Thursday, October 30, 2014

94 visits to this blessed blog! Almost fell off my chair.
So here goes:
This is the appeal I mass mailed few day ago. Putting up here too.


I recently volunteered at an alternative institute, SECMOL in Ladakh for 3 weeks.

SECMOL is largely independent, a prime example of eco-friendly sustainable living, with self -sufficient solar energy, solar heating, own source of water, organic farming, etc.  The setting is beautiful—on a cliff above the Indus, surrounded by towering mountains.

I’d like to share a water conservation project, The Ice Stupa Project, that SECMOL is working on, along with the monks from the renowned Phyang monastery. HH Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpochey (one of the highest incarnate Lamas) is actively supporting this project. 

Towering Ice stupas, conical artificial glaciers of about 12 storey height, will be built to conserve water for the time when it is needed the most. Villagers will be able to take an extra crop. This field of glaciers will be created using gravity and school-level science, that water finds its own level.

This project is being funded using crowdfunding on Indiegogo, and I actively seek your support for this:

Forwarding the text of a mail from SECMOL founder Sonam Wangchuk.


I am writing this email to let you know that the much awaited "Ice Stupa Artificial Glacier" project is now launched on I hope you will like the idea and support it.

I hope you will like the idea and support it.

Please don't feel compelled if you are not in a position to contribute financially now, you can contribute by sharing this idea with your friends, relatives and the media. It's as much an Education Campaign as it is a Fund Raising Campaign. 

You can either forward this email to friends with a note of introduction or post it on social media sites, although studies show that email has the best success rate.

However if you do want to make a contribution then this is the right time. Studies also show that most successful projects on crowd-funding platforms collect up to 30% of the target in the first 3 days.  It is said that this attracts and encourages other unknown potential contributors and the media (which then helps in the snowballing effect) .It also raises the ranking of the project (called GoGo factor) on the Indiegogo site which helps a lot in promoting a project.  

Luckily we seem to be not too far away from this rate, since today, on the third day it has reached 11%.of the target amount.

So whether it is sharing the news or contribution... earlier the better.

Here is the link to the site that has a short film and all details:

Best wishes and many thanks for your support
Sonam Wangchuk
PS:  Kindly write emails related to the ice stupa project to the dedicated id

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Signs of genius are aplenty at the campus. From the line of poplars and willows that line the drive (also work as a wind breaker) and the tumble of green of the farms and garden. Then you look around and see how the site has been chosen atop a cliff—so that was more than luck at work when the heavens opened up and poured in 2010, a meadow nearby became a rough gorge. The buildings are built  back-to mountains— solid protection  against the cold, gale-quality wind that begins every afternoon .What looks like building at different levels is smart thinking that has taken advantage of the difficult terrain… rooms have been set into a cliff, and mud construction used to make the rooms weather friendly. The larger buildings have glass facades, but the floors are stone set into mud, like mosaic, with wooded pillars and wood first floor built up patta-style. Not anti-plastic – plastic sheets used where sensible, in the stairwells for instance.

Realized just how cold it was when I reached the airport which was bricks-and-cement built.

Thoreau would have been pleased. As also Emerson. Almost completely self sufficient. Solar power. Solar heating. Solar cooker. Tap water from harnessed from a glacier stream. Drinking water from a handpump, groundwater courtesy the Indus that zestfully flows by. Milk from their cows, Badol and Baskit (little Thoksar is too little to but moo).Abundant farms—on difficult terrain, yes they use IV-tube drip irrigation. Greenhouses set well into the ground, stocking up for those killer winter months.  All waste is recycled  into compost, or modified and reused.

SECMOL time is one hour ahead of India time, daylight saving time—you get up early enough to see the first orange glow outlining distant snow clad mountains. Awake to cardamom- cinnamon “Cha” in the friendly common room with its magazines and guitars and insistent cats! 
Trying to get back to “normalcy” after  three weeks of serene, tranquil unconnected living…not much more to do than peel potatoes or roll endless parathas or go for a walk down the winding road—or just try teach some Hindi or English… At the campus there were 34 students who were taking their 12th, and about 15 college students who were commuting to the Leh college every day. Amazing spirit. The campus is run by them, they allocate different duties.

After the minus 8 minimum or more like 15-18 deg day temp that the (solar heated, mud wall rammed earth structure, all nature friendly) campus was maintained at, getting back to Mumbai has been a bit of a drain… just feel so hot all the time! The campus was v interesting—solar power, solar heating, own food grown on the farm, milk from cows, own water from the Indus, great library—but no cell signals, poor internet (via satellite) and a 3.5 km walk through rough terrain short-cut to the highway if you want to reach Leh, 18 odd km away… but what quiet, just the roar of the Indus past the cliff and the roar of the wind down the mountains…

The work days were pretty easy with plenty of free time. Then the whole jingbang decided to go on annual long tour to Himachal—a bus was hired, and all the camping and cooking good piled on top and away they went… about 8 of us volunteers stayed behind not wanting any more adventures with the great roads and cold… their 5 day trip turned into a 9 day one… vacation within a vacation… read a lot of good books and went on long walks. Ruth Jhabvala and RK Narayan…And slept—must have caught up on years of sleep deficit and built up reserves for years ahead. Such stars and clear skies the likes of which I’ve never seen.
But what kind of place is this, no one locked up the rooms, or was afraid of anyone dropping in unannounced—other than the Dzo ( a cow +yak mix breed), perhaps who would meander in every night jumping over the makeshift gate and try and eat up the vegetables and green…

"All is well!"—the SECMOL founder was the inspiration for the 3 Idiots character Phuntshok Wangdu, did you know that??

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Back, but
holding in my veins
the quiet of the mountains
changing colors of the willow- poplar
and afoot
the dancing Indus

as yet, 
unruly, untamed.