As social scientists, economists, and environmentalists keep telling us, much of the world’s poor can be defined by their lack of adequate access to safe and potable water.
Says futurist Peter von Stackelberg, “By 2025, about 3.4 billion people will live in regions that are defined by the UN as water-scarce.”

Original article: here.


If we are indeed going to drown in drought, what solutions are available?

While much of the future of universal water depends on political and social activity, technological advances in three major areas will be critical for the hydrological future: desalination of seawater or brackish groundwater, purification of water containing chemical or biological contaminants, and conservation to cut demand.

*Flash Desalination: Using a source of high energy, sea water is heated till the vapor accumulates in a low-pressure chamber. Indian scientists have invented a low cost version of this which uses less energy.

*Water harvesting:

In Beijing, the National Stadium built for the 2008 Olympic Games is designed with a nano-filtration system and underground pools that can capture and process up to 100 tons of rainwater an hour. Seattle’s King Street Center, a 327,000-square-foot commercial building constructed in 1999, captures rainwater for use in the building’s sewage system and for landscaping needs, saving about 1.5 million gallons of water a year.

*Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT):

This is one way to curb water usage. For instance, irrigation of residential landscapes typically applies 30-40% more water than needed. But a system that has been tested in California, Washington, and several other western states has linked sensors that monitor rainfall and soil moisture to a “smart” controller. Water consumption has decreased by an average of 26%, with some consumers cutting their usage by as much as 59%.

von Stackelberg stresses that there are three factors which will influence water availability in the future: low-cost power for desalination, nanowater (high-tech filtering), and green engineering, wherein zero wastewater from industrial facilities is achieved.

“A paradigm shift will be required if water shortages are to be avoided,” von Stackelberg says. Among these newer attitudes are the beliefs that human waste is a resource from which water can be harvested, and that storm water is a resource which needs to be captured and stored.

Though water usage is decried by most, I believe that it is impractical and perhaps unnecessary to do so. Surely, science will find a way out to make water widely available. After all, much of the planet is covered by oceans and seas. The problem, as I understand it, rests largely on how we can make sweet water from the sea.
Once again, the world will look to these solutions not from the laboratories of Cuban or Indian Governments, but the research centers of the First World, or private labs anywhere, including developing nations. After all, there is money to be made, Nobels to be won, and names to be immortalised if one can provide a solution to this global problem.
Nothing moves the world as much as love greed.


  1. Arrakis in the making, eight millenniums ahead of time [Frank Herbert’s Dune] ?

    What was that last paragraph for, doc? A twist of word and mind in the dagger of provocation ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. oops, that should be “eight millenniums ahead of time” ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  3. TRF:
    Of course, to “provocate”!

  4. ๐Ÿ™‚ some hard analysis
    nothing moves the world as much as greed – very true
    desalination treatment etc are alternatives but at what cost in 3rd world countries ?

    we could learn to conserve water from the Bedouins –

    well a tip buy Ion Exchange a water stock!

  5. Vivek Khadpekar


    I had decided to ignore that last paragraph as one of the typically obsessive and irrelevant quasi-McCarthyist tirades that our host is given to ๐Ÿ™‚ . But after reading your comment, his response, and Prax’s follow-up, I re-read the whole piece, and realised that it was merely a puff for a DC-based “consultant” — a soi-disant “futurist” — interested in promoting technologies that would bring in the lolly to anyone who bought his advice.

    I would not be surprised if Prax discovers that the said consultant’s principals had already filed for IPRs on the Bedouins’ conservation techniques. Or maybe Prax already has insider information on this from Ion Exchange? ๐Ÿ™‚


    Honestly, Doc, while the work in progress that you mention is already there (yes, even in the government labs of socialist India that you so love to hate), and ideas such as rainwater harvesting, desalination of seawater or recovering potable water from urban sewage have been around for quite some time and are indeed very promising, there are also less-known, locale-specific solutions such as dew harvesting and fog harvesting. These do not need equipment manufactured, promoted and supplied by corporate manufacturers, their agents and DC-based copywriters. Nor do they involve the milch cow of high O&M costs. Therefore they do not promise profits to stockholders and other similar hankerers after unearned windfall income.

