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Posted on
Mar
30
2017
Thu
5:39
PM
12 practical ways to overcome procrastination
From Pradeep Khare
Overview
In simple words, you procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favor of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing.
Why does anyone procrastinate? There are different reasons, but the most common one’s are:
• A perception that a task is unpleasant or tedious
• Fear of the Unknown
• Fear of Change
• Perfectionism
• Fear of Failure
• Disorganized state of mind
While procrastination seems to be a benign human fault, it can adversely affect the quality of your life with devastating results. Not getting your medical treatment done on time can result in death, if initial symptoms of a deadly disease are overlooked. Not paying your credit card bill on time can result in huge penalties. Not purchasing life insurance can leave your young children destitute if anything should happen to you. Not getting your car’s oil changed on time can reduce the life of your car and result in major repair costs. The list goes on …
Hold on
Right now, before going on, make a list of at least two things that you’ve been planning to do, but haven’t. DO IT NOW. Just grab a pen and paper and make a list of those two things that you’ve been putting off. Then read the rest of the article. You will be able to start applying these tips to accomplish them right now.
How to know you are procrastinating
Here are some useful indicators that will help you know when you’re procrastinating: Checking e-mails, WhatsApp messages, and Facebook page, several times in a day, at the cost of your primary work. Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it's important. Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand.
How to Overcome Procrastination
1 Embrace Imperfection
One of the reasons we procrastinate, is waiting to start till we have made a perfect plan. If you’re trying to write the perfect report, you keep thinking how people may find faults with it, that you don’t even want to get started. Just start writing anything that comes to mind on the topic.You can always improve on it later.
2. Make a promise to yourself
When it comes to important tasks like going to the gym, or starting on a diet schedule, we’ll just set vague goals and feel perfectly comfortable pushing back our self-imposed deadlines. Fix a date and make a promise to yourself that, come what may you will show up. Remember, “Well begun is half done”
3. Start with the easy part
The first step is simply to start with whatever is easy, manageable and simple. Have a look at your project, whatever it is, and decide to do the easy bit first. The great thing is that after starting, you will build momentum and gain confidence to tackle the complex parts.
4. Don’t be bogged down by excuses
When confronted with a not so interesting, complex task, all sorts of excuses start popping up on the screen of your mind. Here are a few of the common excuses; not feeling in the mood to do it, all inputs not available, few team members not present, waiting for other team members to do it, date of submission is far away,etc,etc. Don’t fall a prey to such excuses, and start in right earnest, straightaway!
5. Don’t rely on memory
Sometimes we forget to start on schedule, because of other commitments. Write down the date and time of starting the project and finishing it, in a prominent place which you can always see.
6. Keep track of how you spend your time.
Grab a notebook and a pen; for an entire week, write down everything that you do and how much time you spend on it. You may be shocked to discover that you waste enormous amounts of time aimlessly surfing the web, reading blogs that don’t really help improve your quality of life, “chatting” on Twitter, and so on. Ask yourself how your life would improve if you used that time productively instead.
7. Set a timer.
When you’re going to start working on a task which you’ve been avoiding, set a timer for a specific amount of time–for example, forty minutes–, and tell yourself that you will not take your focus off the task until the timer rings. When the timer rings, take a short break; then, set the timer for another forty minutes and do it again.
8. Set deadlines for each subtask.
Suppose that your boss assigns you a project that’s due in three months. Instead of focusing on the three-month deadline, break the project down into subtasks, and set a deadline for each subtask. That way, you can make sure that you work steadily on the project during the three month period, instead of leaving everything to the last minute.
9. Tell others about your goals.
Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects. It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable to your plans.
10. Associate with people who inspire you to take action.
Identify the people/friends/colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and associate with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too. Watching inspiring videos will also push you forward.
11. Turn off your phone
With every social network, the internet, YouTube and a connection to all your mates right there in your pocket, your phone is the ultimate procrastination tool. That’s why you should turn it off when you want to be productive. Even if it’s just for an hour at a time, you’ll see noticeable improvements in your concentration and output.
12. Know the Consequences of Procrastination
Sometimes the fear of loss, the pain or the embarrassment of failing motivates us to achieve our goals. We all are motivated differently. But if you keep an account of what is at stake if you fail to achieve those daily goals, most probably you will not procrastinate. Personally, I don’t like to lose and therefore I keep pushing towards my goals because come what may, I want to win.
Take away
By overcoming procrastination you will decrease anxiety, stress and depression and watch your self-esteem rise. You will also earn you a reputation for being dependable and successful.
I would like to conclude with my all-time favourite quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”


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Posted on
Mar
1
2017
Wed
7:55
PM
What most parents don't know about parenting?
Modified on
Mar
1
2017
Wed
7:56
PM
From Pradeep Khare
When asked what attributes they want to see in their child, almost all parents would list the following: happy, healthy, sincere, truthful, hardworking, respectful, compassionate, intelligent, etc. But in reality if we look around how many children do we find having these qualities? The answer is not very encouraging. Let us examine the reasons for this paradox. Parenting has a big role to play in this context.
Does parenting have a role before the birth of a child?
This seems to be enigmatic. But the truth is that parenting begins when the child is taking shape in the mother’s womb. During this stage the soul is gradually acquiring the body form. Since it is body less, its catching power is very strong. It catches all the thoughts, vibrations and feelings of the mother. In the light of this it is imperative that the thoughts of the mother-to-be, should have all the attributes she wants to see in her child. There should be no thoughts of anger, hatred, jealousy, criticism, or violence. She has to be very careful what she reads, talks, listens or even sees. The father to be also has a big responsibility in supporting and cooperating with his wife to maintain peace and harmony.
Parenting during infancy
These are the formative years of a child when his mind is like a blotting paper, which has a lot of absorbing capacity. Whatever the parents, family members speak or do in front of the baby, it has a deep impact on his mind. He may not understand the language, but he imbibes the intentions, being a powerful soul. The overburdened lifestyle and advent of nuclear families, forces many parents to entrust their loved ones to crèches and nanny’s. This may harm the child.
Parenting during childhood.
“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” – Paulo Coelho
During childhood the basics of one’s personality are shaped. If he is criticized, ridiculed, scolded by his parents, family members or teachers, then he will develop an inferiority complex. It is imperative that parents find ways to appreciate, encourage and uplift the child so as to empower him. It should be realized that the child is a unique soul, so it would be unfair to compare with any other child. If both the parents are good swimmers, it is not necessary that their child will be a good swimmer.You never know he may have been drowned to death in his earlier birth, which has caused hydrophobia in him.
Parenting during adolescence.
“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” – Haim Ginott
This is the most crucial period of development, when the parents need to be well informed, aware and must be prepared to give sufficient time to their kids. It is counterproductive to flood the house with expensive toys, amenities, and gadgets in lieu of spending time with him.
“Your children need your presence more than your presents.”-Jesse Jackson
Children are eager to share each and every incident of the day with their parents, but they shun them away on the pretext that they are tired or don’t have time. This forces the child to find people outside who not only listen to him but also appreciate him. Suddenly when the parent finds that the child has done something wrong, he is scolded and punished. This widens the rift between them. Even when he is caught in a difficult situation he does not have the confidence to confide in his parents, but depends on his friends.
If a child fails in an examination, the parents scold and sometimes beat him. This is detrimental and should be avoided. This is the time when the child needs understanding and support rather than rejection and reprimand.
“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum
A child does not do what his parents tell him to do, but does what he sees them doing. So parents would do well to practice what they preach. Parents should not force their ambitions on the child, rather give them the freedom to choose careers according to their aptitude and interest. There is boundless energy in adoloscents.Parents would do well to help them to channelize that energy in constructive ventures. The importance of healthy lifestyle and adherence to values should be imbibed during this stage.
Parenting for youth
When your child crosses teenage, it is better to treat him like a friend. This is a stage of life when one feels overconfident, and is averse to following guidance. Never repeat the incidents of your yesteryears in front of him .They will put him off, instead of impressing him. It is better for parents to listen to him with patience, appreciate his genuinely good qualities and then tell in a suggestive way that if he gets over his weakness he will do wonders. If all these years the parents have played their role well, they will have a worthy son, whom they can be proud of.
Takeaway
It is said” Life is a continuous learning process.” We become parents without even knowing that any skills are required.
“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” – John Wilmot
We start treating our children mostly as our parents treated us. In this age of growing awareness parents would do well to keep themselves abreast of the latest in the arena of parenting ,so that they can give the best to their children.
(NB: The pronoun ‘he‘used in the above is inclusive of both genders.)

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Posted on
Feb
16
2017
Thu
2:34
PM
Motorcycle ambulance
From Pradeep Khare
“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.” ~Wilfred Grenfell

It was a breaking news in Jalpaiguri, “Locals want Karimul Haque to be honored with the Presidential Award for his service to humanity”. It was only fair, given that Karimul had been running an ambulance service for free, for all the local residents to ensure that no one ever died due to lack of timely medical service. Karimul knew the pain of losing a family member: he had started this ambulance service after he lost his mother due to the unavailability of an ambulance. Actually, he improvised an ambulance, by getting a side carriage fitted to his motorcycle, and thereby innovating a motorcycle ambulance.

Recollecting the fateful night Karim said, “It was a dark night when my mother, Zufuran Nessa, suffered a heart attack. We were looking for some emergency medical help. Unfortunately, we couldn’t manage to take her to the hospital located 45 km ahead of our village. I was shattered and felt worthless. I realized that the tragedy that happened to me, should not happen to anyone in my village.”
As a worker in a tea estate, Karim earned just about Rs 4,000 a month but never thought twice before spending Rs 2,000 for fuel and other costs out of his own pocket. “I am doing this in memory of my mother so that God grants her a place in heaven,” he had said with pride.

People used to laugh at him when he started carrying patients on his bike. He placed a board ‘bike-ambulance’ on the front of his bike and even acquired permission to use blue blinking light. At least a hundred people call him for help every month. His dedication can be gauged from the fact that ever since he started, he didn’t take even a single day off during the last 14 years. If he gets a call while working, he immediately rushes to help. The manager of the tea plantation also supports him and lets him, go in case of an emergency.

Ferrying a patient to the hospital in an ambulance is a luxury mostly elusive for a majority in the region. Rarely are desperate calls for an ambulance attended to as the nearest hospital in Malbazar is 45km away and the potholed road meanders through dense forests, notorious for elephant attacks. “The ambulances make an exception for pregnant women. However, it takes them half a day to reach us. The nearest public health center is 8 km away, but it lacks proper health care facilities,” he added. Besides, a bike ambulance will be of more help in these narrow lanes and by-lanes, where four-wheelers get stuck every now and then.

Local people consider him God-send. Some even seek his blessings before auspicious events. “Karimul dada is next to God. When my mother-in-law had a stroke, we thought she wouldn’t survive. Thanks to Karimul dada, who drove at jet-speed to the hospital, she is hale and hearty now,” said Bulu Oraon, a villager.

So, what is his ultimate dream? An ambulance fitted with advanced healthcare facilities, says Karimul. “This will help people who live in remote areas in a big way,” he said. His prayers have been answered, albeit partially. Recently Bajaj upgraded his bike and fitted it with a waterproof stretcher and ports for oxygen cylinder as part of their corporate social responsibility initiative. But if a proper ambulance comes his way, will he ditch his bike ambulance? “The bike ambulance is my mother. How can one leave his mother?” he asked.

Karimul Haque conducts regular health camps in tribal areas. To ease things for the villagers, he has also started providing basic care at their doorstep, having taken intensive training from local doctors. “There are times when roads are flooded and traffic does not move. For occasions like that, I taught him the basics like how to dress a wound and administer an injection. I have seen him cleaning wounds of a maggot-hit septicemia patient,” said Dr. Saumen Mandal, a surgeon at the Jalpaiguri district hospital.

The joint secretary of Panchayat and rural development department, Dibyendu Das, who was also the additional district magistrate of the region between 2014 and 2016, funded his endeavor on occasions. Most people I help are poor who can’t afford hospital fees. In that case, he tries to pay as much as his pocket permits.

He also collects rice, blankets, and clothes, and distributes it to the needy. He gets donations from school teachers, cops and sometimes students too. That helps him to fund the treatment for the needy.Karimul’s family, too, supports him in this noble cause. Karimul also goes on rounds and has been trained to give first aid to those who meet with road accidents.

On 25 Jan 2017, a call from Delhi informs him that he has been chosen to be honored with one of India’s civilian honors Padma Shri. “I had no idea about the award but later, some local people told me about it. If I am getting it for my work, I would dedicate it to my mother, who inspired me to help the poor and ailing people in her life,” he said. When asked how his life would change now, after getting a Padma Shri he said, “I want nothing for myself. I still run the ambulance and can afford the petrol bills. Instead, I would be grateful if the government can do something to ensure better medical facilities in the region,” he added.

He has two sons and two daughters. Both the daughters are married and his two sons are working as mobile mechanics. His family members are quite supportive of his work. Why he doesn’t purchase a car for better service he explained: “This region has a difficult terrain where traveling by car is not possible every time. Also, bike-ambulance has become popular and now people easily recognize me so that I don’t want to switch.” He feels that if one has the courage and determination anything is possible.

A big salute to Karimul for his super inspiring efforts for Humanity.
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Posted on
Jan
30
2017
Mon
1:21
PM
The first Afghan female taxi driver
From Pradeep Khare
“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”
– Elizabeth Cady Stant
Even now, when it is not common to find lady taxi drivers in India, it is my proud privilege to present Sara Bahai, who fought against all odds and dared to become a lady taxi driver in the male-dominated terror struck Afghanistan.
Sara has very dark memories of her childhood. She recalls many tears and heartache from the years of war and persecution and her father was killed in action 36 years ago. Growing up, it was easier for Sara to live as a boy and act as a tomboy because it was so difficult being a female in a Taliban-run country. “As a kid, I was a real tomboy. I used to wear boy's clothes. No one could tell I was a girl. But my parents were very supportive of my personality and gave me the freedom to live my life as I wanted. I was very lucky to have parents like that.”


