly after, the car started giving trouble, until finally, it broke down at a toll plaza. Sudha immediately called the dealer and asked the car to be towed to the showroom. The dealer fixed the car and returned it to Sudha, but this kept up for a long time. The car would break down, the dealer would repair it, for it to break down again after some time.

Exasperated and angry over being duped, Sudha dragged the dealer to court and won the case.

When it comes to buying second-hand cars, precaution is always better than cure. Here is a list of seven things you must keep in mind before buying a used car.

1. Take an expert with you for the check-up

And by that, we mean a trusted mechanic. If you are new to the city or don’t have a garage that you visit regularly, take along a friend or a relative who loves cars and knows them inside out. This is crucial because if they are passionate about cars, they will notice things that you may not!

2. Make sure you look at the vehicle in daylight

The better the light, the more details you notice. Whether it is a scratch mark on the bumper or a dent in the rear, pointing to an accident, it is essential that you scrutinise these things in ample light. It is up to you then, whether to bargain on the price or ask the owner/dealer to repair the damages.

3. Check the service history Representative image. Source: Car lovers INDIA/ Facebook.

Along with the damages on the outside, you need to find out how well the insides of the car work. One of the best ways to get this checked is to go through the service history of the car. If the owner has had the car serviced at authorised centres, you have easy access to its history. If the service history is irregular, then you should re-think about buying the car.

4. Make a checklist

It is good to have a checklist of all the functions and features of the car. This way, you can take your time to go through every element of the vehicle and make sure it functions properly. Whether it’s the fuel indicator light, speedometer or the lock on the rear seat, each feature is just as important as the other and a checklist will help you examine them.

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5. Some tips for your checklist

Apart from the features you see every time you drive, here is a cheat sheet to examine those parts that are out of sight:

• Check if the engine and chassis numbers match with those on the registration papers.

• Take the car on a drive on a relatively empty street. Crank the speed up to 40-50 kmph and apply brakes—both slowly and suddenly—to check how they work (make sure no other vehicle or pedestrian comes in the way of danger while doing so). Vibrations, squeaky noises and the inability to stop suddenly will tell you what you need to know about the car.

• Get the air filters and oil pipes checked by an expert.

• Evenly worn out tyres, smooth accelerators and windows indicate that the car was maintained properly.

• Check if the car is letting out smoke through its exhaust pipes.

6. A long test drive

Don’t just drive the car for a long time. Make sure you drive it on both empty and busy streets, up and down steep ones and on a smooth road as well as a bumpy, narrow street. This drive is for you to check the indicators, braking ability, smoothness of the steering among other things. Make the most out of the drive to examine the car’s condition.

Representative image. Source: Jay Lamping/ Facebook. 7. Paperwork

• If the vehicle is registered in the same Regional Transport Office (RTO) jurisdiction as where you live, you need to fill out and submit forms 29 & 30 to the transport office. If the car is registered in a different jurisdiction, you will also need a No Objection Certificate from the RTO where it is registered which will transfer the name of the registered party from the owner to you, the new owner!

• You need to get the insurance policy transferred to your name too. Or buy a new plan, terminating the previous owner’s

• Similarly, get the service book, Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate and (if applicable) the CNG/LPG certification from the owner

• Make sure that there are no pending loan payments before you buy the car

• The seller needs to provide the original invoice of the car to the buyer. In the case where the invoice is unavailable, a valid receipt should be provided. This will also help you compare the original price of the vehicle with what you are paying.

You may also like: Shifting to a New City? Here’s How to Register Your Vehicle in a Different State!

Taking the help of registered used-car dealers would ease many of your problems. But it’s also best to be informed about what you need to know.

8. Clean and fix your car before your first drive

If there are any fixes to be done, like brakes, exhaust pipes etc. you can either ask the owner to do them or get them done yourself. The price can be negotiated accordingly. However, once the final papers are signed and the car is yours legally, make sure you clean it thoroughly. Take it to an authorised cleaner and get it polished from the outside and cleaned from the inside too. You also need to get the fluids and oils changed before you take the car for its first drive.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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Scared of Germs on Your Toilet Seat? This Mumbai Startup Has The Perfect Solution For You

Public restrooms aren’t exactly known for their cleanliness.

