What are important things and advice to know that people generally aren’t told about?

Answer by Marcus Geduld:

1. Marry your best friend.

I am truly amazed that I have the most successful marriage of all my friends — going strong after fifteen years. Most of my friends are amazed, too, because, growing up, I was the geek who couldn't get a girlfriend. I had almost no relationships until I was in my mid twenties. I got married at 29. I'm now 45 and still deeply in love. Meanwhile, I have seen so many of my friends get divorces and/or grind their teeth through loveless, combative relationships.

What I've noticed about these people is that, 90% of the time, (a) they got married really young and (b) they mistakenly thought that long-term romances work best when when they're based entirely on lust and trivial shared tastes (e.g. "We both like the same bands.")

Sometimes, I hear people say things like, "I've been dating this guy for a year. We get along okay, but sometimes I think about leaving… How do I know if he's 'the one'?" This makes me really sad, because it's SO obvious to me that my wife is 'the one.' Why? Because she's my best friend. Whenever anything good or bad happens to me, she's the person I want to tell! When I need advice, she's the person I run to! When I need to laugh, she's the person I joke around with!

If you don't KNOW that the other person is 'the one,' he's not (or she's not). And though it SUCKS to be alone — believe me, I know. I was alone for YEARS — it's better than settling. DON'T settle. You'll STILL be alone. It is very possible to be alone while being in a relationship. Many people are.

(Let me be really clear about what I mean by "don't settle." I don't mean "look for someone who is perfect." No one is perfect. I mean that if you feel luke-warm about someone, he's not the one. If the person you're with makes you continually unhappy, she's not the one. Don't settle for THAT because "it beats being alone." It doesn't. You evolved to think it does. Your brain will continually tell you that it does. It doesn't.)

The other sad thing I hear is "Bill is my best friend. We have so much in common. He's always there for me. We talk for hours. I completely trust him and we have the exact same sense of humor … but … I don't know … the spark isn't there…"

When I hear this, I don't say anything, because it's none of my business, but I want to scream "GET OVER THIS 'SPARK' THING! STOP BELIEVING IN HOLLYWOOD VISIONS OF CATCHING SOMEONE'S EYE ACROSS A CROWDED ROOM! Jesus Christ! You found someone you connect with on SO many levels, and you're not getting down on your knees and proposing?!? Do you think you're going to find 30 more people like that in your life?!?"

The "spark" doesn't last, anyway. I'm not saying that sex dies or anything. I'm just saying that incredibly exciting, new romance feeling inevitably fades. But, if you're lucky, what comes next is much, much better. You spend years in that loving, warm place with the person you know you want to grow old with. And if you have good communication with someone, the spark can come later, even if it's not there at first.

Lots of people seem to learn this after a long time and a lot of pain. They marry the "bad boy" or the "hot chick" instead of their best friends, because doing so is more exciting. Then those marriages — which are based on nothing — fail. Sometimes, if these people are lucky, they later marry those best friends who they should have married in the first place. If they're unlucky, they can't, because the best friends have moved on.

2. There's no such thing as a "grown up," and if you try to be one, you'll wind up becoming a poser at best and a killjoy at worst.

First of all, if you're waiting for that magic time when you're finally THERE, give it up. As I ease into the middle age, I can see it will never happen. I will never have learned what I need to lean in order to be a grownup. I will never be 100% confident. I will never stop failing…

People who seem like they have it all together are either faking it or living such incredibly boring lives that they never face any challenges.

Let me be clear that I am a responsible person. So if all "grownup" means to you is "someone who does the dishes," then — yes — I'm a grown up. But it's not like when I was younger, I was a child … a child … a child … a child … and then I reached some particular birthday and — BOING — I was an adult.

God, I HATE people who think it's important to be grown up. They are no fun at all. They are the people who, if you show any enthusiasm that goes beyond what you have to do at your job, inevitably say, "Looks like someone has too much time on his hands!"

Don't be that guy!

As you go through life — especially when you pass through your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s — continually ask yourself this: "When was the last time I played in the mud?"

It is VITAL that you play in the mud! You MUST do this or you'll lose your soul! I am somewhat speaking in metaphor. If you don't like mud, that's fine. But when did you last finger paint? When did you last get into a pillow fight with your friends (or with your spouse?) When did you last sing a loud, off-key song where all the lyrics were nonsense words? What was the last time you did something utterly POINTLESS that was great fun?

Playing Scrabble doesn't count. (I say that as a huge Scrabble fan.) Playing tennis doesn't count. Those activities are great, but they're too regimented. They are too much about rules. They don't involve CUTTING LOOSE, LETTING GO and being VULNERABLE. (By vulnerable, I mean doing stuff that may lead other people to say "Act your age!")

Getting drunk or high doesn't count, either. If you can only dance around in your underwear when you've had three (or ten) drinks, you're doing it wrong. One of the reason drugs don't count, is because they put you in an altered state that is disconnected from who you are when you're not drunk or high. Your goal should be to become someone who always has a little bit of play in him — not someone who is super-stern and serious and needs chemicals to unwind.

