Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dabawallahas...

In the evening in a small inauguration ceremony we had a small lecture on dabbawallahs..
Everyone I guess knows about the dabbawallahs or has at least heard about this system. But many few of us know the finer details.
Dabbawallah system started way back in 1890 during the British time. It so happened, that one of the Parsi banker did not want to eat outside food for his lunch because of two reasons, one that his bank balance was rapidly going down and next his doctor fees was rapidly going up. So he hired a personal servant who would go to his home in afternoon and bring his lunch cooked by his wife.
Now Avaji bacchi (I have to verify this name as I could not hear it properly and net connection is too slow to verify) saw this and thought that it was a good market need and that there should be loads of people like the Parsi Banker. So he started the Dabba service and one of the most initial dabbawallas were farmers who practically did not have any work for half the year.
Today that humble beginning has grown tremendously and has survived for about 118 years and one the most primary reasons for it surviving is according to Manish is that all the Dabbawallas are stake holders. Manish high lights some of the key achievements of this system.

1. There are about 450 dabbawallahs in Mumbai
2. Their yearly revenue is about 10Million.
3. And most importantly in all 118 years this institution has not gone for a strike even once :) :).

Manish Tripathi then says that, "Over the years working with this system I have learnt one important lesson, I am going to share the secret of this success with you. And my secret about this is that it is very difficult to manage the educated people"

He explaines, "If I have Karsanbhai dabbawalla and an IIM graduate with me and I ask them to deliver one dabba from Andheri to Dadar. By the time I tell Dadar Karsanbhai would already be running to deliver the box while IIM graduate would be asking hundreds of question as to the best method of doing it and reason for doing it and so on"He then says that 85% of dabbawallas are thumps up i.e they cannot read and write. Then he puts this all important lesson, "I am not saying that you should hire uneducated people. All I am saying is that you should hire suitably educated people. If you need graduate and you hire post graduate then all he/she would do is to go to naukri.com and look for a better job”

Manish finished his talk by giving the important lesson that most important thing in entrepreneurship is to solve the problems. And if you are committed to solving the problem money and everything will automatically follow.
Manish did not use any great poems or great lines to give his talk and it was not pre-prepared talk. It was straight from the heart and what he had learnt over the years, very simple and straightforward, I guess very much reflecting the culture of Dabbawallahs.

Lijjat Papad : Working from home

I guess everyone would remember the ad of Lijjat Papads that used to come on Door Darshan, I remember that it had this tagline of “Khai Jao, Khilae Jao Lijjat Papad”.
Over years Lijjat papad has remained the symbol of women strength. Started way back in 1959 by seven women with the capital of 80 rupees, today it has grown to about 40 branches engaging about 42 thousand ladies.
The organization structure is very simple. Each department is independent, and manages its own profit and loss. The quality is maintained by a central trust. All the raw materials are procured by the central trust and Aata is mixed in each center. Every morning women come and collect their “Aata mixture” and go home, make and dry papads and return them next day morning to get new “Aata mixture”. They get paid fixed amount per kg, which is about 20 rupees a kg of work. There is not restriction to joining, any women can go and start making papads straightaway after signing and promising to abide by the pledge which states that “work is worship and they would not cheat”. All the decisions are taken by the women internally. There are no men involved in this organization.
And the best thing about this organization is that women get to work from home, that ways they can take care of their family and kids and also contribute economically to the family. This is the best part about this organization. Four ladies of Lijjat Papad had come, and one of them being Jyoti Naik. They did not use any MBA words, neither did talk like revenue targets or how they want to grow. They were very simple. From them it just seemed that one simple mantra of Lijjat Papad is “Papad”, that is what they focus on, nothing more. These women don’t care about the competition, about market ups and downs, they just believe that if they make good tasty papads, at whatever small scale that they can, they would be able to sell them.
Of course you may argue that 42 branches in about 40 years is not such a speedy progress, but then for what they stand for and the system that they have created is really amazing. The idea being to empower women, and now they do lot of other side activities, like teaching women, training them to make other stuff such as pickles etc. I guess it is a great example of how women can come together and create something as big as this.

Tata Jagriti Yatra

For the next 18 days, I am going on the journey of India. I am part of this travel called Tata Jagriti Yatra and I would be traveling through 18 different places in next 18 days to go and visit various social entrepreneurs who have made it big in social sector and initiating a change. We would visit places like Aravind eye hospital, Barefoot college, Anand and many more. We start from Mumbai, then to trivendrum, kanyakumari, Chennai, pondicheery, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Bubneshwar, Jamshedpur, Lucknow, Delhi, Ajmer, Anand and then back to Mumbai.

I am really looking forward to this trip and I always wanted to visit places like Aravind eye hospital and bare foot college. Also we are going to be about 300 people in a train, a special train, staying on train for next 18 days, so everything looks exciting.

The format of trip is mostly to travel at night and visit one of the places during the day time. The purpose of visit is to understand their business model and figure out how each of these have made it big in their own fields. Idea is to learn, and I guess there is no better way to learn than traveling.

The complete list of places that we visit is available here www.jagritiyatra.com,

So I guess my blog coming days is going to be filled with details about this trip, assuming I get a change to blog on train. Most of the blogs will not have pictures as it is simply not possible to upload pictures when you are traveling, so guess would do that when I get to Bangalore

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting the "wrong books"

Yesterday I had been to crossword to redeem one gift voucher that I had got long time back. I bought couple of books and then then as always I wrote my name on the book along with the date. 

For some reason yesterday, this simple activity made me travel 15 years back, when I was in school, and it used to be such a great thrill every year at the start of the school term to sit and write the names on new books that we used to get and what a thrill it used to be. That was the time to discard the old torn books (I have never been that organized kind of guy and my books by the end of the year were most often or not in atleast two parts), and fashion the new ones. 

I remember one such incident, I think I was in class five or something. And as every year we used to get the list of the books to buy, along with our report card for the next year. This time around, I had decided take money from parents and go and buy the books for myself, instead of waiting for parents to take off the time of their busy schedule to get them. Parents generally never hurried to get the books early, mostly they went just about a day before the school was supposed to be reopened. 