Sara never had any interest in dolls growing up and always played with her brother's toy cars instead. “I used to make cars with match boxes because my father could not afford many toys,” Sara remembers, who has never worn the all-blue Burka the Taliban had made compulsory for women on the rare occasions they left their home.
While the majority of the country celebrated the fall of the Taliban in 2002, Sara quickly signed up for a two-week professional driving course with the Chief Officer of the Traffic Police and applied for a license to legally start driving her red Toyota Corolla DX.Then, Sara decided to make money for her family and become a full-time taxi driver.
And when Sara finally got behind a wheel and drove a car for the first time she felt as if she was flying. She said: 'The first time I drove a car I felt as if someone had given me wings. I cannot express the feeling; 'it was beautiful'. It was my neighbor's car and I drove for just a few miles around our neighborhood but it was enough - I was hooked. After that, I was determined to learn to drive and buy my own car.'
To attain her driving license, Sara took a class with 30 other people, all of whom were men. They were always ready to vent vitriol for her. But, that did not deter her, and she was among the 10 people in that class to finally get a license.
Sara said: “When women get into my car and see a woman driver they start smiling and giggling, they say they're very proud of me. I think they're glad at least one woman is living an independent life. In my taxi, they talk freely. They feel comfortable and talk about families, husbands and crack jokes.” But not all Sara's customers are as accepting.
Narrating her mixed experiences Sara said, “My male customers are never happy with me. They believe it's very un-Islamic for a woman to drive - they still have very primitive thinking. They accuse me of setting a bad example for women and nasty things come out of their mouths. But I do not get depressed; I tell them exactly what I think. A woman driving a car is not nonreligious and their opinions are ludicrous.” When people first saw Sara as a taxi driver they laughed at her. But it did not deter her. She was confident about her decision. She wanted to show the world that Afghanistan women are not born to just get married and have children. They can work, look after themselves and be independent too.
Sara Bahai has dedicated her life to caring for her mother Bibi, 60, to helping her sister care for her seven children, after the death of her husband in 2000 during the war against the Taliban. When asked about the reason for not getting married, she said “I've had many men ask me to marry them but I've never agreed. I have no regrets. I broke the marriage rule in my family because there was no one to feed us or make money so I had to step in as the strong one.” Amongst Sara's six sisters and seven brothers, Sara is the only one not to marry. But Sara has watched her sisters in very unhappy marriages. So much so Sara adopted her sister’s two sons, now 12 and 18 years old and studying in school because her husband was a drug addict and couldn't provide for them. She does not believe in taking chances with her safety, so she keeps a loaded hunting rifle at her shanty in a poor neighborhood, at all times.
She doesn't even pay a mechanic to check her car; she does all the repairs herself. And makes, even more, money by buying and selling second-hand cars. Sara admits she has been very lucky to have never faced any threats from the Taliban, but she knows many women who are too scared to take one step outside their home.
Sara is now determined to contribute as much as she can to the prosperity of Afghan women - and she is doing that by starting her own driving school. She already has three female students learning to drive and she is getting more requests every day. She dreams of having a bustling driving school generating thousands of Afghan female taxi drivers of the future.
Besides trailblazing a path for women on Afghan roads and supporting her family, Bahai is also an active human rights activist. “When I get a call, I have to get the scene as soon as possible and solve the problem,” says Bahai, who works with a coalition of human rights groups in Balkh Province. “This car can be of a lot of help for me. Helping others with family-related issues is one of the reasons why I bought this car.” Still, she claims to have saved several divorces and to have helped many women study.
When asked to give a message for Afghan women she said: “stand up for yourselves, set goals and achieve them, and help to make Afghanistan a happy place to live.”
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Posted on
Jan
1
2017
Sun
5:32
PM
He helped a roadside victim
From Pradeep Khare
.
“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. “~William Penn
It is a common sight, when someone is injured on the roadside, the passersby move on as if they have not seen anything. One of the oft quoted reasons for such apathy is lack of time and secondly people don’t want to get involved in becoming witnesses at police stations and courts. This attitude paints a very sad picture of humanity, but there are still some rare species of human beings who feel compassion and concern for such victims and come forward to help, without bothering about the consequences..
A 36 year old youth Satendra Sinha of Pune stood out of the crowd and appeared as an angel. Sinha is from Mihijam in Jamtara district of Jharkhand, but has been in Pune for a decade. He works as a quality engineer with ADF Engineering. It was on Friday 23 Dec 2016 when he was going back to his home in Dapodi from work on his motorcycle around 8.30pm, when a software Engineer Ms Antara Das, 23, who had been brutally stabbed by an unidentified assailant, collided with his bike at PNB Chowk in Talawade, 30 km from Pune. He had left his workplace around 8.25pm on that fateful day and reached the gate of Mahindra Company in Nighoje-Chakan area. There was traffic along the road and a speed breaker forced him to slow down. “As I slowly passed over it, I saw some commotion on the pavement a few meters ahead of me. The streetlights were out that evening, but I could spot a youth and a girl having a heated argument. Seeing the situation getting out of control, I decided to intervene and drove towards the pavement.

Just a few steps ahead was the Cap Gemini (an IT multinational company) gate and on the other side of the road was Dream Hotel, an eatery. Before I reached the spot, I saw the girl fall off the pavement and I halted my bike. I saw the man running across the road and disappearing into the darkness near the hotel. My headlight was on and I saw something shiny flashing in his hand. Of what I could see, the man was wearing a T shirt with horizontal blue and black stripes, "said Satendra. When he stopped, the girl suddenly got up on her feet. “She came up to me and said, “Bachao“(help) holding on to my jacket. Then, she lost consciousness and her head tilted off my bike's fuel tank as I tried to hold her. I felt something wet and realized that it was blood. Quite a few people who were passing by saw this, but they remained indifferent. He knew he couldn't leave her there, because four years ago he had faced a similar predicament. “I had met with an accident. My leg got fractured, but no one on the street helped me though I kept pleading. The police came to my rescue.” he remembers.
At his request, a four wheeler stopped and a man, who identified himself as Gopal Sakya, an employee with General Motors, got out of the driver's seat and came to help him, he said.“I told him what had happened and we put the girl in the backseat of his car. I could see that she was bleeding profusely now. The wound was in her nape and the blood flow wouldn't stop. My bike was parked at the crime spot and someone handed me the keys. We drove towards Thermax Chowk, "Sinha said. Antara never opened her eyes, but moaned softly in agony, he added. They spotted Chetna Hospital and Sakya stopped his car. “I got out and called for help. A ward boy saw the scene and rushed inside and was back in a minute with a doctor. They saw the girl and her wound with a torch and said her condition was very critical and pointed towards Dhanashree Hospital, two buildings away. They offered to take her on a stretcher but we drove towards the hospital. I again got out and called aloud for help. The ward boys and some doctors put the girl from the backseat to a stretcher and took her inside. She was still moaning. I saw her identity card around her neck. I grabbed it and dialed the emergency number on it and informed the person about the stabbing. I identified her too, "Sinha said.
A company representative came to the hospital at 9.35 pm. At around the same time the doctors, who had taken her to the operating table, said that she had succumbed to her injuries. In the next ten minutes, around 20 to 30 Cap Gemini employees arrived at the hospital, he added.” The police arrived at 11.30pm and started investigations. They asked me a few questions in the hospital and took me back to the spot of crime and asked more questions. Another team took some photographs and blood samples from the spot and from my bike. I was then taken to Dehu Road police station where I was given some food. The FIR took a long time as there was no electricity at the police station. The Police said I could collect by motorcycle on Saturday. They dropped me home at 6 am, “Sinha said. He reached home after completing all the police formalities on Saturday morning at 6 am. His pregnant wife had been calling him throughout the night. “I didn't tell her about the stabbing as she may get anxious, “Sinha said.
Such an instinct to help someone without any selfish motive is rare to find. Satendra did not bother about his personal problems, but truly played the role of a Good Samaritan.



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Posted on
Dec
18
2016
Sun
9:48
AM
He begged for a living, now owns a Rupees 30 crore empire!
Modified on
Dec
18
2016
Sun
9:56
AM
From Pradeep Khare
"Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."
-Orison Swett Marden
He has begged with his father, worked as a domestic help, pushed a hand cart to sell vanity bags and suitcases, guarded the homes of the rich, and has driven cars for travel agencies. That’s the summary of the early life of Renuka Aradhya, owner and managing director of the ₹40 crore turnover Pravasi Cabs Private Limited, a car rental service in Bengaluru.
For someone who had travelled such a difficult path, Aradhya is sitting pretty now, commanding a fleet of more than 1,000 cars - 250 of which he owns – and 40 school buses. “We hope to touch a turnover of ₹ 100 crore by 2019 and then we will go for an IPO,” says Aradhya, who nowadays commutes on a ₹ 23 lakh Hyundai Elantra and might soon be seen on a ₹ 84 lakh Land Rover.

A class ten dropout, Aradhya is today a well-known name in the cab industry and also a director of four start-ups that are spread out in the transport, hospitality and real estate sectors.Aradhya’s father was a priest at Mutyalamma Devi temple in Gopasandra village in Anekal taluk near Bengaluru. He did not get a fixed salary and earned just about ₹ 1 or 2 daily from the arati collections. The family cultivated ragi and paddy in the small patch of temple land, but the yield from it was not enough to meet their needs. Aradhya had two older siblings – a sister and a brother. After the temple duty, Aradhya’s father used to go begging from house to house and young Aradhya would accompany him to collect the ragi, jowar or rice that people would offer them. They would sell it later in the market.
Aradhya studied in a government school and his teachers helped him by paying his fees. In return, he would do household chores for them. When Aradhya finished Class six, his father left him at one Kaverappa’s house as a domestic help. Aradhya looked after the two cows the family owned, and the octogenarian Kaverappa’s needs. He stayed there for about a year and attended a local school.
“I felt the experience what I got in their house was the real schooling than what I studied from books. They served leftover food that used to be very dry. I didn’t get enough food and I used to stay hungry,” he says with a smile. When Aradhya’s father realised his son’s plight, he took him to Mahanteera Mutt in Chikpet, Bengaluru, and admitted him there. “The Mutt would give us two meals a day, one at 8 am and the other at 8 pm, and nothing in between. Some of us boys used to go to SBM Circle on Kempegowda Road and eat the leftover ripe plantains from the vendors there,” he says.
But after he failed in his Class ten exams, he went back home. “As my father had passed away by then, the responsibility of taking care of my mother fell on me. My brother and sister had got married and they were not in a position to help us,” he adds.Aradhya lost interest in studies and decided to work. The mother and son shifted to a small house in Bengaluru, where Aradhya took up small jobs.
He worked on lathe machines, joined a plastic pot making factory and then an ice-making factory. For three years he worked as a sweeper in Adlabs studio. Later, he joined Shyam Sundar Trading Co. as a helper in packing and transporting bags and suitcases on hand carts to various shops. Soon, he started his own business by procuring suitcases from wholesalers and selling them on a push cart that he would take from street to street. He lost ₹ 30,000 in the business, his hard-earned savings and some borrowed money. His brother, who worked as a supervisor in a security agency, got him a job as a security guard in Koramangala. He worked for almost three years as a security guard at various places and earned around ₹ 600 a month.
When he was 20, he married a relative, Pushpa, who was a year younger to him and like him was a class ten dropout. To supplement his income, he worked as a maali and also climbed coconut trees in the neighbourhood.
“I charged ₹ 15 per tree to pluck coconuts and I would climb around 20 trees a day. My wife also joined a garments factory for a salary of ₹ 275. This additional income proved very useful,” says Aradhya.At 23, Aradhya became a father to a son and named him after the deity he worshipped, Raghavendra Swamy.
Aradhya developed an interest in driving as some of his friends were drivers and they were earning around ₹ 2000 a month. So he learned driving and found a job, but it wouldn’t last long. “My first job lasted only few hours. The very first day I banged the Ambassador car on a gate. Fearing I would be reprimanded, I left the job and ran away from the scene,” he recalls. “Feeling too low about the turn of events, I headed to the temple and started banging my head at the steps cursing my fate and how God was being so unkind to me. I went back to work as a security guard.”
Aradhya is foraying into new ventures and is already a director of four start-ups.However, he soon got an opportunity to work for Satish Shetty, owner of Ganesh Travels. “Shetty instilled confidence in me. He advised me to flee the place if I ever banged my car against something,” says Aradhya, whose earnings went up to around ₹ 5,000 a month, which included a salary of ₹ 600, driver allowance of ₹ 100 a day on outstation trips, and generous tips from customers.
Since Aradhya received good reviews from his customers, he was poached by a rival company to drive a matador, which ferried customers and also operated as a hearse van. “Friends and relatives said that misery would befall me if I carried corpses. I was pure in my thoughts and did my job with honesty. I thank God for giving me an opportunity to even serve the dead,” he says, turning emotional.
After four years, Aradhya joined Manjunatha Travels. “Here I got an opportunity to drive foreign tourists. Once there was a group from France. Since I knew about their arrival two months in advance, I learnt basic French to communicate with them. Aradhya realised early in his career as a driver that once you please your customers, your success is assured. “They were very impressed. I realised that if I could make my customers happy, I can never fail in any business,” he says.
In 2000, Aradhya bought his own vehicle. His wife withdrew her PF money and he invested his savings to buy their first car, a Tata Indica, for ₹ 3.2 lakh and went on to work independently. Aradhya learned English conversing with tourists and reading newspapers. He also attended workshops on business management, marketing, customer retention and entrepreneurship. “I believe the world is a university and people are books. You get to learn from every person you meet,” he offers words of wisdom. By 2006, he added five more cars and attached them to City Taxi. The same year, one of his drivers, Venkatesh Perrumal, coaxed Aradhya to buy another company, Indian City Taxi, which was on distress sale.Aradhya bought it for ₹ 6.75 lakh by raising loans and selling all the cars he had in his possession. Indian City Taxi had 35 cars attached to it. While his nephew took care of the control room, he supervised the operations.
Aradhya called his new company ‘Pravasi Cabs’. It wasn’t all that easy and he had to struggle as an entrepreneur. Aradhya has launched a scheme to enable his drivers to buy their own vehicles. His first client was Amazon India, and he signed up for their employee transport service (ETS). He added 35 vehicles to Amazon in 2006-07.Amazon gave him business in Chennai as well when they set up their office there. He attached 300 vehicles to the Chennai office – all on borrowed money. After few months, Aradhya expanded his business and got other clients such as Walmart, Akamai, and General Motors. In 2012, he added seven school buses to his fleet, which has grown to 40 now.
When Ola and Uber entered the scene, Aradhya’s forethought and practical thinking saved him from the negative impact the two taxi aggregators had on the industry. “I saw many small taxi operators shut shop when Ola and Uber cabs hit the streets. If I had a small cab agency with just 100 or 200 cabs, I would have been hit badly,” he says. Since Aradhya had around 700 cabs attached to Pravasi, he escaped the impact as he just lost about 200 to them. In order to stay grounded and secure his business, he realised the best solution was to have an owner-cum-driver scheme. Under this scheme, by paying an advance of ₹ 50,000, a driver would get a new car. “The car will be transferred to the driver’s name after 36 months. Until then he can keep whatever he earns, we just deduct the EMI for the vehicle.
“We now have more than 300 vehicles under this scheme, and I have the liability of all those vehicles on my head,” he adds.Aradhya is a spiritual person; spirituality and business go hand-in-hand for him. “One should share whatever he has and empower his family and employees,” he says, and goes on to add, “without my wife’s support, I wouldn’t have been where I am today.”
Aradhya’s son, who is a director at Pravasi Cabs, got married when he was 19. His daughter-in-law was just 18. After marriage, the young couple completed their graduation in commerce. “My daughter-in-law is also from a poor family. She agreed to marry my son after I assured her that I would let her complete her education. “I used to personally drop and pick her up from the college as she and my son studied in different colleges. They are married for seven years now and I am a proud grandfather of a year-and-a-half old grandson,” he reveals. His daughter-in-law is being groomed to be a part of the family business. She will soon join Aradhya as his secretary. “When I was only a driver, I would often think that one day instead of submitting a trip sheet I should be the one collecting it,” he adds.
Aradhya’s life just proves that there is nothing you can’t achieve in this world if you dream it, plan it, and work hard for it.
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1 Comment
Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 12:03:16 AM
From Piyush Chandra Sharma
Inspiring story. Very well written as ever.
Posted on
Dec
1
2016
Thu
10:44
AM
Reverse brain drain
From Pradeep Khare
“I dream of a digital India where farmers are empowered with real time information to be connected with global markets”-Narendra Modi
In Banihalli, a village 80 kilometres from Bangalore, a group of farmers gather in a courtyard and discuss worm composting after watching a video of the process. Since the video features a fellow villager, who has shot it, the farmers are able to connect with the message. “This way the farmers easily identify with the specific agricultural practice. The videos are shot by them but we make sure that its quality is good,” says 29-year-old Rikin Gandhi, an NRI from New Jersey, who is the CEO of Digital Green, a non-profit organization. Gandhi, who had never seen a village till 2006, is now reaching out to over 6,000 villages through his organization and working to improve the lives of thousands of farmers.