    As to your closing line, it reminds me of something that I learnt as a child without then understanding its meaning. I quote it below (with apologies for the imperfections inherently attendant on transcribing Sanskrit into the Roman script without diacritical marks:

    “Krodhaadbhavati sammohah
    Sammohaat smrtivibhramah
    Smrtibhranshaat buddhinaasho
    Buddhinaashaat pranashyati”

    I cannot now recall which adhyaya of the Geeta it is from, but I’m sure you can google it. Not all products of predatpry capitalism are bad ๐Ÿ™‚ .

  6. Vivek Khadpekar

    PS: Corrigendum (last sentence of the above): “predatory”, not “predatpry”.

  7. Vivek Khadpekar


    For those interested, the sholka I quoted from the Shrimadbhagvadgita is no. 63 in adhyaya II.
    It is part of the section on Sthitaprajna Lakshanas.

  8. Vivek:
    That’s all very well, but do translate it for us…
    Or is it too rude for you to do so?
    I understood the ‘buddhinaasho’, but that’s all…
    Meanwhile, this post was mainly to illustrate the larger issue using the nanoengineering advances as a lead.
    I have no commercial interests in any of this, of course….

  9. Prax,
    No one can be an Arab or a Bedouin. It is too hard to train for, and there aren’t that many women for men outside their ilk…
    I do think that more than conservation, it is creation (of more assets, including water) that will last and work. But I am not technically an expert on this….

  10. I share your optimism about water availability and I am sure the various solutions will work out. But I would like to talk about water pollution as this is a major cause of scarcity of water.
    In China, pure water is not available due to rapid industrialisation. People use bottled water. I have also heard that Olympic athletes (Chinese) are importing food so that their tests turn out alright!! The main thing is to ensure that industrialisation happens responsibly otherwise eventually the cost is higher. Sure, technology will help and I am supreme faith in human ability to conquer…but a spot of prevention is better than cure.

  11. Vivek Khadpekar


    The only translation (with interpretation and commentary) to which I have ready access is by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. It is too long to post on a blog. I am giving the link below. Just scroll down to Shloka 63 on it.


  12. it is in human nature to be optimistic
    it would however be better if we focus on micro conservation, population control and wastage control , though solutions will turn up when they r most needed as u hinted

    nita china has destroyed nature large scale thanks to their great leaps leading to rapid climate change hazards

  13. R-Doc: Closer to home, India’s major metros have more water available per capita than London or Paris, but domestic water supply is limited to 2-3 hours whereas in the UK and in France (and other western countries), water is literally on tap, of potable quality and can be drunk straight from the tap with no additional processing needed to remove microbes. In summer, sometimes we have hose pipe and lawn watering ban and most people follow it and those who do not receive huge fines.

    Does that not suggest that the core of the problem is not the raw material supply but how we process and distribute it, and how we monitor and punish its wastage? That is of course a domestic perspective.

    I cannot comment on the practices of the agricultural sector, but I do a lot of strategic work for food companies (some also make paper products) for instance. Their efforts on conservation and reducing water usage are considerable. The sector has an impressive focus on reducing effluent discharges – end of pipe approaches – and many have concrete results to show for it. By reducing effluents, some are able to recycle their own waste water for their processes. So within some industrial eco-systems, many are working already to reduce water shortage.

    As for nano-engineering, my experience with technology is that in the short-term we over-estimate/ exaggerate its usefulness and in the long-term, we under-estimate its usefulness. The only commercial and widely used product where a nano-particle has been successfully introduced is a Boots Pharmacy Sun Protection cream.

    So while we find profitable nanotech products, our hope lies in beginning of pipe approaches, unless we are an industrial setting where technology is much less “nano” and more about end of pipe.

    My tuppence.

  14. Vivek Khadpekar


    Thanks for that very perceptive comment and the innate wisdom in it.

    Speaking of the agricultural sector in India, and confining my observations to areas with canal irrigation, its extremes have been well documented, with tail-enders chronically short-changed, (whatever is the opposite of “tail-enders”) chronically profigate, and lack of coordination between the irrigation supply schedules and the users’ actual requirements. It is a prescription for criminal waste, with the added villainy of cultivation of heavily water-demanding cash crops in water-short areas.

    I realise your comment is probably more pertinent to industrialised agriculture and to agro- and agro-based industry than to agriculture as practised in most of India. But the basic principles of economy, as I perceive them, are not too different.

