Inspiration

Looking at getting inspired? Look no further.

rajasthan

By Saumya Sahni:

At a time when one seems to have given up on optimism with regard to India’s future, stories of sheer perseverance act as a silver lining to the tainted picture. India today is not only characterized by the number of crimes which take place on a daily basis, but is also known for the useful resources it wastes every day. The inability to recycle that waste entangles the already entangled vicious circle of wastefulness and usefulness. This is where Innovation comes into foreplay. You do not always have to be a pro at resource management for acquiring the skill of resource conservation. All you need is determination. The Aravali Institute of Management, Rajasthan is a testimony to it.

The establishment of this educational institution has a gripping story of inspiration behind it. It is not only an icon of premier education but also an epitome of breathing life into a barren land. There used to be a highly saline wasteland in Jodhpur, Rajasthan which had been rendered useless and infertile and was given the distinction of being the “worst land in Rajasthan”.

barren land

But today the scenario has gone for a complete toss a decade later and here on this very wasteland stands a tall, gracious campus. Ironically it now is a greenbelt consisting of 6000 plants and trees which have grown up to 12 feet. With a total of 15 lakes, made through rain water harvesting, it has a capacity to store around 6 crore litres of water with fishes, frogs and even tortoises in these. All this has been possible because of the tireless efforts of Varun Arya, the purchaser of the wasteland who is also an IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmadabad alumnus.

Pessimism didn’t deter this man who recalls himself being labelled as a “bloody fool” when he had purchased this land to construct the campus. According to ISRO, the campus land was an extreme wasteland and the development of the same for academic purpose was going to cost enormous effort and money. As per the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (Jodhpur), Ministry of Agriculture, the plot lay in a wasteland with high inherent salinity. The salinity also made building construction risky because of corrosion. Varun remembers purchasing this land out of no options since no one else was willing to buy it and his is a venture solely constructed on ethics which doesn’t allow any room for compromises irrespective of the amount of hardships.

varun arya

Here in this case the plant of English Babool (which hindered the growth of other plants on the land), land earmarking, and no proper mechanisms for inlet and outlet of water were the few of the many hurdles which they encountered but as they say, “Where there is a will, there is a way”. They undertook a slew of systematic steps to tackle all these problems one by one where they focussed at developing mechanisms for rainwater harvesting, improving the vegetation and plantations of salt-absorbent trees.

The construction of the campus is an arduous tale of fighting corruption, a juggle with ethics and strenuous land agreements and permissions from authorities for conducting experiments. These elements can break anyone’s back and can mar someone’s self-esteem, but Varun’s team has always stood up to the test of the waters. Success here is a perfect combination of hard work and grit and also of challenging corruptions with the right set of ethics.

rajasthan

A story as fascinating as this does restore my faith in our Motherland. It is imperative for each and every one of us to take initiatives, utilize and re-utilise our resources to the maximum limit to make our world a better place to live in!

anitaraghav

By Ankita Nawalakha:

‘Dekho bhai, aaj pyaar se bol rahe hain par agar kal tak daaru ka theka band nahi karwaya toh humari laathi bolegi’ (Listen brother, we are being very polite but if you don’t close your liquor shop by tomorrow then our sticks will do the talking). These were the words of Mrs Anita Raghav, a 50-year-old woman, when she decided to address the issues of domestic violence at the hands of drunken husbands, by closing the liquor shops.

anitaraghav

The story of Mrs Anita Raghav is the story of an ordinary woman turned into an extraordinary leader. As a part of my internship, I had gone to see Women Self-help groups (SHG’s) in different villages in Sohna. The stories and challenges of all SHG’s were very inspiring, but the one that gave me goosebumps was, indeed, the story and leadership of Mrs Anita Raghav. In 2007, she joined a SHG under the umbrella of Navjyoti India Foundation. Coming from a very conservative rural village in Haryana, she recalls the days when she had just joined the SHG and how her family members reacted. “God knows who all you go with and what all you do with them”, her mother-in-law used to say these words questioning her character.

Undeterred by such harsh comments, she carried on her work. However, she was not going to stop at just a SHG. She soon formed her own organisation- Jagrit Naari Federation (The federation of enlightened women) and started to mobilize women SHG’s from other nearby villages. Today the Federation has over 200 women across various villages.

Her organisation works on various women’s issues. The major one is economic independence for women. The organisation trains rural women in various skills like stitching, making handicrafts, pottery etc, which are then sold in various melas and the weekly market. However their biggest venture has been to start their own brand of spices- Shudh Masala (Pure spices). The smell of these spices was so strong and awesome, I ended up buying 10 different packets of spices myself! “A research done by food authorities showed that our spices are purer and more genuine than MDH”- Mrs Anita told me, beaming with happiness and pride. For these efforts, she was awarded by UN and she used the prize money of Rs50, 000 not for herself but to buy stitching machines for the women of her community!

anitaraghav1

Apart from economic independence, the organisation strives to change the associated women to leaders by giving them social and psychological independence. Seeing the rising number of domestic violence cases, Mrs Raghav tried to speak to the Gram Panchayat to close the liquor shops and train men. When she was refused, she went to file a case in the court which ordered the relocation of the alcohol shop. However, Mrs Raghav was not satisfied with mere relocation. She wanted the shop closed- that part was clear. So she took the matter in her own hands and together with a group of women went to get the shop closed. And the best part? She succeeded in doing so. The federation further talks to abusive husbands and compels them to stop the atrocities. ‘What if they don’t stop?’ I asked her. ‘Then our laathis do the talking’ was her one-line reply. Apart from this, Mrs Anita has done large scale campaigning against female foeticide and have warned hospitals against sex determination. Her strong leadership skills have inspired whoever she meets and she has been invited by an eminent NGO in Australia on a fully funded educational trip to the continent! She will be taking the tour in September 2014.

All this sounds rosy. But there were many, many problems these women had to face. ‘Kaun aadmi chahega ki uski biwi ke paas use zaada taakat ho?’ (No man wants his wife to become more powerful than him) said Mrs Raghav. As they began to mobilize themselves into SHG’s, their first obstacle was their own family members. Many women began sneaking out, making excuses to attend the meetings. However gradually, as they became stronger, their family had no other choice but to accept, at least on the face of it. Other women have happier stories; economic independence and international recognition have changed the mind-sets of highly orthodox people and they take pride in their daughter-in laws’ achievements.