Soiled, dirty and riddled with germs, they are often the last resort for most people, especially women, who forego using them and instead, wait till they get home.

While traditional cleaning methods of using toilet paper, disinfectants or jet spray don’t exactly guarantee hygiene, it also isn’t possible for the cleaning staff to douse toilet seats with Harpic every time someone uses them.

So, is this an entirely helpless scenario?

Not really.

Enter Safe Seat, an electronic and an automatic sanitary machine with a sensor attached in each toilet seat, which rolls out a fresh sanitary film roll every time you use it.

“With our product, every user gets a 100% dry and clean toilet seat. It reduces the chance of diseases and infections. It’s not like we are selling the customer a very nice-looking or pleasant smelling washroom, but the basic hygiene which is needed when your body comes in contact with the toilet seat must be maintained. That’s what Safe Seat gives you,” says Ruchit Desai, Director at Agrasen Global Private Limited, a Mumbai-based startup which manufactures Safe Seat, speaking to The Better India.

Started by three college friends—Niket Shah, an MBA in Finance, Ruchit Desai and Tapasya Raika, a chartered accountant—Safe Seat is the first major product that Agrasen Global has sold commercially.

“None of us wanted to do a regular job. We initially started a cafe serving continental food, a venture which lasted about a year and a half. Due to various circumstances, we had to shut it down, but the experience taught us a lot about running a business. We had to find and develop an innovative product that addressed an immediate need,” says Ruchit.

A Safe Seat toilet. (Source: Safe Seat)

So, how does Safe Seat work?

The idea is to give every user a new, fresh and clean seat. A plastic roll made of recyclable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) covers the seat. On the press of the stainless steel button located on top of the seat, a fresh sanitary film roll automatically comes out, thus collecting the used film on the other side.

“This ensures one exact rotation on each use, making it the cleanest seat to use. The used film will be destroyed by a cutter to ensure one-time use, so it can never be re-used. The time interval between the two push(es) ensures no misuse of the machine,” says the company website.

Desai further explains that the toilet seat is made of recyclable ABS plastic, while the roll is made of a recyclable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) sanitary film roll which is 100% biodegradable. When the rolls are manufactured, special biodegradable additives, imported from Sweden, are added to them. That chemical causes the molecular structure of plastic to break down when exposed to heat or sunlight, making the plastic degrade at a faster rate (approximately three to six months).

The biodegradability of this plastic has been certified by the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology and the National Toxicology Centre.

Once you’re done using the given seat, you should ideally replace it for the next person to use. “Unfortunately, not many people care about the next person. People get up and leave,” adds Desai.

Installing a Safe Seat machine usually entails a one-time cost of Rs 12,500, while future costs include purchasing a roll which can last 150 uses. Each roll costs about Rs 300. The company manufactures both the seat and rolls in a factory on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Here is a demonstration of how it works:

Not an original concept

“The very concept of Safe Seat isn’t our brainchild. It’s already available abroad. However, we are the only firm manufacturing this product in India, and we have patented its production here. We were always looking to do business in a product which solves a basic problem and is innovative. Problem-solving innovation is the mantra that drives our business. We have one more product—the umbrella wrapping machine—that allows you to wrap your umbrella dry when you enter office premises or home,” says Desai.

It was around February 2017, when Agrasen Global first began marketing the product. Before that, it took the startup six months to develop it.

“Initially it was a huge task to get anyone to buy it because here we have very little awareness of hygiene. Not a single customer was willing to invest the money required to set it up. Ultimately, we drew up a strategy, ventured into the premium retail segment approaching restaurants, gyms, salons. In the beginning, we sold these dispensers to these businesses for free, which they would then show off to their clients. It took us six months to sell our first machine, and slowly, people and businesses began to accept the product. It was a very tough slog. All three of us ventured into the field, vigorously developed networks and built visibility for the product in Mumbai,” says Ruchit.

Also Read: Gun, Gods & Fines: How IAS Officers Ensured Everyone in Gwalior Dist. Has a Toilet!

At the end of the startup’s first year, their railway tender received approval—a massive breakthrough and a significant landmark for them.

The sanitary roll on the toilet seat. (Source: Safe Seat)

Today, they supply the product to all the major trains like Rajdhani, Duronto and Tejas Express. In fact, Safe Seats have been set up in first class AC compartments, and that’s when the startup caught the attention of the media.