  15. Shefaly,
    // In summer, sometimes we have hose pipe and lawn watering ban and most people follow it and those who do not receive huge fines.//We too have the ban every year in Delhi and nobody cares. The government spends the taxpayers hard earned money on commercials explaining the importance of water conservation but nobody bothers. In a government colony here in Delhi they have provided water for the garden which is not fully treated. For a few hours after watering the plants the whole place stinks. The plants are very healthy and don’t need manure.
    Rain water harvesting is becoming popular here. I don’t know how effective it is in terms of water conservation.

  16. The water wars reminds me of Atlanta, Georgia recently (USA)….prologned drought, the city’s reservoir drying up alarmingly. Non personal use of water banned, conservation was encouraged. Neighbors ratted out their neighbours who violated the ban by watering their lawns.
    As desertification worsens in some areas of the world in our future, wars will be fought over water. Techno-fixes will not save us from ourselves.

  17. Very interesting comment, Jackie!

  18. Nita, Shefaly, Vivek and Prerna:
    Thanks for your comments.

  19. TRF uvacha:
    Verily, it is said, conservation begins at home. And as the infinitely wise Walras has ordained, the first step is to let the tatonnement discover the price for agni, akhasha, bhoomi, jala, and vaayu, without intervention from the proverbial monkeys ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Vivek Khadpekar

    Shefaly, Pr3rna:

    For many years, as non-official member of assorted committees on urban environment at the local, state and national levels of government, I tried without success to lobby for a total ban on lawns. Grass should be allowed only where it will flourish naturally — on river banks, in and around wetlands and other naturally damp places, in climate amenable to the growth and sustenance of the species. Anywhere else it is just a huge water-guzzler. In urban areas, “green” does not have to mean “grass lawns”. Shrubs, plants and trees, which need minimal watering and soon become self sustaining, are a much better and more envireonment-friendly option. They also serve more effectively as photosynthesizers, bear flowers and fruits, attract birds, provide shade and help bring down the ambient temperatures in summer.

    Usually, the chairpersons of the committees to which I made such suggestions were senior bureaucrats with job-related privileges such as sprawling bungalows with lawns, and were golf players. I was always voted out. On one or two occasions when the terms of the committee allowed a dissenting note, I submitted that. It quietly vanished.

  21. “Grass should be allowed only where it will flourish naturally ”
    Good grief! Now committees have to decide what organism has to grow where…, is it?
    Like let fish not live in bowls, let lemons grow only in agro farms, not in someone’s vegetable garden…
    There is a way out of this problem, till such time as technology makes synthetic or reconstituted water widely available:
    Privatise water in its entirety. Those who want to spray their lawns can pay handsomely for it.

  22. Vivek Khadpekar


    No. Committees should recommend on what organism must NOT grow where. As a medical scientist I am sure you will understand the principle (of not growing, I mean, not of committees). Of course such items are never actually listed on the agenda. They come in pari-passu, through subversive efforts such as mine.

    //Those who want to spray their lawns can pay handsomely for it.//

    That was an integral part of my proposals (though admittedly sans the privatisation bit) ๐Ÿ™‚ . But no go! In fact I am not ungrateful that they only used the wpb and not the flush to dispose of the fruits of my labours. At least there was no water wasted.

  23. Thank you Vivek for bringing up the lawn grass issue… a pet peeve of long-standing. Look, we all want to create the English ideal, even where it is not natural without a LOT of water and CHEMICALS.
    My parents essentially live on a spit of sand, yet their suburban neighbours buy into this collective addiction…. guess where all those lawn chemicals (OMG! A dandelion! Spray spray spray) end up…into the bay… Dad smartly plants useful crops and groundcovers, or let whatever native well-adapted weeds grow. Very low maintenance. His compost helps fruit crops grow. He long ago refused to bow to the throne of watering his lawn, and saves watering days for his crops.
    Here, we have about an acre of grass/mixed in with “weeds” such as violets, dandelions/heal-all/etc as part of our home and I am slowly digging up the stuff to plant more interesting crops, such as a pine tree island, peach trees, and herb garden. We have let 1/3 acre to to meadow to the chagrin of some, planting native grasses, etc.
    Doc, sorry; I can never stay on topic

  24. Privatise water in its entirety.

    Try and this is what happens. People (and these were no college “educated” folks) are not stupid even though Bechtel might think so. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. Vivek Khadpekar


    Aaahhh!!! Fantastic to meet a fellow weirdo!

    I don’t understand “native well-adapted weeds”. Sounds like a double oxymoron to me.

    And in the “English ideal”, I was not aware chemicals traditionally had a role. What kind?