Born and brought up in the US, Rikin holds degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Masters in Aeronautical and Astronomical Engineering) and Carnegie Mellon (Bachelors in Computer Science).A trained pilot, he was all set to join the US Astronaut programme. While waiting for his US Air Force application to be cleared, he joined Oracle in California. A chance visit to India during that time gave him his first exposure to rural India. Agriculture was not what Gandhi always had in mind. This aerospace engineer from MIT wanted to be a pilot. A minor eye problem came in his way when he applied to the US Navy for a space shuttle programme and he ended up working on the ground. In 2006, he got a chance to visit Indian villages as part of a Microsoft Research India’s project, and the visit changed his life forever. So, what could be called a case of reverse brain drain happened with Rikin joining Microsoft Research in Bangalore as a researcher in the technology for emerging markets in 2006.
The exposure as well as the realisation that 60 percent of his native country’s population relied on agriculture for livelihood made Rikin rethink on his goals. Interacting with the rural folks, he felt that use of technology could improve their economic well-being and he prepared himself to reconnect with his roots for a bigger cause.
“I have been reading autobiographies of astronauts, who see the earth from above with new perspective. They become very philosophical; think about the futility of wars and human greed. Many become farmers, teachers and go all the way to reconnect with people,” says Rikin, adding that going into space was like getting fifteen minutes of fame while working for small and marginal farmers and transforming their lives was more meaningful. “When I started Digital Green, I wasn’t sure how successful it will be. But within two months of the screening of the first video, 58 percent of the farmers had implemented the lessons learnt on their farms,” says Gandhi.
Apart from enabling villagers to access better technologies and solutions, Digital Green has also helped the people in becoming more confident. “I have seen women who would be really shy in the first video in which they are featured, speak confidently and loudly in the next video. The pitch of her voice rises and you can see the positive change in her body language,” Gandhi says.
Gandhi went to a local NGO and used audio-visual tools to engage farmers, and eventually came up with an idea to set up Digital Green, where he would help farmers across India to share the best agricultural practices through videos.The idea is simple: using videos to teach farmers. But the catch is in producing the videos. It is not a team of experts which makes the videos, but local farmers who have learnt the art of filming with Digital Green’s help. Digital Green’s team of 77 members’ works across eight states of India to train farmers to produce and show videos which showcase their problems, solutions and success stories. “The work does not end with merely creating the videos. A facilitator from each village uses the videos to stimulate a discussion around the videos to ensure that people are making the most from them,” Gandhi says.
Selected as an Ashoka fellow and included in the 2010 list of world’s young innovators in Technology Review 35 (published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Rikin made Digital Green an independent organisation in 2009, which is now supported by Bill Gates Foundation.Having covered some 500 villages and with a target of 1200 in two years, Digital Green is going global as Rikin starts work in Ethiopia and Uganda in a couple of months. On the reaction of his parents, who had migrated to US for better opportunities, Rikin says they were initially apprehensive but when they saw his work, they were quite excited.
Digital Green’s network of partners and communities have produced over 4,000 videos in 28 languages so far. Digital Green is expanding its geographical footprint in partnership with the Government of India’s Ministry of Rural Development across 10,000 villages over the next 3 years and has extended its presence into parts of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Afghanistan as well. “Though we already have videos on various agricultural topics, we have seen demand from the community on issues related to nutrition and health, and now have content in those areas as well,” Gandhi says.
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Posted on
Nov
15
2016
Tue
12:52
PM
A Tamil lecturer polishes shoes to run a free school for destitutes.
From Pradeep Khare
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. “-Lao Tzu
There are myriad ways to procure funds for a social cause and one method that is not commonly heard of is polishing footwear of others. A 34-year-old man from Thiruvallur district did exactly that to gather funds to help destitute students. Selvakumar claims he does the lowly job not to garner attention, but to create awareness among public on the need to come forward to help poor people. And he has been doing that across the state to garner funds for providing education to poor students. Selvakumar, an Assistant Professor in a private college in Thiruvallur district. As he refuses to take charitable donations to fund his educational activities, he spends his free time to take up any work like catering service, cleaning, or delivering a motivational talk.

He has travelled to different places in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to raise funds for his school. After landing in a city or town, he finds a suitable place where there is movement of people and puts up a flex banner with the message (in Tamil): “Give me an opportunity to work. Pay for the work. I shall wipe your footwear. You wipe the tears of my children. As curious onlookers gather, he goes about his business of wiping and polishing footwear. “People contribute whatever they can. I distribute pamphlets about my school and state my needs clearly in it. Now we are constructing a building for the school and we need construction materials like bricks, and cement bags,” says the 34-year-old Tamil graduate from Loyola College, Chennai.
“I don’t think that any such work would belittle me. Considering the welfare of destitute students, I am ready to do any work to earn money for their education. However, I would not force my family to involve in social service. They would act according to their wish. Besides me, there are eight women teachers working for a meagre salary of Rs 2,000 per month for this cause,” says Selvakumar.
While he may collect a couple of thousand rupees from every trip, he succeeds in spreading the word about his mission to several people. Some of them visit the school later and provide help. “They come all the way from their towns and cities to see the school. After they are convinced about my work, they give money or help me in kind,” he says.
He shares some interesting experiences from his field trips. Once at Thiruvarur in Thanjavur district, the chairperson of Thiruthuraipoondi Panchayat Union, Thamilselvi Raja, sat with him and polished the shoes of people for couple of hours to express her solidarity with the cause. On another occasion, a former state minister invited him home after learning about his work and offered him a donation of Rs.10, 000 for the school.
Most children receive free education in the school, while some pay a nominal monthly fee. “We started with 69 students in 2004. Now there are 232 children. Out of them 60 children do not have both parents, 40 are without their father, and 37 are children of women deserted by their husbands. All of them receive free education,” says Selvakumar. The rest (78) are from poor families. They pay a small fee, which starts from Rs.60 and goes up to Rs.120 per month for Class V students.
All the children receive 32 items essential for a school going child, including uniform (1 set), text books, note books, lunch box, water bottle, bag, and footwear free of cost. The school has couple of vehicles, which pick up children from their homes. “It is a free service we provide for the children who live in a radius of about 15 km from the school. It encourages the parents to send their children to school. Many parents find it difficult to drop their children to school or arrange cheap and safe transport for them,” he says.
Selvakumar drives one of the vehicles himself. “One has to be willing to do any work if you want to be a good social worker. I pick up the children in the morning and drop them back home in the evening. “I attend the morning assembly in school and then leave for work,” says the cheerful man, who holds diplomas in electrical and home appliances, computer application, and journalism and mass communication. The self-effacing man doesn’t mind a little media coverage if it helps promote the cause he champions. By flashing my activity through media, it would create a spark in others to involve in social service. But I don’t want to gain publicity.”
The college management has given him back-to-back classes in the morning hours, so that he is free in the afternoon to pursue his school related work. Before starting the school, he used to raise funds for orphanages and homes for the aged and work with the disabled.
Selvakumar is married to Mallika, who is a teacher in their school. “She is a pillar of support in my life,” he says proudly. The couple has a 5-year-old child Lingesh, who is also a student of Mother Teresa School.
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Posted on
Nov
3
2016
Thu
3:12
PM
He made 53 apps without any degree in Computers!
From Pradeep Khare
“Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am glad to believe that the majority of persons do find their right vocation.”
T. Barnum
Primary school teacher Imran Khan from Alwar in Rajasthan, who never travelled outside his country, could not have imagined that one day his name would be heard from across the seven seas. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his India resides in people like Imran Khan, in his address to a thunderous crowd at Britain’s Wembley Stadium, on 13 November 2015, Imran became an instant hit. Meet Imran Khan, a 34-year-old Mathematics teacher at a government Sanskrit senior secondary school in Alwar who has emerged as a super-creator of educational apps. With no formal education in computers, leave alone app development, Khan has learnt everything he knows from books and that all-encompassing source of knowledge ‘Google’.

“It feels good,” he said when asked how it felt to be named by none other than the Prime Minister of the country as an example of a true Indian. “I did not expect this ever,” he said with a nervous laugh. “Right now there are so many journalists, media, and television vans parked outside my house,” he said, adding, “My parents are wondering what the fuss is all about.”
Imran, who did a two-year basic teacher training course after his senior secondary degree, became a third grade government teacher in 1999. “My father is a farmer, and though I was very good in Mathematics and Science subjects, he could not understand its value. Everyone advised me to take up a government job as soon as possible, “he says, recalling his past. Imran later went on to do an MA in English and then in Economics as a private candidate.

As a child growing up in Khareda, a village bordering the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, Imran found himself a misfit. The 10 km distance to school from his home was never a deterrent. Rather, it was the lack of support to pursue higher education in Science that he found difficult. “I wanted to be a scientist. I was passionate about Maths and Science. But there was no encouragement or support to help me pursue these subjects. In our country everyone places more value on getting a job, and if you get a government job your life is set,” he says. “He is our family’s Abdul Kalam,” says Idrees, the 25-year-old younger sibling of Imran. Idrees is a software engineer who feels that it is only because of his older brother that he could manage to be what he is today. “He is my role model “Imran is the third among four brothers and three sisters. “My younger brother, Idrees, left his books at home after he completed his B Tech in Computer Science. As I was free after school, I began reading those books. I learnt html and designed a website,” says Imran. He has created more than 100 websites until now, he manages only two –www.gktalks.com and http://www.gyanmajari.com.

Imran has 53 apps listed on the Google Play Store under the name ‘gktalk_Imran’.His most popular app is ‘General Science’ in Hindi which has over 500,000 downloads currently. The app, which doesn’t need Internet connectivity to function, currently consists of about 300 questions and answers related to life sciences in Hindi. Regarding the use case of the app, the description on the Play Store states, “This application helps you to understand basic science questions easily. It should be useful for students as well as in IBPS, IAS, State PSC, SSC and other government exams. It will be also useful for job seekers who are looking to get recruited by government firms or any government jobs and entrance exams.” Imran’s other top-rated apps are on History GK, Hindi grammar, Geography GK in Hindi, Indian Political GK and his first ever app ‘NCERT Science in Hindi’, which he launched in 2012. All his apps have mostly favourable reviews with users complimenting the quality of content, simple design and User Interface. While these apps have been downloaded by 2.5 million users until now, the screen views alone have come up to 18 million. In addition to the above apps, Imran also has a number of other apps catering to diverse categories such as Physics, Chemistry, Solar System, Essay writing, antonyms and synonyms, Computer Fundamentals, human body system, Mughal Empire, and so on.

By Imran’s own admission, his app journey began at a time when he didn’t even know what the word stood for. “The then district collector of Alwar, Ashutosh AT Pednekar, saw my website and sent for me. He asked me to design the website for the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET). Pednekar was the one who suggested that I start developing apps. I had no clue what an app was – he had to show me some on his tablet,” Imran recalls.

He was invited by Smriti Irani, Minister of Human Resources Development, to showcase the apps to the ministry. “I have donated all my apps for free to the country,” he says with pride. This was under the Digital India initiative to give access to online learning material for students and parents. He also undertook sessions on IT in education at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, with trainee IAS officers as his audience.

Mr Khan said, “Everything in life is not for money, because the people for whom who I have made these apps for, can’t buy them. “Imran Khan has turned into an overnight celebrity but says that he plans to continue developing educational apps, especially in regional languages which can help more people. To support in his endeavor, the state-run BSNL will now provide free internet to Imran Khan for developing his apps.Imran Khan was offered the project officer’s post by Technical and Higher Education Minister Kalicharan Saraf. The minister also felicitated him with a cheque of Rs 11, 000, When asked to give a message for the youth, he says, “Whatever your passion, pursue it with total honesty, even if it does not yield any immediate results. In the long run, it would all have been worth it.”
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Posted on
Oct
17
2016
Mon
10:43
AM
She works as a house maid and secured 85 % marks in PU exam!
From Pradeep Khare
“A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
-Colin Powell
She has scored 84. 8 per cent in the science stream in the second PU exam and dreams of bigger academic goals. But that doesn't complete the picture. This high-scorer cleaned bathrooms and scrubbed utensils, cooking and nursing, while juggling studies. That's 17-year-old Shalini A, whose life story is more like an obstacle race.
Shalini had studied in Tamil medium from class one to seven, when she was shifted to Kannada medium till tenth standard. She then shifted to English medium for her PU studies at SGPTA-Deeksha College. If coping with frequent changes in the medium was not daunting enough, there were bigger challenges on the home front too.