What stood out about Mrs Raghav throughout my conversation with her was her simplicity. Whether it’s the way she lives, talks or runs her organisation, this woman is firmly rooted to the ground. She doesn’t use fancy words or schemes or policies. Her ideas, innovations and actions are really simple, yet powerful. And maybe that’s the reason why they are so effective. Mrs Anita doesn’t have fancy degrees, fame, and a Facebook page to boast her achievements. But she is a leader in every sense. Her ideas, actions, her thoughts and her courage have inspired me beyond words. We need leaders like her in every city, town, village, in every street, every nukkad and every house.

dog video

Dogs are man’s best friends. The role a dog plays in a man’s life is that of a friend, companion, protector and everything else that others fail to be. Having a dog to accompany you can ward off all sorts of loneliness and make you feel alive again. But, is it enough?

There is something more important than just having a companion in life. Watch the video below and you will discover the importance of that one thing which can help others experience the beauty and joys of the world: our eyes.

Those without eyes haven’t seen the colour of flowers or shades of the sky after it rains. It should be our duty to let others benefit from the organs which are going to be burnt or buried after the end of our lives; to no one’s benefit. Organ donation is a virtue we all should embrace and eye donation is the easiest of them all which takes only 10-15 minutes.

Go ahead. Share the message and make others see the importance of seeing. You can learn more about eye donation here.

KangnaRanaut

By Tarushi Varma:

Ever felt a refreshing blast of cold breeze hit you? Well, that feeling describes perfectly the effect our new hero has on us. Kangana Ranaut, who so far had the quintessential small town girl reputation, has proved herself to be a complete badass. Expressing her bold and stimulating opinion in various interviews, she is as feminist as they get.

KangnaRanaut

Kangana was brought up in a conservative joint family where traditions such as the family males eating first prevailed; she sought it on herself to disobey every one of them. She has always believed in mutual respect and equality and hence to accept such an apparent disparity in people on basis of gender is hard for her. She told The Times of India in an interview, “My father slapped me for the first time at 15 and I told him, ‘If you slap me I will slap you back’. I felt raising your hand on anybody is inappropriate and I always had a high regard for myself”

Even as an adult, she was considered to be a misfit by her contemporaries and employers alike in the initial years of her career. Even though she had to struggle to make a place for herself in this awfully competitive industry, which is otherwise also known for its male privilege, she never gave up her values. And today, she has accomplished a relative high in her successful career with sensational roles in Fashion, Rajjo and Revolver Rani, where she plays the courageous womyn who stand up for themselves and make a difference in the heavily male dominated world. Then came Queen, her most recent release, which was made through a feminist spectacle portraying her as a simple Indian womyn who self-discovers her true liberating self.

Not just her roles, even her unconventional opinions which she expresses fearlessly, challenge the traditional perspective. Don’t believe me? Wait till you hear her take on the whole institution of marriage, “Why do people get married? I don’t understand the whole setup and the reason behind it. Especially for girls, I see it as a very big problem. Because they are never encouraged to be something. The main instruction was, ‘how are you going to behave in your in-laws house’, even when I was tiny. We shouldn’t have a ready setup to be given to a man, like a fully trained dog to take care of the house.”

Kangana openly talks about herself and her freedom is the dearest thing to her, which she would never compromise. She displays tremendous self conviction and self reliance, and encourages her audience to the same. Above all, she teaches us to bravely be ourselves and love ourselves for who we really are.

Finally, it is safe to say that she a brilliant womyn, incredibly talented, even giving some of the big hot-shots of Bollywood a run for their money. All this while, she achieved her entire success single handedly, without even the support of her family. She is a worthy role model for all the Queens and Rajjos out there who struggle everyday to make a difference to their lives.

It’s like she says, “We need to raise our girls like superheroes, like we do our men.”

this is water

A commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College on May 21, 2005. This covers subjects including “the difficulty of empathy,” “the importance of being well adjusted,” and “the essential lonesomeness of adult life.”

Additionally, Wallace’s speech suggests that the overall purpose of higher education is to be able to consciously choose how to perceive others, think about meaning, and act appropriately in everyday life. He argues that the true freedom acquired through education is the ability to be adjusted, conscious, and sympathetic.

This is Water from Patrick Buckley on Vimeo.

shanti raghavan

To Shanti Raghavan, disability isn’t the problem; lack of solutions that work for people with disabilities and enabling them to contribute on par with the abled – is the problem. Her co-founded non-profit, EnAble India, trains and makes employable people with disabilities, builds capacity within businesses to facilitate the employment of the disabled, and creates work place solutions that empower the disabled. Shanti’s take on enabling India’s disabled is refreshing and inspiring.

teacher

By Felix Varghese:

Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya

The ancient Indian prayer from brhadarnayaka Upanishad is often attributed to the guru who removes the veil of ignorance by imparting knowledge to his disciples. Isn’t it interesting if the same guru becomes instrumental in bringing solar light into their lives and removes the actual darkness? The story of N.S. Bhatt, a teacher at the Shikegere Primary School in Yellapura taluk of Karnataka reflects this in every aspect. It is a story of lighting up the lives and minds of poor people living in the deep forest areas.

N.S.Bhatt

Mr Bhatt has been dependent completely on solar power for last 12 years and is living off the grid. The idea of extending electricity grid to these remote locations has always been a challenge due to the need for mass destruction of forests for laying the infrastructure. Meanwhile he has set a perfect example for sustainable living by adopting solar technology and proving that it is a viable option. In a time when we complain about erratic power supply and frequent power cuts, he becomes a question mark to our power intensive lifestyles. He runs not only the lights using solar power but has also tried a range of other equipments such as grinder, fan and TV running on D.C power. He mourns that “even though governments and organisations are pushing for renewable energy, there are not enough quality products like LED lamps, D.C appliances which can be used in the off grid applications. Otherwise poor people have to buy inverters also to operate these smoothly”.

