We are not talking about the vines of grapes. But the grapevine which means to heard a thing through unofficial channels rather than the official one’s. You must have heard someone saying “I heard it from the grapevine”.

Grapevine has its origins in the telegraph system invented by Samuel Morse for communication. It was initially used mostly by Army. This communication method required miles and miles of wire between the source and destination. These wires had to be supported on the poles erected at specific spaces. The wires hanging on resembled the wires for supporting the grape vines. And hence the word.

Grapevine is used mostly to spread rumours because source is ambiguous. People can neither reject it or accept it entirely. But grapevine spreader sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of their targets.

Today the grapevine is used as an informal channel for communication. Grapevine fires up imagination and recipients try to verify the information. So when the information from all employees in a company is collated a bigger picture emerges.

If the source of the grapevine is murkier it spreads faster. Similarly it depends upon the interest of the recipient. For example if an employee in city A hears the grapevine that company is going to open a new outlet in city B he may not be interested in the information. But if grapevine is about the layoffs in the company he will be interested and spread it further to seek the reacts of his fellow employees.

Sitting Forlorn

It was yesterday evening past nine o’clock. I was sitting on a bench which stood near the bus stop opposite the shopping arcade. As it was the time when most of the people reach after a long journey to Mumbai.

So at this point of time time, very few people were roaming out. There was no movement in the air. The leaves were not stirring at all. The background looked like a still photo, static not dynamic with only some activity at the bottom of the picture.

One fellow was trundling home with a small bag of some eatables, he had preferably had few drinks outside because people at home must be putting resistance to it.

Four to five boys were sitting in the park and subject of their gossip was the mobile services and cards and refills.

Some people were waiting for the shift bus which arrived timely and took them away leaving the place again bereft of people.  Their were some mutts moving aimlessly here and there and following every persons who happen to pass by.

View from Window

The view from from window of my room at 4 O’clock in the Evening:

It is 4 O’clock in the evening. The sunshine is becoming pale at the approach of the evening. The mornings, evenings and nights are becoming cooler. Sky is still clear. Sitting in the same room of my home on the third floor, I am looking at the scene out side from the window.

The outline of trees looks like the drawing of a child making lines with a pencil which are not straight but serrated. The shadows and lights are playing exclusive games in the branches which are swaying due to strong breeze. When one is there other is gone and vice versa.

There is a meadow below and cows and buffaloes are grazing lazily. As they graze, cranes accompany them to catch the insects which are scurried due to the grazing animals. Many of them can be seen perching over the tops of animals.

The shadows of the rows of trees are beginning to lengthen and crawling over over the fields and are moving towards my room. Some boys are trying to catch fish from a pond near the edge of tree rows. The pond is irregular in shape and its still water looks shines due to sunlight falling on it.

From above it looks like a shard of glass, very longish and narrow. White cranes and black egrets are plunging into the water occasionally and rest of the time sit on the nearby bushes.

Airplanes keep on coming at very low height as they are descending preparing for landing at Chandigarh airport which is very near. Sometimes very huge cargo plane is seen passing very near our buildings with deafening noise.


Sitting in the room of my home which has large glass panels opening in West direction, I am looking at the Sun going down leaving behind a copper colored hue in the West.

The sky is smeared with mild clouds of different transparencies. There are thick columns of of poplar trees which are now loosing their individuality and taking on dark shroud.

There are kites flying and sometimes swooping down on their prey. Snow white cranes are leaving the grazing grass grounds and flying towards their homes. Even as I am typing these words the whole scene is becoming ambiguous and soon darkness will swallow the day.

Fascination to Color their World

“Thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of twisted linen, and blue and purple and scarlet…(Exodus 26:1)”

These lines from Holy book “Bible” show the humans obsession for colors. Humans have been always been fascinated with color. The competitors of our forefather “homo sapiens”, prepared their dead for burial by coating their bodies with red ochre, which is actually Ferric oxide.

After them, Cro-Magnon made cave paintings using for colors yellow and red iron oxides, black manganese dioxide and white clays. These are natural materials available as rocks and salts for tens of thousands of years. This continued until the invention of weaving and clothes.

Pigments had been made by combining colored minerals with a vehicle, such as oil or mud, that would adhere to a surface. When the paste-like pigments were applied to fabric, the cloth became stiff, and the coloring material soon washed or fell out.

Pigments wouldn’t work—cloth could only be colored by dyes, organic molecules that bond directly to the textile. So colors which adhered to cloth and became insoluble afterwards. And also they should be soluble in the water. This was usually achieved by adding chemical compounds like alum which contain metallic ions which act as binder for cloth and dye.


Darkness I said. But you may say light only acquires meaning thanks to darkness. Contrary to my expectations, it has turned out to be the opposite. The things which shone from afar turned out to be dark. Darkness was hidden behind the light, lies sugar coated with sweet talk were forced down my gullet.From the great distance, things looked prettier like they say that grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. I don’t blame the ones who gave me wrong impressions. what was the need to do that? Guided by this wrong impression, I came.