    Anyway, good to know someone is striving to create an idyllic environment amidst the horrors of suburbia! (I assume you live somewhere on the eastern seaboard of North America, more in the zone of influence of the Gulf Stream than the Labrador Current).

    Can you safely eat the fish you catch in the bay? Or are there none left?

  26. Vivek Khadpekar


    Thanks for that very educative link.

  27. Vivek, you’re welcome.

  28. Vivek:

    โ€œGrass should be allowed only where it will flourish naturally โ€

    It may surprise you but grass does sometimes grow on its own – seeds taken from one place to another borne on air – like it does in my backyard. I have also had houses where the fruit trees, despite no intervention from me, produced hundreds of apples and pears each year and all I had to do was pluck and eat them.

    So if grass does want to grow wherever it likes – such as in my backyard, and I rarely mow it in winters and I have never had to water it – why should a civil servant have any right to prevent it from growing just because urban lawns are his pet peeve?

  29. Vivek:

    “Or are there none left?”

    On a pedantic note, should that not be “IS there none left?”?

  30. Vivek Khadpekar


    Re. the point on grammar, I’m open to correction on this, but since one is talking about different species of fish inhabiting the bay, I think “are” is the right word.

    Regarding grass growing spontaneously (and flourishing naturally), you are right. But lawns are a different matter altogether, are they not? Also golf courses?

  31. Vivek:

    I think we have to disagree on the is-are. The exception is made in the subjunctive case. The OED might describe me as a traditionalist on this one.

    Technically that patch of land in my house is a garden. But since I am not English and hence genetically inclined to gardening, I do not spend much time pottering around it. I am happy to let the naturally growing rhubarb, crocuses, pansies and roses flourish. That said, my neighbours take immense care – not using chemicals, since they have children – of their own similar patch. In England, people also have allotments (in urban areas) where they grow vegetables and greens. Many people keep potted herbs on their kitchen window sills. Many others I know grow bonsai plants. What about all these activities? None is natural but it is more natural than intensively farmed vegetables and herbs, is it not?

    Clubs that own golf courses happen to spend time and yes, water- not so much chemicals – on keeping them lush and green. The best courses do not allow play when the course is water logged or when it has snowed. I have not seen golf courses in India but I imagine similar practices in (atleast) those courses aiming to be world-class.

  32. Amit:
    That link of yours was illuminating in more ways than one.
    It was not an example of a free market in water, but of a monopoly that was State-enabled and enforced against popular will.
    At the end, when the private entity was driven out, what was the end result?
    โ€œafterwards, what had we gained? We were still hungry and poor.โ€
    I hope you do realise that your link was misleading in the most basic level, viz, a free market in water.
    Incidentally, I believe that in a true marketplace in water, the liquid will be given free to most people up to a particular level, after which charges will apply. Just like the airtime for mobile phones and the free incoming and outgoing minutes we get.

  33. Please allow me to clarify a few things I said above:
    My parents live at sea level in Florida – put a spade into the ground and you will get the most beautiful white sand. NOT lawn habitat! Over the years, dad has built up quite the collection of tropical fruits, fed only by his compost…I grew up reading his “Organic Gardening” magazines. He tried to lay down turf grass (rolled out like carpeting) but tired of constantly watering, mowing, and spraying to keep “weeds” under control. Since they live in suburbia, all the pesticides and weed-killers run off into storm drains – right into the bay.
    Now, he lets whatever plants come up, and mows occasionally, else get reported to city officials for non-kempt lawns.
    I live in a Southern hardwood forest, in the Appalachians. Grass was planted when our home was originally built. But it is not pure grass: dandelions, violets, clover, and prunella spp. are in the mix too. I never water or spray. The park staff mows it during growing season.
    It’s a waste of time, as far as I’m concerned. I am slowly digging up patches of “lawn” and replacing it with interesting shrubs, trees, herbs such as Echinacea, etc. We choose native or non-invasive plants appropriate to the region’s climate, as they are all ready adapted to this habitat and require little work on our part. Also, my BF is a native plant nut due to his profession. We pick bugs and tent catepillars off the grapevines, etc.
    But my point is, I am not adding icky stuff to the water and air commons.
    I worry about eating the fish and crabs/shrimp when I visit mom and dad, but don’t eat enough to worry about.
    Here, we catch trout from pretty clean streams, so I don’t worry about that.