His interest for green living is not limited to solar power alone. He tries to balance it with the use of biogas and vermi compost thereby utilizing and recycling everything available there. This is indeed the true environmentalism that we lack in our urban areas many a times and our efforts are mostly confined to online activism. Most of us are never aware that ‘green living‘ is a reality which is being practised by such individuals.

solar power

Having been inspired by his successful example, Freemason’s lodge – Dharwad, adopted the village for their Jyothir Gamaya project which provides free solar lighting systems for unelectrified areas.The lack of roads and the constant human – animal conflicts aggravate the hardships faced by these people who are dependent on subsistence farming. But these thatch roofed huts can now boast of the luxury of owning efficient solar lighting systems which provides them with energy access in a place where the electricity grid arrival seems like a distant dream. Govindappa, a beneficiary of the project was all praises for the project when he pointed out that “it would be desirable if government could come up with such projects where there are no issues of power failures and major repairs. Previously forest clearance was a big issue for us to get connected to the grid which is completely solved by this project”.

Thus this energetic school teacher became a channel to light up the tribal hamlets in his neighbourhood. Mr Bhatt also acts as the local coordinator for the project which has provided LED lamps and solar panels for around 40 households thus the school has become the focal point for all these activities where the students can convey to him the issues regarding lamps and system, which would be passed on to the company/agency by him. This is one of the most interesting scenarios where the school becomes the epicentre for both knowledge dissemination and the development activities for the village.

teacher

Throughout the bike ride with him into the forests he kept on emphasising the need to follow a sustainable lifestyle and various difficulties faced by the tribals living in these remote areas- the lack of roads and hospital facilities. The primary school in the region caters to mainly children from the tribal households which are scattered inside the forest. During the monsoon season many children find it difficult to make it to school, so most of them resort to stay within the houses of their relatives near the school or at the teacher’s house. Now with his concerted efforts and with the donations from people, they are trying to build a small hostel facility for students and teachers. Due to the remoteness of the area the teachers who are posted here always find it difficult to find proper accommodation. The hostel facility which is almost nearing completion is expected to curb this issue and as always he wants it to run on solar. The school building already has solar facility for lighting purposes.

The unique experience at Shikegere shows that such ‘real life heroes’ are indeed making a huge impact and serve as an inspiration to many. Even though their humble interventions always go unheard in the mainstream media, it is clear that we need ‘superman teachers’ like him. Sometimes when RTE (Right to Education) and Renewable energy policies fail, they take incarnations to save the masses. They do tackle the issues of school dropouts and energy poverty simultaneously. It is high time the government machinery and policy makers learn lessons from them while making master plans for various interventions. The need of a bottom —up approach for the policy making process is the need of the hour. After all these achievements , Mr. Bhatt gives an innocent smile and tells “I am simply doing my duty, whenever we have the means and strength to help others it becomes our duty to execute it”

Muki

Muki Regunathan took to entrepreneurship straight after college. After 7 failed start-ups, he is now on his 8th and successfully so. These failures haven’t knocked optimism or generosity out of Muki, he remains a maverick chasing after his dreams and helping other entrepreneurs chase after theirs.

Satyagraha

By Mehul Gala:

Another calendar year is about to bid adieu. Like many of its previous counterparts, this year has also seen tremendous growth in the film industry. The bar of success in Indian cinema is on the rise. With two films surpassing the coveted 200 crore barrier, the box office is surely enjoying its purple patch. But earning 200 crore is one thing and being fondly remembered for decades another.

Satyagraha

Well, I’m here to throw some light on a relatively unsuccessful movie (in monetary terms) which went on to touch the most sensitive topic of the modern era, Indian politics. With the battle between NaMo and RaGa constantly heated up to claim the throne and Arvind Kejriwal lead AAP making a revolution of its own, politics is literally the talk of the town. Prakash Jha contributed in his best known way with the movie ‘Satyagraha’.

Just to give you a background, Akhilesh is a honest civil engineer. He is best friends with Manav (Ajay Devgan). Akhilesh’s father, Daduji (Amitab Bachhan), is a school teacher. Akhilesh chooses a life of dignity and honesty whereas Manav chooses illegal path to climb the corporate ladder. Over a period of time, both achieve what they had desired. But as fate would have it, Akhilesh died in an accident. State government, much to their awareness of his noble work, allocates 25 lakh Rupees to his family. As time progresses, his wife knocks on the doors of the authorities to give them the allocated amount but to no heed. Finally, Daduji had to raise his voice and fight against this injustice. He starts a campaign for all such people who are yet to receive the government announced relief funds. Inspired by Daduji’s movement, Manav decides to join them. Rest of the movie revolves around how they fought this battle with right morals and belief.

Here are 5 things I learnt from this movie

1. We must speak up

There is a saying, “World is suffering not because of the violence of the wrong people but silence of the right people”. We must raise our voice against all the wrong doings just like Daduji did. No point in keeping it to yourself. If you are victim of any type of injustice then don’t hesitate to bring it to the world. It’s time to teach those evil-minded a lesson.

2. Realize the power of Social media

Believe it or not, social media is emerging as a very powerful medium in this information age. Any political or social movement must use its power. In Satyagraha, Manav creates a FB fan page of their campaign and it goes viral. Thousands of people liked it in a span of a few hours. It proved out to be a very healthy communication medium.

3. Battles cannot be won by shouting at the borders of the battlefield

After their Satyagraha movement, Manav and Arjun decide to start their own political party to dethrone the corrupt government. This is testimony to the fact that in order to change the system, you should first get into it.

4. Before pointing fingers to anyone, we must clean our own house

As mentioned, Manav used many illegal ways to taste success. He had connections with dozens of ‘setting’ kings. He was submerged in corruption from head to toe. When he joined Satyagraha with Daduji, government scanned all his past records to get a weak link to defame his popularity. Ultimately, they exposed this links and black money involved in Manav’s company. Eventually, Manav had to sell his company and distribute everything to its shareholders to come out clean.

5. Persistence is the key

Sometimes, things take time to improve. It demands hard work and dedicated efforts consistently over a long period of time. We must never lose hope. Slowly but surely, we will get there. Daduji kept fast unto death. He fought with the corrupt system till he succeeded. Truth came out victorious in the end.