Today, with a clientele ranging from McDonald’s, Sony Entertainment Network, and Dream 11, to premium dining and drinking establishments in Mumbai, the company has 1500 clients selling the product across 18 different cities in India. Last November the company broke even and currently generates a revenue of approximately Rs 35 lakh a month.

What these developments tell us is that more and more businesses are at least taking the health of their employees, customers and clients, very seriously.

Instead of spending more on disinfectants and other chemicals to regularly clean your toilet, businesses are investing in a Safe Seat.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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Bun Maska to Kheema Pav: 15 Lip-Smacking Dishes That Aamchi Mumbai Swears By!

It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is—six in the morning or twelve at night. If you are on the streets of Mumbai, then be prepared to be assailed by the aroma of piping hot and delicious treats.

Whether it is the savoury, fluffy idli & medu vada doused in mouth-watering sambar and coconut chutney or the fiery kebabs and shawarmas sold alongside Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbaikars take pride in the food they eat. And thanks to the diverse cultures that form the fabric of the city’s social life, our palates are accustomed to food from different parts of the country, and the dishes that  distinctly belong to Aamchi Mumbai. Writing about the food that the people in this city cannot live without will perhaps result in a 40,000-worded novella, but following is a list of 15 of those culinary delights that every Mumbaikar loves to devour! 1.    Akuri The Parsi version of the scrambled egg. Photo Credits: Instagram/@karanfoodfanataic Before you exclaim—yeh to anda bhurji hai!—let me stop you right there! Yes, Akuri is one version of spicy scrambled eggs, but the style of cooking and the taste are different! A part of the Indian Parsi cuisine, akuri is cooked until the egg is almost runny, but never overcooked. The other flavouring ingredients include fried onions and spices like ginger, coriander, chopped chillies and black pepper. Enjoy it with pav or double roti. Another lesser-known version of akuri on toast is the Bharuchi akuri. Enriched with nuts and dry fruits, it derives its name from the city of Bharuch in Gujarat, where the dish is said to have originated. 2. Idli, Medu Vada, or basically, all the South Indian breakfast items that the Anna on the cycle serves South Indian breakfast items. Photo Credit: Instagram/ @samyriana One of the most relished breakfast items, idlis and medu vadas form an essential part of the diet for most on-the-job individuals who have no time to make breakfast. Any anna, who serves a mixed plate of the savoury rice cake and South Indian fritter, is our saviour. Idlis are made of batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) urad dal and rice. Several variations of idli like rava idli (made from semolina), sanna (fluffy Konkani version of the dish) among others, are served too. Medu vada is a deep-fried item (made from black lentil or urad dal), and is more like a savoury doughnut, with a crispy exterior and soft interior. More than the idli or the vada, the highlight of these snacks that can make or break them is the chutney and sambar served with them! 3. Vada pav The Bombay Burger. Photo Credit: Instagram/@hungrytrippers Known as the poor man’s burger or Bombay burger, it is a vegetarian snack native to Maharashtra. A patty made of spices and mashed potato and dipped in a batter of gram flour (besan), vada is deep-fried and placed in a bread bun (pav) sliced through the middle. Served with a mix of spicy green and sometimes sweet chutney, it is a favourite street food served on thelas (carts) and even big restaurants. It may look like a run-of-the-mill version of a burger, but is definitely more pocket-friendly, and for us Mumbaikars, more delicious! 4. Varan bhaat Varan bhaat. Photo credit: Instagram/@yourhungrypal This is the quintessential Maharashtrian thali. A homely preparation where boiled rice is served with a lentil curry of toor dal (split pigeon peas), the dish can only be complete with a dollop of sajuk tup (homemade ghee) left to seep through the steaming hot varan bhaat. The sidekicks of this desi treat include a lemon wedge, a little chutney and pickle. Most Maharashtrian homes consider the naivedhyam thali, which is an offering to the God on Ganesh Chaturthi, incomplete without varan bhaat. 5. Zhunka bhakar Zhunka Bhakar. Photo Credit: Instagram/@bhukhabhalu Zhunkar Bhakar serving stalls used to be quite the crowd pullers in Mumbai once upon a time. But with time, many of these disappeared due to competition. But the humble dish continues to be special for many.