From the time of setting my first foot in this place, reality began to unfold. Coverings began to lift and fade away to reveal the dark truths. For some time I thought that it may be my false doubts but as the time went by, everything begun to become clear like water in a pool which became turbid after a stone was thrown begins to again become clearer. I have been shown the flip side, or the underbelly of everything. My hopes soured. I became even more distanced sitting nearer. When I was physically miles away, I was more closer than when I am closer physically I am miles away mentally.

Animals cannot digest Cellulose

Most plants synthesize cellulose which they use to give strength to their bodies and make them withstand the vagaries of storms. It gives the shape to the trees and branches then expand the tree.

Cellulose becomes the wood when trees become mature. Furniture is made of this material. It is obvious that cellulose is insoluble in water otherwise no one will use it in construction and furniture.

Cellulose and starch and other carbohydrates consist of glucose molecules which are arranged in chains of different styles. In starch, two chains are intertwined.


These chains get separated on boiling the starch in water. This caused the chains to disperse in the water increasing its viscosity. Such starch is called pre-gelatinized starch.

On the other hand, cellulose structure is such that chains are not dispersed and wood remains unaffected in water. Glucose is the basic unit of sugar which is used by animals like humans for obtaining energy to keep the body running.

Starchy Foods

How do then we assimilate higher sugars like starch. They have to broken down to glucose units. The enzymes found in humans and other animals allow them to digest and metabolize many, but not all, biomolecules. Cellulose is one example of a molecule that defies digestion in many animals.

But the slight difference in the way the glucose molecules are hooked together in starch compared with how they are hooked together in cellulose makes a big difference in their digestibility.

Humans and many other higher animals have the enzyme required to break the bonds in starch, releasing glucose. The particular enzyme is called alpha-amylase.

But because the shape of the linkage is different in cellulose, the same enzyme will not work. In fact, where cellulose is concerned, humans do not have an enzyme that will work.

As it turns out, most humans eat a fair amount of cellulose in the form of fruits and vegetables. Although we cannot digest it, the cellulose serves as roughage or fiber that gives food bulk and keeps it moving through the digestive system. In the end, all of the undigested material ends up being eliminated as feces.

Maybe you are wondering how animals such as cattle, sheep, deer, and goats thrive on a diet of grass or other cellulose-rich food. Can they digest cellulose when humans cannot?

The answer is no. None of these animals have the enzymes required to digest cellulose. Instead they rely on colonies of microorganisms living in their digestive systems.

These simple microorganisms have the correct enzymes to digest the cellulose and to reassemble the products into starches and proteins. From these products, grazing animals acquire their nutrients. The special relationship between these animals and their resident microbes is called symbiosis—two organisms living with each other to the benefit of both.

Chitosan: A multi utility chemical

There are many chemical products which find use in different unconnected areas. For example Carboxy Methyl Cellulose (CMC) which is used in ice creams as well as viscosifier in drilling fluids. Similarly Linseed oils are used in Drilling fluids as well as ice cream. In this article we are talking of another multiutility chemical which has found uses in diverse fields. It is a versatile chemical and called Chitosan.

It is derived from Chitin which is obtained from the shells of prawns. Many groups of amide are reduced selectively to amine groups to tailor made the required chemical.

Application of Chitosan in Oil Fields :

As the demand for hydrocarbons knows no limits, technologies have been developed to reach at the places in the reservoir where earlier it was not possible to reach. Technologies have made the horizontal penetration of the producing formations to expose large area to production. These are called drain-holes. Thrust is also nowadays on exploiting oil shales, coal bed methane and the latest hot cake is the methane trapped as hydrates in the frozen water.

Production stimulation with acids is done. Acid is diverted to the zones of interest by plugging off the zones of no interest with polymers. One such chemical which is used to make the thick gel to divert the acids is called Chitosan.

This chemical has the beauty of yielding a very thick gel in water in acidic conditions and loses all the viscosity when the mixture is made alkaline.

Bandages of Chitosan

I read another wonderful use of this chemical. It is being used to make the bandages for the wounded personnel in the battleground. Most of deaths occur due to excessive bleeding. Chitosan has the quality to clotting the blood very fast. Secondly it is a strong antibacterial agent. This is also very much desired to ward off the infections in the unhygienic conditions prevailing in the battleground.

These bandages were used in Iraq for the first time. I wonder how many uses a chemical can have. In the sixth episode of “Brave New World” hosted by the great mathematician Stephan Hawking, the use of this chemical to clot the blood immediately was shown. You can watch this video of its bandaging properties.

Concept of pH in Chemistry

Although the pH of a lake or polluted stream is seldom reported in the media, the people who are monitoring the health of the lake water record it daily religiously. But pH is quite an important physical property of water. pH of a stream gives an indication about the salts and other soluble matter present in the water. These soluble salts affect the organisms living in the water. Also changing pH in a stream can be an indicator of increasing pollution or some other environmental factor.