Shalini, a resident of Mariyappanapalya near Rajajinagar, said her father who worked as a laborer, had been bedridden for over a decade after falling off a building. He has started moving around only recently, though he is still confined to the house. After the accident, her mother took up work as a housemaid in several houses so that she could provide for Shalini and her brother. With her mum away, the young girl had to run the show in her own house, doing everything from cooking to cleaning.
Just before the II PU exams, another tragedy struck the family. Her younger brother was diagnosed with third stage blood cancer. Shalini would often be in hospital with a book in her hand. "If I had not put in so much time in the hospital, I might have scored better. But my brother is more important to me than marks," says the gritty teen, who has been thrown into another tough situation now. With her mother spending most of the day tending to her brother, Shalini had to take up her mother's jobs. Though she's preparing for CET now, she also maintains a grueling work schedule.
Explaining her schedule, Shalini said, "I wake up around 4.30 am. After finishing my household chores, I rush to five houses close by where my job is to sprinkle water and draw Rangoli."She's done by 6 am after which she rushes to an office where she mops the floors and cleans the bathrooms. "The work ends by 7.30 am and then I head to another house to wash clothes. I am relatively free by 9 am and go home to prepare for CET. My study, coupled with my household chores, ends by 12.30 pm when it's time to step out again for two more jobs. I come back by 4.30 pm and have time till 6 pm to study." After quickly squeezing in some studies, she is out for more work, returning only at night and once again pouring into her books till midnight.
The teenager credits her college officials with encouraging her to study. "She is a hardworking girl, friendly with everyone and attentive in nature. Despite her family's condition, she always has a smile on her face," Prathap Naidu, SGPTA PU College principal, Thyagarajnagar, said. Shalini has no qualms about the hard work, saying she is happy to support her family.
Life has not been kind enough for her as she had to face agony while pursuing her studies."I aimed for scoring marks in the range of 90 to 95 percent, but could not, as I had to attend to my ailing brother, “she said. Her ambition is to become the first engineer in her family.
The family stays in a small house shared with Shalini's mother Vijaya's brother and his wife. Vijaya only studied till Class V, and her husband is illiterate. But she was perhaps her daughter's biggest inspiration. Many say the real test of life is usually outside the examination hall. If that is the case, young Shalini is already a winner.
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Posted on
Oct
1
2016
Sat
5:32
PM
The making of a Professor
From Pradeep Khare
“Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams.”
-Benjamin Carson
He was pulling a rickshaw in Jaipur, on the steep upslope of Brahmapuri.The sweltering heat and the weight of three passengers was making him sweat profusely .He was feeling exhausted. Thinking about the circumstances, that made him a rickshaw puller brought tears in his eyes. His life was confined to the rickshaw, so much so that he had to eat and even sleep there. Sometimes he used to come to drop passengers at the gate of Rajasthan University, but he could not dare to enter the University campus.Lo and behold, this lad has now become an Assistant Professor in Rajasthan University.
Let’s turn the clock of time back by a few years, to track how this incredible success story materialized.Jagdeesh Meena was born in a poor farmer’s family in Karnaver village (District Baswa) Rajasthan. Shortage of irrigation facilities forced his father to abandon farming and work as a mason to sustain his family .Jagdeesh was the second among five siblings. Financial crisis always gripped the family .During his school days he was fond of drawing. “I used to make drawings on the blank spaces in my book, which would annoy the teachers” recalls Jagdeesh.His Art teachers always encouraged him to pursue drawing and painting. In due course of time he passed the Class X examination. As the board and colours were expensive he resorted to making pencil sketches. Sometimes he would go to nearby parks and Jawahar Art Centre to make pencil sketches of people for a paltry sum of Rs 100. “I would make a pencil portrait in just about 10-15 minutes” he recalls. These earnings would supplement his father’s income.

He was always on the lookout for finding ways to earn money. He came to know that some boys used to go to Jaipur and pull rickshaws to earn money. He decided to join them, oblivious of the fact that it involved grueling physical labour.But he was not prepared to sacrifice his studies, so he would pull the rickshaw only seven days in a month. Having earned some money he would come back to his village and rejoin school. Remembering those difficult days he said, “I used to feel suffocated among the rickshaw pullers who used to smoke ‘beedis’and talk in uncultured language. When asked about the turning point of his life Jagdeesh said, “Whenever I used to come to the gate of Rajasthan University to drop passengers, I would park my rickshaw on the left side of the gate.I used to tell myself that if I compromise on studies now,I will have to remain a rickshaw puller all through my life. It was then, that I nurtured a dream to become a Professor one day.” He continued this routine of rickshaw pulling from Class X to XII.
After passing Class XII Meena got admission in BA Fine Arts in Rajasthan University. He was staying in the hostel. His parents had to borrow money and send him about Rs 2000 every month to meet the hostel expenses. Sometimes even this was not possible owing to financial constraints. He evolved a novel method to earn money. He used to serve as a waiter in marriages and other functions at night. In 2007 Meena got admission in MA (Fine Arts).He used to take drawing classes in private schools to meet the hostel expenses. He remained committed to his goal and each day brought him closer to it. He surprised everyone by topping the list of successful candidates, and winning the gold medal. It was a moment of pride and glory.Jagdeesh thanked God from the core of his heart, as he always believed that one can only put in his best but the result is in the hands on God.
After completing his post-graduation he cleared UGC NET examination in 2009 and subsequently enrolled for PhD .He got selected as an Art teacher in a government school in Rajgarh, where he worked for three years. After a long gap of 31 years the posts of Assistant Professor in Rajasthan University were advertised.Jagdeesh applied and got selected. He is happily married and his wife is an Assistant Engineer. He is busy preparing his thesis for the topic “A study of Indian miniature paintings depicting Mahabharat”.In a message to people in similar situations, he said “don’t be afraid of difficulties or problems, and face them. Chase your dreams and God will help you”.Not content to rest on his laurels ,Jagdeesh wants to keep on perfecting his Art and find a place in the top ten artists of the world.
(The above success story is based on the interview of Jagdeesh Meena by Major Pradeep Khare)
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Posted on
Sep
21
2016
Wed
7:14
PM
The making of a CA
From Pradeep Khare
“Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and don't give up.”
-Rachel Corrie
His parents often engaged in family quarrels over financial issues in the household. He got fed up with the tense atmosphere prevailing at home and ran away at the tender age of just 8 years. He had to do petty jobs as a child labourer in hotels at Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain. When he used to go and give tea to bank officers, he would dream to become like them one day. Luck brought him to Mumbai where he got inspiration from a girl and enrolled for Class X examination through open school. This story which runs on the lines of a film script is soon going to be the subject of a biopic. The real life hero of this story is Mukesh Singh Rajput who has become a qualified Chartered Accountant. Not only this, a biographical account of his struggleful life has been published in the form of a book titled “CA pass –the real story”. The book was released on 01 July 2015.

Mukesh did not have the company of bright students for doing group study, so he formed a group of weak students. His sincere efforts broke the age old myth, that blind cannot lead the blind, and he succeeded. During these difficult days he earned money by doing an assortment of odd jobs like security guard, boiler man, and bus conductor and even at octroi posts. After passing Class X examination, Mukesh went to the girl he fancied. His enthusiasm was punctured, when he came to know that she had been married off by her parents. Having lost his first love, he found it difficult to come to terms with life. It took him three years to reconcile. He came back to Bhopal and took up the job of a security guard. In the meantime he developed liking for another girl. When she came to know of it, she got annoyed and chided him for not even passing Class XII.Mukesh took it as a challenge and put his heart and soul into it.No wonder he cleared the examination with good marks in the first attempt. Armed with his new found success, he went to his girlfriend’s house to share the good news. His disappointment knew no bounds when he came to know, that not only she had been married, but had also become a mother. However there seemed a ray of hope as the girl was seeking divorce. Without losing time, Mukesh proposed to her, but she rejected saying “you first do something for your career, before you come to me.” After being second time unlucky in love Mukesh was baffled. In desperation he became a driver.
Then came the turning point of his life. One day he was asked to go and hand over a document to a CA in his office. He was mighty impressed to see the CA’s office! Deep down in his heart he nurtured a dream of becoming a CA himself someday. On enquiring, how one becomes a CA, he was told that it was very difficult.Mukesh determined to stretch himself to realize his dream. He switched over and became the driver of a loading auto, in the hope that he would be able to find some time for studies. His efforts paid off and he completed his graduation in 1998, and that too without any coaching. He got admission in CA Intermediate in 2000.Nonetheless coping up with studies was an uphill task along with his tiring job. He failed six times in the IPCC-Integrated Professional Competence Course, but did not give up. Sure enough, his persistence paid, and he passed in the seventh attempt. Another girl came in his life in those days. He was quite hopeful that she would accept him, but luck again played hide and seek. She committed suicide because of family problems.Mukesh was once again disappointed, but reconciled and decided to complete CA for the sake of his siblings. His efforts bore fruit and in 2010 Mukesh became a full-fledged CA and started practicing in Bhopal.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Mukesh decided to share the secrets of his success. He penned down his experiences during his long struggle, for the benefit of CA aspirants. There is something in this book for both categories of students-those who have all the amenities but find excuses not to study, and also those who have nothing but find reasons to study. He has given tips on memorizing and also how to overcome examination phobia. The book outlines practical approaches of turning failures into achievers.Mukesh has also launched a website to guide students and help them to realize their dreams. He has shown to the world the even a professional course like CA can be completed against all odds, provided one doesn’t give up ,and continues to chase his dreams.
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Posted on
Aug
18
2016
Thu
6:58
PM
She adopted not one, but two injured girls!
From Pradeep Khare
“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
― Tahereh Mafi,
Kristen Williams, 44, is a single high school teacher from Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A who always dreamed of being a mom. She started pursuing adoption in 2009, and after researching different international adoption agencies, she elected to adopt an infant girl from Nepal. In the midst of the process, however, the U.S. Department of State suspended all adoptions from Nepal on suspicion of fraud. Despite losing $28,000 on a child she would never meet, Kristen was determined to try again. While looking into adopting from India, Kristen came across a 5-year-old girl named Munni.Her past had been physically and emotionally traumatic. Before she was orphaned, she was subjected to extreme abuse that left her with prominent scars on her face and scalp. She had a scar on her forehead in the shape of a horseshoe but no one could tell her how it got there. Munni was quiet and withdrawn but Williams felt nothing but love for her. “I saw her face, and it was like an electric current just shot out and hit me in my heart,” Kristen says. “She was everything I wasn’t looking for, and she ended up being everything I needed,” Kristen says. On Valentine’s Day 2013, Kristen officially became Munni’s adoptive mother. “I call her my forever valentine,” Williams said. “It was such a special day. I was so blessed. She opened my eyes to so much. And I knew I wanted to adopt a little sister or brother for Munni.”