This movie is not at all comparable with the big guns, neither in terms of money nor in terms of popularity. Only its morals will stick with us whenever we fight against injustice.

organic farming

“It’s A Good Life” created by Black Ticket Films tells the story of how one farmer in India changed his fortunes by switching from chemical to organic agriculture. His life took a complete turn for the good once he took the road towards organic farming. This video shows his journey and undoubtedly,  his prosperity is an example of what India dreams about. A healthy and very prosperous farmer who can inspire many others to change. The simplicity in this five minute video speaks volumes about agriculture in India.

It’s a Good Life from Black Ticket Films on Vimeo.

DDC

By Kirti Joshi:

Plato says “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

In a metropolitan city like Delhi where everybody is running in a race to chase/win something, we forget to take a pause to relax and experience the music of life. The Delhi Drum Circle allows you to indulge in such an experience where it acts as a stress bursting activity where people in love with beats come together. It started in 2010 as a casual gathering but now, many participate in it. The Facebook group of DDC boasts more the eleven thousand members and this social networking group has been the only mode of communication among members since the foundation of the group. Here are 6 things to know about Delhi Drum Circle

DDC

– Anybody can join it anytime.
You don’t have to be tensed about whether these events are starting in January, February, March etc. etc…You can join this radiation of positivity and passion any season of the year, you just have to enjoy the journey and don’t forget to have fun. Therefore during an event, just make your own music and go along with the rhythm. People get together to play either freestyle while inventing the tempo along the way. Sometimes the drum circle members happily offer their instruments to fascinated audience to play, increasing participation.

– No cultural, national or social barrier.
They invite people from all ages, nationality and walks of life who love to play and enjoy music. Majority are Indians but there’s a decent mix of people from different countries. Members are from a diverse range of thoughts including photography, art, poetry, and philosophy. The drummers range from 5-year-old toddlers to people with grey tresses. People from all walks of life come together to play in a casual, unrestricted and engaging environment.

– There is no head or leader.
A beginner, an amateur and a professional, all play, learn and improve here together. The sound is familiar, it’s contagious, it’s exciting and attractive with the interesting combination of sounds, and stare and dance moves. Soon, there is a huge crowd. Beginners, amateurs and professionals all perform together at the meets. Delhi Drum Circle offers equality, as nobody is leading or heading the event. There is no hierarchy in the circle.

DDC2

– No prior music knowledge required
The main objective of DDC is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and yourself. You don’t have to be the master in playing the instrument. You can just come play, sing, dance or have fun with the drummers but still you won’t stop grooving to the beats that make for the ambience here. Listen as much as you play. By listening to what’s going on in the circle as you play, you will have a better sense of how you might fit into the groove and then the unbeatable beats and alluring rhythms will have you hooked for hours and more.

– It is not just about Drums
Delhi Drum Circle is not just all about playing drums, tabla and dholaks. They also include instruments such as flute, shankh, bells. DDC is also about creating a healthy environment for each and every member and each and every member is concerned about others.

– Free of cost
Now, you must be thinking how much it costs to be a part of such an event. No needs to worry about the money you have in your pocket. Entry to this event is free, just don’t forget to carry instruments to join in and if you don’t own a drum, don’t forget to carry the energy to groove.

Photo Credit

akshara

By Saumyata Joshi:

The world knows how to straighten out a spoiled child but never makes it up to a child deprived ~ Robert Brault

Childhood is the foundation of an individual’s life. A house with a weak foundation is not only dangerous for its inhabitants but also for the nearby houses. Similarly, a child who lacks the foundation comprising of education and morals becomes a threat to the society and flouts rules at every possible point of his life. It becomes a moral responsibility of the privileged class to extend a helping hand to other people.

akshara

Education, not literacy is the greatest gift one can give another. Akshara is a team comprising of 12 young enthusiastic girls with the simple vision of doing their bit for the society. The team focuses on issues of child and women welfare in the neighbouring area of Vasundhara Enclave, Delhi. The team members are college students and after their college hours teach a bunch of around 50- 60 children in the college ground itself. Teaching these kids makes you realize how significant the smallest of things in life are. Hidden secrets of life and happiness lie in the dearth of imagination. Many of them are unaware as to what is exactly meant by a birthday, so knowing one’s birth day is out of question. When one has grown up amidst luxuries then it is difficult to comprehend the depth of insufficiency. These kids teach you more than they learn from you. Teaching becomes fun when for two whole hours every day the campus resounds with the loud chanting of all the rhymes and hymns.

India being a democratic country offers equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens. Right to Education being one of the fundamental rights should be availed by one and all. No doubt that with the recent government ventures and policies, thousands of children were put in schools with the famous candy of ‘the mid-day meal’ scheme. The central problem lies in the fact that we ensure that the child reaches school building but we forget to assure whether any sort of knowledge is being imparted to him/her or not. Thus the whole idea of education gets blemished with debauchery and pretensions. In an educational survey conducted by the team in the nearby government schools, it was quite shocking to find that all the enrolled students hardly attend classes owing to the violence of the enrolled goons of the school. The team is working in that area with the help of local authorities.

It is the ground reality of most of the government schools that in the name of primary education, simply nothing at all is offered to children. The main reason for this inadequacy in the system is due to lack of teachers and negligence of available teachers. Hooliganism and other vehement forces thriving in these schools deprive the children who really want to study. A psychometric test (technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge and abilities) was conducted by the team on these children to know their strengths and weaknesses. It was pleasantly surprising that so many of them were artists, excellent painters, young crafty ingenious minds, though not that good in studies. The concept of ‘Play in Education’ does wonders for these children. The overwhelming feeling when one young mind remarked that “Didi mein bahut mehnat karke aapke he college mein dakhila lunga” (Ma’am I will work very hard and take admission in your college), made the girls speechless. These kids just require that slight spark of encouragement which can propel them to heights of success and happiness. Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

An organization isn’t required to change the society; individual efforts have always amazed the world. The team does not wish to change itself into an organization rather they are the harbinger of a social change. Akshara meaning ‘the imperishable’ is a movement to change young lives for a better future of the society and India at large. The only fault is that these kids were born poor but they have the same zeal and vigour to do something great with their lives. If poverty is that wide terrifying river between the children and success then Akshara is a bridge over this dark river, helping these young ignited minds to reach the other side where sanguine joy and sunshine pervades. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

inspiration

No matter which part of the world, many students as young as 10-year-old, face issues which make them give up on life. And that’s when we need teachers who make their students say, “I choose to have a good life”. Ms. Reifler is one of those teachers and each one of us must learn from her. At an age when each child should have the liberty to dream, that’s an age when every child deserves a safe environment which helps them nurture those wonderful dreams and she knows exactly how to give it to them.