I know that letting go this way is really, really hard for some people. If it's hard for you, ease into it. No matter how hard it is, surely you can finger paint when you're alone in your room! Make yourself do it until you can do it without shame — until you can let go and enjoy getting paint on your nose. You will wind up living longer and having less stress in your life.

And though you can start this in private, try to work towards doing it in the company of someone else. Play is fundamentally a social activity. You will never feel as close to another person as you will when you roll in the mud with him.

Despite the way I sound, I am a very shy person. I don't, as a rule, go dancing in the streets. But I have a few close friends (and a really fun spouse) with whom I CAN do those things. Those friends keep me alive! I wouldn't trade them for ten million dollars!

One last thing: if you have kids, what's your relationship to them? Are you very much the MOM or the DAD. Do you feel like they are the KIDS and you are the GROWN UP? Or do you feel like they're your friends and you enjoy playing on the floor with them? Of course it's important to be the grownup for them sometimes. But see if you can ease yourself into a different kind of relationship with them? When did you and your kids last have a snowball fight?

3. Most grownups stop learning. Don't.

I spent many years as a teacher, mostly teaching computer classes to adults. These were folks who were being forced to adopt new technologies for their jobs. They were very unhappy. They would say, "I don't understand this stuff! I'm just not one of those computer people."

What I gradually learned, via long discussions with many, many students from many different occupations, is that this wasn't true at all. Their problem — though very real — had nothing to do with computers. It had to do with the fact that this was the first time they'd been ask to learn anything new in years. They would have had just as much trouble if their boss had forced them to learn how to knit, juggle or play the guitar.

Even many people we think of as smart do very few new things every day — things that stretch them. Here's an example: I used to work for a large auction company (think Sotheby's or Chirstie's.) This company employed a lot of "experts." An expert was, say, someone who had spent decades studying French ceramics. Having done a lot of studying, he can now look at a vase and instantly tell you when and where it was made, what it's worth, and whether it's an original or a reproduction. I am not making light of this skill. I certainly couldn't do it.

But let's take a look at what it involves: the expert had to spend decades cramming information into his brain. He had to get to a point where that information wasn't just in his brain but also instantly accessible. Doing all that grunt work was an incredible feat, and the expert has good reason to be proud of what he accomplished.

But if he's like most of us, he learned most of his knowledge in his 20s. Starting in his 30s, he began coasting. Coasting feels really good and most jobs are built to let experts coast. You know you're coasting when you can go to work and instantly know how to fix any problem. You're coasting when you can look at the vase and instantly know when and where it was made.

You're coasting if all your problems at work are things like annoying co-workers and long hours. If you never (or rarely) need to do exhaustive research or work out complex problems on paper or white boards, you're coasting.

I'm a computer programmer, which means my job is pretty intellectual, and I coast way less than a lot of people: but I STILL coast about 75% of the time. A lot of the code I write is boilerplate stuff. I'm "solving" problems that have already been solved before, and all I need to do is copy, paste and make a few tweaks.

Doctors coast a lot of the time (at least general practitioners do). They hear the same symptoms over and over again, and in most cases, they can do their jobs very well by doing mental "database searches" and regurgitating answers that worked in the past. This is also the case for non-trial lawyers.

If you're a "smart person" like me, and if you work in an "intellectual" field, it's humbling to ask yourself, at each point in your day, "Am I stretching my intellect? Am I coming up with a new solution? Am I facing a new problem that I've never faced before?" How much of the time do you do this? 10% of the time? 5% of the time? 1% of the time? How many years have gone by without you having to face a REAL intellectual challenge?

Incidentally, the jobs that we think of as intellectual tend to be the least intellectually demanding (with some exceptions, such as Mathematician and Brain Surgeon). The "dumb jobs," such as auto-mechanic and football player tend to involve a lot of continual, on-your-feet thinking.

What's wrong with coasting? Nothing, necessarily, if it makes you happy. But we're moving into a time period where it's harder to get away with it. The pace of change has quadrupled and we're getting hit with new technologies daily.

But the bigger problem is that "if you don't use it, you'll lose it." You need to continually give your brain a workout or it will grow sluggish. We all know those people who have retired at 65 and then spent twenty years sitting in front of the TV. What's sad is that we accept that people in their 80s are going to be sluggish. But that's not a given. They don't have to be! YOU don't have to be. If your job isn't challenging you, find ways to challenge yourself. 

Note: most people get frustrated when they fail. This is one of the reasons why they quit trying new things. Trying new things inevitably leads to failure. But understand that, if you're trying anything challenging, it's going to take you at least a month to succeed at it. A month is the MINIMUM. It's more likely that it will take you six months.

So if you, say, try to learn the guitar but "fail" at it after a few hours, you haven't failed. You can only fail at the guitar if you try to play it for six months and, during all that time, make no progress.