Six months later, Kristen decided to adopt another child from India. She and Munni came across a 3-year-old girl named Durga, who was abandoned at birth and repeatedly rejected by prospective adoptive parents due to her appearance. “I remember that Munni and I were driving home from the park one day and my case worker called saying, ‘We have a little girl for you and you'd be a perfect family for her,’ and I told her to send her information over immediately,” Williams said. As soon as Williams and Munni walked through the door they logged onto the computer and Durga's little face smiled back at them. “I cried straight away,” Wiliams said. “This gorgeous little girl with such beautiful eyes had suffered so much. Munni looked at her photo and said, ‘Is that my little sister?’ I said yes immediately. The case worker asked if I needed 24 hours to think about it but I said no, not needed.” The adoption process meant Durga was then locked to Williams and no other prospective parent could meet her.
Ironically, Durga was found in a garbage pile, barely clinging to life. Her nose and part of her upper lip had been eaten away by rats and insects. “It’s very unfortunate that this is an everyday event in India,” Kristen says. A police official passing by happened to notice her. Drawn by compassion, he picked her up and took her to a hospital. Ilaben Anjaria, the superintendent of Kutch Mahila Kalyan Kendra center, in Gujarat, said Durga arrived at the care center in September 2011, weighing just 1-pound, 3 ounces and was just a day old. “Her nose was badly nibbled by insects and she was very weak and we were afraid she wouldn’t survive,” Anjaria said. “We tried our best to take good care of her and we used to feed her with cotton balls soaked in milk. “We named her Durga. For three years we tried our best to find a home for her. Three couples that initially volunteered eventually rejected her because of her nose. Then we contacted an agency licensed with foreign adoptions. Finally Kristen’s agency got in touch.”
In February 2015, she and Munni welcomed Durga into their family. Although the orphanage in India named Durga, Kristen and Munni wanted to give her a new name to commemorate her new life. They eventually decided on Roopa, which means “blessed with beauty.” Williams has now taken eight months off work, to spend time helping Durga settle into her new home. She said her parents, older sister who has four children, and brother-in-law, have been a big support and having embraced both Munni and Durga as members of the family. “We're so happy for Durga that she now has a mother and a wonderful new life in the U.S.,” said Anjaria. “She’s very cute and lovely child. Kristen has assured us Durga will be happy and she said she will bring her back to meet us when she’s older. ”she added.
After hearing Kristen’s inspiring story, Dr Greg Gion, a certified clinical anaplastologist, who offered to provide Roopa with a custom nasal prosthesis until she is old enough to undergo reconstructive surgery. In addition, double board-certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Jon E. Mendelsohn offered to perform cosmetic scar-removal treatments for Munni, free of charge. However, these surgeries can only be performed when Roopa is seven years old.
“I look at my girls and I’m so happy,” Williams said. “I had set out to adopt a child but this journey has brought me so much more. I feel so much love for my girls. They’re my world and I can't wait to start our lives together. To call them my family just fills me with joy.” Williams would still like to marry one day, but said any man she meets needs to be completely happy becoming a father to her girls. “It will take a very special man to take all three of us on. I’ll never say never, of course I would love for them to have a father, but I’ll be very careful about who enters our lives.”
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Posted on
Jul
31
2016
Sun
1:29
PM
This Man Planted 10 Million trees!
From Pradeep Khare
"He that planteth a tree is a servant of God, he provideth a kindness for many generations, and faces that he hath not seen shall bless him."
- Henry Van Dyke
He is a man on mission to plant trees and bring back the green cover. Wherever he sees a barren spot, he takes out seeds from his pocket and plants them. People say he has planted over a crore trees. He is passionate about his work. He recollects that as a child he saw his mother saving the seeds of ribbed gourd for the next planting season. He learnt his first lesson from her. He says, “Seed is the secret of evolution. God has given life to it and it proves to the world its existence by giving birth to a plant when wedded to soil, during monsoon. “The plant then withstands several onslaughts by the humans around her, finally to grow into a mighty tree and save the same people who tormented her. Not satisfied with just her own survival, she strews seeds on the ground to create the future generation and continue with her good work.”
Meet Daripalli Ramaiah, of Khammam district presently in Telangana State. People in Khammam know Ramaiah as “Chettla Ramaiah”, where Chettu means tree. Peddling a cycle, holding the handle with one hand and sprinkling the choicest seeds on the sides of the pathways is how he started his long and audacious journey of greening. “Of all the species that consider the earth as their home, the most exalted is the human being. He supposedly has intellect, can think, can do and can get things done. Nature has bestowed her choicest blessings on this form of life. Therefore, we have a duty towards Nature. Protect the nature; protect everything created by God, for the posterity,” says Ramaiah. What is it that he gets in return, is the moot question one asks, in this materialistic world? Satisfaction, contentment and sublime peace is what he gets on seeing the millions of saplings grow around him, taking deep roots to stand erect as huge and mighty trees.Ramaiah proved to this world that you need not be rich to start philanthropic activity. What you need is passion and the path starts appearing before you, paving the way for the road ahead.
Being passionate about his mission, he collected various native seeds such as Bael (Bilva), Peepal (Bauhinia Racemosa), Kadamba (Nanclea Cadamba), Nidra Ganneru (Albezia Soman), Kanuga (Pongamia), Neem (Azadirechta Indica), Erra Chandanam (Red Sanders), and many more and chose the canal banks from Khammam, Palleguda Bridge and started greening the four kilometre stretch on both sides of the path. He raised plants in every small piece of barren land, which have now become huge trees saluting him with all their humility.
His activities did not stop here. He planted many trees in the local library premises as also the local temple. He knows the history of almost every tree there. He recollects with satisfaction how he requested the then local MLA to plant a tree and shows it to people with pride. He makes it a point to request any big dignitary visiting his area to plant a tree. This nature lover not only plants trees but also paints slogans and messages about the environment and the need for trees in Telugu on all the walls of the villages. Not stopping here, he collects all waste material such as used clutch plates, tin pieces – you name it – and paints slogans depicting the importance of trees. His main slogan is “Vrikshio Rakshati Rakshitah”, which means if you save the trees, they will save you. He wears them as his crown and moves about in his area with pride.
One who smears sacred ash is a priest, one who wears Khaki is a policeman and one who adorns a green scarf is Ramaiah, is his reply to all his critics who feel that he is wasting his time. Yes! He is the uncrowned king of nature. He equates plants with children and professes that both require initial care so that they grow strong to take care of you. It is not just that he plants trees, he also knows their uses. His profound knowledge acquired by reading old books purchased from the second hand book shops along the road side by means of his very limited resources makes him a walking encyclopedia on plants. Once, an elderly person who liked his work gave him ₹ 5,000/- on the occasion of his son’s marriage. He used the currency notes to propagate his mission. Money, or lack of it, does not deter him from pursuing his passion. A relative who knows only the commercial value of trees advised him to cut and sell the red sanders trees in his court yard which had attained sizable girth. Ramaiah did not give this a thought even for a moment. He said that he is developing a seed bank for posterity and all his trees will only help in producing more trees.
“I do not believe in people who cut trees but prostrate before a stone. For me, Nature is God and God is Nature. “He collects the seeds every season and raises a nursery of red sanders and distributes the plants for free. He takes whatever anyone gives as price for his plants and uses the money for raising more plants. He is not just an environmentalist but also an economist, sociologist, scientist, and mathematician and, above all, a Met physicist. He asks, “Why doesn’t the State plant commercially useful species like Teak and Red Sanders in the waste lands, rear them and sell them in the market?” Maybe the State Governments have to seriously think of this option.
Ramaiah became a sculptor also by accident, or should we say, because of an accident. When he was chased by children while on his cycle, he fell and sustained a fracture. This immobilized him for few months. His undying spirit told him that while his legs are immobile, his hands are still free. Thus he learnt sculpting with the help of nails and hammers. He painted and sculpted all stones nearby with slogans and images of leaves, plants and trees. “Every sapling that I plant should survive, come what may. That is my motto.” he says with pride.
Once, he found it difficult to break the shells of teak seeds, it being painful and time consuming. While he spent all his spare time on this, he still found that his task was far from being completed. He then made a seat of it for his wife who sits near the fire place for cooking. Her constant movements and her frequent sitting on the bag helped in breaking the shells, making his task easier. This small episode only tells how involved Ramaiah was in his task. In his journey, his wife also played a very important role. She stood by his side through thick and thin and helped him in fulfilling his passion. He has developed his own green philosophy. He says, “Instead of giving a fruit to a child, give them a plant. Let them nurture the plant into a tree and enjoy its fruits forever. This way, they learn to love nature. Today children are tomorrow’s citizens. Similarly, today’s plants are tomorrow’s trees. “What great thoughts. Ramaiah does not require a doctorate to profess these words. He is a highly honoured man in his area. He adorns himself with crowns and scarfs with slogans written on them and parades his area on his cycle like an emperor. All those who heckled him once, adore him now. He has spent his entire life time in greening the land like a soldier who spends his life time protecting his mother land.
The administration has been paying the environmental activist ₹. 1,500 a month to support his mission. Officials, as he claims, have promised to enhance it, but it has not materialized so far. A nursery to support his mission is what all he has been dreaming about. There could be many people who have done their jobs with passion, but Ramaiah chose his passion as his unpaid job. There cannot be another Ramaiah when it comes to raising trees. He is a great model of humility and devotion to work. He is an inspiration to many, and at least at this late age, he deserves recognition.
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Posted on
Jul
18
2016
Mon
1:39
PM
She won over cancer!
From Pradeep Khare
“You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It's a mindset.”
-Dave Pelzer
She was all set to go on a pilgrimage to Mansarover in May 2015, but had to postpone her trip because of the massive earthquake in Nepal. She is 53 years old and weighs 80 kgs.This is no barrier for her. Not even the fact that she has undergone a major operation for breast cancer. Meet Mrs Meenabehn Nathwani of Rajkot Gujrat, who has become an epitome of courage and will power by defeating the scourge of cancer with the help of medicines, yogic exercises ,meditation and above all will power.
Meenabehn belongs to a middle class family. She did her graduation in Commerce and got married to an Army man. Her husband had to quit his job after 5 years because of his father’s serious illness. Back home the couple started running a canteen in a local College about 15 years ago. They sell snacks to the College students from 9 am to 12 noon.Meenabehn is fond of cooking a variety of dishes. This hobby soon became her profession. She started supplying ready-made food for birthdays and kitty parties. People praised the tasty dishes prepared by her. She says she never took it as a burden, but put her heart and soul into it. Her involvement can be seen from the fact that she always imagined the appreciation and blessings from the people who would eat the food cooked by her. Her husband also helps her in the Canteen as well as the catering business.

Meena was leading a normal life bringing up her two sons and getting them married. The happiness of the family was punctured by an unexpected incident in June 2014, when she was diagnosed of breast cancer stage two. This shocking news disturbed her sons and daughters in law but she remained calm and stable. After a battery of medical tests she was advised to undergo operation.
She had a doubt whether the cancer had spread to other organs, so she got further tests done. Fortunately she was relieved to know that it was only localized. She heard an inner voice telling her “nothing will happen, you will be alright”.She believed it with unwavering faith and all the negativities vanished! “I decided with firm determination that I have to defeat cancer” said Meenabehn.
She prepared herself mentally for the D day .Belief in God and constant prayers gave her strength. The operation was successfully performed on 12 Sept 2014.Regular doses of medicines along with Chemotherapy sessions continued for about three months which caused weakness and aversion for food. Her positive bent of mind kept her away from depression. “I took all nutritious food even if they were not to my taste or liking, as I needed energy to recoup” said Meena. Her family supported her all through her illness and always gave her hope. Her main source of strength was her affirmation,”I am perfectly healthy and full of energy. Each day and in every way I am getting better and better”
Her belief in God has stood her in good stead all through her life. She has gone on pilgrimage to Amarnath and other shrines. Three months after the operation she consulted a yoga teacher Nirmal Sinh Jadeja who advised her to practice Pranayama & meditation. After another three months she resumed her ‘asana’ practice & in next six months she was diagnosed completely healthy by her doctors .Meena does yogic exercises daily for one hour in the morning and meditation for one hour daily in the evening. Talking about her philosophy of life she said, “no one is aware of the future, there will be ups and downs in life. Sad moments and illness may occur, but one should maintain his balance.Strenghten your will power and don’t let negativities come near you. If you do this then you can achieve whatever you want.” When asked to give a message to cancer patients, she said “Don’t worry or panic when cancer is detected. You should remain stable and after six or seven months you will get back to normal life. Always think positive and expect the best. Draw strength from prayers and you will be blessed. Meenabehn radiates hope and confidence in cancer patients when she talks to them. She is all set to go on a trip to Mansarover, which is not easy even for people having normal health.
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Posted on
Jul
2
2016
Sat
9:52
AM
Gulabi Gang
From Pradeep Khare

“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.”
― C. JoyBell C.
Bundelkhand is one of the poorest parts of the Uttar Pradesh. It’s also one of the most populated areas of an already hugely overpopulated country. The inhabitants face a daily struggle for survival as they cope with infertile land, a corrupt judicial system, and India’s oppressive, outdated caste hierarchy. Domestic violence and discrimination against women is the order of the day. In the midst of this plight, a group of vigilantes who call themselves the Gulabi Gang is fighting, often literally, for equality. The gang is made up of over 10,000 women, all of whom wear the Gulabi uniform of pink saris. They specialize in the lathi, a traditional Indian fighting stick.

Sampat Pal Devi is a 47 year old wiry woman, wife of an ice cream vendor, mother of five children, who set up and leads the "pink gang”. Her seeds of rebellion were sown very early on when in face of her parents' resistance to send her to school, she began writing and drawing on the walls, floors and dust-caked village streets. She finally ended up going to school, but was married off when she was nine, in a region where child marriages are common. At 12, she went to live with her husband and at 13 she had her first child. To keep the home fires burning, Sampat Devi began to work as a government health worker, but she quit after a while because her job was not satisfying enough. “I wanted to work for the people, not for myself alone. I was already holding meetings with people, networking with women who were ready to fight for a cause, and was ready with a group of women," she says.
“The word ‘gang’ doesn’t necessarily denote criminals,” she said. “It can also be used to describe a team, a crew. We are a gang for justice. In rallies and protests outside our villages, especially in crowded cities, our members used to get lost in the rush. We decided to dress in a single color, which would be easy to identify. We didn’t want to be associated with other colors as they had associations with political or religious groups. We settled on pink, the color of life. It’s good. It makes the administration wary of us" she added.
In June 2013, the ‘Gulabis ‘accomplished their biggest triumph. After receiving complaints that a government-run fair-price shop in Attara was not giving out grain as it should have been, Sampat Devi and her gang decided to keep a covert watch over the shop owner. The gang intercepted two truckloads laden with Below Poverty Line-designated grain on their way to the open market. Armed with this evidence, the gang members pressurized the local administration to seize the grain and hand over the shop owner to the police, but again the case wasn’t even registered. The angry gang members attacked and assaulted one of the police officers. Though no formal complaint has been made, the incident immensely bolstered the credibility of the gang in the region.
Some members of the local community compare Sampat Devi to the legendary Queen of Jhansi, Laxmibai. They show their gratitude by supporting the gang. Babloo Mishra allows the gang to use his premises for an office. “The best thing is that these women will take up anyone’s cause as long as it’s genuine, not only those of its members,” he said.
Claiming to be the commander of the Gulabi Gang, Sampat says “I started the association in the 1990s, but I named it the ‘Gulabi Gang’ in 2006. We aim to empower women, promote child education with an emphasis on girls, and stop corruption and domestic violence. I visit numerous villages every day and meet the various members of the gang. We have gang meetings where we decide the plan of action.” Elaborating the modus operandi she added “First we go to the police and request them to do something. But since the administration is callous, we often end up taking matters into our own hands. We first speak to the husband who is beating his wife. If he doesn’t understand then we ask his wife to join us while we beat him with lathis.”When asked about the success rate she said “Our missions have a 100 percent success rate. We have never failed in bringing justice when it comes to domestic problems. Dealing with the administration is the tricky part since we cannot always take the law in our hands. We did beat up some corrupt officials but we were ultimately helpless. The goons of the corrupt officials and the political parties constantly threaten me. ”
Sampat’s family didn’t always support her, but when she resisted and explained to her husband, he understood and supported her. Talking about her difficulties she said “I don’t have enough money. I travel everywhere on an old bicycle. Some of our supporters help us with small donations and charity.” When asked about the future plans she said “I want this movement to carry on and would like support from international or local agencies. I work on a grassroots level and want to set up a small-scale industry for the poor villagers whom I work with. We have talented young men and women who can make organic manure, candles, Ayurvedic medicines, and pickles. They could earn a decent livelihood. If I get funded, I can set up a stitching center for women who can then support their families.”
A great deal needs to be done in the region, and people like Sampat Devi are making a huge difference. Although some cases have been registered against the gang, she believes it is not about breaking rules; it is about standing up and fighting for your rights. "Village society in India is biased against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, and barters them for money. The girls should be educated and made self-reliant," she says.
Last year, Sampat Devi contested the state polls as an independent candidate but could muster only 2,800 votes. “Joining politics is not my chosen way to help people. We will keep up our good work, so the state does not take us for granted," she says. In the badlands of Uttar Pradesh where nothing seems to work for the poor, this itself is a laudable aim. The future of the Gulabi Gang is bright. It’s a people’s movement and will grow bigger and bigger in the future provided we get support from the local administration. The Gulabi gang is the subject of the 2010 movie ‘Pink Saris’ by Kim Longinotto as also the 2012 documentary ‘Gulabi Gang’ by Nishtha Jain.
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Posted on
Jun
22
2016
Wed
7:28
PM
An auto rickshaw driver becomes a pilot
From Pradeep Khare
.“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
-Henry Ford
Son of a security guard, he, used to be a delivery boy in his school days. He switched between delivering and school to support the dwindling finances of his family. He then bought an auto in the hope that he would earn enough to get ends meet. He used to say “my life depends on three wheels and one day I will see the world on three wheels” He chased his dream and realized it. The lad who used to drive an auto rickshaw on the roads of Nagpur four years back is now a commercial pilot!
Meet Mr Shrikant Pantawane who is not just any ordinary man. From driving a three-wheeled auto rickshaw to flying an aircraft - which also ironically is three-wheeled. The turning point of his life came when he had gone to Nagpur airport to deliver some items. He heard the screeching sound of the landing of an aircraft, and saw some handsome men in smart uniforms coming out. Curious to know about them, he went to the nearby tea stall and enquired from some people standing there, who seemed to be educated. They told him that they were pilots who fly the plane. Wanting to know more, he probed “how does one become a pilot? “But the reply dampened his spirits. Neither had he had the education nor the money to prepare himself to become a pilot. But the small voice within him made his determination firm and he said to himself “I will become a pilot one day”.