  34. Incidentally, I believe that in a true marketplace in water, the liquid will be given free to most people up to a particular level,

    rambodoc, actually I wrote a comment along the same lines yesterday before you posted yours – “that x liters of water/person/household should be nominal/free and any volume over and above that sould be charged – that way everyone gets x liters for their basic needs and those who want to water their lawns pay for it” – but then decided not to post it. But what happened in Cochabamba was nowhere near that!

    I do realize the last line you posted “we were still hungry and poor” is true. But my point is that privatization – which you are advocating for – would also be a monopoly imposed on the people against their will through State collusion. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My point is not so much against privatization or for State (maybe I wasn’t clear enough), as it is: let the people decide – through stronger democracy. Empower people to make their own decisions – and both the State and the corporations do not do that. Right now, you see only the State as the enemy – maybe one day you’ll come to see that corporations are no better either.

  35. rambodoc, we both agree that what happened in Cochabamba was State-collusion with corporations. So both of them did not have good intentions or respected the will of the people. So why should State be the only villain while the corporations involved get a free pass? And what makes you so certain that in the absence of the State, the corporations will respect the will of people who own no shares (e.g. people in Cochabamba) in that corporation?

    I believe that in a true marketplace..
    Because The Book says so? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  36. Vivek Khadpekar


    On a strictly pedantic note (unless you are also debating the validity of the gardening Brit stereotype), shouldn’t that have been … “But since I am not English, and hence NOT genetically inclined to gardening…?” At least the rest of your sentence suggests that you have no issue with the cultural stereotypes.

    As to the rest of it, my point was primarily about excessive water consumption at the cost of more essential and legitimate use. It was only incidentally about purposefully planted floral species (of which grass for the purpose of lawns is the most outstanding example). It was most certainly not about species that grow (?grew?) naturally or spontaneously in the given habitats.

    I don’t know much about golf courses in the UK, but in most parts of India and neighbouring countries they are certainly heavily water-demanding. I will try to fish out the statistics on this, which I had seen somewhere about three years back. And with “India shining” now, everyone is talking about laying out golf courses wherever the shine is the brightest. That includes semi-arid North Gujarat and Saurashtra. And I have not even begun commenting on other aquatic atrocities such as water parks, which are beginning to sprout all over the place.

  37. Vivek Khadpekar


    //why should a civil servant have any right to prevent it from growing just because urban lawns are his pet peeve?//

    Either you got me wrong or are mixing up my words with Jackie’s. The “pet peeve” (though I did not use the expression) is mine, not the civil servant’s. And I was not a civil servant, merely a non-official member.

  38. [Alert! Long comment. Doc, you have the right to snip it whatever you like. ]
    I am amazed at how this thread has evolved and grown into a full-featured morph from that single strand of a DNA in the last sentence of the original post (doc, obviously, knows his trade quite well ๐Ÿ™‚

    I live in a mountain community, abutting a golf course. Water is supplied by a private company, and is not subsidized and or inexpensive. There are covenants on the property that prevent the homeowners from drilling wells (only the golf course is allowed to drill its own wells). Both my wife and I are avid gardeners, and much like Jackie’s parents, environmentally conscious. Before I bought the house, I considered other neighborhoods in the vicinity that allowed private wells, but rejected them on economic grounds.

    The first thing that I did when I moved into the house was to get rid of a few thousand square feet of lawn that the previous owner had installed. I knew that he was spending a fortune on the maintenance and upkeep of the lawn. Besides, in California, where there’s no summer rain, I believe that lawn is an utter waste of water. I am in the process of xeriscaping the area (with drought tolerant and native grass and plants, rocks, and sand). I also replaced the sprinkler system with an automated drip watering system.

    Four years into the house, several of my neighbors – many are arch conservatives who swear that the “inconvenient truth” is neither – are following my example. Not because they suddenly became groupies of Al Gore, but because of the rising energy costs, and the concomitant rise in water costs. There are die-hard lawn lovers, of course, who’d rather starve themselves before they starved their lawns. To each their own! (Shefaly, this grammatically incorrect use of the possessive plural noun is catching on here among the “equal rightists” :). How about where you live?)

    Water supply, like electricity, is currently pretty much a “natural monopoly”, and where private corporations supply this utility, they are regulated in the U.S.. There are tons and tons of papers and theses written on the pros and cons of regulating such “natural monopolies”, but it’s suffice to say that only politicians can afford to ignore the incentive effects of such regulation on consumption and investment, and therefore, demand and supply, dynamics in these industries.