4. If you're an artist or "creative person," stop trying to "be original."

Your goal should be to tell the story you're trying to tell. (Or play the melody or fill the canvas with color or whatever.)

When I'm not programming computers, I spend my time directing plays. I run a classical theatre company. Here's the main lesson I've learned over the years: if I'm directing, say, "Romeo and Juliet," my job is to tell that story. Let's say that, in order to make the story clear and exciting, it turns out that Juliet should be wearing a red dress in a particular scene. But I go see another production and notice the actress in that production is wearing a red dress in the scene in which I was going to put MY Juliet in a red dress!

I will feel that very human urge to make my Juliet wear a blue dress, because I don't want to be accused of copying or "not being original." I need to get over it. IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. IF it happens to be a case that a red dress tells the story better than a blue dress, then my Juliet NEEDS to wear a red dress. Art is best when the artists serves the art rather than the other way around.

This general rule applies to many things besides art.

5. If you focus on what's fair and what's unfair, you'll stagnate.

John: Someone keeps stealing pens off my desk! Whenever I need a pen, I can't find one!

Mary: Well, pens don't cost very much. Why don't you just buy a bunch of them once a month. Just think of them as perishable items that have to be replenished!

John: I shouldn't have to do that! It's not MY fault the pens go missing! People need to STOP stealing my pens!

Mary: Okay. What can you do to stop them from stealing your pens? Do you have a cabinet or something you can lock them in?

John: No!

Mary: Can you tell your boss? If there's a security problem in your office, maybe he can…

John: I've TRIED that. He doesn't care! He says it's just pens. That's not the point! It's stealing. Stealing is WRONG!

Mary: You're right. It IS wrong. It sucks that your boss isn't going to do anything about it, but I guess that's the way it is. And it seems like it's causing you a lot of anxiety. Wouldn't you feel better if you spent $2 on pens once a week? You could just assume they'll get stolen and get new ones when you need them. That way, you'd know you'd always have a pen!

John: Why should I be the one who has to buy new pens?

Mary: You shouldn't be, but you are.

John: That's not fair!

There's nothing wrong with striving for fairness and justice. But if that's not possible, it's pointless to fall into a mode where you're constantly stressed out and throwing your hands up in disgust. The pen problem literally used to drive me crazy. Then I took Mary's advice. The truth is, I earn enough money that buying pens a couple of times a month is no big deal. I wish people wouldn't steal from me, but I'm just not going to worry about it. A couple of dollars a month let me check a worry off my list. THAT is money well spent!

6. If you're not failing, you're doing it wrong.

We need to raise our kids so that they EXPECT to fail and so that they understand that after failing they should keep going. I have finally gotten to a place where I dislike NOT failing. I am suspicious when I don't fail. Not failing generally means I'm playing it too safe. It means I'm not growing or learning. It means I'm keeping myself from finding all sorts of solutions I could be finding. But the only way to find them is to play past failure.

7. You can't reason with a lizard.

If someone is hysterical or angry, it's pointless to reason with him. Don't try. The "lizard brain" can't use logic. Understand that you're dealing with a cornered animal, not a calm philosopher.

8. Stop reading the newspaper.

You don't really have to stop. If you enjoy reading it, by all means read it. But if you're one of those people who gets deeply stressed out every time you read the paper or watch CNN, consider stopping. Why are you constantly putting yourself through this stress? Because it's one's duty to stay informed? Why?

Okay, I understand why. We live in a Democracy and blah-blah-blah. Fine. But you're not required to have a life of stress. It doesn't help you or anyone else for you to be stressed all the time.

And just KNOWING that there are starving people doesn't help those starving people. If you have a plan of action, by all means carry it out. Otherwise, give yourself a break. If you feel terribly guilty when you're not informed, then just give yourself a two-week break. You don't have to stop reading the papers for life. But get out of the habit of being addicted to stress and sorrow. Your blood pressure will go down.

9. Do something that's not for money.

Make sure there's something pleasurable in your life that is completely disconnected with money. In our culture (in all cultures?) money comes with all kinds of baggage. Find something you like to do that will NEVER make you any money.

If you're a waitress who longs to be a professional actress, acting in plays for free doesn't count. It's great, but it's not what I'm talking about, because you're hoping to one day quit waitressing and MAKE MONEY acting. Keep that dream alive, but find some other activity to be your non-money-pleasure. Say, "I like sketching (or whatever) and it will never, ever make me any money. And if someone offered me money to sketch, I'd turn it down, because I want one thing in my life that is forever disconnected from money."

And it can't be something connected to duty. Yes, you don't get paid for raising your kids, and, yes, a lot of that job is fun. But parts of it are a duty. So it doesn't count. Knitting counts. Playing basketball with your friends counts.

Hanging out with friends doesn't count. It's fun. It's not about making money. But it's not a specific activity. You need something that will jolt you out of the belief that most of us have — that anything you spend time and energy on MUST be about money.