He learnt that after passing Class XII there is an examination to qualify for a government scholarship to meet the expenditure of pilot training. It is the pilot scholarship program run by aviation regulator DGCA or the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. He started preparing for the examination by putting his heart and soul into it.Driving his auto during the day and studying late into the night became his daily routine. He stretched himself and qualified for the scholarship in 2011.Consequently he got admission in Chimes Aviation Academy Sagar (MP).New challenges cropped up during the training. Not only was he weak in English but couldn’t afford to buy books or even get them zeroxed. Instead of losing heart, he started studying in the library till 2 am every single night. His efforts bore fruits. He was ranked highest in the assessment marks. He completed the course in two years, but luck did not favour him. In spite of passing the examination with flying colours, a slump in aviation market kept him at bay. To support himself and his family, he joined as an executive in a Nagpur based company. But he never lost hope. The burning desire to become a pilot didn’t let him rest in peace. He qualified for the scholarship once again in 2013.This time he got admission in Central Training Establishment Hyderabad. On successful completion of the training he was picked up by IndiGo Airlines. He is now a copilot and is really on top of the world, as he has realized his long cherished dream.
The only thing Shrikant Pantawane had initially was an iron will. With the power of determination and a little sprinkling of destiny, he managed to achieve what he had only dreamt of as a child. The inspirational story of this auto-driver just shows that if you have a dream coupled with determination, the destiny gives you wings to fly high. IndiGo, shared on micro-blogging site Twitter, an excerpt of Mr Pantawane's exceptional story which features in their in-house magazine for the month.
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Posted on
Jun
11
2016
Sat
9:00
AM
From weaver to IAS Officer to Member of Parliament!
From Pradeep Khare

India is infamous for its corrupt politicians. Corruption in the Indian society has prevailed from time immemorial in one form or the other. The basic inception of corruption started with our opportunistic leaders who have already done great damage to our nation. Corruption in India is a result of the connection between bureaucrats, politicians and criminals. Political corruption is worst in India. The profiles of politicians makes one believe that nowadays politics is only for criminals and criminals are meant to be in politics. Recently, the Government increased the salary of the M.P.'s by 300%, but many of them are unhappy with rise and want the Government to increase their salaries much more.
In 2013, India ranked ninety-fourth out of 179 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, alongside Mongolia and Colombia and below neighbors like China and Sri Lanka. The country has steadily slipped since ranking seventy-second of 179 in 2007, when the report debuted. At a time when politics is dominated by money, muscle power and opportunism, there seems a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Not everyone is corrupt, there are a few who still uphold some moral and political values. It is my privilege to present Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal who stands out of the crowd. Can you believe it that he is a member of Lok Sabha who is a living example of simplicity and a role model for people to follow.
When most of his fellow lawmakers draw up to the lower house in sleek Audis, BMWs and bulbous Ambassadors, the 62-year-old member peddles to Parliament on a bicycle – regarded in India as a poor man’s mode of transport. He has a 99% attendance record and zero criminal cases against him. He participates in parliamentary debates and raises points concerning the welfare of his people. The details of his movable assets as declared before the Election Commission are unbelievable. He held a cash of Rs 62,000 between himself and his wife. Deposits in Banks, Financial Institutions and Non-Banking Financial Companies made by him amount to Rs 12, 10,517.Neither he nor his wife holds any bonds, shares and debentures in any companies. They also do not have any investments in NSS, Postal Savings etc. Their total investment in LIC or other insurance Policies amounts to Rs 2,97,557.He owns a Tata Indica-2006 model valued at Rs 2,10,000.His wife possess jewelry worth Rs 19,48,467.The value of Agricultural Land owned by him is just Rs 1,50,000.The non-agricultural land owned by him which includes his house is only Rs 6,15,000. In his home constituency Meghwal enjoys the trust of the common people who look up to him as a role model.
Arjun Ram Meghwal’s life presents an interesting contrast. Initially a weaver, he went on to become an IAS officer and then a Member of Parliament. “I was born in a middle class traditional weaver family of Kismidesar village (Bikaner), where any boy of my age hardly goes to school. During my school and college days I used to weave to support my family and my education,” says Meghwal.He got married when he was in Class VII. After marriage, he continued his studies and graduated in Arts & Law from Sri Dungar College, Bikaner (Rajasthan). What’s more he managed to do his post-graduation from the same college. “My father had strictly warned that he would not allow me to continue my studies further if I failed in any of the exams. It was a very tough time for me because there was no environment to study at my place. But I worked hard and managed to complete my studies,” he says. Along with his job, he started preparing for competitive exams to land in a government job.
He got into Indian Post and Telegraph Department as a telephone operator. While working as a telephone operator, he also pursued his LLB degree while helping his father at the same time. He also fought and won the elections for the post of General Secretary of Telephone Traffic. Meghwal puts forth, “This was a great opportunity for me to understand the relation between policies and politics. I attended many State-level meeting which gave me a good exposure.”
In spite of clearing the written examination, he failed in the interview for Rajasthan Administrative Services. He was shocked as he had been confident of clearing the interview. But he did not give up. He prepared and reappeared in the examination with strong determination to succeed. He cleared it and got selected for State industrial services. Following this, in 1994, he was recruited as the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan. He reached the peak, when he was promoted to the Indian Administrative Services and worked as District Collector of Churu district.
As he received immense respect from people, he felt that they looked up to him for help and expected him to play an even greater role. Politics was just the platform to serve this purpose. He took the final leap in 2009, when the Bharatiya Janata Party offered him a ticket for Lok Sabha from Bikaner region. No wonder, he contested the election and won. His ambition is to serve the people to the best of his ability. “I consider this a new beginning and I still have miles to go in the service of people,” he said.
“I am contributing in my own way to the Prime Minister’s call to cut carbon emissions,” said Mr. Meghwal as he parked his red and black Hercules bicycle, with a sign carrying his name and constituency in Hindi, in the parking lot at Parliament in New Delhi. Mr. Meghwal rides from his home in Windsor Place in New Delhi to Parliament –around 1.6 kilometers. “I even go to parties in nearby areas on bicycle. People don’t mind, but appreciate it.” he says .He owns a Toyota Innova van, but says he uses it only occasionally when he has to travel longer distances. Cycling has alerted Mr. Meghwal to the lack of separate lanes or spaces marked for bicycles, “I have to be very careful at diversions and roundabouts as there are speeding vehicles all over.” he adds.
Mr. Meghwal is currently the ruling party’s chief whip with responsibility to make sure its members are present for legislative work. His personality is like an oasis in the desert of murky politicians. The salvation of our country is possible if more politicians follow suit.






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Posted on
May
15
2016
Sun
7:18
PM
A bestselling author who works as a domestic help!
From Pradeep Khare
“Nature creates ability, luck provides it with opportunity”
_Francois de la Rochefoucauld
The new maid Professor Prabodh Kumar found through the milkman behaved oddly. All day the Bengali lady, a mother of three, worked hard and silently, sweeping, mopping, cooking; but her busy hands would still as she dusted the books, the dust cloth moving with unnecessary slowness through the pages of his Bengali books. Prabodh, a retired professor of Anthropology and a grandson of Munshi Premchand, the well-known Hindi and Urdu writer finally confronted her. "Do you read?" She looked as guilty as if he'd caught her hand in the biscuit tin. Can you believe it, the same maid servant has written two best sellers? She has been on book tours to cities such as Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong; her books have been translated into 12 foreign languages -- including French, German and Japanese. It is my privilege to share this incredible story with you.
Baby Halder was born and grew up largely in Murshidabad, in West Bengal. She had a motherless childhood and an abusive father. She was abandoned by her mother when she was 7. She had been to school intermittently. Her step-mother married her off at the tender age of 13 years to a man twice her age. She was pregnant soon after. She had two more children, and then her husband attacked her with a stone for speaking to another man. With remarkable determination, she walked out and took a train to Delhi with her children, where she started work as a household cleaner. Her employers were largely abusive, one forcing her to lock her children in the attic, another demanding never-ending chores and massages.

When the kind professor offered her the use of his bookshelves, she hesitantly chose Taslima Nasreen's Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood). "It was as if," recalls Baby, "I was reading about my own life." Other books left Prabodh's shelf in rapid succession: novels by Ashapurna Devi, Mahashweta Devi, Buddhadeb Guha. That was when Prabodh went out one day and bought her a pen and notebook. "Write," he told her, an order that made Baby almost weep with frustration. "I was nervous when I held the pen in my fingers. I had not written anything since my school days. But when I started writing, words began to flow effortlessly. In fact, writing turned out to be a cathartic experience," revealed Halder, who has studied up to seventh grade. "What she wrote had enormous depth. In fact, I showed it to my friends and they agreed with me," said Kumar, who has translated Halder’s books into Hindi. In fact, her first book ‘Aalo Aandhari’ (Light and Darkness) was published in 2002 in Hindi. In 2006, it was published in English, titled ‘A Life Less Ordinary: A Memoir. ‘
Recalling her experiences of writing she said "It was nearly 20 years since I had ever written in a notebook, I had forgotten spellings. It was very embarrassing, especially when my children wanted to know why I was writing in a notebook instead of them." But her first words worked their own magic: they unlocked her past. All her searing, suppressed memories of the mother who abandoned them, the night when the man she married climbed into her bed and raped her, the sister who was strangled by her husband, the terror and pain of delivering her first child at 13, memories she had never confided to anyone, didn't even realize she had, flowed out into the notebook. There was no stopping Baby now. She wrote in the kitchen, propping her notebook between the vegetables and dishes, she wrote in between sweeping and swabbing, after the dishes and before, and late at night after putting her children to bed.
The results were even more unexpected. "All I had in mind when I urged her to write was to take her mind off her problems. But the closely-written pages of the notebook were astonishingly good," says Prabodh. Mr. Kumar explained that he helped Ms. Halder reorder the text so it became a chronological account of her life, removing repetition and fixing grammar. He said that at first her spelling and handwriting were poor, but that she swiftly improved and gradually gained greater sophistication as a writer. He was excited but did not trust his own judgment. He consulted friends Ashok Seksariya and Ramesh Goswami with whom he shared a common interest in literature. Both were enthused by Baby's manuscript, hailing it as another Diary of Anne Frank. Prabodh was persuaded to translate it into Hindi. Aalo Aandhari (Light and Darkness) was ready. But finding a publisher for such an unusual narrative was tougher; the book was too strange for their tastes. But Sanjay Bharti, who owns a small publishing house, Roshani Publishers, agreed to risk it even if it lost him money.
There was, however, yet another surprise in store for all the four friends of literature: Aalo Aandhari began selling from the first day of its launch. "Everyone from the sweeper to the retired headmistress next door wanted to buy a copy." It sold so well that the second edition was out in less than two months. Noted directors like Prakash Jha have shown interest in making a film on it, someone wants to make a play out of it, others want to translate it into English, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu; and a new literary magazine in Calcutta, Bhasha Bandhan, will start serialising the book in Bengali. “This is not a book that can be read and tossed aside. It raises questions about the fate of the millions of domestic workers in our country and their ill treatment,” a review in the newspaper The Hindu concluded. “Truly this is a story of courage under fire. It also illustrates how Indian society treats women who leave their husbands, stigmatizing them and pushing them to the margins of existence.” But for Baby, the best thing about her rebirth as an author is the regard of her new friends. "For the first time in my life, I feel confident that my story is worth telling, and in my own words." However, there is an intriguing twist in the tale of Baby Halder. This 39-year-old prolific writer does not like to be called an author.” I am a domestic help, not a writer," said Halder, who has two best-selling books to her credit. She lives in a temporary room on the terrace.
She is often invited to speak at literary festivals across the country. Halder has rubbed shoulders with many top writers at literary festivals and seminar across the world. She is a fan of Arundhati Roy, Taslima Nasrin and Jhumpa Lahiri. Halder has built a house in Kolkata with earnings from her books. "I need not work as a domestic help anymore, but I am not comfortable leaving my employer who is a father-like figure to me. But eventually I hope to move to Kolkata someday, which I think is the best place for people who want to write in Bengali," said Halder.Her two children, Tapas, 20, and Piya 17 – are aspiring to become fashion designers.
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Posted on
May
1
2016
Sun
8:36
PM
He gives full meal for Rs.1 only!
From Pradeep Khare

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
-Mother Teresa
There are several government schemes in our country that aim to provide meals to those who live below the poverty line. Many of these policies do not see the light of day, let alone have an actual impact on the lives of the said poor. But while large organizations conduct surveys, analyze data and present statistics, there is one man who’s skipped all the jargon and red tape, and gotten straight to implementing the solution. Meet V Venktraman, who provides one-rupee meals to a very specific, and oft-neglected, section of society: needy caregivers of patients.
He is not a wealthy man and has no other source of income. Like most of us, he has a family to look after. His wife is a freelance yoga teacher and both his daughters are in college. He has little savings. One would expect a man like him to constantly think of ways to develop his business and make more money. That’s what ‘normal’ people would have done anyway. But 50-year-old Venkatraman is a not a normal person. He has elevated himself by his noble thoughts and deeds. His only concern is to see how he could continue with the lunch at ₹1 scheme at his hotel. For over five years, Venkatraman has been giving lunch every day for about thirty persons at Shri AMV Homely Mess near Erode Government Hospital for just ₹ 1. The beneficiaries are mostly attendants of poor in-patients from the nearby Government General Hospital, who pay just ₹ 1 for a meal that is priced at ₹ 50 for other customers.
Tokens are distributed daily to about 30 poor people at the hospital. The token holders then collect their food packets from the restaurant in the afternoon. How does he select his beneficiaries? “We visit the wards, at times we know by the look of those who come to our place to buy food. We prefer to support the attendants of those families where the bread winner of the family is in hospital for a long duration and there is no earning member to support. Normally such poor families run out of their savings within the first week and run out of credit options, within two weeks. If the bread winner has to take long to recover, then, they are most helpless even amongst the poor. The hospitals feed the patients, but, no one will feed the poor attendant which is the wife of the bread winner in most cases”, he says. “We also look for signs of wealth when we visit, if we notice lots of jewelry or mobile phones, we politely refuse and take back the token from them”, he adds. Sometimes he requests nurses at the hospital to identify the needy and distribute tokens to them. An old woman has been eating here for the last six months. He also offers 20% discount on food prices to any physically challenged and blind person who visits his eatery.