As we know life on our planet is based on the water. Water is a unique solvent as it dissolves a number of chemicals in it. Water molecule is a simple one with H2O as its formula indicating 2 Hydrogen atoms joined to 1 Oxygen atom. It V shaped geometry imparts it high polarity with which it is able to break down many salt molecules into individual ions called cations and anions. As such water is slightly ionized into equivalent amounts of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions. The value is 10-07 equivalents, a very very tiny value indeed. But this small value is enough to do all the chemistry. When chemicals dissolve in it, the values of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions become unequal. Particularly when any compound containing hydrogen ions is added to water, hydrogen ions become predominant and solution is said to become acidic and such chemicals are called acids. Examples of acids are hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, citric acid and sulphuric acid. On the other hand, when any chemical which have hydroxyl ions is added to water, hydroxyl ions predominate and water becomes basic and such chemicals are called bases.  Examples of bases are sodium hydroxide, washing soda and potassium hydroxide.

pH is a measure of how acidic/basic water is. It is defined as the minus logarithm of hydrogen ions concentration. Since -log[10-07] is 7, the pH of pure water is 7. The range goes from 0-14. Any solution having pH value less than 7 is acidic and above 7 is basic in nature.

The pH of any natural water determines availability of nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon for aquatic life. Many nutrients like phosphorous are very sensitive to pH since it exists in different forms at different pH values. Only a particular form is assimilated by the organism.

Similarly, pH determines the solubility of heavy metals which are generally toxic in nature. Heavy metals are generally more soluble at lower pH and hence lower pH gives a warning about the possibility of these heavier and poisonous metals.

pH of some common liquids of daily use are given below

Battery acid1.0
Lemon Juice 2.0
Baking soda, Sea Water8.5
Milk of Magnesia10.5
Adult fish dies3.0-4.0
Fish Production Affected4.0-5.0
Normal range of Precipitation5.0-6.5
Normal Range of Stream6.0-8.0
Acid Rain1.0-5.0

What is Happening?

When someone asked the humorist writer Mark Twain which investment shall bring in the maximum profit, he had said “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore”. As always how true he was. The demand for land is rising and rising relentlessly. Our health quotient is improved day by day resulting in increased life expectancy. More people, more wealth they generate and with more wealth, everybody wants to live a life of comfort. Three basic needs: house, food and clothing are putting extreme pressure on our planet. Even though Sun is helping us in the synthesis of food, the area under agriculture is diminishing. As the demand is ever increasing, technologies are being developed to increase the yield of the crops. This invariably introduces bactericides and fertilizers which go towards harming our health in the long run. But modern humans have means to get treated, thus lending a big hand in the proliferation of medicines. Thus vicious cycles are being created every moment.

Where is the rural land going? The need to get the house to live in is the answer. We are so short of the land that we have begun to expand our living space vertically. We are thus loosing our touch with the soil from which we are constituted. We try to create replica of the gardens in our homes in the form of potted plants. The urban monster is like an octopus which is spreading its tentacles and grabbing the rural land ruthlessly. It is swelling day by day. The farmers are forced to sell their lands to make way for housing societies. The idioms like “How green was my valley” are getting redefined.

The prices of the land are increasing in an unthinkable manner and still there are buyers. There are financial institutions to make it possible and lure the people. In these circumstances, whole life of person goes into paying debts which are multiplied through installments and interest many times over.

In the featureless plains of Punjab, the land was as flat as drawing board. Not an inch of land is left which is not under the plough. The pressure on the land has been so heavy that its natural fertility has been reduced to almost nil. Now it has become simply a container in which unless you do not add fertilizers, water and other nutrients, you will not get anything. The water level beneath has gone down drastically. Whereas previously it was about 25-40 meters, now it has touched 100 meters. The agriculture has thus become an costly venture.

In the older times, in Punjab the girls when married generally never claimed their share in the parental land and it will go to the brothers after the father is gone. These are things of past now. With the land fetching exorbitant prices, there have been cases of husband sending the woman to go to her parents and ask  for her share. Even if she does not want, she is forced to. Some of the son-in-laws are threatening the parents of girls to keep the girls back or give her her share. There have been violent scenes at many houses. I know a family in which the woman had done the work in her in-laws place like an bullock. From morning till night, it has been all work , work and work. In addition, she had reared 5 children. The man had been many extra marital affairs which everyone knows. Despite all this, she had been happy and content. And now when her brothers sold their land, her husband sent her to get her share or otherwise don’t come back to his house. Such stories abound now.

The life is slipping like sand through palms

The hour glass shows the sand slowly slipping from the upper globe through a narrow passage to the lower globe. Various devices to mimic the passage of time. You can always flip the hour glass and the cycle can restart.

But that is not so with the real life. The hour glass of the real life cannot be flipped. Whatever has passed the passage cannot be reloaded in the upper globe. The life now is slipping like the sand through the sands: freely flowing. It never relents for a moment and every bit of the allotted hours are leaking away. Whatever water has passed under the bridge will not return.

Blankness stares in the front. What was wished to be done could not be done. The vice like hand of time is closing on my life. Life which would resist till last. The hand will go on squeezing every bit of it from the body. Ultimately, the eternal truth will happen. Body will become limp. Proteins will begin to breakdown releasing amines which reek of death. Muscles will become tense. It will be consigned to the earth which once nourished it like a mother. But the truth remains. From “Ashes unto Ashes”.

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