10. The hour before bed is for you.

Don't work right up until bedtime. Even if you "have to." Take half an hour — even 20 minutes if it's all you can spare — before you go to bed to unwind in an engrossing way. (Do this even if you're really tired and would rather not stay up an extra 20 minutes.) By which I mean don't just sit on the sofa with a glass of wine. If you do that, it's too easy to start thinking and worrying about work. Spend that time reading a chapter of a fun thriller (not a "classic" that you think you "should" read) or watching an episode of a sitcom that makes you laugh.

Think of this as your duty. It will help you get your work done better the next day. It will help you get to sleep.

11. There is no such thing as highbrow and lowbrow.

Or if there is, who cares? School has bamboozled us into thinking Shakespeare is superior to "Gilligan's Island." As someone who directs Shakespeare plays and reads "King Lear" for fun, I'm here to tell you that the only great art is the art you love.

Life is really fucking hard. You have to deal with losing jobs, getting divorces, paying taxes and fixing the toilet. Don't add to your troubles by telling yourself — or letting someone else tell you — that you're a moron because you prefer beer to expensive champagne.

If something is beloved by experts, "refined people" and scholars, there probably IS something wonderful about it. If you want to spend an hour with me, I'll explain to you why Shakespeare is wonderful and what you'll get out of his plays if you spend some time studying them. But it's not a requirement. You're not in school any longer. (Or if you are, you soon won't be). There's no teacher waiting for you to turn in your homework.

I am NOT a better person than you because I read Shakespeare. I read Shakespeare because I enjoy it. If I read it because I "should," I'd be a fool.

Art is primarily sensual. It can sometimes politicize people or give them intellectual ideas, but what art does best is feed you: it feeds your eyes with colors; it feeds your ears with sounds; it feeds your nerves with "what's going to happen next????" Life is short. If "24" feeds you more than "Hamlet," enjoy your feast!

If you feel guilty about watching "American Idol" when you "should be" watching "Masterpiece Theatre," then agree to challenge yourself once a month. Once a month, you'll go to a museum or watch a foreign film. The rest of the time, watch and read and listen to whatever makes you sit on the edge of your seat. Whatever makes you sing and dance.

If you're an "intellectual" like me, take a break from the Bergman films and Shakespeare plays once in a while. Sure, sure. "American Idol" is the death of American culture or whatever. But a couple of episodes of it. It's pretty engrossing and fun.

Get out of the habit of labeling things as high and low. There's stuff that feeds you and stuff that doesn't. There are acquired tastes which don't feed you now but which might feed you in the future, once you get used to them. As soon as you get the urge to categorize one thing as "art" and the other thing as "just entertainment," try to stop. There are different sorts of meals, and it's great to live in a world with both caviar and Pop Tarts!

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What are the top 10 things that we should be informed about in life?

Answer by Justin Freeman:

  1. Realize that nobody cares, and if they do, you shouldn't care that they care. Got a new car? Nobody cares. You'll get some gawkers for a couple of weeks—they don't care. They're curious. Three weeks in it'll be just another shiny blob among all the thousands of others crawling down the freeway and sitting in garages and driveways up and down your street. People will care about your car just as much as you care about all of those. Got a new gewgaw? New wardrobe? Went to a swanky restaurant? Exotic vacation? Nobody cares. Don't base your happiness on people caring, because they won't. And if they do, they either want your stuff or hate you for it.
  2. Some rulebreakers will break rule number one. Occasionally, people in your life will defy the odds and actually care about you. Still not your stuff, sorry. But if they value you, they'll value that you value it, and they'll listen. When you talk about all of those things that nobody else cares about, they will look into your eyes and consume your words, and in that moment you will know that every part of them is there with you.
  3. Spend your life with rulebreakers. Marry them. Befriend them. Work with them. Spend weekends with them. No matter how much power you become possessed of, you'll never be able to make someone care—so gather close the caring.
  4. Money is cheap. I mean, there's a lot of it—trillions upon trillions of dollars floating around the world, largely made up of cash whose value is made up and ascribed to it, anyway. Don't engineer your life around getting a slightly less tiny portion of this pile, and make your spirit of generosity reflect this principle. I knew a man who became driven by the desire to amass six figures in savings, so he worked and scrimped and sacrificed to get there. And he did… right before he died of cancer. I'm sure his wife's new husband appreciated his diligence.
  5. Money is expensive. I mean, it's difficult to get your hands on sometimes—and you never know when someone's going to pull the floorboards out from under you—so don't be stupid with it. Avoid debt on depreciating assets, and never incur debt in order to assuage your vanity (see rule number one). Debt has become normative, but don't blithely accept it as a rite of passage into adulthood—debt represents imbalance and, in some sense, often a resignation of control. Student loan debt isn't always avoidable, but it isn't a given—my wife and I completed a combined ten years of college with zero debt between us. If you can't avoid it, though, make sure that your degree is an investment rather than a liability—I mourn a bit for all of the people going tens of thousands of dollars in debt in pursuit of vague liberal arts degrees with no idea of what they want out of life. If you're just dropping tuition dollars for lack of a better idea at the moment, just withdraw and go wander around Europe for a few weeks—I guarantee you'll spend less and learn more in the process.
  6. Learn the ancient art of rhetoric. The elements of rhetoric, in all of their forms, are what make the world go around—because they are what prompt the decisions people make. If you develop an understanding of how they work, while everyone else is frightened by flames and booming voices, you will be able to see behind veils of communication and see what levers little men are pulling. Not only will you develop immunity from all manner of commercials, marketing, hucksters and salesmen, to the beautiful speeches of liars and thieves, you'll also find yourself able to craft your speech in ways that influence people. When you know how to speak in order to change someone's mind, to instill confidence in someone, to quiet the fears of a child, then you will know this power firsthand. However, bear in mind as you use it that your opponent in any debate is not the other person, but ignorance.
  7. You are responsible to everyone, but you're responsible for yourself. I believe we're responsible to everyone for something, even if it's something as basic as an affirmation of their humanity. However, it should most often go far beyond that and manifest itself in service to others, to being a voice for the voiceless. If you're reading this, there are those around you who toil under burdens larger than yours, who stand in need of touch and respect and chances. Conversely, though, you're responsible for yourself. Nobody else is going to find success for you, and nobody else is going to instill happiness into you from the outside. That's on you.
  8. Learn to see reality in terms of systems. When you understand the world around you as a massive web of interconnected, largely interdependent systems, things get much less mystifying—and the less we either ascribe to magic or allow to exist behind a fog, the less susceptible we'll be to all manner of being taken advantage of. However:
  9. Account for the threat of black swan events. Sometimes chaos consumes the most meticulous of plans, and if you live life with no margins in a financial, emotional, or any other sense, you will be subject to its whims. Take risks, but backstop them with something—I strongly suspect these people who say having a Plan B is a sign of weak commitment aren't living hand to mouth. Do what you need to in order to keep your footing.
  10. You both need and don't need other people. You need others in a sense that you need to be part of a community—there's a reason we reflexively pity hermits. Regardless of your theory of anthropogenesis, it's hard to deny that we are built for community, and that 'we' is always more than 'me.' However, you don't need another person in order for your life to have meaning—this idea that Disney has shoved through our eyeballs, that there's someone out there for all of us if we'll just believe hard enough and never stop searching, is hokum… because of arithmetic, if nothing else. Establish your own life—then, if there's a particular person that you can't help but integrate, believe me, you'll know.
  11. Always give more than is required of you.

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Reviews of: Calvin and Hobbes

Answer by Deepak Mehta:

  1. For being an essential part of my childhood growing up and continuing to be an essential part till date.
  2. For being the perfect escape from the real world.
  3. For teaching us various life lessons.

    1. On creativity
    And the fact that it cannot be turned on at will (I guess most artists, writers and other creative people will agree

    2. On cheating the system
    You can always find loopholes and use them to your advantage

    3. On how to deal with monsters (liars)

    4. On destiny and the fact that our actions are inconsequential

    5. On first love, the incessant denials and the constant teasing by friends

    6. On friendship and the comforts it brings

    7. On the powerlessness of humans

    8. On complicating things

    9. On first encounter with death

    10. On the wonders of life and and the infinite opportunities it holds

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What is the idea behind the water linking project (a hot topic during the NDA regime)? What are its economic and ecologic implications? A…

Answer by Barath Mahadevan:

Although there have been a large number of research and impact assessment studies already done in this regard, I will try to give an overview of the project here, covering what the problem is, what the project is about, what are its ecological and economic implications, similar projects in other countries and some long term solutions to the problem.

Short answer to the question: The project might have positive implications in terms of short-term economic development and prosperity but the negative implications on the ecological and social front will be more permanent and irreversible and in the long run, it will far outweigh any temporary economic gains perceived.


Detailed Answer:

I. About the project:

The Indian Rivers Inter-link is a proposed large-scale engineering project that aims to join the majority of India's rivers by canals so as to reduce persistent water shortages in parts of India. The inter-link would consist of two parts, a northern Himalayan River Development component and a southern Peninsular River Development component.

Here’s a map showing the water scarcity problem in India:

White regions indicates little to zero scarcity and darker regions indicate greater scarcity.

Here is a map showing what the project aims to do (Red lines indicate the links envisaged):

II. Ecological Implications

 1. Impact on Flooding:

Some quick facts first:

  • Flooding of rivers is a natural process. Slow-flowing flood-water on a floodplain performs a very important function: it deposits sediments and renews the fertility of croplands. In essence, the rivers are doing what they are supposed to be doing – flood their floodplains and deposit layers of sediments, but humans got in their way. In other words, flood is just an integral part of natural hydrologic process.

  • Flooding of land is lot more desirable than not having any floods. We need to get accustomed to this natural phenomenon, and plan our livelihood accordingly. We cannot control flooding; we need to adjust our life style to reduce the damage caused by flooding.