Venkatraman has served at least 40,000 @₹ 1 meals till date. The prices of food grains, oil, spices and vegetables have gone up many times in the last four years, but the one rupee lunch has remained unaffected. He ensures that the poor get the same meal that his other customers get for ₹ 50. “For other customers, the price has been revised. Five years ago, the cost of a lunch at our hotel was ₹ 25; now it is ₹ 50,” he says.
Venkatraman was born in a joint family of 30 members. So, helping others came naturally to him. “When I was young, there were times when I struggled to get one square meal a day. But now God helps me to feed others. Sometimes we cannot help others despite wanting to do so. But I am able to do so by God's grace.” He says he started this impulsively as consulting others would have led to only confusing advise, ‘I didn't start this with any support in mind, nor have registered any NGO for this. It is our duty to support the needy.
This extraordinary effort started in 2008 when a woman who had admitted her relative to the general hospital came to his mess to buy idlis for herself and another relative. When Venkat informed her that the idlis were over and suggested dosas instead she told him that since dosas were more expensive, she would not have enough money to buy food for two people and that one of them would have to go hungry. That got Venkat thinking. “I knew I had to do something. Sometimes the patient gets hospital food but it’s their caretakers and relatives who stay hungry. If you look at the profile, they are mostly daily wage earners,” says Venkatraman.
“Initially I had planned to give them a free meal. But then I felt they might be embarrassed, and perceive it as charity. They may also worry about the quality of the food since it is free of cost. Therefore I decided to charge a token amount of ₹. 1,” he explains. Though he is facing financial difficulties, Venkatraman receives solace from the ‘divine blessings’. Does he get any outside support? 'Not much, but, sometimes, people give him ₹.100/- or 50/-, some people can't afford to support a full meal in orphanages or old age homes on their birthdays or some other such important days, for such people, it is easier to give whatever they can afford to us. “We write their name in a board in our eatery to ensure that their donation is acknowledged”, he says. “There are donors from America. People celebrating birthdays or other special occasions can sponsor food,” says Venkat.
“I have the full support of my family in whatever I am doing. My second daughter scored 1085 marks (out of 1200) in her Plus 2 exam. We were unable to admit her in engineering college because we could not afford the fees. But thanks to a person in Ramakrishna Math, she got a seat in a reputed engineering college in Chennai. The management has also given her a fee waiver. “I have reasons to believe that such good things have happened in my life because of the small acts of service to the poor I have been doing. It gives me great satisfaction,” says Venkatraman. He wants to keep the initiative going; hoping to reach out to 100 people a day.
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Posted on
Apr
18
2016
Mon
6:56
PM
Imparting the three R's to kids under the flyover
Modified on
Apr
18
2016
Mon
6:57
PM
From Pradeep Khare
"Teaching, is not just a job. It is a human service, and it must be thought of as a mission." ~ Dr. Ralph Tyler
Every three minutes a speeding Metro rail kicks up a din, but the children seated below the elevated tracks near the Yamuna Bank Metro Station in New Delhi carry on with their studies unperturbed. On the faces of the children one could see a steely resolve and determination to focus on their learning and not be distracted by the surroundings. In fact, this informal ‘Under the Bridge School’ situated below the railway flyover is all about defying conventions. Located on railway land, the school has no building. Children sit on the ground on mats. There are few plastic and wooden chairs for the teachers, and a couple of steel trunk boxes for keeping the attendance registers and school records. Coats of black paint on the boundary wall make up the black boards.
The school’s founder, Rajesh Kumar Sharma, is a college dropout who owns a general store at Shakarpur, about 5 km from here. Although he has no formal training, but he has a strong conviction that education is their only hope. Around 200 kids from nearby slums attend his school that functions from 9 am to 2 pm in two batches. The children are taught to read, write, and basics of English, Hindi, Science, Mathematics, History, and Geography. Though the school does not follow any fixed syllabus and has no government approval, it achieves the purpose of a school, imparting education and building the confidence level in the children.

Sharma started the school back in 2007 after seeing the condition of the children in the area. He had first visited the place to catch a glimpse of the ongoing metro railway work, when the sight of the children who were not going to school and loitering around changed the course of his life. The next morning, he came back to teach his first lesson to five excited children. Within few weeks, their number increased to 140. Speaking to the parents of the children, who were mostly farmers and daily wagers, he realized they were poor and there was no school in the vicinity they could send their children to. He eventually persuaded local laborers and farmers to allow their children to attend his school instead of working to add to the family income. Rajesh says his biggest achievement is that these children now come to school willingly. He says he has managed to light the fire of knowledge in them. "I am hoping future generations learn something from me and give two hours of their precious time for our society.” he added.
Children study with great enthusiasm despite the lack of infrastructure. “I approached the Principal of a municipal school at Shakarpur and invited him to visit our school. He visited us the next day and was surprised to see so many children attending my classes He later made arrangements to admit 60 of our students at his school,” says 46-year-old Sharma, who had moved to Delhi from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, in search of employment in 1995. Sharma could not complete his B.Sc. degree from Aligarh University due to financial constraints in his family. His own inability to finish college became his inspiration to educate other poor children. “Knowledge increases when it is shared,” he declares. Sharma always encourages the children who attend his classes to join some nearby government school. Some children go to regular school in the afternoon after attending his classes.
Since the school’s fifth anniversary, he introduced a sports session every Saturday for the students. “People from different walks of life visit us on Saturdays and encourage the kids to play games like Kabbadi, Volleyball, Football, and Cricket. However, an hour’s study is mandatory,” says Sharma, who has around five volunteers to assist him now.Anshul Gupta, a volunteer teacher, studying law at Amity University, teaches English and Science at the open air school. “The students are lovely, enthusiastic, and keen to acquire knowledge,” she says. IAS aspirant Umar Imam, another volunteer teacher, devotes four hours daily at the school. An IIT-Delhi graduate, who came to know about the school through a friend says. “It gives immense me satisfaction to teach these kids. Initially, I devoted two hours in three days, but now I stretched it to four hours daily,” Appreciating Sharma’s dedicated work since past five years, he says it would be so much better if the school gets some basic infrastructure.
Sharma's students are just as proud of him. "Our teacher has told us that when poverty strikes, you should open your mind, and that can be done only through education," says 15-year-old Abhishek who studies at the local Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya. He enjoys studying English and aspires to become an engineer. He spends two hours in Sharma's class under the bridge and then goes to school at 1 pm. Sharma says once Abhishek even corrected his teacher at school who had not solved a sum correctly.
Laxmi Chandra also recently joined Rajesh. He is a postgraduate and helps at the school. Chandra who was a teacher in a college, decided to join Rajesh after hearing about him. He says nothing gives him more satisfaction than imparting education. Laxmi Chandra said, "I teach children with complete purity. The aim is to make them independent, curious and confident so that they can change the course of the future." “I don’t take attendance. They love coming here because there are no school-like boundaries. In fact, I want to keep it like that,” said Chandra.
Sharma says they are badly in need of toilets, especially for grown up girls who attend the second batch from 12 noon to 2 pm. He has sought the help of the local Member of Parliament in this regard. Metro authorities have extended their support. “They constructed the platform for the teachers to stand on and teach, and gave the coats of black paint on the wall to create five blackboards for our school,” he says. There are few well-wishers who donate footwear and snacks for the children.
For Sharma, life does not end with the school. After 2 pm, he goes to the shop and relieves his younger brother and remains there till 10 in the night. He has two sons and a daughter. His elder son, who is in class XI, often volunteers at his school as a teacher. His wife, who takes care of the home used to object to his work earlier, but has become supportive now. His work isn't limited to the school under the bridge, because Sharma has taught underprivileged children in other parts of the city as well. What makes him a hero is that he does this selflessly and without any fees. In a country of over 1 billion people, the effort might seem a drop in the ocean, but Rajesh is igniting these young minds for a better future.
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Posted on
Apr
2
2016
Sat
4:51
PM
I am not short, I am just more down to earth than most people. -Kim Fowler Fraze
From Pradeep Khare
“I am not short, I am just more down to earth than most people.”
-Kim Fowler Frazer
He was born in Adukkom near Poonjar, Kottayam in the year 1976. His father was a small farmer and agriculture was his main source of income. He was born with a disability which stunted his growth at 3 feet 5 inches only. His home was located on top of a hill, and for a physically-challenged person it wasn't the most conducive place for mobility. There were obstructions everywhere. He had to walk a quarter of a mile before he got to a real road and his mother used to carry him to school. That is how he made it to school in first year. At school, he was forced to sit on the sidelines while other students played exciting sports. This made him feel sad. Can such a person overcome frustration and live a normal life?
Hold your breath for you are in for a surprise! He not only lived a normal life but has become a source of inspiration for many. This man who did not allow severe disabilities to come in the way of his ambitions, has won a gold medal at the World Arm Wrestling Championship. Despite having 60 per cent disability since birth, he has also won 10 world medals in the last one decade. Joby Mathew, the 36-year-old man, who suffers from Bilateral Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency or in simpler terms stunted growth of the legs since birth, has been a World Arm Wrestling champion twice. What his legs could not, he has achieved with his arms and a bundle of raw courage and grit. “I don't have legs, so I cannot play football or basketball. Hence I focused on my arm power and started arm wrestling in school days. Soon, I was defeating every one," Mathew said.

Once he reached college, he realized that arm wrestling was a prestigious event and he started taking it up seriously. He figured out that there were national and international competitions for arm wrestling. Arm wrestling needs a lot of practice and he started going to a gym from 1992. From then on, he started participating in competitions. He started off by entering events for the disabled and started winning. “My athletic career started in 1983 during the District Sports Meet at Kottayam. I won’t call it the path-breaking event in my life but it was there that it all started. I managed to win the gold medal in running and throw ball events for the disabled category. Something changed from thereon. Soon, I entered events for the abled bodied as well and to my surprise I started winning those events as well!” he said.
In 2005, his dream came true and he was able to be a part of the World Championships in Japan. He participated in both the General and Disabled categories. By God’s grace, he managed to win 3 medals for India during the Championships. In 2008, he went a step further and became the World Champion in the General Category at the World Arm Wrestling Championship held in Spain. He also managed to win a silver medal in the disabled category. During the 2009 World Championship in Egypt, he won a silver medal each in the disabled and general category. In 2010, he won a silver medal for badminton during the Paralympics in Israel. In the 2012 World Arm Wrestling Championships held in Spain, he won a gold medal and 2 silver medals. “2013 was a great year for me as I got to participate in the World Dwarf Olympic Games in Michigan. I became the World Champion in 5 different events – Badminton Singles, Badminton Doubles, Shot-put, Javelin Throw and Discus Throw.” he said. Joby, is also the first wheel-chaired fencer in India, holds a brown belt in karate, is a member of the Kerala state parasailing and paragliding team and is a keen swimmer. Rotary Club of Cochin Knights honoured him by giving their 9th vocational excellence award on 20 October 2013.
He proved that hard work, determination, conviction, and working on one’s strong points could dwarf all other perceived disadvantages associated with a physically challenged person like him. His success is as much about his rigorous training as his positive attitude.Joby follows a strict exercise regimen to keep himself fit. He wakes up daily at 5 am and visits the gym where he spends an hour. Next, an hour of swimming and rock climbing for half an hour follows. After having breakfast, he is off to office. Joby is an Assistant Manager (sports trainer) at Bharat Petroleum, where he has been employed since 2008.In the evenings he could be seen playing badminton at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium. Mathew even drives a specially modified car which enhances his confidence.
"There is so much to learn for all of us from Joby. It's just his determination that keeps him going," Mathew's trainer Shaji said. “When Joby Mathew addressed us for the first time, he motivated us with his challenges and achievements. He is an inspiration to us," Krishnan R Menon said. According to Joby, winning medals is one aspect of his life, but more important for him is to inspire people and touch their lives. He speaks in schools and colleges and other public functions motivating people to aspire and make the best of what they have. “If you let your limitations take over your mind, they will destroy you,” he says. From his own experiences Joby could inspire millions. “I don’t feel I am a disabled person. I believe in my abilities,” says Joby, who is in great demand as a motivational speaker these days. When asked to spell out the secret of his success he said, “If you let your limitations take over your mind, they will destroy you. You must accept your limitations and do the best with what you have.”
When Mathew isn't thinking of sports, he dons the role of a husband, and a father to his three-year-old son. Behind every successful man there is a woman. 25-year-old Megha, a dance expert, played the role of a supportive wife and helped him to convert his disability into his biggest strength. “One ambition which remains is to scale the Mount Everest. I want to achieve that in eight years from now after having undergone proper training," Mathew said. But as the world champion goes on breaking every possible barrier in sports, there is one thing that he is still waiting for and that is recognition because he too has done his nation proud in whatever way he could. Joby hopes that the Indian government would honor him with Arjuna Award for his achievements as an arm wrestler in the national and international arena.
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2 Comments
Posted on Monday, April 18, 2016 6:52:24 PM
From Pradeep Khare
Thanks Dr Rashmi,for your your kind words of appreciation.
Posted on Sunday, April 3, 2016 11:35:38 AM
From Dr.Rashmi Salil Kumar
Truly flabbergasted after reading this !
So inspiring !
We so often feel restless, inadequate and down-spirited , despite having no real reason to do so.
We can always learn !
Posted on
Mar
24
2016
Thu
3:30
PM
Waste food is their feast
From Pradeep Khare
Three years ago, when four engineering students Dileep Adiga, Anish Hegde, Ananth T Pai and Jeevan Geo Philip were on a brain-storming session as students at the NMAM Institute of Technology in Karkala, they decided to address the problem of malnutrition. The next big question before them was how to deal with the issue. Cooking food every day and distributing it was not feasible. That was when Dileep Adiga, a techie based in Udupi -- the temple town infamous for the vast amounts of food from temples being wasted and dumped into garbage bins -- decided that this food can instead be given to the needy. They embarked on a mission to collect leftover or extra food from wedding halls and public functions and distribute it to the poor.
Dileep Adiga, the team leader, said, "We first set up a database of organizations that need help in the form of food. In the last two years, we have distributed nearly 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh plates of food to the needy. The turning point was during the thirteenth day ritual performed after the death of senior BJP leader Dr V S Acharya. We saw that food for nearly 10,000 people was left behind. We are grateful to Dr Acharya's family who allowed us to distribute the leftover food. We gave it to a couple of organizations and went to the slums and distributed the same. We realized this could bring about a change. A few like-minded volunteers, mostly students, joined in and we covered a major portion of Udupi through a door-to-door campaign," he said.

People were told that they could either contribute directly or inform the team if they spotted leftover food. We enlightened them about the organizations and places they could donate their food to. We encouraged people to celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries by helping the needy. “At one point, we were all party-hoppers. We used to spend almost Rs 10,000 per party. We then cut down our expenditure to Rs 2,000 and the remaining Rs 8,000 went to the needy. We restrict cash transactions and encourage people to try and visit the poor if possible.
In January this year, we launched the Annadhana Trust. The 13-member trust comprises only one non-techie," he said. Annadhana foundation with the support of all the volunteers aims for a hunger free India. India one of the superpowers of the world also hosts one of the biggest groups of starving people in the world. The food that we waste mostly inevitably land in the garbage bins. But if we can play our roles responsibly and take only as much as we intend to eat, the saved food will find its way into the empty stomachs of those, who cannot even afford for food. Team Annadhana wants every Indian to be part of this project and experience the happiness in donating and spreading a smile.
Dilip R Adiga, who leads the team, told "We initially circulated pamphlets explaining our cause and opened a website. We started getting calls from marriage hall owners. When we get a call, we go there in an auto rickshaw before 3.30pm, so that the food can be distributed to the needy for dinner on that day." Caterers also extended their support by letting them borrow the vessels, which they return later. Anish Hegde, another member, said: "Till date, we have distributed about 20,000 plates of meals. We also accept birthday/anniversary donations wherein people donate part of their wealth to the needy. Some donate 10 kg bag of rice and other grocery items." He added that the likes on their Facebook page 'Annadhana' are increasing day by day.
Initially, the volunteers would visit and collect leftover food. Now with word spreading in Udupi, they get calls from people. Since Udupi is a small town, it is easy to reach places. They also have a dedicated auto service and utensils to transfer food. Once they have a strong volunteer base, the same system will be started in Mangalore and Bengaluru. The team plans to start a Facebook campaign on food wastage. They are particular about ensuring quality of food which is distributed only after tasting it.Stale food or rotten stuff is rejected.
The team has 150 volunteers, mostly engineering students and techies from the three cities. Through the trust, they have launched a Fresh Fruits and Grocery Supplies (FFGS) campaign. With FFGS, Annadhana aims to provide a more balanced diet and more importantly a consistent and regular food supply to those in need. Several supporters have vowed to fund supplies to kitchens of various independent orphanages and homes for the differently -abled. An online campaign will soon be launched, said Jeevan Geo Philip.
Gururaj Paramesha, a techie and also a trust member, said "Through the BAD project (Birthday Anniversary Donation) we inspire people to donate or celebrate their special occasion with the needy. A mobile app will soon be launched with a list of organizations and institutions that accept food."Janardhan N, founder secretary of Spandana Rehabilitation Centre for Mentally-challenged, Nejar, who is benefitted from Annadhana's initiative told "Many a times, they themselves have come to our institution and served the food. This shows their real concern. Even their parents were not aware of their initiative as these engineers were engaged in their noble work without craving for any publicity.''