So this time around, I struggled hard and got money from parents and got the books for myself very much earlier then the school was supposed to start. And I spent rest of the vacation writing my name on the books slowly, after painfully selecting the pen that I wanted to use, and then trying to look for interesting pictured newspapers which I could use to cover the books, and so on. Finally the day came when my school started, and  to my surprise I found that the some of the books that I had got were incorrect. To my horror I had got the books which were not supposed to be of my syllabus, of some different grade. In the evening when I told this to my parents, they were upset, and we immediately went to the bookshop, but since I had put my name on the books with all kinds of pens, shopkeeper would not exchange it for the new books. My father had to buy another set of books for me, and he requested the shopkeeper to keep the "wrong books" and try to sell them even at half price to get some money back.

I dont remember my parents being very angry with me or something neither do I remember getting any punishment, just the instruction that from here on we were supposed to write names on  our books with pencil and not with pens. I dont even remember if my father got any money for those "wrong books", but I am sure that he made have made endless trips to the shop to check if the books were sold.  

I even remember that every year we used to get this number of notebooks that we need for the year.  Starting for english classwork, to english homework, to english composition to english grammar, different notebooks for different things. We used to need about 20 such notebooks, and then father used to sit and analyze and ask me  to use the same notebook for composition and grammar and do the partition in middle and so on. In our school they used to allow partition in the middle of notebook,  if the subject belonged to same teacher. So parents used to patiently sit and look at teachers and subjects and try to optimize the number of notebooks and reduce them to 15 or something, which I was never keen on, but convicing me with various kinds of reasons. 

When I think about it right now, I understand how much struggle it was for parents to save money for the start of year, for our books, notebooks, uniforms etc. Probably that was the most difficult times. And sometimes as kids, we were so adamant to make life difficult for them.  But they just went through all that, never making us realize the struggle they had to go through day in and day out. 

I owe so much to my parents for what and where I am today. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Waynad Trip

Last weekend we went for a trip to Waynad as a part of my company offsite.  This was my first time to Kerala, and really Kerala has the flavour of its own.

We did not do much of the "tourist activity", one of our office collegues had found his nice home stay, and we ended up spending lot of time there. This guy who owned this home stay, had like this huge plantation to himself, which had a small pond of its own and lots and lots of coffee plantation. here are some of the pictures of that trip.

One of the best thing that I remember about this trip was doing pranayam, I just picked up the spot amid the plantation, and air was so fresh, and it was morning and lot of mist.  I know it sounds like a very boring thing to do, but I really liked the feeling of just closing down the eyes and breathing deeply, it just felt very blissful. 

Here are the pics.

On the way to home stay.... plantations



The below pictures are of the place we stayed.  










Below is the morning photograph of rose, with lot of mist it was lovely. 

Coffee beans... 





Friday, December 12, 2008

Fine balance....


I just finished reading this book from "Rohinton Mistry" called Fine Balance.

Very few books have touched me so much as this book. This book is a story about four individuals, bought together by fate, trying to wriggle out of the endless circle of poverty, uncertainty of life, during the time of Emergency (1975)

After RK Narayan, and out of my limited reading habit, this is the best of fiction that I have read till now.

More than that I learnt so many things about Indian history and about the time of emergency that I never read in history books.

Highly recommended read.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The concept of Getting "Out"

Most of the games that we played as kid, had this concept of getting "out". Remember the time when I used to dread during hide and seek, and never wanted to get out. Getting "out" meant you are not good  enough, it meant kind of punishment. Also in many cases "out" meant staying outside for rest of the game while others played. I used to hate the games period in my school because most guys would play cricket, and me not being that good always ended up sitting half the time on the bench.  And I hardly know of any of my friends/siblings who did not hate getting out. Infact just to prove that we were "notout" fights used to spring between the best of buddies. 

But you have ever wondered why this concept is there. Is it to make us competitive? Is it to prepare everyone for the race that children would face as they grow up?

This was the question that was asked in one of the Games workshop organized by Dream a Dream. And I really found it interesting, because all the games we learnt in the workshop did not have the concept of getting "out". They were just fun games. 

Let me describe one game, The name of game is "Simon Says"

In this game everyone stands.  There is one conductor of the game. So if the conductor says, "Simon says dance", then everyone has to dance, if conductor says "Simon says run" everyone has to run. But if the conductor just says "run" you dont have to run, because simon did not say to run. In short you have to follow anything what 'Simon says' and nothing else.
If you are caught doing the wrong thing, you then you  have to come out in the center and conduct the game. 

Not you may aruge that this game also have a concept of getting "out". But I just found that there was suble different. In this game "out" did not mean punishment, it only meant that it was more fun. Because even I wanted to be a conductor and make people do weird things. Say like, "Simon says, pick your nose".. :).  

So when I played the game I could see that most participants did not want to get "out" because they did not want to be seen as "dumb", but at the same time, most of them did not mind getting "out", because they were having loads of fun conducting the game. 


The idea of workshop was to play games with children and yet not to make some children feel left out. All the games were woven around this idea. And I really liked the workshop not only because I had fun, but also because I really found this entire idea very thought provoking.

Dream a Dream has a document which describes all such kind of games that you can play with children, you can read it here

 

Friday, December 05, 2008

Email Forwards and 49-O

It has become a fashion since the Mumbai attacks to keep sending forwards, especially provocative forwards. And I don’t know what the rationale behind it is; probably it is perceived that if you are on internet and you don’t take part in any of these useless forwards then you don’t care enough.

I don’t have anything against forward, but I am against forwards which are not authentic and provocative, without any rationale whatsoever.

One of the most irritating forwards that I have received is regarding article 49-O, 

The email goes like this, and funnily I have these emails about two times every day and it goes like this.
"
Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the
1969 act, in section
"49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his
identity, get his finger
marked and convey the presiding election officer that he doesn't want
to vote anyone!


Yes such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly
notorious leaders have
never disclosed it. This is called "49-O".

Why should you go and say "I VOTE NOBODY"... because, in a ward, if a
candidate wins,
say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has received "49-O" votes
more than 123, then
that polling will be cancelled and will have to be re-polled. Not only
that, but the
candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest
the re-polling,
since people had already expressed their decision on them. This would
bring fear into
parties and hence look for genuine candidates for their parties for
election. This would
change the way, of our whole political system... it is seemingly
surprising why the
election commission has not revealed such a feature to the public....


this is a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India... show
your power,
expressing your desire not to vote for anybody, is even more powerful
than voting... so
don't miss your chance. So either vote, or vote not to vote (vote
49-O)."