    Relating to Amit’s comment on the Cochabamba incident, in a democracy, the elected representatives of the people are constitutionally obligated to respect and implement the will of the people. The private corporation is not. The latter’s fiduciary responsibility is to its investors, and investors only, and that is to maximize their return.

    Btw, Vivek, does Geetha say anything about the duty (dharma) of the Vaisyas? Just curious.

  39. oops, the second sentence in the second para should read, “Water is supplied by a private company, and is not subsidized and or inexpensive.”

  40. It’s good to read different points-of-view and TRF, thanks for your personal example, and yes, I am aware of what you stated about corporations and their responsibility. Maximize returns of some people, but at what cost to the people in Cochabamba? I think it is necessary to minimize the power imbalance and give the people of Cochabamba a say in the proceedings – through stronger democracy.

    rambodoc, the reason why I posted the link in response to “privatization” was because the article mentioned World Bank using that term. So, it was not as misleading as you make it out to be. I doubt we’ll get too many real-life examples of pure privatization and free market as you envision it.

  41. Vivek Khadpekar


    //To each their own! … this grammatically incorrect use of the possessive plural noun is catching on here among the โ€œequal rightistsโ€//

    1. It’s a pronoun, not a noun, and in modern English it can legitimately stand in for a non-determinate singular antecedent.

    2. I believe such “grammatically incorrect” use is now widely accepted as politically correct, even in the dignified echelons of publishing. It is considered a lesser evil than the unpardonable crime of using a gender-biased pronoun for a non-determinate antecedent. The alternative — of equitably measured distribution of the masculine and the feminine pronoun for essentially the same antecedent — may be statistically satisfactory in adequately long texts. But the effect tends to be clumsy, if not irritating or worse — smacking of schizophrenia.

    Re. your query about the duty of Vaisyas according to the Geeta, I am not competent to offer an opinion. As I made it clear at the outset, I learnt a few adhyayas by rote as a child, purely because it was part of our family (or caste) tradition, without understanding the meaning. Subsequently, whenever the need arose, I delved into the meaning of particular shlokas which interested me. I have no sense of sanctity about the book, and in fact I revolt against the suggestion that it is “The Holy Book” of the Hindus. When I do cite it, my efforts are limited to a few shlokas whose [pl. note pers. pron.] ๐Ÿ™‚ meaning I broadly know.

    The only Vaisya that fascinates me is a loser called Tukaram, who lived in the 17th c.

    To be honest, when I do fall back on the Gita, it is in similar spirit as the devil citing scripture.

  42. Vivek,
    Mia culpa, and thanks. I meant to type pronoun, but there must have been a temporary disconnect between the language area of my brain, optic nerve, and the nerves controlling the finger muscles. Back in my alma mater (Loyola College, Chennai), I’d have been asked to pay 25p (@60’s Re.) for the error towards the Fine-Hall Fund!

  43. Vivek Khadpekar


    Please contribute, to the Vivek Khadpekar Toffee Fund, the 2008 equivalent of 25 p from the 1960s (rounded off to the next rupee), for spelling “mea culpa” wrong! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your contribution is tax-deductible under section 80T.

  44. Touché, Vivek, but no cigar! The fine was only for grammar errors, and not for spelling errors. Besides, at the rate at which I am making typos today, and the rate of inflation in India between 1964 and 2008, where will you store all those toffees?

    OT, a fun to place to strengthen your vocabulary and feel good, visit, freerice.com

  45. There I go! Another mistake – “fun to place”. Doc, do you think I am suffering from a temporary bout of dyslexia? Please help me, and create a preview module for comments ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  46. Vivek Khadpekar


    You only have to contribute to the fund. The rest is my problem.

    And don’t be so boringly literal. If I may parphrase Lewis Carroll, “toffee” can mean pretty much what I deem it to mean! ๐Ÿ™‚ .

  47. @ Vivek

    Noted your two points. Too stale now to respond.

    While on glass houses, “parAphrase” surely and not “parphrase”? ๐Ÿ™‚

    And on ‘to each their own’, that Anne Fadiman book we discussed on my blog devotes considerable space to the matter (she calls it the h-is/-er problem).

    And not on account of political correctness, but technical accuracy, the use of the term schizophrenia here (“..But the effect tends to be clumsy, if not irritating or worse โ€” smacking of schizophrenia..”) is inappropriate. It is also very insensitive. Casually using mental health terms only serves to reinforce stereotypes and prejudices already rampant.