This traditional dish is essentially a chickpea flour porridge, also known as pithla. Prepared by mixing gram flour (besan) and water to form a semi-solid paste which is then sautéed in oil with green chillies, red chilly powder, turmeric, salt, fried onions, mustard seeds, ginger-garlic, cumin seeds, coriander leaves etc, zhunka bhakar is served traditionally with jowar bhakri. The dish was restricted to the peasants of Maharashtra. It is also served with thecha, a spicy condiment made from chilli peppers (green or red), garlic, cumin, sesame seeds, asafoetida, cloves and grated coconut.

Also Read: Sweden to India: How a Cup of Masala Chai Fuelled IKEA’s Journey to Hyderabad!

6. Brun maska Brun Maska with kadak Irani chai. Photo credit @chetanshetty1 Mumbaikars love their bun/brun maska and kadak chai (strong tea). The combination is a ritual for most of us. The pocket-friendly tea-time dish gained popularity in the city with the dawn of Irani cafes in the 1800s-1900s. While in bun maska, the bun is soft, cut into half and coated with layers of butter, in brun maska, the bun is a bit crusty. Either way, the best technique of devouring it is dipping the bun/brun into hot tea and biting into its soggy sweetness. 7. Chaat Chaat Photo Credit: Instagram/@foodies1564

Bhelpuri, geela bhel, chinese bhel, panipuri, ragda pattice, sev puri, dahi puri, masala puri, ragda puri—there isn’t a variation of the much-loved chaat that Mumbaikars don’t seem to love.

What is crucial to all of these dishes is the blend of sweet and spicy chutneys and additional ingredients that are unique to each of them. From bhel wallahs in local trains to chaat stall-owners at every nook and corner of most streets, most Mumbaikars find their favourites close to home or office. Eating different chaat variations on different days is a routine we religiously follow. 8. Falooda Falooda Photo credit: Instagram/@thefoodpunch

Aerated drinks? No, thanks. What better than a cold falooda topped with ice-cream and dry fruits on a summer day (well, any day). This cold dessert is made from a mixture of rose syrup vermicelli, sweet basil (sabza/takmaria) seeds and milk. The vermicelli is made from wheat, arrowroot and corn starch, or sago. The soaked sabza not only adds richness to the drink but also has a cooling effect on the body.

9. Khaman/Dhokla Khaman Photo Credit: Instagram/@savorytales This Gujarati item made from a fermented batter of rice and split chickpeas is a popular evening snack for Mumbaikars. While Dhokla made with rice gram is white, Khaman which is yellow, is another variation made with chickpeas. Many people easily mistake Khaman for Dhokla. 10. Frankie Frankie. Photo Credit: Instagram/@suburbmumbai_food

Over the last decade, Frankie stalls have cropped up in several parts of the city. From varieties of vegetarian Frankie rolls to those prepared with meat and topped with different sauces, the quick, lip-smacking delight is quite the crowd favourite. Stuffed with mutton or chicken and sprinkled with spices, the non-vegetarian variety of Frankie is often a lot juicier than the vegetarian rolls stuffed with potatoes or paneer (cottage cheese).

You May Also Like: How a Small Udupi Eatery Started by a School Dropout Became a 300 Cr Food Chain!

11. Kheema pav Kheema Pav. Photo Credit: Instagram/@mumbaifoodie/@thewickedsoul

To put it simply, the Kheema Pav is a must have dish if you walk into an Irani cafe in Mumbai. Minced chicken or lamb is cooked with onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and many spices and kheema, at times, comes with an egg, sunny-side up. Another version of it is ghotala, where the kheema is served with a scrambled egg.

This dish is served with buns or pav, coated in butter and toasted on the tava or flat griddle. For die-hard Mumbaikars, any hour could be eat-kheema-pao’clock! 12. Kebabs

 