What irritates me is that people dont even care to verify the contents before forwarding.

Did quite a bit of research to find that there is something called 49-o, which says that you may choose not to vote and inform your decision to electoral office. But that’s about it. Nothing like what is there in forwards.  I found a very useful thread on this here,


Also a nice write up came up in DNA as well


Another very useful and informative blog.


So I was wondering what is the use of the 49-O clause? And from what I understand it is in a way only to pressurize political parties to field better candidates. 

So request to all to not to forward this email or for the matter of fact any email, without verifying the contents. Because you might end up spreading wrong information. 

Cheers.





Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Be Born Everyday

Read this lines on Pritesh's blog,  and I absolutely loved them, hence reposting here.  (He saw it on TV,  did not know such useful stuff comes on TV :) )

“Be born everyday

Aaj rockstar kal pilot
And who knows what the day after
Kabhi kisi anjan station par utar ke dekho
Kabhi kisi gumnam shahar ka ticket katao
Dusri ki galtiyo se kya seekhna, make your own mistakes yaar
Never resemble your passport photo for more than three months
Har subah shock your reflection
Explore
Bachpan ke kya kuch nahi banana chahte the
Why not today?
Be born everyday”

So what will you be today?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Envelop Story

Well, in one of the marketing conference, and one of the speakers told this interesting story which i really liked, Ofcourse it is related to marketing, but probably you can apply this to real life.

"
There was a certain airline company say HiFly airlines, which used to consume about 1 million of envelops every year. They used envelops to communicate to customers their tickets, offers, new flight informations, frequent flyer programs and so on etc. At start of each year they used to float a tender, asking for proposals (pricing) from envelop companies for that years quantities,  and then as it happens the contract goes to lowest bidder.

So this was just a pure price game, there was not much of options for the envelop companies other than to put the best possible deal they could afford and hope for the best.

But one envelop company tried to do it differently. They approached the HiFly airlines and said that they would like to do research on the envelop usage in their company. They wanted to find out, for what purposes the envelop were used, how many people respond back, sizes of envelops used  and so on. Envelop company told HiFly that it was just some extra work that they were willing to do purely from research point of view. The airline people did not find any problem in this, and they allowed the research to be done.

In course of research the Envelop company found the following,
1. Most of the envelops that went out were for  frequent flyer program, and offers for free flights. 
2. About 80% of the people never opened those envelops.

Considering this observations the Envelop company suggest to airlines that for frequent flyer they should be designed differently. They should  be windowed envelops, and top of envelop should be printed like this,


You are 
[3] (Through the window)
Flights away from getting a free flight (something as in below picture)




Apart from this the envelop company gave quite a few other suggestions as to how to make envelops more attractive, and more tempting for people to see it.


Airline company really liked these suggestions and on trial run, they really found out that it substantially increased their responses to their otherwise mostly unread envelops.

After this Airline company got rid of the tender process. They joined hands with the this particular envelop company, to provide them with envelops and to also do frequent analysis on their usage and suggest changes.


"

I really liked this story, because most times, we dont take initiatives or do more work, not because we dont want it, but most times  because uncertainity clouds us. But sometimes I guess we have to do stuff, with genuine interest, and without bothering about rewards,
rewards come, maybe little later but they do. 



Monday, November 10, 2008

Do you want a Barren Bangalore?

Sunday, I went for this rally organized by Hasiru Usiru, protesting against the Bangalore authorities cutting trees and trees and more trees in bangalore for road widening and for Bangalore railway metro. It was really great to see so many people who came out on Sunday morning for the protest.

Ofcourse this is a debatable topic and many do feel that there is no other solution to Bangalore traffic, other than widening the roads and reducing the  green cover. Lot of people even have been skeptical if the protest is worth it. And if enough research has been done on the alternate solutions.

But being in Hasiru Usiru mailing list for quite some time, and knowing some of the people who are behind it, I have no doubt about their competency. Hasiru Usiru has done numerous studies and have made varioius reports, both of the ineffectiveness of widening of roads in long run and also on alternative solutions. You can read lot of stuff about this on their website. I wonder though how things are in other cities, if they are facing the same issues.

One another thing great about this protest was that, they ensured that there was no litter. There were no banners which were thrown here and there and also ensured that the regular traffic does not get disturbed.  

Anyways, for now, I will just put down some pictures and really good posters that people came up with on that day.



This guy carried the kid all throughout the walk which was for more than one hour


This sign board is so apt, when you sit to think about it. 



Finally when everyone gathered at the Town Hall
It was great to see quite a number of children join in for the walk


Very cute...

One of hte most innovative banners that I saw.. :)
Another good one



And then finally this really cute kid who was there all throughout shouting and carrying the banner all along her neck, and in the end of protest decided to take little rest.  Really cute...





Related Posts/Links:
Save Bangalore : Road Widening is least intelligent solution



Saturday, November 08, 2008

Marketing lessons: Go and find the hook

The other day one of my collegues in office, (we are both in marketing), was talking to one of the customers who was hardcore north indian in English. Somehow it looked so artificial, so dry,  felt as if nothing was coming out of inside, it all seemed  painted from outside. My collegue himself is very fluent in Hindi and I kept telling him that the best way when talking to customers is to talk in the language that they understand best.  If you dont know the language, try to use atleast some phrases that you might have picked up from somewhere, or atleast learn some of the phrases in different languages. Or if that does not work possible, you could always talk about the festivals, that you might thing that person might be celebrating, it could be Pongal, Ed or deepawali. It would be tourist places near the customers destination, or could be food or anything. 

I remember sometime back, I had a conference call with some guys in New Zealand, it was the time when some interesting cricket match going on between India and Australia. And I was asking them about what they thought, and it sparked out with a small snippet of conversation, and this guy was remarking how it always pleased him if Tendulkar made century against Australia.  And it did make rest of the conversation little lighter. Atleast it always ensures that the customer will not shout at you. Somehow it lightens up the whole thing. 