Best+Leader+Award-Anuradha-1

By Annie Fraser:

Many problems in our communities live on simply because people underestimate their own ability to make a difference. We become inhibited by the misconception that just because our job title, our position in society, or our age is not directly associated with power or influence, we can do nothing.

Best+Leader+Award-Anuradha-1

Anuradha Bandari, a 19-year old student from Government First Grade College, Sirsi, Karnataka, has proved us wrong. She might be small in size, but she has a big heart and even bigger dreams. Anuradha believes that our country has everything that it needs – we’re just not using what we have in the right way. Still, many people today are working hard to create new things. But, if everyone works to create new things, there is no meaning. “For this reason”, Anuradha says, “I dedicate myself to making improvements to existing things.”

Anuradha’s village of Bommanalli, near Sirsi, Karnataka, had a water problem. During the hotter seasons, people suffered from water shortages. Anuradha knew that a water tank, which could store enough water to sustain the entire village, would prevent this problem from happening in the future. She also knew, though, that her village could not afford to fund the costly construction of a large water tank. The Gram Panchayat sanctions money for these kinds of construction and development projects, but the money was not being properly utilized. Anuradha realized that the Gram Panchayat had the power and the resources to significantly improve the lives of her villagers.

Under guidance from the Deshpande Foundation’s LEaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) Program, Anuradha took action to find a solution for this persisting problem. She approached the Gram Panchayat herself and demanded their support to help her village. This initiative, while courageous and heroic, was not an easy task. Her age, her anonymity, and her non-intimidating appearance caused the eminent Gram Panchayat members to disregard her request. They questioned Anuradha, questions such as, “Who are you?” and “Why should we give you the money?”. Anuradha became angry because they were not listening to her. But she never lost her confidence. She stood her ground. “I wanted to create change”, Anuradha says, “and I wanted other people to look at my village as an example of what could be possible”.

The Gram Panchayat eventually surrendered to Anuradha’s unyielding perseverance, and they sanctioned Rs. 2 lakh to fund the construction of a water tank in her village. But the impact of Anuradha’s project does not stop there; during her meetings with the Gram Panchayat, she became aware that her village did not have any streetlights, which was posing many safety problems for the villagers. So, in addition to funding the water tank, the Gram Panchayat funded the construction of streetlights in Anuradha’s village.

Anuradha, “just a student”, improved the lives of over 300 people.

Imagine what can be possible once we begin to realize that we can become the agents of change.

*Annie Fraser is an American living and working in Hubli, Karnataka.

Darshana

By Saumya Sahni:

After the morning and afternoon clamour, the atmosphere around West Patel Nagar Sabji market calms down as most vendors and hawkers start calling a day at around 8 PM in the evening. The only exception to this bandwagon is 58-year old vegetable seller, Darshana whose toil is an inspiration for people like you and me sitting in the comfort of our houses or offices. Darshana stares out for the last set of customers before she decides to shut the business for the day. Nearly two decades of hard work has caused her joints to develop frequent aches and her fingers and face to droop.

Darshana

Darshana starts her day at the crack of dawn at 3 am to set up her vegetable stall at 4 am; she manages to purchase vegetables for her stall from the wholesaler of Azadpur Mandi who visits the market at West Patel Nagar everyday at around 7 am. She happens to be the first seller to arrive and the last to leave because of which she is fondly addressed as “Beebi” by other sellers in the vicinity.

Ironically, selling vegetables was never in her agenda. In the crowded, shady marketplace, Darshana nearing her sixties has previously worked in a brick kin for nearly two decades which was sufficient for her family of four consisting of her husband and two daughters. Troubles started for her when the brick kin shifted its base to Gurgaon. The pension which the kin provides her family till today was not enough to suffice her family because of which she had to join her hands with her husband to sustain her family in selling vegetables. Although with the passage of time, Darshana has now acquired a sound knowledge of how vegetables are grown, which of them are unripe and which ones need constant care.

If you are thinking that she has two sources of income including the pension and she has nothing to worry, let me tell you, she is earning only marginal profits because of which she also at times has to resort to selling vegetables for more than the justified price. Tomatoes if are priced at Rs. 30 per kg, she will sell it at Rs. 35-40 per kg in order to suffice her livelihood. Guilty as she feels, helpless she is! She also has the responsibility of paying the rent of her stall and the electricity bills since her husband is ailing. Darshana is also an imaginary philanthropist as she is greatly inspired by the ideals of Mother Teresa. She might not be aware of her contributions to philanthropy but is heavily fond of helping street children and the destitute. Whenever her savings exceed a limit of more than what she had planned, she gifts a pencil and an eraser to little children in need in her colony. She might not have achieved ladders of prizes and hoards of educational qualifications, but she definitely understands the value of education. Kudos to that!

Belonging to a village in Rajasthan, it was not easy for her to accommodate herself to the lifestyle demands here. Extreme inflation and rising expenses do tend to break her back. Bemoaning Sheila Dikshit’s government, she passionately shares her fantasy of matching footsteps with Arvind Kejriwal by contributing to the Aam Aadmi Party in whatever way she can. According to her, Arvind speaks the aam aadmi’s voice because of which he is a suitable candidate to eradicate corruption from our diseased country. Impressive this!

Darshana leads a life devoid of luxuries. Quiz her about her future plans, prompt comes the reply, “I try to enjoy what I do. I like people asking me if I can reduce the prices of the vegetables. I am the queen here. At the end of the day, all I want is a decent future for my kids and health for my family”.

Darshana with buyers

The most striking thing about her personality is her simplicity and honesty. Her kids also are proud of their mother. One thing which I have leant from her is that no matter how high you reach in life, it is imperative to stay grounded to your roots.

The morale which keeps her going in life is, “Struggles make you rich. Principles are your real wealth. You came on your own into this world and you will go also on your own but your principles will never leave your side. God will eventually reward your karma and be it in life or death; he will never levy atrocities on you more than your capacity”.