Now, the question is what impact will the project have on the growth and survival of floodplains?

1. Effect of Sea water intrusion:

Such a project will devastate the natural balance of water flow and sedimentation process, which are fundamental to the formation and growth of floodplains. If the rates of sedimentation decline on the delta plain then the rising sea-level might get an upper hand, and may inundate most of the coastal areas, destroying ecosystems including mangrove forests through salinity intrusion. If the amount of sediment influx in the coastal areas is further reduced by diversion of the rivers, then in just over a hundred years a relative sea-level rise of about 1 meter in the Bay of Bengal will severely curtail the delta growth, and actually will result in submergence of about 17% of Bangladesh, displacing over 20 million people.

Below is a graph of salinity intrusion in groundwater in Junagadh district, Gujarat:


This is a graph of salinity intrusion in groundwater in Junagadh district. As you can see, it has been steadily rising in each place. And this is the case with just intra-basin linkages within the immediate neighborhood. So one can imagine the situation after the implementation of such a project. Similar conclusions can be made for peninsular and eastern India as well.
2. Effect of consequent sea water intrusion on agricultural productivity:

The graph below shows the amount of salinity in the Indo-Gangetic Plains

(Source: http://www.geocarto.com.hk/cgi-b…)

How does this salinity affect agricultural productivity? Here's a table of saline tolerance of various crops:

(Source: http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/216…)
As can be seen, rice, corn, potato, beans etc are pretty sensitive to salinity and we might soon be unable to grow them!
It is safe to conclude that compared with the monumental functions that the flood waters perform in the long run and its crucial importance in agriculture, damages caused by flooding is relatively insignificant and the only sane way out is to let the river take its natural course.
3. Impact on Fisheries and related industries:

Positive Impacts:

1. Canals and reservoirs: The proposed interlinking of rivers would comprise more than 36 major dams and 30 canal links. In addition, there will be many more irrigation canals and barrages. These major reservoirs, canals and other water harvesting structures will add to the potential fishery resources of the country.

2. Rejuvenation of lakes and rivers: The rivers and lakes in the water recipient zone will bring benefit with increased water perennially, congenial habitat and consequently, higher fish production.

Negative Impacts:

1. Loss of habitat: River interlinking might affect fish feeding and breeding habitats in the rivers and lakes in the water donor zones due to lowering of water volume and enhanced siltation load. The flood plains and wetlands connected with donor rivers would also be affected. River run-offs provide energy for a number of vital processes in downstream estuaries, delta and coastal areas. Reduced river discharge could result in loss of coastal habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs, sea grasses, estuarine and delta regions.

2. Water quality changes due to reduction in self-purifying property of rivers: Significant changes in water quality of rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters could occur due to changes in sediment load, nutrients and contaminant levels. The levels of toxicants and contaminants in donor rivers may go up owing to reduction in self-purifying function of the rivers.

3. Changes in land-ocean interactions: River is a critical component of the delta-estuary-coastal sea ecosystem. Un-impounded rivers provide energy for a number of vital processes in downstream estuaries, delta and coastal areas, upon which healthy fisheries are dependent. The linkage of rivers could alter the timing and quantity of river discharge into the sea, which may alter and affect even coastal fisheries and their numbers.
Despite the perceived positive impacts, I will posit that the negative impacts are  more permanent and irreversible and far outweigh any short term economic gain associated with fish production.
Although I have discussed only 3 areas of ecological impact, it is crucial to understand the inter-dependence and relationships between various factors. So, apart from the above mentioned points, it is quite evident that the project will also significantly affect wildlife reserves, human settlements and global climate.
III Economic/Budgetary Implications:

I will probably wait for a good perspective on this, but here are some quick facts:

India’s GDP: Rs 100 trillion

Average annual Budget of the Indian Govt: Rs 3300 billion

Annual Irrigation budget of states: Rs 10 billion

Proposed cost of the project: Rs. 5,600 billion

The proposed cost of the project is 5.6% of India’s GDP and more than 150% of the annual budget! I fail to see how this is feasible without external help from institutions like World Bank etc. Again, such a step would only greatly increase the country’s already fast growing debt which itself is close to 70% of the GDP.

IV Basic Assumptions of the project:

1. There is huge surplus of water in river basins.
False. Most river basins today are overextended in usage and in most regions tension is growing between old rural users of surface water and new industrial and urban users. The Mahanadi basin, which would be linked to the Godavari is a good example of this error.(In deep water). 

2. Floodwaters can be effectively channelized.
False. The fact is when one river is in spate so is next river and transferring water would require huge storage facilities. Construction of large reservoirs has massive environmental impacts not considered in the scheme. Many irrigation projects are stalled on this count.

3. Donor states are well irrigated.
False. Here is a graph showing the lack of sufficient irrigation even in donor states:

V Similar Projects in other Countries:

Several countries have explored this idea but in general, they have remained consistently unsuccessful.