Nothing works better than trying to find some hook, with which you can connect and relate to the customer. I really think it goes a long way in building relationships. Most importantly it makes the conversation more interesting.  

I dont know how it works for other relationships, but trust me it definately works for marketing.

So go and find the hook... :)





Thursday, October 30, 2008

Disturbing piece of news

Read this very heart wrenching story about the aftermath of Bihar floods. Do read it, atleast it will for a moment make us feel that we are so blessed to be living comfortably.

Also I read this funny piece of news in morning papers today. This Kannada director Krishne Gowde wanted to name his film as "12 December" and it seems that Karnataka Film chambers does not allow it, Apparently the movie titles cannot be in English and they have to be in Kannada, hence they suggested that his movie title should be "Dashambara 12". So the director has decided to junk this project, because he feels that any other title may not have the same impact. 
I can understand, bus boards, road signs, being in Kannada, for benefit for most of the poeple, I can understand requesting people to learn kannada, but isn't this too much?







 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Getting Lifted...

These days I have discovered this new and convenient way of getting around in bangalore, and that is taking lifts :). It works if you are ok to bear the embarrassment of making those hand signals and everyone rushing past you without giving a look. But then you have to realize that we think more about what other people are thinking about us, than other people, specially unknown people, who actually dont give a damn of what you do on streets.

Of course this method may not work for girls, but for guys I guess they can safely go about using this. More often or not these days I end up finding a lift. Lot of days I take multiple lifts too.

Today was one such day, I was all loaded witih laptop bag in one hand and guitar in another and asking lift at the signal. Actually guitar always helps because people always have this fascination kind of things for people who carry around guitars with them, and it makes taking lift that much easier. Out of all the guys who had stopped at the signal, I saw this guy who had this small choti that was  struggling to hang out from his helmet, and from my experience "choti" guys are always very sportive kinds and most likely of people to give lifts and so it happened, I asked him and he readily agreed. No sooner did the light go green, he started asking me about my guitar exploits, and the songs that I could play on guitar. I did nto have anything much to share, and then he told his story about how he had a music band kind of thing in college, and he could play drums, keyboard and guitar, the songs they used to play at that time, and little bit of hindi that he learnt because of playing those hindi songs. Now the job has practically killed all that, and he does not get any time at all. As it usually happened we exchanged bit of history of our lives, our hometowns, and so on. He also told me some of the easy songs that I should rather play and try playing.

When finally I had to get  down, and our roads had to part, he gave me his phone number and all, and asked to be in touch. But then as it happens, as I got down, hundreds of things started running in my head, to take auto for remaining distance or to walk or to take another lift and about all the implications that each of this option might have on the plans that I had set up for the day. I got completely lost in my world and this guy slipped out quietly , and now when I am sitting to write this post, I realize that his number has also been lost somewhere in my call list.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mahishasura


I have been to Mysore couple of times and also to Chamundi hills but I never really carefully looked at the statue of Mahishasura. It rang little bell inside my head.

Until till yesterday, when i was reading this book from RK Narayana, about Gods, Demons and legends of India, that I read the full story of Mahishasura, and was able to connect Durga Pooja, Mahishasura and everything.


Mahisha means a "Buffalo", and asura ofcourse means Rakshasha (Demon). Apparently it seems that Mahishasura father who was a great Asura, married a she-buffalo, hence their son was called Buffalo-asura. Metaphorically it is supposed to mean that Mahishasura was physically all powerful but maybe not that blessed on the mental front. 

As the legend goes, Mahishasura performed rigourous penance for years and Brahma, being pleased, appeared before him. Mahishasure asked the boon that neither any man or God should be able to conquer him, only a woman could conquer him. This way he thought he would remain undefeated since it was highly inconceivable that any woman would dare to challenge him for a battle. 

So as it happened, he waged battle with  Indra and swarga loka, and none of the gods were able to defeat him. He conquered the Swarga Loka  and Gods went in to hiding. In the hiding, all Gods combined all thier powers and created a devi called Durga, who was unmatched in beauty and power. Durga challenged Mahishasura and after 10 days of fierce battle killed him.

Sometimes it amazes me that there are so many stories, legends in Indian mythology, and the way they have survived through the ages.  When I had been to Uttrakhand, (if you have never gone, do go, it is heaven) there were so many temples, stones, shrines, lakes all along the way, and each of them had a story associated with it, each had a significance of its own, some stories that I had heard, some were completely unknown. I have to blog about it as well :).

Anyways, a happy Dashera :) 
 

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Of Navaratri and Dandia...

Growing up in my home town, the two festivals that I absolutely used to love is Navratri and Makar sakranthi. Because in these festivals there were no ceremonies to be performed, (well not to be disrespectful of anything, as a teenager I always used to find all the ceremonies very boring).

Navratri specially was very eventful because the festival went on for nine nights. And also during that time we were given permissions to go out at the night with friends. We used to dress up in our best, and gather at one central location. We used to cycle around the town, from one place to another, trying to check out which was the place which had the best music and the best people and then we also sparingly use the money that we used to get on samosas and tea. Seeing all the older guys who used to get their girls on the scooter (bikes were a rarity scooter was the most common), I so much wanted to grow up fast and get to earning something as soon as possible. Generally in those days,  garba used to go on till 4am in the morning, and then we used to cycle back home, and sleepily attend the school next day or bunk. Even teachers did not used to say anything during those nine days, and as such I hardly remember a instance when I had test during that time.   

What is very unique about Navaratri and garba kind of dance is that unlike other forms of dance, which are performed, by individuals or a small group of people, garba/dandia is like performed by thousands at the same time. And still there is not much of chaos, because the beats are fairly simple and as long as you clap at the right time, and move about in the circle you are fine. I remember that there used to two or three such big grounds where there used to be 10-20 such concentric circles, and if you were to lose your friends, somewhere, it was nearly impossible to find. So we used to keep a pre-defined place, that if we were to miss each other we would go back and wait at that place.  

The last time when I attended such a  grand Navratri festival was when i was in 12th. Also during that Navaratri I had a heart break. There used to be this girl in my class whom I had a huge crush on. And during that Navaratri, I spoted her with one guy. Well till earlier years of navrathri she used to come with her girl friends, and it was a thrill to go and talk to her for sometime or even get a chance to dance with her.  But this time around she had come with this guy, I did not know anything about the guy, except for the thing that he possessed a scooter.  