Truly, Darshana is a beauty. During my brief conversation with her at the marketplace, I realized that you are a puppet of your karma. No work is petty or great. Your attitude makes it or can even break it. A strong will power is all that you require while trudging a path full of atrocities, with a smile.

P3280892

By Annie Fraser:

You’re walking. You see a child. From only a single glance, you can tell that the child is poor. You allow yourself a few moments to look at the child, to really observe her, and to feel for her. And you keep on walking.

P3280892

No nation or society is without its problems, least of all India. We look at India’s problems, we think about India’s problems, and sometimes we contemplate about the solutions. But the action, or lack thereof, stops there. We simply think. Thinking is good and necessary. Thinking, contemplating and considering, these are all strong words, but they lead to immeasurable results. India cannot afford immeasurable.

With support from the LEaders Accelerating Development Program, Alisha Shiledar, an engineering student from Belgaum, Karnataka, is an example of one such girl who thought, contemplated, considered and then, acted. Alisha’s journey began with one little girl named Fatima. Fatima, around 8 years old, desperately wanted to go to school. Her family being poor, Fatima had to help her mother every day, who worked as a maid. Alisha would see Fatima and seriously worried about the girl’s condition. Alisha says, “[Fatima] was innocent, but I could see her innocence diminishing”. Alisha soon understood that Fatima was not alone, and that there were many other girls in Fatima’s situation, or even worse.

Alisha went to the government school near Fatima’s home in a Belgaum slum area and learned that most of the children were only attending school two weeks every month, at the most. Alisha decided to take action. At first she approached the parents of the children and tried to explain to them the importance of education, but she was greeted with opposition. Many of the parents shouted at her and slammed the door in her face.

Not wanting to give up, Alisha went to the school. On Saturdays and Sundays for three months, Alisha volunteered at the school and devised fun ways to teach the children the basic skills that they were lacking, which also helped generate an interest for school within the children.

But Alisha knew that helping the children wasn’t enough. She realized that ultimately, she had to convince the parents to let their children come to school. For this, the parents themselves needed to learn and appreciate the value of education. For one month, Alisha taught the parents, mostly the mothers, basic literacy skills. In time, the parents started sending their children back to school. Now, 50 children, including Fatima, are attending school regularly.

We might feel overwhelmed and powerless when India’s problems stare directly into our eyes. We may just don’t know where to start. But Alisha’s story makes us realize that we do, in fact, possess the power to do something. The reality of the situation is that Alisha is just a normal girl. What sets her apart, though, is that she realized her potential to be part of the solution.

You’re walking. You’re thinking about Alisha and the impact she created. You’re thinking about that poor child that you saw earlier, and how you could help her.

The time for thinking is up. It’s time to act.

santosh kaveri

By Annie Fraser:

Santosh Kaveri, a second year student of Samiiti BBA College, Belgaum, Karnataka, is a budding social entrepreneur with a deep story infused with disappointment, but also hope. He has led a life tainted by strife, but has managed to emerge from these obstacles and create a life opportunity for himself and others. Santosh says, “The way I see it, all problems give me an opportunity to enter into business and provide products which are helpful for Indians”.

This is his story:

Santosh grew up in a poor family, and his hopes of overcoming poverty were dimmed as access to education became more and more difficult. Due to the remoteness of his village, Shedbal, and lack of proper transportation, Santosh had to walk 10 kilometers every day just to attend school.

santosh kaveri

Santosh’s family gained their livelihood from their farm. When Santosh was in high school, members of his family faced different health and economic issues. In order to feed his family, Santosh had to work on the farm himself. Realizing the importance of education for his future, Santosh knew that he could not drop out of school. Instead, he attempted to create a balance; he worked on his family’s farm in the early morning, starting at 5 AM, and then he would continue the farm work immediately after classes every day.

Conditions worsened once Santosh reached PUC. The growing demands of his family became too strained. His absence from his classes increased, and his available study time decreased. Fortunately, Santosh still performed well enough in his classes to be able to obtain admission to pursue his BBA in the city of Belgaum.

But just because Santosh moved away from his village to a city does not mean that life got any easier for him. Not being able to afford the cost of staying in a hostel, Santosh spent the first six months of his college life sleeping in college classrooms.

The government eventually agreed to cover the expenses of his accommodation, and it was at this point that Santosh’s life seemed to gain some normalcy. During his first year in college, Santosh joined the Deshpande Foundation’s Leaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) program. The LEAD program provides funding assistance and guidance for college students to implement their own community improvement projects, thereby allowing them to practice their entrepreneurial, leadership, and innovative thinking. Having always wanted to become an entrepreneur, Santosh utilized LEAD as a platform to execute his ideas.

Having grown up in an agricultural, rural background, Santosh knew that an entrepreneurial initiative aimed at improving the lives of farmers would be meaningful and successful. So, Santosh started working on his first project. He reflected on the struggles that he and his family faced as farmers, and identified a specific problem in carrot cleaning. Before farmers can sell their carrots at the local markets, the carrots must be cleaned to make them appealing to customers. However, carrot cleaning is a lengthy and demanding process, cleaning one quintal of carrots  usually requires the labor of 12 people.

Santosh pondered and searched determinedly for a solution to this problem. His epiphany came one day after observing a washing machine, and he realized that he could apply the same concept to devise a machine that could quickly and efficiently clean carrots.

Being a Business student and having no prior experience with engineering, Santosh struggled to develop a technology that could effectively and afford-ably clean carrots. He persevered, and after developing 11 unsuccessful machines, he finally devised the Carrot Cleaning Machine.

Santosh’s Carrot Cleaning Machine can clean a quintal of carrots in just 15 minutes and requires the labor of only two people. What’s more, the Carrot Cleaning Machine uses no electricity and very little water. The Carrot Cleaning Machine is now helping farmers throughout 10 villages.

Since developing the Carrot Cleaning Machine, Santosh has undertaken other entrepreneurial initiatives. One product that he is currently promoting is the Eco Water Coil, a stove-top device that simultaneously boils water for cooking and collects hot water for bathing. “In India”, Santosh says, “gas is costly, and no one seems to be concerned about that.” Santosh’s Eco-Water Coil, though, can perform two functions at once, thereby helping people conserve gas.