Kebab. Photo Credit Instagram/@khuhlyeats From seekh kebabs to chicken tikka, gurda (kidney) or kaleji (liver)—charcoal grilled meat cooked on skewers served with freshly sliced onions and a squeeze of lime is an all-time favourite. 13. Kande pohe Kande pohe. Photo Credit: Instagram/@sychedelic3 A Maharashtrian snack, it is sometimes served with a spicy curry called tarri. More popularly consumed as is, this easy-to-make dish is prepared using processed flattened rice and is sautéed with chilies, onions, mustard and cumin seeds and curry leaves. Peanuts and sometimes cashews are added for flavour! The best way to eat kande pohe is to squeeze some lemon on it before diving right in! 14. Misal pav Misal Pav. Photo Credit Instagram/@rohanvsfood This Marathi dish consists of a spicy curry or ‘misal’ made of moth beans or matki, other sprouts or lentils. It is served with farsan, sev or chivda on top and is garnished with onion and lemon for a slightly tangy flavour. Relished with pav, it can be eaten at all times! 15. Pav bhaji Pav Bhaji. Photo Credi: Instagram/@thefooddestiation Pav Bhaji originated in the 1850s as a quick lunchtime dish for textile mill-workers in Mumbai and then moved on to be served at eateries throughout the city. From handcarts to famous restaurants, this dish can be found almost everywhere in India and abroad. The dish is served with different twists in ingredients and garnishing. Bhaji is a spiced mixture of mashed vegetables (majorly potatoes, peas, tomatoes or bananas for Jains). It is usually cooked on a flat griddle (tava) into a thick gravy and served hot with the soft Mumbaiyya pav coated with even more butter! Also, don’t forget to add some onion and lemon before taking a bite! Are you drooling, yet? Think we have missed any of your favourites? Jot them down in the comment section! (Edited by Saiqua Sultan) Like this story? Or have something to share?
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Weddings Sans Kanyadaan: Meet the Kolkata Priestess Shattering Gender Stereotypes

In the midst of a rising cloud of ‘yagna‘ smoke, the ‘Ulu Dhwani‘ reaches its crescendo amidst the chanting of shlokas (verses). This is the typical imagery of a Hindu Bengali wedding. But, we are talking about one which wasn’t.

To begin with, there was no male purohit draped in a white dhoti, proudly holding the ‘yagnopawitha,’ the holy thread, wound around his body while chanting Vedic verses in Sanskrit.

Instead, it had a group of women, gracefully chanting the scriptures in Bengali amid some of Tagore’s most melodious songs.

Their only motto—reintroduce the culture and heritage of India to the younger generation sans the orthodoxy, ambiguity or inequality.

“The knowledge in our scriptures cannot stay hidden behind an ancient language. The couples of this generation are asking questions about what and why they do in rituals. And, it is the responsibility of the priests to help them understand. That’s exactly what we are doing,” said Nandini Bhowmik, to The Better India.

Nandini is the priestess at the helm of ‘Shubham Astu’, a group of female priests who have been crashing gender stereotypes and the patriarchy, in their own graceful and harmonious way. Photo Source: Nandini Bhowmik/Facebook

A visiting faculty at the Sanskrit department of Jadavpur University (JU), Kolkata, and a theatre actor, Nandini found her calling as a priestess a decade ago.

“I was in college and our Sanskrit teacher, Gauri Dharmalal, had introduced a new and reformed way for female priests to perform Hindu rituals. So in a few years, we (a bunch of young Sanskrit teachers) began to pursue this. After a few years, with the help of few more fellow priestesses, I branched out, and together we created a more evolved script which was in-line with this generation,” said Nandini.

Since then, with Nandini and Ruma Roy reciting the hymns and Semanti Banerjee and Poulami Chakraborty singing songs, the wedding ceremonies conducted by Shubham Astu have become a unique experience.

According to her, for any ancient scripture, the process of evolution is continuous. And, so one of the major changes introduced was a simplified interpretation of the texts in three languages—Sanskrit, Bengali and English. Photo Source: Nandini Bhowmik/Facebook

This new script also did away with the ‘kanyadaan,’ a prominent ritual in a Hindu wedding, thus starting a new wave across the state.

The No-Kanyadaan Wedding

A byproduct of patriarchy, kanyadaan, which literally means donating one’s daughter, is a commonly practised ritual in Hindu weddings.

But, Nandini and her group are slowly changing things. They have officiated several weddings where this ritual was not conducted.

One such wedding in Kolkata went viral after a guest saw the father refusing to perform the kanyadaan, and tweeted about it.