1. Central Asia – Aral Sea in former USSR
Result: Largest human-induced environmental degradation caused by upstream
(Aral Sea (lake, Central Asia) — Britannica Online Encyclopedia)

2. Colorado & Klamath Rivers Diversion in USA
Result: Colorado delta has declined in size by 95%
(Klamath Project)

3. Snowy River Diversion in Australia
Result: Largescale land degradation.
(Corpratising the Snowy Mountains Scheme: hijacking environmental concerns for commercial gain)

VI Possible long-term solutions to the water problem:

A few that I can think of are:

1. Stop growing water-intensive cash crops that deplete the water table: 

Look at the water requirements for various crops:

From the above table it can be seen that sugarcane uses five times the amount of water as wheat.

Below is the area-wise distribution of the crops grown in India:

(Source: http://planningcommission.nic.in…)

From the above it can be seen that the percentage of area of water intensive crops (sugarcane, tomato, onions etc), adds up to close to 20% with sugarcane area alone being more than 5%!

But instead, have a look at the percentage of sugarcane area over the last few decades (apologies for the shabby Excel work):


The  percentage area of sugarcane has actually increased over the last six decades. Clearly this needs to stop and less water-intensive crops must be grown.
2. Minimize use of chemical fertilizers:
Overuse of chemical fertilizers can reverse the fertility of the soil and reduce its productivity. It can also decrease the water table below the soil and absorption of such water by crops can lead to the food being practically inedible due to high acidic content. However, no such effect will take place with manure and other natural fertilizers.
3. Building intra basin linkages for irrigation as opposed to inter basin linkages: While intra-basin too is not without problems, it is certainly a better alternative than inter-basin linkages as it both minimizes transportation costs as well as is not multi-riparian which tend to involve disputes.

4. Rain water harvesting

So, as a general principle, irrespective of which government/politician is in power, one should try and solve such problems using a bottom-up approach, i.e by starting at the village/regional level, optimizing using locally available resources and gradually moving up, rather than a multi-riparian, top-down approach.


[1]. http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/216…
[2]. http://nwda.gov.in/writereaddata…
[3] https://ideals.illinois.edu/bits…
[4] http://naasindia.org/Policy%20Pa…
[5] http://wreforum.org/khaleq/blog/…
[6] http://www.zef.de/module/registe…
[7] http://rivers.snre.umich.edu/gan…
[8] Modelling of Seawater Intrusion
[11] http://www.geocarto.com.hk/cgi-b…
[12] http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/216…

View Answer on Quora

How can a person learn to say “no”?

Answer by Diane Meriwether:

Saying "no" unskillfully nearly cost me my life.  I was trained to be firm and calm; to repeat "no" as many times as necessary until the boundary was made clear.  "No," they said, "is a complete sentence." 

One of the things we teach, in my job with court-mandated clients, is discipline, and one of the ways we do this is by enforcing punctuality.  On a summer afternoon, 15 minutes into a process group, a young stranger threw open the door and walked in. 

He was short, maybe 5' 1, and pale.  His pants hung low on his hips and, looking back, he was too confident for someone wearing a plaid golf cap too big for his head. 

I asked him to step outside with me – as was company policy – to explain how to attend a make-up activity and send him on his way.  I was half standing when he said, "No. I'm staying."  He was physically in front of the closed door.

"You can come back next week, but I can't allow you to attend today."
"You will let me attend today."
"No, I can not."

After several long minutes of back and forth I finally said.  "I can't allow you to attend, but I am not going to physically force you out the door.  You will be getting no credit for today. You need to leave."  I sat back down with the group.  "What's a situation in your life when someone wouldn't take 'no' for an answer?" I asked. 

After five more minutes of being ignored he left, and the group continued.  An hour later the group was over and I was standing outside my office talking to a client.  One of the group members came running down the hall, eyes wide.

"Diane! Don't go outside! He's waiting for you in the parking lot with a gun!"

Long story short, he didn't shoot me or anyone else.  By the time the authorities arrived he was gone.  When we realized he wasn't in my paperwork and the clients who reported him melted away at the mention of the police I started shaking so much I had to sit down.   The officer taking the report said, "People like this make a couple mortal enemies every day.  Lay low for a bit and he'll quickly forget you in his rage at the checker in the grocery store."  I found this equally distressing and comforting.

I went to visit my god-parents in the mountains.  I refused the gun they offered when it was time to go home.  I got and still keep big dogs at my house.  For the next several months I scanned the faces of the hundreds of clients I passed in the halls at work.  He showed up occasionally in my dreams, or his hat did at least, because in my memory I still can't see his face.

One of my friends makes me laugh when he says the state motto of Arizona is "An armed society is a polite society."   So, all this to say, here's how I've learned to say no:

"I wishbut…"

  • "I wish I could let you into group late, but the state law says we can't."
  • "I wish I could include your ideas in my next workshop, but the curriculum is already worked out."
  • "I wish that I could lend you $100, but I am short this month."

When things are intense I add "and" to the mix.