In addition to the Carrot Cleaning Machine and the Eco Water Coil, Santosh has recently begun purchasing locally produced products from rural micro-entrepreneurs, such as banana snacks and kadhi dress material, and is selling these products to large outlets like Big Bazaar.

project aanch

In the narrow by lanes of Vikas Puri, resides 37-year-old Nwe Nwe, busy cooking authentic Burmese food for her small business. She is one of the 10,000 Burmese refugees who reside in Delhi. In spite of having lived here for so many years, she does not have a legal status of domicile in her country. The Burmese refugees have this liminal and ambivalent political status because India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Due to this, it is the responsibility of the UNHCR, and not of Indian government, to provide for their sustenance. As a result, the Indian community is almost apathetic to the cause of these refugees.

Taking note of their dire living conditions and lack of any semblance of security, a group of 26 IIT-Delhi students set out to transform their lives by banking on the universality of food under the Project Food for Life, an Enactus (earlier SIFE) initiative. Under this project, the students have selected a few cooks from the community with the help of the local leaders who would sell their authentic Burmese cuisine at different places in order to become self-reliant. The aforementioned Aunty Nwe Nwe (usually called just “Aunty” by the students) was the first cook with whom the students set up business.

Project Food for Life

Nwe’s husband had passed away and she sought to start a small catering business within the community in order to earn her daily living. One of the core team members, Ishana Shekhawat, said that initially she was wary of them and the lingual barrier just cemented her distrust. But, with the help of translators and the educated leaders of the community (many of whom are themselves students at various Indian universities including University of Delhi), the IITians convinced Nwe to set up a stall for their fest. For a lady who was initially extremely apprehensive about working with Indians, today, she does not mind if any of the students give her food orders with just one day notice.

All the profits that cooks like Nwe earn go in their pocket. In the nascent stages, the students set up different stalls at various college festivals like IIT’s Rendezvous and LSR’s Tarang to sell the cuisine and get an idea of which Burmese dishes sell in the Indian market. They also set up stalls at Pravah and Ultratech Cements to understand the requirements of a more mature palate. In order to make these businesses sustainable, the students do not finance anything apart from the rent for the more expensive stalls which, the volunteers hope would be something that they will be able to do for themselves in near future.

The final aim of the project is to allow integration of the Burmese community within the larger Indian populace by establishing mutual trust and respect between them. Assimilation of Burmese cuisine into the ‘mainstream’ Indian palate is seen as one of most basic steps that can be taken to that effect. In order to do so, the students look for new opportunities where this cuisine could be tried. They help out the cooks with caterers and as of now, they have signed a MoU with the popular Delhi Food Walk so that they can showcase Burmese cuisine.

Apart from this project, the team Enactus of IIT Delhi is also involved with another project — Project Aanch. This project aims to combat the under reported problem of indoor air pollution (IAP), starting with the 22,000 member strong community in Bhatti mines, near Chattarpur, New Delhi. The project was conceived in September 2012 in order ‘to create and empower entrepreneurs at the grassroots so that they can solve their existing problems themselves’, as per Divish Gupta, Team Leaders of Enactus IIT Delhi.

project aanch

The issue of IAP is extremely prevalent in India because of the widespread use of traditional chulhas that are fuelled by coal and wood which produce noxious smoke. Apart from respiratory disorders, the back-breaking task of collecting firewood is detrimental to the spinal and gestational health of women, the primary users of chulhas.

Project Aanch is essentially a business model that is in the process of empowering five women from the Bhatti community. To alleviate the problem of IAP, the Enactus IIT-Delhi team purchased a mould of INDEX award winning smokeless cook stove designed by Philips with the help of a fellowship received from Swechha (an NGO engaged in environmental and social development issues). Due to lack of trainers in North India who could train the women to use this mould, the students learnt the working of the mould themselves and then held a 3-day training programme to train the five selected women.

Keeping in mind the fact that the targeting consumer base consisted primarily of daily wage labourers, the students set out to improve the design of the chulha so that the manufacturing cost would decrease without compromising on the quality and the efficiency. They had to spend about three months on improving the design of the chimney of the chulha so that it could be easily procured in North India.

It takes two women to manufacture one stove in a day from one mould. The group of students also received the Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellowship to further finance their project.

Recently, they ran a publicity campaign in the village to increase awareness about the benefits of using such chulhas which include greater profit for women involved, reduction in cooking time, feasibility of cooking indoors due to lower particulate and carbon monoxide emissions and thus, protection of women from forces of nature, lower consumption of firewood to name a few.

The manufacturing cost of one stove is INR 750-800 while the market price is INR 1100. The first 25 chulhas will be sold at a subsidized rate of INR 800 in order to collect feedback from the users and thus, improve the design further and get an estimate of the demand for them. The expenses related to profits made by the women for the first 25 chulhas will be incurred by Project Aanch. The villagers have also been provided with the option of paying for the chulha in five instalments of INR 100 with a down payment of INR 400.

They have partnered with Wishberry in order to raise funds via crowd-funding for the project in order to procure more moulds for a more efficient manufacturing process. The team has raised Rs 34450 from over 33 contributors.

The students hope to be able to pull out of this community in about 15 months and leave a self-sufficient business in place. This will not only empower women by making entrepreneurs out of them but also battle IAP.

They have also received a requests from a village in Uttarakhand to implement this project there as well and after ensuring that the project is running smoothly in Bhatti mines, they want to expand the project to other villages as well. Unlike government schemes where chulhas were doled out due to which they failed, Project Aanch makes the villagers realise the benefits of owning fuel-efficient chulhas while simultaneously empowering women entrepreneurs.

These two initiatives undertaken by the students of IIT Delhi primarily aim to transform the lives of people who in spite of their large number, still exist on the periphery of the society. Instead of adopting the more conventional but slightly futile method of giving charity, these projects empower the beneficiaries by bringing about economically viable changes within the existing structures that pave the way to their self-sufficiency.

Ritu Biyani

By Sagar Vishnoi:

I met Ritu Biyani last month, when she was in the capital as a speaker in the DEF Mobile Summit for being honoured as “Ordinary women doing extraordinary things” in the Red Rickshaw Revolution.