After that year, I went to college and after that have never got the chance to attend this festival in my hometown, so sometime I very much wish to do that again. But as I hear from friends, things have changed now, hometown is not like a small town any more, Most of open spaces have given places to malls and other buildings, instead of free entry now there are passes, there are more strict rules now and all the celebrations have to end by midnight, Cycles have disappeared, and most of the teenagers are so burdened with exams that they cant think of staying awake late at night for Navatri. 

Sometimes I keep wondering, if all the community festivals are disappearing, and giving way to more private and restricted celebration. But then day before yesterday I went to this quiet little gujarati assocation, where they had organized a small garba. There were about 200 odd people there, aunties, uncles, girls, guys, kids.  After a long time I danced and danced, talking with unknown people, exploring new dance steps and trying to recollect all the old dance variations that we used to try, hearing to all those old gujarati tunes,  till 3 am in the morning. Well ofcourse it was not as grand, but something that I would remember for a long time to come. 

If you have never been to any garba/dandia celebration, do try it out. It is unique as compared to any other dance form, and you dont need to know dance and all, it is fairly simple and once you are inside the circle you would move automatically.






 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cola Life

This month at Sattva we were doing a bit of research on how different companies were operating their CSR (Community Social Responsibility). Most companies do this same thing of either donating to some school, or doing something for health and rural NGOs. 

But there were few companies which figured out interesting ways to CSR. One of the interesting examples that I came across was Coca Cola. 

Well Coca Cola is little controversial, atleast in India I know there have been various issues with their factory in Kerala. Lots of cases and lots of different view points.

But there is this one initiatve called Cola Life which I found very impressive. This compaign was an idea about a guy called Simon Berry. He observed that in remotest part of Africa, where poeple sturggled to get medicines and other basic necessities of Life, Coca Cola was easily available.  So his idea was that why not Coca Cola use their distribution channel (which apparently is very amazing) to distribute medicine and essential necessity of life. May be dedicating one compartment in every ten crates as "life saving crate".

I find this idea as very powerful. Even when this time around, when I went to himalayas, in villages 3000 meters above sea level, which are not even connected properly by roads, I could see that Maggie noodles and Chips were readily available (I dont think cold drinks have much of market in Himalayas).  Probably since these companies have lot of margin on these product, they can continue to supply at remotest possible region. And if some of this companies could dedicate 1% of their distribution chaneel to transport life essential products it would be a great help to people living in these villages.

 





The Cola Life campaign is at very initial stage and you can get the updates on their website. But I really like this idea. I think it is really a powerful one. Simon Berry has been making efforts and asking Coca Cola to launch this properly all around the world. And I think it would be great idea of Coca Cola or other similar FMCG companies would follow this and make it part of their CSR.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Kili Kili time..


KiliKili means laughter in Kannada, but this KiliKili time is for one small little NGO called KiliKili

KiliKili works for  making parks accessible for children who are physically challenged.  I had heard about them from a long time, but then some time back I just went to one of their events at Coles Park in frazer town. With the help of BBMP, they have installed play equipment which is friendly to kids who are physically challenged.  Below are some of the pictures from that event. 

Also wrote one article about them in Citizen Matters, which you can read it here. Also my first article for citizen matters :D









Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Interview with Autowallah

Probably if you have been regular reader to blog, you would think that this is a repeat post, but it is not. Last time I had put, "Interview with Traffic Policemen" and "Autowallah love story". but now it is interview time of auto guy

"Since how long have you been driving auto?"
"Eight Years, but there is no money in this, today morning I started at six but by 12 could do busiess of only 50 rupees, then I went home, now since evening 5 I have done seventy rupees"

"So what were you doing earlier to this"
"I did a job, did not like it, I tried my own business but then failed, so now I am at auto"

"How much money do you make from this?"
"Not much sir, see for each day I have to pay 150 rupees to the owner of the auto, then I have to pay for gas, and then whatever remain I will keep it to myself. I am just managing to live sir"

"Do you have children?"
"Two sir, one girl and one boy, both  going to government school. Girl is very bright sir, but son is not studying"

"Has the airport shifting affected your business?"
"A lot sir. Earlier everyday atleast one savari I used to get for airport. And airport road was evergreen road, anytime you go you will atleast get someone. But now that is not the case. Shifting of airport has had a great impact on our business"

"Do you work at night also?"
"No sir, night working is lot of problem, lot of drunk people are getting in to auto. Then lot of quarrel happens. Only yesterday I picked up this guy, and after ten minutes he slept off. I tried to wake him up but he did not. So I took the auto to police station and dropped him there. There is no other option sir. I cant leave him on streets"

I was just thinking, after this talk, when aiport was getting shifted there was so much hue and cry over the traffic and amount of time it takes to travel. I wonder if someone actually thought about all this auto guys. In all probability for this guy shifting of airport would have meant shifting his kids from private school to government school. And if i look at it from this angle, then this  impact seems to far greater as compared to all the time it takes to travel to new airport. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Story time..

Last time I went to Blossoms, I picked up this stories from Premchand. (Premchand was one of the greatest writers in Hindi, at the start of this century. He was written lots of novels, and short stories and some of his movies have been made in to successful films) 

I read one of his stories and I really liked it. So I am putting the gist of that story here.


"
So as it happens, the story starts with marriage. This newly wedded girl comes from a staunch brahmin familiy, and is very religions. She does not eat anything before taking bath in the morning, and does not eat in places where non-vegetarian is consumed. The guy on the other hand, is also a brahmin, but he has learnt to accept things. He has lot of friends who are muslims and christians. He does not eat non-vegetarian, but he goes and dines at their places. The girl finds this extremely hard to accept. She thinks it is an attack to the purity of her existence. 