  • "I wish I could have you stay on my couch, but my home is my refuge and I need my quiet time."
  • "I wish I could just let you in this one time, but the law is really clear and I'd lose my job."

If it gets emotional or extreme, I load on validation and send them somewhere for more help.

  • I know, it's awful. You came a long way and the bus was late, and if I could I would SO break the rules for you.  Maybe you can head up to the front office and see about setting up a make up group right after group next week."

"No," some people say, "is a complete sentence."  It is; it's just not always the best sentence for the job.

Image: Plaid Golf Cap Hat

View Answer on Quora

Who are some of the best Indian politicians of current era (1990 and after) and why?

Answer by Teja Menneni:

Jayaprakash Narayan (Lok Satta) – founder and the President of Loksatta Party, and currently an MLA from Kukatpally constituency in Andhra Pradesh

He was a former IAS officer (All India topper) who is doctor by profession joined in public administration and served for 16 years. After realizing that faulty Indian govt process is the biggest hurdle for India's path to success he resigned from IAS. (He refused to use the facilities provided by Govt for IAS officers)

His achievements

1. IMO in the last 30 years he is the only person in India who won in elections without distributing money and liquor which is impossible in AP (IMO in any large state of India)

2. He played a very key role in bringing electrical reforms and Right to Information Act. He is working actively on bringing Lokpal bill (Member of Team Anna).

3. His election expenditure is 4,50,000  (both officially and unofficially in 2009 elections. There are some constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, candidates spent around 8 crores to win in bye elections – to be in power for 1 1/2 year)

4. I think he should be given a Guinness world record for highest number of times to visit his constituency in a year. (There are many Ministers in AP who spent more days in Jail than his constituency)

5. He also launched a website about his constituency with details on projects, funds procured, funds disseminated etc.

Kukatpally Now (www.kukatpallynow.com)

Very well updated about projects, completed and currently undertaken…Probably the only politician in the country to have such a comprehensive connect on the web space (He is the only person in AP assembly who is interested to discuss in assembly meetings about public problems)

6.He follows innovative approaches to reach common people.  (For Ex before 2009 elections to reach common people he traveled in train and directly talked to them unlike other politicians who spent 70 to 80 lakhs in elections time to bring masses to their campaign).

7. He is a great orator and could speak at lengths on any topic. He never talks about any topic without having details and he never concludes without giving any solution – very rare quality of an indian politician. Many a politician were dumbfounded by his knowledge and ideas in public forum discussions. (Listen to his speeches in TEDx Deccan, Mumbai University, IIIT Hyderabad or Innovators@Google – you will understand)

@TEDx Deccan

@Mumbai University

@Tehelka TV iThink Conference


@IIIT Hyderabad


8. Loksatta party have an ideology behind them and they don't do anything for getting attention, they will follow systemic approach and they believe in Systemic change. (Like many parties grab attention before elections by exposing scams etc.).  For ex their ideology towards Telangana issue. He believes in long term plans rather than giving free schemes to get the votes.

9. One of the few Parties in India which aims at National integration. Loksatta is fighting to create Equal opportunities to every citizen. (Unlike other parties which divide people by religion,caste or region )

9. Highly respected person in Indian politics (He acted as advisory for Many PM's and CM's like Manmohan Singh and Chandra Babu Naidu). He also taken key initiate to Develop Info city HI-tech City (HITEC City) in Hyderabad, also  Member of National Advisory Control.

Many times he was attacked by opponents, Once he was talking to media about the degrading democratic values in the state assembly, one person attacked him and slapped him in front of Media.


Many times opponents attacked his car when he is going with his family – that is the reward he is getting for his honesty. He sacrificed 35 years of his life for society (16 years as IAS officer and then frighted through Loksatta movement for 12 years then from 2006 through his party).

The worst part here is Loksatta ran in 2009 assembly elections for the first time and Won in only Kukatpally constituency. (secured 1.9% of the vote across the state). The problem is many rural people don't have awareness about his work and urban people who knows about his work don't participate in elections. (System won't changes when you support him through Facebook likes or Quota up votes. Instead participate in the next elections and before voting for a person do some analysis about candidates work and vote for right person without caste, religion or region bias – remember we are living in democratic nation, to make it progress participation is required from both sides i mean from politicians and citizens)

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

– Martyn Luther King

and his famous saying

"The answer to Bad politics is Good politics, Not NO Politics"

I am big fan of him and strongly believe that if get at least 10 seats in 2014 elections definitely he will change state future. So please create awareness about him and his party.


I am not a member of Loksatta Party

I have referred various resources in my answer and Sorry for my poor English,   Any suggestions and edits are welcome.

Edit: After seeing others answers here, I wanted to make a point – best politician includes many parameters, I agree that honesty one good measure but not only honesty or progress make him best.  He must capture the essence of truth, display sincerity, and practices what he preaches. He should be a visionary, should know the needs of people, should be a good decision maker and accepts responsibility for his actions and his words and most importantly he should be unbiased.

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