Friday, September 26, 2008

Hands? No thanks...

It was a very disturbing sight for me when I first saw the Indians in Singapore delivering food into their mouths using hands! I was still a little kid back then when I first came to Singapore. Being from a country where races besides Chinese were uncommon, I had no contact with any Indians, let alone having seen one eating with his hand. And note that I used hand and not hands which I will explain why later (in fact I believe most Singaporeans would know the reason behind it). Personally, I found it quite gross to be eating rice and mixing them with the condiments, all using your hands!

If you are not an Indian. then you may have at some time wondered why Indians still eat with their hands. Though these days, forks and spoons are a common sigh in India, the most popular and traditional way of having food is still, sans any cutlery. While Westerners prefer to use forks, spoons and knives to eat their food and the Orientals use chopsticks, Indians prefer fingers to ‘fork in’ their food.

Ask any Indians, and he will say that the best way to completely enjoy any Indian food would be to eat them with your hands. Moreover. Indian foods are designed to be eaten with hands. The method that Indians follow when eating foods such as
naan and roti prata, is to break the bread, dip it in one of the condiments and eat it. In the past, meals were served on banana leaves and using forks and spoons to blend the curry and rice would have only ended up shredding the leaves!

One thing that should be noted is that is that Indians only eat with the right hand as the left hand is considered unclean and eating with it is frowned upon.

There is a philosophy behind this Indian practice of eating with the fingers. In India, eating is perceived as being a very sensual activity. The idea is that one should be able to enjoy the process of eating with as many of the senses as possible – taste, smell, sight, and touch.

After being in Singapore for years, Indians eating with their hands no longer turns my head. In fact, I have even transformed to adopt their culture, at least partially. I do eat my
roti prata with my hands at times, and yes, they do taste better that way! On the hindsight, I suspected that certain forms of racial prejudice were involved in my perceptions of their culture due to lack of understanding and exposure. If not, why did not I ever think that eating pizzas with hands was unhygienic?

Friday, September 5, 2008


Any idea how much you are contributing to deforestation with all those printing of lecture notes, tutorials, readings etc? You might be surprised to hear that patches of forests the size of 300 football fields are disappearing from India every hour as we speak now. But besides being surprised, are you going to do anything about it? You are probably going to argue that not all the deforestation activities are due to our incredible high usage of paper and you are most probably right. Deforestation can be due to clearing of land for agriculture purposes, infrastructure expansion etc. While at our level we might not be able to do anything about that, we do have a choice in helping reduce the rate of deforestation, if not stop it. Due to time constraint (and word limit constraint), I will not go into all the consequences of deforestation which I believe most of us are pretty familiar with.

As a NUS Science Faculty student, I can easily use up as many as 40 pieces of paper a week and I am sure I am not the heaviest user around. So can you imagine how much paper are used by all the NUS students every year? Besides assignments and tutorials which I have to submit, I print everything else on scrap paper which only has one of its sides used. I am sure most of us have experienced packing our notes at the end of every semester. For me, I was always very amazed at how much stuff I have printed, although how much stuff I have studied never fails to shock me too. And I can confidently say that most of the notes that we have printed will never be touched again after we're through with those modules! So what do you do with all those paper? How many of us are aware that during our final exam period, there is always a recycling corner set up at the SRC for students to throw away their papers after they have taken the examinations? If you don't know, maybe it's time that you sit down and start exploring the different ways and channels you can help in making this world a better place to live in. We are, after all, citizens of the Earth!

Is this the kind of future you have in mind for our children?

Research Question: Are students from the Science Faculty of NUS aware of the rate of deforestation and the effects that their heavy paper usage habits have on it?

Purpose Statement: The main objective would be to find out the level of awareness among the students on their own paper usage habits and if there is a need to improve the situation. Another objective would be to research on the extent of deforestation caused by the various human activities and how that has affected the lives on Earth.

Reason for Attitudinal Survey: We have to understand the paper usage habits of the students and their perspectives before we can decide on the appropriate actions that we can take when approaching this issue. Ultimately we want to raise the general level of awareness of the students on the consequences of deforestation caused by human activities and what we can do to curb it.