Check it out here:

I'm at a wedding with female pandits. They introduce the bride as the daughter of <mother's name> and <father's name> (mom first!!!). The bride's dad gave a speech saying he wasn't doing kanyadaan because his daughter wasn't property to give away. I'm so impressed. pic.twitter.com/JXqHdbap9D

— Asmita (@asmitaghosh18) February 4, 2019

When TBI got in touch with Dr Amlan Ray, the father of the bride, he explained the ideology behind the decision.

“I took this decision some six months before the wedding day. And, that was one of the major reasons why I requested Nandini Bhowmik and her group to officiate the wedding. Contrary to common belief, which considers this to be against Hindu culture, a wedding without kanyadaan is not a new thing and is already mentioned in the scriptures,” said Dr Ray.

Dr Ray argues that the Rig Veda mentions eight different types of wedding, of which only the Brahma wedding includes the ritual of kanyadaan.

“And, most Hindu weddings today will not qualify to be a Brahma wedding, as it involves the wedding of one’s daughter to a Vedic scholar, among other strictures. In general, today most modern weddings come under the Gandharva marriage category, in which bride and groom know each other before marriage, and the marriage can be between different communities and castes without any barrier, and without the practice of kanyadaan,” he added.

Speaking about his daughter’s wedding, he added that the level of understanding and simple interpretation made the event more meaningful and memorable.

“Unlike other purohits, these priestesses made sure that the experience was worth remembering. We were not just blindly following directions, but understanding the significance behind every verse, as all of it was in Bengali,” said Dr Ray.

Equal partners in marriage and life

The wedding ceremony of Sharmistha Chaudhuri and Dr Debadyuti Ghosh was a perfect example of equal partnership, all thanks to Nandini and her group of priestesses.

Held on January 4, Sharmistha spoke to TBI and shared that her wedding was both rooted in tradition and yet liberated from the rigid strictures; seeing each individual as a separate entity.

“There were several rituals introduced in the wedding, which ushered an egalitarian beginning to our relationship. One such ritual was where the groom applies sindoor on the bride’s head. While we conducted it, we also added another bit, where I applied a tikka on his head, in return, thus symbolising our union with vermillion,” she said.

This is one of the many rituals introduced to ensure equal participation of the bride and groom in the ceremony.

Explaining the principle, Nandini, who is also an Indologist said, “Historically, our world has been patriarchal and owing to that, the laws and rituals were also formed in such a manner. Also, in the olden days, girls were married at a very young age, making it very difficult for them to understand or participate in the rituals. However, in the current context, that needs to change completely. Today, both are equal partners, in age, experience and agency, and so, this addition was crucial.”

With all this in place, the couples added that their weddings were more than just grand affairs where the main focus is on food and merriment. Photo Source: Nandini Bhowmik/Facebook

Sharmishta exclaimed, “Our ceremony was conducted in English, Sanskrit and Bengali, as a lot of guests, including my husband, were not comfortable with Bengali or Sanskrit. It was a ceremony where people paid attention to the rituals because now they could understand the beautiful underlying symbols. I have had people come and tell me that they had never planned on staying for the actual ceremonies, until now. We all learnt something new!”

Despite taking up a challenging task of questing and reforming the ancient scriptures in all these years of work, the four priestesses of Shubham Astu have surprisingly gathered more love than resistance.

“We did not embrace this to wage any war or hurt anyone’s feelings, but only to share our knowledge. Most people see and understand that and so have been showering us with love!” concludes Nandini.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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Clean & Green: New E-Cycle Start-Up To Help Us Enjoy Goa Like Never Before

Discovering Goa on e-vehicles.

Sometimes a region—in a bid to become a coveted tourist spot—gets caught in its own trap. Take the curious case of Goa—a state buckling under its own aspirations and losing its beauty in the process. Goa’s unique history and character is under threat due to unsustainable tourism practices. Vehicular congestion is adding to the rising levels of air pollution and the burgeoning number of tourists are leaving behind piles of garbage year after year.

What if, in this scenario, someone offers to help you see the true Goa—with its charming architecture and interesting antiquity—in an eco-friendly way?

B:Live, a venture by Arcis Clean Energy, is the brainchild of Samarth Kholkar and Sandeep Mukherjee who wanted to bring about a new wave of sustainable mobility in India and they started with Goa. The company, in a short span of just three months, has managed to make an impact.

Eureka moment

“The whole idea behind starting this company was to provide a clean, green way of discovering a new location or city,” said Sandeep, in a conversation with The Better India.