The guy, is not able to understand this wife. He thinks that this is because of blind following of values, which have resulted in unacceptance and superiority kind of feeling in his wife. One day, he sits and gives a big discourse to his wife, he says, "God resides in each one of us. Be it the maid, or my friends or animals and birds. It is the same God. Just like sun gives light to everyone, irrespective of everything, we should not discrimate between people based on caste, religion and anything. All are equal"

This speech has a big effect on the girl. She realizes that she is making the mistake. All of sudden she developes a huge respect for her husband, she starts thinking of him as God like figure.  She becomes very considerate to the maids, servants in their house. Once the maid, complains of severe headache. While earlier she would have just given some medicine and sent her off, now she massages her head for ten minutes. She feels bliss after doing this. Earlier there was different food cooked in house for the family and for servants. Family was served basmati rice and meals included sweets, while the servant were served normal rice with just some dal.  The girl thinks that this is inequality and God will get offended with this, and hence she ensures that all including family and servants get the same meal.

The guy, initially was happy to see the change in his wife, now does not like it. One day, there is big function in their house and the guy gets special sweets made. But on the morning of function, his wife spots, some poor people outside her house and she feeds them all the special sweets. The guy gets infuriated at this. He tries to explain her that God created inequality, because some people deserve more and some people deserve less, because of their activities in previous birth, and sometimes you should let this inequalities be. But the girl does not understand, she begins to think  that her husband is hypocrite, bending the rules for his convenience. Her godlike respect for him slowly starts diminishing.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Be a Writer@NGOPost

Are you tired with the current state of media reporting? Do you want to share stories about social change on a global platform?


NGOpost is a web based community for sharing news and ideas about various social welfare initiatives. In loose terms you can refer to it as "orkut" for people who are interested in making a difference.

NGOpost is actively seeking writers, who are keen on creating something which would have far reaching benefits.

Some simple questions answered.


Do I need to have writing experience?
Not necessary. As long as you know English and can form meaningful sentences it should fine.

What do I have to write on?
Write about the social change you see happening around you. Or write about the change that is needed. It could be interviewing someone who is silently doing great work, and whose work would be an inspiration for others, or it could be an organization doing great job in its respective field. There could also be generic articles like Open education tools available for schools or benefits of organ donation. Otherwise we have list of unending topics which we want people to write on, you can choose from them.

What is the benefit for me in writing for NGOPost?

* NGOpost has readership in 150 countries around the world and it has been increasing. Your article will reach hundreds of people every day!
* Each month we send out our newsletter, which goes to about ~5k people. Your name will featured there along with the link to your profile. Personally if you are a blogger, that would give your blog a lot of visibility.
* More than all this it is the satisfaction of writing about something, which would be of use to hundreds of people. We keep getting feedback how reading some articles on NGOpost helped them solve their own problems and helped them connect with relevant people.
* Going ahead we are working on the partnering with print magazines/newspapers wherein selected articles from NGOpost will get published there. Hence there is a possibility that your article might go in print :).

So Join the band wagon of people who are keen to make a positive difference. If you are interested or have further queries write to us at parul at ngopost.org or goli at ngopost.org. Or drop in a comment below.

White washed Rainbows


Guest Article: White washed Rainbows

By: Sucharita Roy

(This is written by one of my doctor friends called Sucharita. This article has always inspired me, and continues to inspire me. This is little long but trust me worth the read)


Something happened last year during my outdoor duty at the Department Of Ophthalmology that I must mention.A hastily gathered group of 20 odd students collect everyday around 9 30 am to see patients that would help them in knowing the subject better and in a more restricted sense of the term, help them sail through the 3rd professional exams.We have been caught up in this frenzied state of being ever since clinicals have started where we learn to see patients to get a proper hold on our subject. And may be caught up with th speed of learning up hundreds of diseases and their associated clinical conditions,differential diagnoses(other conditions that can masquerade under a different disease by mimicking its clinical presentation)….the number of explanations can be put up ad infinitum.Whatever the case,that morning 26 of us gathered in the outdoor department of the Department of Ophthalmology eager to learn and see some new cases.

The teacher we were allotted that day was Dr Madan Mohapatra,a very efficient doctor and a really nice person .And that morning he was his usual incisive yet gentle self, teaching us the nuances of ophthalmology that we could handle at that stage. The crowd was beginning to warm up as the day progressed and we were shuffling about in the small room all craning our necks together at the same time tryin to look into th pupil of a patient who just had a new lens fitted or to see the pattern of injury caused by an iron foreign body.Perched as I was,at the side of sir with the plan of seeing the cases better than most others because I was right next to the patients most of the time so even the tiniest pathology wouldn’t escape my notice, I was having fun in my own little way. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, or so it seemed.

The next patient was a young boy, no more than 7 years at the most. He came holding this father’s hands and sat on the stool and was wearing a yellow T-shirt and black pants and had on a pair of black glasses the kind of which you get in hospitals or the ones immortalized by the Bollywood Surdas Rajendra Kumar.My mind started whirring at 3000rpm trying to spot the diagnosis as I did some mental maths.

Appearance-Healthy

Attitude-Cheerful (grinning to be exact)

Gait- Normal, no deformities

Skin and Hair condition- Healthy, no evidence of malnutrition.

Injuries-None observed except the eye area which will be revealed after he will open the glasses.

Most probable diagnosis-Childhood cataract operated and patient has come for a routine check up after lens implantation.

As my mind was doing this the boy was running his hand across the edge of the table. He was turning his head from where he supposed his father must be to the other side probably trying to find him out. Nothing about him to suggest he could not have been a boy straight from the fair, who had made his father buy him the goggles from a vendor. All he lacked was perhaps a red balloon; and I could half imagine him clutching one in his left hand. Or was there a lack that dint meet the eye? Only time would tell that,and in a few seconds it did.


I smiled at him when he turned his head towards me, and was about to make a face at him when unexpected words came floating upon my self-indulgent ears that makes me turn on music in a crowded hall oblivious to the surroundings..”A very unfortunate case..” , Madan Sir was saying. I was confused, `Did the cataract operation not go well? ‘. Things were not making sense. I wanted to know what had happened. But my playful indulgence had already cut off the reason Sir had given to justify his statement. I waited for him to take the child’s glasses off half wishing to do it myself but afraid lest I irritate his eyes. Madan Sir turned towards the boy who was now smiling at him stretching his hands possibly with the hope of shaking it. “And now there is nothing that can be done”, he said and took his glasses off. There was a single collective gasp.I was by the side of the boy so I bent forward to see wondering what could have moved even the stiffest students to flinch. And my jaw dropped at what I saw.