  48. Vivek Khadpekar


    Surely! And when it comes to typos (as distinct from erroneous usage), we both have our fair share of vulnerability — though admittedly you less than I. In any case, your smiley takes care of that, I think.

    However, the small matter of the distinction between “forego” and “forgo”, which I raised in the context of one of your posts yesterday — on either this blog or yours, can’t remember — does need clarification. It could belong in either of the two categories indicated above. And yes, I am aware that the latest editions of some standard dictionaries admit the first spelling as an alternative to the second. On the other hand, even Fowler-III (the Burchfield redaction, 1996) does consider it worth devoting space to the topic. So I value your opinion 12 years down the line.

    I would indeed be very interested in AF’s discussion of that particular problem. It is one I often struggle with myself. But while I try to locate the book, your view on the subject would be of interest.

    I agree in general with your comment on the casual use mental health terms, but am inclined to take some liberties in conversation which I would not in serious writing. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to consider a blog as conversation space. Words like ‘schizophrenia’, ‘paranoia’ (even ‘allergy’) etc. tend to acquire a figurative sense which I feel is acceptable if used with due caution.

  49. Vivek:

    I made a correction with that forego/ forgo thing which was a typo. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I use ‘his or her’ – you can call it political correctness but I see it as inclusion and although many are lazy, I can be quite diligent about this.

    The reason why I made that comment re schizophrenia is this: although India’s mental health metrics are likely to deteriorate much more as the economic boom foists upon Indians the same problems/ choices as in the West, Indians’ attitude towards mental health problems remain abysmally dogged by stigma.

    I would not make the comment to any one in general, seeing as I would have had to give much more ‘bhumika’ to them. But those, who are as particular as you are, could be alerted to such things, if these are not already on their horizon, so they can influence the debate in whatever way in their own microcosms.

    I am sensitive about the light colloquial usage of mental health terms because I have seen what mental health impairments do to perfectly good people and their families. Making people more aware of things in this regard is probably my own personal objective.

    I do not disagree with you that blogs are conversation spaces – see how you and I are having a discussion entirely unrelated to the topic in R-Doc’s virtual drawing room – but in my experience, “due caution” is probably a subjective thing. I find many times my complex arguments are lost on most people who prefer simpler framings. A conversation is ok but what of the eavesdroppers, who mishear and misunderstand your intent and caution? ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. Vivek Khadpekar


    Point taken. Thanks.

    //Indiansโ€™ attitude towards mental health problems remain abysmally dogged by stigma//

    Don’t I know! It goes to such extremes that well-meant advice to someone to seek counselling is taken as an aspersion on their sanity [there I go: “someone” — “their”!]. In this regard I have had a sad experience with, resulting in permanent alienation from, a very dear and close elderly relative.

    I often carry my obsession with correctness to other fields too, especially with the use of terms such as ‘nation’, ‘native’, ‘exotic’, ‘costume’ etc., much to the irritation of those on whom I inflict it. But that’s another story! ๐Ÿ™‚

  51. Vivek:

    “It goes to such extremes that well-meant advice to someone to seek counselling is taken as an aspersion on their sanity”

    Not accepting that there is a problem is at the root of high non-compliance in psychiatric treatment. But even if the said person were to follow your advice, I would submit that the number of qualified, experienced and good psychotherapists in India is even tinier than qualified and experienced psychiatrists. For some talk therapy may help (although recent evidence suggests that a listening friend may also deliver similar benefits, in which case losing your friendship may be a bigger loss for your relative than he/ she may know); but for others, anti-psychotic drugs are the route. I have seen cases where compliance, the patient’s family’s support as well as the patient’s own will to make an improvement has delivered results; I have also seen cases where the family were so ashamed and drowning in stigma that they did not even get a proper evaluation, leave alone treatment and the person slowly deteriorates.

    “I often carry my obsession with correctness to other fields too, especially with the use of terms such as โ€˜nationโ€™, โ€˜nativeโ€™, โ€˜exoticโ€™, โ€˜costumeโ€™ etc., much to the irritation of those on whom I inflict it.”