B:Live is India’s first electric-vehicle based tourism company, and they are now in a 20-year contract with the Government of Goa, to manage and operate electric vehicle tourism across the state.

Both the founders bring with them a corporate experience of 15 years and a friendship of that many years. Founders – Samarth Kholkar and Sandeep Mukherjee

Samarth, who is from Goa, felt that the clean and green State he had grown up in was getting lost due to the burgeoning tourism leading to congestion and pollution. He realised that there was an urgent need to address the issue.

“And that was when the idea of using electric vehicles to explore the unexplored side of Goa came to us,” says Sandeep.

Sandeep goes on to say, “I spent about four years in Europe and I was able to see first-hand, the kind of impact using e-vehicles made to the lives of people and the environment. It was this model that I was keen on replicating in India as well. Sustainable mobility was what excited me.”

What does B:Live do?

B:Live uses e-vehicles to conduct tours in, currently, four places in Goa. The vehicle is an electric bike and is just like a regular cycle, which you can ride on roads, streets, mountains, and beaches.

The motor that is attached to the cycle gets activated as soon as one starts pedalling and the effort required is minimal, says Sandeep.

“Whether it is a climb or a regular stretch, one can really just whizz through it. Given that this vehicle leaves behind minimal carbon footprint, it is also a guilt-free way of exploring.” Zipping along on the e-cycle.

A very experienced tour captain accompanies you on every tour. These are people from the local community who will give you a real sense of what Goa is to them and reveal a part of it that you would otherwise never get to see.

“We have astronomers, architects, and local artists, amongst many others, who are a part of our tour captain pool,” informs Samarth.

B:Live is environmentally conscious

The point from where the tours begin is called e-hubs. These e-hubs are refurbished, old shipping containers that work as both the charging point and storage of the vehicles.

These shipping containers are anywhere between ten to fifteen years old. “One more thing we have done is that give a cloth bag to each of our clients as they start the tour. These are the small ways of ensuring that we move away from plastics and start living a truly environmentally conscious life. Responsible tourism is what we are promoting,” says Samarth.

Small touches that make the tour stand apart

Imagine your tour guide regaling you with a story about a particular statue, and suddenly, a group of musicians begin to play a song—your old favourite—at that very moment. These are some of the elements that Samarth and Sandeep have worked on to ensure that B:Live stands apart from others.

“In the island tour, our clients also stop for breakfast at a 150-year-old house and have a traditional spread—all home-cooked. We have integrated all these elements to show the best that Goa has to offer,” says Samarth.

First customer

“The first paying customer we had was a gentleman from Mexico. He had come to Goa for the International Film Festival, and it was just the second day of our operations. As someone who had visited Goa multiple times earlier, he heard about B:Live and was very happy to try us out. The clean and green bit was what fascinated him,” says Samarth. From then on, there has been no looking back; the company has been growing steadily.

How can you get in touch?

If you are interested in what B:Live offers, then you can book a tour either via the official B:Live website here or the Goa Tourism Development Corporation website here. Heritage, culture, exploring an island, or just exploring a church – you just have to pick a package, and you are good to go.

Samarth also informed TBI that the electric vehicle is for all. “We have had people who are upwards of 60 years of age travel with us with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever,” he says. E-cycle in Goa.

The minimum age requirement to access the vehicles is 12. Given that these are motorised vehicles with a top speed of 25 km/hr, it is advisable for only those above the stipulated age to ride them. These vehicles are also equipped with GPS trackers and electronic disc brakes.

On an average, a tour which lasts for between 2-3 hours, will cost you anywhere between Rs 1500 to Rs 2000.

Details about the duration of the tour, difficulty level, and map that needs to be followed are all mentioned on the website.

Plans for the Future

Both Samarth and Sandeep are confident about taking this concept to other cities soon. “Goa is a test-case for us, and with all the that we have learnt from here, we will be taking this concept to other places. We are a pan-India venture and very soon will be present in every tourist hub. To start with, we are looking at Puducherry, Kerala, Rajasthan, Hampi in Karnataka. By the end of 2020, we will be in at least 6 new locations,” says Samarth.

The company is, currently, in talks with various angel investors and private individuals who believe in the company and its vision. Samarth concludes by saying that an announcement about a possible capital infusion is likely to be made soon.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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