I was moved after meeting her. I saw her inspiring journey through her words. Ritu is a record holder in the Limca Book of Records India and the first women to do a solo drive to the four tips of India. She also started the first mother-daughter duo expedition on cancer awareness across the country. Dr Ritu Biyani Joseph, a breast cancer survivor, launched project High>>>Way in 2006, an amazing and unique drive to link adventure sports with cancer awareness mission across the country; the very first of its kind undertaken in India thus creating history. A dental surgeon by profession, mountaineer, skydiver, a paratrooper and a wonderful person to chat with, here she talks about her mission:

Ritu Biyani

How did this extraordinary journey begin?
It was August 2000 and chemotherapy had led me to go bald. A dental patient came in and asked whether I had taken a tour to Tirupati. When I told her about my breast cancer treatment, she stood up and left the clinic thinking cancer is a communicable disease. People are literate today, but they still have misconceptions. So to spread awareness, I used my passion of travelling for this mission.

What was the reaction of people to your awareness workshops? How much are people aware of breast cancer?
Different reactions came. Initially people asked, “tumhara breast nikal diya gaya kya?” Whether it’s urban or rural,90% women are unaware of breast cancer symptoms and 70-80 % about cervical and oral cancer. People in the tribal areas were very receptive. In the six month journey, I had 140 workshops attended by 26,000 people, covering 30,220 Kms in 177 days including 26 states .

Ritu Biyani

Were men receptive in the same way ?
Cancer doesn’t see anyone. I included graphics and pictures to engage people and when I used to tell men that 1% of men get breast cancer too, they used to listen with more interest .

What are your future plans? Shall we expect to see another pan India awareness campaign ?
Well , now workshops are being conducted in corporate sectors, schools, MBA colleges, hospitals and Army camps. In 2010,we had International awareness workshop and for the time being, I am heading to Uttarakhand for relief camps.

Ritu Biyani

What message would you like to give to the youth?
I want to convey some lines which form the motto of my life :

EXPLORE… one’s own inner strengths and spirits
To UNLOCK and EXPAND …one’s own horizons
STEER through all odds and trying times… on the highways called life
OVERCOME the fear of unknown in one’s roller coaster quest
EXPERIENCE those exhilarating moments of going beyond
To CELEBRATE …the whole existence

Failure

By Sofi Ahsan:

You must be calling me mad or insane for wishing failure to you. But I still want you to fail.

Positivity and failure may seem to be two opposite ends but if you know how to keep them together, you can achieve anything in life. Failures deject, but they can encourage too. Failures inspire when you look at them the right way. Failures introduce you to your mistakes and let you correct them. Failures are a beginning to larger successes. Don’t fear failures. The more you antagonize them, the more they will hurt you. They may distress you, but don’t let them kill your dreams and ambitions. Face them and turn them into your stepping stones to success. Remember, failure is not the end of the world.

Failure

There was a guy who repeatedly failed in his Class XII exams. Obviously he felt sad and bad about it, but he didn’t lose hope. He worked hard, remained steadfast and excelled at last. What is it that made him win? He befriended his weaknesses and turned them into his plus points. Don’t let negative thoughts overcome your mind, just tell them to go anywhere else. Change the way you think and see how different the world is.

If you don’t fail, you may never learn. Failures are essential for effective learning and important ingredients of life. Would you walk today if you hadn’t fallen repeatedly when you were toddling? Failures are great teachers, even better than those at school. Failures can guide you towards success, if you know how to deal with them. Erring is human nature. No one is perfect, but failures coupled with positivity have the power to lead you to perfection.

Success comes to those who are ready to learn from their mistakes. You cannot taste the fruit of success if you allow your failures to decide your journey. Roadblocks are everywhere, in Kashmir they are comparatively more, what matters is how you make them disappear. What antidote is for poison, positivity is for failure.

Success means mental satisfaction. It is an unending struggle between optimism and pessimism. Don’t let failures determine who you are. Just because you could not achieve anything you had wished, does that mean you can do nothing else? You have got the potential, only you need to know where it lies and how to use it.

Succeed, not by fearing your failures but by embracing them.

muktangan

By Lata Jha:

On one hand, there are millions of children craving to be able to read, write and lead themselves to light. On the other, several adults are waiting to use their time and talents well. Muktangan, an organisation which works with Mumbai public schools, is a relatively small player in the education system, but is contributing extraordinarily to a larger debate over how India’s teachers should be recruited, trained, developed and used to transform lives. Across Mumbai, there is a shortage of both public school spaces and qualified educators.

Muktangan has tried to address the problem in an unconventional way, in the last decade, it has trained almost 500 teachers, who start out with a 12th-grade education in any local language and at least 3rd-grade-level English. The teachers work towards higher degrees, while teaching the young children.

muktangan

The idea behind Muktangan was to break teacher training into levels for primary, middle and high school, and to let the educators basically move up the grades along with their students. These are women from the local community, all folks outside of the higher education realm.

In its unique way, it hopes to work towards eliminating the disconnect between teachers and students, and the elitist approach that is often adopted. Muktangan’s biggest obstacle has been its inability to get government accreditation for its teacher education program, absolutely mandatory under India’s Right to Education Act. Failure to comply with it can result in withdrawal of government financing and of official recognition.

Muktangan is, at the moment working with only seven schools, but its unique take on teacher training is beginning to have a vast influence. Last autumn, it even worked with UNICEF and the Maharashtra State Council of Education, Research and Training to assist teacher trainers in the state. Their 60 workshop participants went on to reach some 10,000 teachers additionally.

The most beautiful aspect of the entire process happens to be the way these teachers’ lives are changing. These women often lag behind on account of both poor English skills and family pressure. But Muktangan has been able to bring them out of their kitchens. They can now hope to make a difference to their lives and those of others.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas

Journalism is a very challenging profession if you want to use it for the betterment of the society. The story of Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an investigative journalist from Ghana who uses anonymity as a tool, will make you rethink about the condition of journalsim and how it is supposed to be. He has deliberately gone to prison and lived in harsh conditions and also risked his life many times just to bring people closer to the truth. Anas focuses on issues of human rights and anti-corruption in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa.

Watch this short video for sneak peaks into his undercover work and the problems he faced.

Sign In

Don't want to log in right now? Submit here.