    Irritation is a highly individual response; I daresay on my blog, I am glad for your comments as are many of my readers. So please keep ‘inflicting’ ๐Ÿ™‚

  52. TRF:

    Mia Culpa – perhaps the term explains the blame that the husband (mia) keeps getting from the wife (biwi)? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  53. What now, Shefaly, do you have a Mia Defence Fund that you want a contribution from me ๐Ÿ™‚

  54. Vivek Khadpekar


    //the number of qualified, experienced and good psychotherapists in India is even tinier than qualified and experienced psychiatrists.//

    Very true. And I personally dread in principle any treatment that involves tinkering with anyone’s mind. It is more frightening than the idea of losing an organ. Which is why it is only with the greatest reticence that I would even dare to moot either of the two courses you mention. I count it as a blessing that this person whom I alienated at least has not done herself any harm, though she does cause considerable distress to her immediate family.

    A more horrifying incident that touched my life is of a very intelligent, tough-minded and skilled surgeon of my own age. He went into acute depression after his wife died of cancer (not under his treatment). He announced, more than once over a period of six months, that he would like to end his life. I did the little I could to calm him, but unfortunately did not take his threat seriously enough. I assumed that his announcements were basically a cry for attention and sympathy, and that he would not actually take the extreme step. He did. It has been one of the most shattering experiences of my life.

  55. Vivek Khadpekar


    Re. your banter with TRF — shouldn’t “mia” be nasalised with a terminal “n”?

    I’m not suggesting you kill the joke by actually inserting it; just a point of curiosity.

  56. TRF: Not asking for any funds; merely a possible explanation.

    Vivek: As usual, I can rely on you to puncture a joke with a pedantic needle ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, there should be an ‘n’ at the end of ‘mia’.

  57. Vivek Khadpekar


    I protest! I had issued an adequate disclaimer that it was just a point of curiosity, not of acuminosity ๐Ÿ™‚ (I just made up that word; don’t reach for your OED). And curiosity is known to kill cats, not jokes.

  58. Vivek Khadpekar


    I protest! I had issued an adequate disclaimer that it was just a point of curiosity, not of acuminosity ๐Ÿ™‚ (I just made up that word; don’t reach for your OED). And curiosity is known to kill cats, not jokes.

  59. Good Lord! This blog entry has grown and grown and grown…or is it groan? ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have to disagree with Shefaly’s comment (whom I dearly respect) about blogs and writing style… I often peek at my fave bloggers in between tasks at work….
    Although quite retentive with things I write related to work, I take a casual approach in responding to blogs. I do view them as conversational, and hold postings to a lesser standard, altho one should, if possible, review your entries for egregious errors… there is potential for misunderstandings.
    But I dislike thin-skinned (overly sensitive) responses. C’mon, man, unless the poster is being a complete butthead, no need to get your panties in a wad over most things ๐Ÿ™‚
    Now, bloggers themselves, are held to a higher standard. I am grateful you all take the time to share with the rest of us.
    Hey, was someone giving away toffee??? :-). You guys are the best.

  60. @ Jackie:

    “..I have to disagree with Shefalyโ€™s comment (whom I dearly respect) about blogs and writing style..”

    Which comment? ๐Ÿ™‚

  61. Shefaly,
    Yikes….thought it was this one:
    //I do not disagree with you that blogs are conversation spaces …..see how you and I are having a discussion entirely unrelated to the topic in R-Docโ€™s virtual drawing room – but in my experience, โ€œdue cautionโ€ is probably a subjective thing. I find many times my complex arguments are lost on most people who prefer simpler framings. A conversation is ok but what of the eavesdroppers, who mishear and misunderstand your intent and caution? //

    You did not say what I thought you said upon re-reading. Argh!!! My apologies. Shefaly, you did say blogs were conversational.

    Okay, I need a vacation, and remedial reading comprehension classes ๐Ÿ™‚ !!!

    My bad, sorry!

  62. @ Jackie: That was not your bad at all but the fault of the double negative I used and I am surprised it escaped Vivek’s pedantic lens ๐Ÿ˜‰ So no worries. I thought you were responding to the bit where I said that we should desist from using terms like schizophrenia loosely..

    @ R-Doc:

    I have been meaning to leave this link for you here for a while. Sorry.


  63. Shefaly:
    Thanks for that link. I, of course, disagree with a few of the statements in that post, but that is irrelevant. It is quite interesting that the mainstream media seems to have given no importance to this issue. I am presuming here, as I have not come across any reports.

  64. Vivek Khadpekar


    //I am surprised it escaped Vivekโ€™s pedantic lens//

    Am I my sister’s keeper? ๐Ÿ™‚

  65. Vivek:

    I shall let your sister answer that one. I am not to know ๐Ÿ˜‰

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