There was a fleshy crater in place of where his left eye should have been. At least 2 fingers deep and as wide and extending right to the back of the orbit where the bare remains of what should have been the optic nerve stood out like a stubbed cigarette butt. Across the back of the orbit were the stitches that had tagged the sclera into the roof. The black silk stitches were put there to prevent infection from spreading intracranially. The right eye was there but it was possibly worse than the other. The cornea (the transparent thing in front of the colored part of the eyeball which is what is actually donated when people donate their eyes) looked like a glob of pudding had fallen on his eyes there.




We call that clinical condition Keratomalacia. A blinding disease caused by the dietary deficiency of Vitamin A, which causes blindness and makes the skin flaky.In layman's terms it simply melts the eyes.But its not something people need not buy expensive capsules to treat or prevent; it is found in abundance in all green leafy vegetables and if one even ate the papaya that grows in abundance in our state one will never get that condition. However what was shocking was that someone who looked so healthy and had no other manifestations of a deficiencyshould suffer from it;weird to explain but at imes more frequent than sometimes a disease silently creeps up stealthily from behind even though there is no outward manifastaion of a lack thereof or something happening. His skin looked pretty healthy and it was hard to imagine what amount of depravation he must have faced before this happened to his eyes. And I wondered what his parents were doing till then instead of getting him to a hospital sooner. And the only thought I could possibly have that time was which was worse to have- a hole on the left with the lids sinking into it or a non-functioning eye on the right that the lids could not close.

The right eye was beyond repair was what we heard from sir, and so the inevitable reoperation a few weeks after to take his right eye out to prevent him from dying because once the cornea on the right melted and dislodged, the right eye would become a nidus of infection that would gnaw into his brains and kill him within a week. I was feeling suffocated, and i wanted an explanationfor the fact that such injustice be done to someone so young and what were we doing at all if we could not save vision even in one of his eyes with all our unbridled pride for saving people's lives.. I wondered what sort of life we were sending him back to. Sooner or later he will be relegated to begging on the streets and cursing the doctors who took his eyes out to give him a life he hated with all his might. And then if we were claiming to make so many advances in medicine why we could not do something that was so widespread in a country like ours where 10% of the children born suffer from avoidable blindness so if we have a 10% of a billion odd population it makes 10 crores of children under the age of 5 out of which at least 10 percent lose their sight in any eventuality..which amounts to 10000000 blind kids in the country and growing every second. I was confused and embittered about what I felt to be the handiwork of poverty that can stifle so many lives and take the light out of any meaningfulness in it.

“But surely sir there must be some way, at least a cornea transplant; couldn’t that be done?”, I had blurted out just as he was about to resign this patient because the wound on his left was healing appropriately. All heads turned at me, known as I am for my abruptness and near disrespect for behaving like a subdued student who thinks every word spoken by the teacher is the rule. Madan Sir looked at me and I began to wonder if I had blurted out something stupid.My classmates looked as blank as the whitewashed walls.I wished hospitals were painted any other colour.yellow,green or even black or red..would be something instead of blankness.At times a white can be a dark as a black.Only we can see it..we see it everyday.And i hope it remains to us.


“Good question”, he said. “But do you think we can consider that possibility here?”, he asked me.

“May be sir”, I struggled with the ineffectual abilities of an amateur at the science. “His entire cornea is sloughed so there will be no rim to place it “,I was thinking inside.

“Maybe sir if we could find a big cornea from a donater”, I blurted feeling incredibly stupid because I knew there being no supportive tissur in the boy’s eyes to support it, it would be just a matter of days before the graft would slough off.On the outside I waited for him to chide me for speaking like a “civilian” ( excuse me for this but its essential for us to maintain this language code. You have no idea how difficult it is for me to write about it in proper English. Its just that I want to put the thought across and I hope you will sympathise with me in my ineffectual efforts to do so).

For a moment Sir regarded my suggestion. I still don’t know if it had a truth value in its import. But whatever there was he started to say “Even if we consider a transplant we will at least have to see if it will be effectual even if its grafted into it”. “And for that “, he said and looked around hopin to receive an answer which at that instant was not forthcoming from anyone including me, “We need to see if he has any PR and PL because otherwise we do such a huge surgery and find his eye melts right after 2 weeks,and its just not worth it”.

(PR and PL are medical acronyms for Perception Of Light and Projection Of Rays ,which measures the basal function of the retina which ,once gone, can never be regenerated. Projection of Rays is the last function to go in blindness.Its the pixel of vision if you might call it in clinical terms.)

Madan Sir took a torch and put directly into his eye and asked him if he felt anthing.He didn’t.“No PL”, “Bad sign.Lets hope at least th PR remains”, he said and took the torch to all the 4 quadrants askin the boy if he ever felt something coming from somewhere he should say from which side he felt it was coming from. Notice he used the terms "something", and "feeling" instead of "light" and "looking" because the boy had no idea what light is all about.He had the condition ever since he was a kid until his eyes ginally gave way like wax which made him seek hospital attention.The boy immediately took a fancy for what he thought was a game. As sir showed the torch from all sides he giggled and tried to catch the torch each time.For 15 seconds the room was filled with 20 nauseated students, an expressionless father, a doctor assessing a patient if he could do something more other than taking his eyes out, and the blissfully innocent giggles of a kid who had possibly no idea what vision is all about so something in place of the nothing he saw or rather felt to be exact made him think life was beautiful.

And he played a good game.PR was lost in 1 quadrant. So in short there was some hope of a graft working in theory. Sir told had circumstances been a little more beneficial they would have even risked the benefit of doubt to a graft and see how the body responded. Sometimes the human body responds in ways no one can explain and miracles can happen. So who knew. But in this case “Where is the money to go on about it?”, Sir said as he looked at me.“The father had to be convinced the first time if we didn’t operate his son would be dead within a week. The hospital is going to do the second enucleation for free” . There was my half nodding and 25% of a half lipped smile as I understood what he was saying through his eyes. This is the language people of a profession share when they talk about the impotence of a situation that cannot be helped. This is the language a doctor buries in his heart and his lowered head when his family members disconnect the lines and take away their patient because they cannot afford the healthcare costs and if they put the patient in the hospital they will be dead before long because they haven’t eaten for last 4 days

Something started to sting my eyes.And mostly it was guilt.Guilt at having an intact life ;having resources to sustain and indeed enjoy that intactness at times even abusing it; and guilt at the injustice I was doing to the vastness of possibilities in my existence weighed against my own protestations of the injustices I felt were done to me for every mundanely unimportant thing that had upset me.Gulit at the privilege; and guilt at what I was doing about the responsibilities bestowed with the endowments.And disgust mostly at myself for my procrastination of happiness because of my own weird reasons that at this time seemed corrupt with selfishness.


And disgust.A lot more of disgust actually.Disgust that someone like me could make myself so miserable about things that seemed nothing in comparison to this blind boy in front of me who has never seen a ray of light in his life and whats worse, he has no idea what he is stepping into.And disgust at him for being happy in a situation like that.His smiles burnt my beliefs and faiths and smothered my self indulgences. I cant say I liked him.Its weird to explain. I hated him because he was missing something he didn’t know.I hated him for what was going to happen to him.And I hated him for not questioning for his being the way he was.For being happy with his losses.I was despising his happiness.


What struck me much later for his appearance that belied hs codition is a fact that most patients in our state think going to a hospital is a special occasion, much akin to going to the house of a relation, so its not unusual to see ladies bedecked in jewellery and pata sarees even if its only to open the petticoat and lie down crumpling all those folds for a pelvic examination.So in all possibilities he was probably dressed ina fresh pair of clothes borrowed from someone and thoroughly oiled and groomed by his mother for his hospital visit.

Whatever it was, he was bade away.I wanted to rush to him and hold hime in a tight embrace and I dont know why i wanted to do that. He would have most probably run awaythinking I was a mad woman. A part of me chided myself for transfering which is a term used when doctors feel more than they should for a patient.Its what brought Seth Lazarus a brilliant surgeon in Erich Segal’s DOCTORS to commit multiple acts of euthanasia on experimental dogs at first and then terminally ill patients.Sometimes I put myself in that position and think what I would have done..And there is not a definite “Yes” , but at the same time there is also not a definite “No to that.Because transference really affects a doctor’s ability because out of compassion he might just be the reason for the patient's death for not thinking logically and clearly.

I cant lay more expression to what I was feeling for my ability to express falls way short of my feelings at that time. And I most certainly didn’t want to look up and see what my friends were growing through.Summarily the case was dismissed as the next patient came to have his 5 minutes of fame with our audience.And the Boy from the Fair was forgotten for the time being.

But what I remember most at this time after 2 years is not my angst and frustration or revolt against things way beyond my powers to modify.In some weird way that cant be explained I only preserve within the confines of my memory the realization that day of a human’s capacity for happiness.In the little we have from life its just that it takes just us and only us to make us feel the way we want to.And for that, I feel proud I met that boy who showed me that one should not waste life in misery thinking about what the morrow will bring because anyways a person has no idea about that..and to waste time thinking about the darkest of possibilities and in turn being sad for something one has no idea of, life is too short to indulge in this way.


The world of nothingness from which the boy came that day and into which he disappeared was in ways way more colourful than all our starched white formalin sprayed existences.And way more white.If anything his shirt and my imaginary balloon made up for yellow and red..and his smiles and possibly the sighs and the silent tears of the rest in the room that day made up for the rest of the colours of the rainbow that bloomed in OPD2; and still blooms in my mind when I think of him after so long.Against a whitewashed silent blackness, its a rainbow hued smile that inspires you to rise up and to try to be better at what i am doing..Because people like him need things from this world.And people like us need to do it for the world.


And that completes a circle.


God bless him wherever he might be.

P:S:-WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREATER RESPONSIBILITY. (Spiderman)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

AIDS awareness rally up to Big Banyan Tree

Sunday morning, instead of lazying around, Mayank literally dragged me in to joining this cycle rally all the way up to The Big Banyan tree organized by Jagruthi. I anyways wanted to go there once, having heard about it so much.

This place was about 25kms from ISCKON. The route was pretty simple, go on chord road all the way till the end where it meets Magadi road, Then go on Magadi road, towards magadi. On that road after about 13kms there is diversion to the left. There is no signboard there, but then most people know about the place, so I guess you would not have trouble locating the which left. The diversion to the left, is a very small beautiful nice lane kind of road.

The place, itself was not that great. There is a park kind of stuff, and inside the park there is this banyan tree. Apparently the original big tree has died and fallen down, and right now there are 5-6, big banyan trees which apparently were the part of the big tree earlier.

For me the fun part of this trip was going on the cycle. Overall it was 50kms, I have never done 50km cycle before on one day. But it was little taxing, especially because the roads were up and down. But forget the tiredness and everything else, the worst thing about this cycles is that your bum pains a lot, so if you ever plan to cycle, get a good cushion seat.

We all were supposed to carry the placard, when we cycle. And it was fun, to see people reading the banner and smiling. My placard was related to safe sex and prevention of AIDS, and most people would read it and giggle. It was fun. There were couple of people who stopped me, to ask me about Jagruthi and that was good to see. But most funny thing was this guy stopping me and asking me if I was distributing free condoms !!

Below is one of the pic which I took with some of the kids who were really fascinated with the cycle. The second pic has the placard that I was carrying all along the way on my cycle.






PS1: Jagruthi is a NGO which works for AIDS awareness. In their Bangalore home they house about 80 children, some of them HIV+, some who have been sexually abused, etc. Jagruthi tries to educate this kids, and also provide them some vocational training.

PS2: Apparently according to the survey of 2007 by National AIDS control Organization there are about 2.5M people living with AIDS in India, which is about 0.36% of total population. Karnataka accounts for about 11.2% of the AIDS cases in India, which is third in list after Maharashtra and Andra Pradesh. It is also very interesting to note that, Mahashtra, AP, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu account for about 60% of the AIDS cases. I was surprised at this stats, because I thought that AIDS was more prevalent in North India, but apparently this does not seem to be true.

PS3: Some of the pictures of Big Banyan Tree place,


One of the trees


All the tree trunks have all kind of graffiti

Another view of the same tree.