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2 Comments
Posted on Sunday, April 3, 2016 4:34:21 PM
From Proloy Kumar Bagchi
Is anybody listening in our parts?
Posted on Sunday, April 3, 2016 4:34:10 PM
From Proloy Kumar Bagchi
Is anybody listening in our parts?
Posted on
Mar
4
2016
Fri
4:58
PM
What a way to reward a Principal!
From Pradeep Khare
“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well. “
-Aristotle
The teacher’s day celebrations on September 05, 2014 brought tidings of overwhelming joy for fifty-five-year-old Bhagirath Singh Mahicha, and the teachers of Government Senior secondary school Dhandhan in Sikar district, of Rajasthan. With his modest school headmaster’s job, Mahicha could not even afford to buy a cycle all his life. When his former students and villagers in Dhandhan in Sikar district, handed him the keys to a white Alto car, he was dizzy with joy.
State governments over the years may have failed to improve educational standards in Rajasthan, but local villagers in Sikar district have set a new precedent through their community initiative. People in Fatehpur village not only hired private teachers for the village school also but honoured the school Principal by gifting him a brand new Maruti car for taking new initiatives for the school. Going a step ahead, the villagers will also bear the cost of petrol and maintenance of the car for the next three years. About twenty other teachers have also been honored with silver medals.

The sincere efforts of the Principal and teachers have borne fruit by improving the standard of education in the village school, and producing 100 percent pass results. “The school principal was transferred to our village about three years back. In 2011 there were around 300 children in the school and today there are about 1,100 children studying here. With meagre infrastructure and facilities, Mahicha and his team have taken various initiatives and managed to work against all odds. None of the students failed this year,” said Jagdish Sharma, the village sarpanch.
The indifferent attitude of state government towards the village school has been a major worry for villagers and school administration in the past. School Principal Mahicha motivated the villagers to come forward and take joint initiatives to improve the standard of teaching. “Despite repeated requests, the state government failed to fulfill the shortage of teachers in our school. Eventually the villagers hired six private teachers for the school, who are being paid from a fund created by the monthly donations from the villagers,” said Sharma. The satisfied villagers said the government school at Fatehpur today is no less than any private school in terms of infrastructure and resources. Local transporters in village are giving free pick and drop facility to the kids.
Mahicha is a regular school teacher, who rose the ranks from a Grade III faculty to Principal ship, over a period of 20 years, amidst routine transfers and sundry odds of neglected government schools. But he chose to make a difference by putting his heart and soul in his job. In 1984, he joined Dhandhan government secondary school as a Grade III faculty and taught History and Geography until 1993 when he was promoted to the post of headmaster. In 1997 when the school was converted into a senior secondary rank effecting a principal’s post, he was transferred to a nearby secondary school in Jandwa (Churu). In 2000 that school too was upgraded to senior secondary level and Mahicha was again on his way out, this time to nearby Mainasara village in Churu.
In 2004, Mahicha was posted as elementary education officer in Fatehpur Sikar Block. It was in 2009 that Mahicha returned to Dhandhan yet again, this time promoted to the post of a principal. It was a homecoming of sorts. “This is where I had started my career as a teacher with as many as 225 students then in 1984. When I returned in 2009, the number had increased to 442 but the number of teachers and the facilities remained the same,” said Mahicha.
Mahicha confronted the problem of shortage of teachers head on. He refused to stick to the school working hours. “It was not possible for such few teachers to give adequate attention to all the students in the regular school hours. So we worked out special summer classes during the summer vacations and also extra classes late into the night. I must say that the teachers did not grudge the additional work nor did the students,” Mahicha said. While only the weaker students were drawn in for the extra classes initially, the brighter lot voluntarily joined them. “The results are clear for all to see,” beams Mahicha. “The pass percentage in the school has risen remarkably. This year in Science the pass percentage was 98.70 percent while in Arts it was 96 percent. It has remained above 90 percent over the past five years, showing a steady rise. The overall quality of performance too has improved as the number of students securing first division marks has increased,” he added.
At a time when the state’s pass percentage in science is 80 percent and in humanities is around 75 percent, Mahicha’s school has come up as an island of quality education. The school now has students not only from Dhandhan village but also neighbouring districts such as Churu, Jhunjhunu and Nagaur. Local Sarpanch Jagdish Prasad Sharma said, “Students and parents from neighbouring districts have heard about the school’s performance and outstanding academic environment and have come in large numbers to enroll. The locals run a trust, ‘Dhandhan Development Trust Shakti Mandir ‘that actively supports the school Principal’s initiatives. Sharma added that the school also runs a hostel with 30 rooms housing 160 students who have come from neighboring districts.
In an effort to provide better facilities, the school is provided free water supply and the electricity bills are also paid by the Trust. Who would not support such an industrious principal? Even as Mahicha is overwhelmed with all the support, he grapples with a skewed teacher-student ratio. “It must be noted that while the number of students have risen from 442 in 2009 to 1166 now, the number of teachers have remained the same. I think the government should sanction more posts of teachers here “he said.
“Students from this school have gone on to do well in their lives. Some are pursuing engineering, medicine, studying in bigger cities and even abroad. The Principal has worked selflessly for years here and never asked for anything for himself. So we called a meeting of the village elders and decided to gift him something. Two teachers volunteered to collect the donations from villagers. No villager was forced to contribute, but when at the end we counted the total amount, it stood at Rs. 6.50 lakhs,” said Sharma. “We decided to buy a brand new car for the Principal and also foot the fuel and maintenance bills for the next three years. The meritorious students of the school were also rewarded with silver medals weighing 40 grams each. The villagers are so inspired that one of them even volunteered to bear the expenses for the awards given to meritorious students next year already.”
Meanwhile Mahicha’s Alto that flaunts a sticker on its rear windshield announcing it as a gift from ‘All villagers and former students’, has no driver. “I do not know how to drive. So for now my students are driving me around and even refueling it. This is overwhelming,” he smiles.
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Posted on
Feb
15
2016
Mon
5:43
PM
The world's poorest President
From Pradeep Khare
“Simplicity is not leading a very simple life with bountiful wealth and luxury that one can lay hands on, but building no desire to have surplus resources in spite of living in abject penury situations.”
- Anuj Somany
This man was the World’s Poorest President, but the reason why he’s poor will surprise you! It’s my proud privilege to present José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano (Spanish pronunciation: [xoˈse muˈxika] .He is is a Uruguayan politician who was President of Uruguay between 2010 and 2015. Jose donated more than of 90% of his $12,000 per month salary to benefit the poor and to help small entrepreneurs. If we need more of anything in this world, it would be more people like this! There are idealistic, hard-working and honest politicians the world over - although cynics might argue they're a small minority - but none of them surely comes anywhere close to the outgoing Uruguayan President when it comes to living by one's principles. This man doesn’t put value on his appearance or clothes. He is criticized for his posture and clothes, but Jose puts more value on other things in life instead. Before his presidency, he was a guerilla fighter for Tupamaros, which acted like “Robin hood.” They literally robbed banks, gun clubs, and other businesses to give to the poor. He truly believed that his value was not in gaining more money, it was in the wellbeing of his country and people.

Let’s take a look at the bizarre sequence of events in the life of Jose before he became the President of Uruguay. In 1970 he was arrested but soon escaped Punta Carretas prison in a daring jailbreak. He was shot and wounded numerous times in conflicts with security forces. In 1972 he was imprisoned again, after which he remained in jail for more than a decade, including two years' solitary confinement at the bottom of a well. In 1985 when Constitutional democracy was restored in Uruguay, he was released under an amnesty law. In 1994 when he was elected deputy, he surprised everyone by reaching the parliament building on a Vespa scooter. A bewildered parking attendant asked: "Are you going to be here long?” A confident Mujica replied: "I certainly hope so."After winning the Presidential election in 2010 he surprised everyone, by announcing that the presidential palace would be included among the state shelters for the homeless.
Mujica was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a Senator afterwards. As the candidate of the Broad Front, he won the 2009 presidential election and took office as President on 1 March 2010. Mujica was entitled to live in the beautiful Presidential house, but chose a more humble place to live. Turning down the invitation to live at a luxurious grace and favor residence owned by the state, he instead chose to reside at his ramshackle farm situated a few miles away from the country's capital city of Montevideo. The only sign the country's leader was at home were the pair of police officers who stood guard at the end of his heavily tractor-rutted dirt track. Water comes from a well which is surrounded by overgrown weeds and the laundry goes not in a tumble dryer but on the washing line outside.
He is an honest example of a President who gives up his own comfort for the wellbeing of others. He also planned to change the grand presidential house into a museum that pays honor to past Presidents. His part time farming job, keeps him aware of the struggles and life that most other people of his country go though. He also grows and then sells flowers from his farm. Jose’s protection consists of two guards and his 3 legged dog named Manuela. 'This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,' he says. In contrast to many western politicians who aim to amass property empires, Mr Mujica last year declared his total assets at just £135,000.
He says “my lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. I’m the son of my soil. There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress.” This President’s example is a testament to how we should live our lives. We don’t need more things to be happy. In fact, some of the wealthiest people in the world, have their wealth stored in the currency of unselfishness, kindness, and true love.
Wearing what could best be described as "casual" clothes, he’s never been seen wearing a tie. No wonder, Mr Mujica sits on a simple wooden stool in front of a bookshelf that seems on the verge of collapsing under the weight of biographies and mementoes from his political adversaries and allies. Books are important to the former guerrilla fighter who spent a total of 13 years in jail. It was an experience that almost broke him mentally and which shaped his transformation from fighter to politician. “I’ve no doubt that had I not lived through that, I would not be who I am today. Prison and solitary confinement had a great influence on me. It helped me to find my inner strength. I couldn't even read a book for about eight years. “Given his past, it's perhaps understandable why Mr Mujica gives away about 90% of his salary to charity, simply because he "has no need for it".
He married Lucia Topolansky, his long-term partner and former co-revolutionary, in 2005.Not afraid to take a swipe at his fellow leaders, he adds: "All I do is live like the majority of my people, not the minority. I'm living a normal life” In a 2012 interview with the BBC, he explained: “I’m called ‘the poorest President’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says. I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a President. I earn more than I need, so it’s my duty to help others. He says he has all he needs, and that material wealth does not buy happiness.
While most Presidents travel around in chauffeur-driven saloon cars, the former Uruguayan president drove his own beat-up Beetle. He was even offered $1m for the car by an Arab Sheikh, but said he didn’t give the offer “any importance”. He chooses to fly economy class .His magnanimity can be seen when he gives’ lift’ to hitch-hikers. It’s not often you get picked up by a world leader, but when Gerhald Acosta was walking between his home town and his place of work he was given a ride by Mujica and his wife The shocked hitchhiker told a local newspaper that it was only when he got into the car - the President's iconic 1987 blue Volkswagen Beetle - that he recognized that the elderly couple was actually President Jose Mujica and his wife Sen. Lucia Topolansky. 'When I got out, I thanked them profusely, because not everyone helps someone out on the road, and much less a President.’
Mr Mujica, who is sometimes described as the "President every other country would like to have," dismisses all the adulation and attention with a waft of his hand, but he is not leaving the stage just yet. Maybe so, but this enigmatic leader remains an inspiration to many and is a reminder that politics is meant to be a humble and honorable profession.
While neighboring Argentina and Brazil have suffered downturns in recent years, Uruguay has witnessed rising salaries and a historically low unemployment rate. Mr Mujica leaves office with Uruguay's economy in better shape than its bigger neighbors. Poverty rates fell sharply while he was in office, and he famously launched the ‘One Laptop per Child ‘program, which to date has distributed more than 1 million free laptops to children and teachers around the country. The world-renowned Mujica is leaving office with a 65 percent approval rating, making him one of the world’s most popular Presidents. But he will perhaps continue to be Uruguay’s most famous President, having amplified its reputation as one of the most progressive countries in the region through his humble lifestyle and social legislation. He left his presidency the same way he entered it – driving his '87 Beetle.
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Posted on
Jan
31
2016
Sun
8:29
PM
A HIV + survivor brings succor to women and children with HIV
From Pradeep Khare
“I enjoy being the messenger for God in terms of letting people know about HIV and AIDS.”
-Magic Johnson
Having lost her mother at the age of two, Kousalya spent her childhood shuttling between the homes of her grandmother and stepmother, in the small town of Namakkal in South India. She aspired to be a nurse, but her family did not allow her to study beyond 12th standard .She was married off to a cousin soon after completing secondary school. Forty-five days later, her husband committed suicide, and the cause of his death was kept a secret from the young bride. She was subsequently driven out of her marital home. When she herself fell ill, she went to a clinic, where a staff nurse made the shocking revelation that her husband had tested HIV positive. It had also been transmitted to Koushlaya through her husband.
"The doctors had warned me that I won't live beyond a few months, so whatever needed to be done must be done quickly," laughs Kousalya. Filled with anger and outrage at how her family had treated her, Kousalya took the brave step of filing a case with the local police. Ignorant of the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS or the seriousness of the illness, she went public with her story in 1995, becoming the first woman in the country to come out openly with her status. The media approached her for her story. “They told me my story would be useful for other women, so I said okay because I had heard about other people who were infected and had similar problems to mine,” she said. She says she became an activist by accident.

Her story made national headlines, which Kousalya considers a blessing in disguise, and she came in contact with several citizen organizations working on the disease. This interaction opened up an entirely new world for Kousalya. Armed with information on the disease, she started work in a private hospital as a counselor and began to put together the elements of a model that could break through personal and institutional roadblocks. She moved from Namakkal to the state capital of Chennai with her uncle in 1997. Here, she joined an initiative called INP Plus (Indian Network for Positive People Plus) which disseminated information about HIV/AIDS. When INP Plus opened a separate wing for women and children – PWN (Positive Women's Network) Plus – Kousalya was chosen to head it. Along the way, the Tamil-speaking young woman taught herself English in order to connect with national and international players and policy makers.
Many in Kousalya’s place would have wallowed in self-pity and blamed their fate for all the misfortunes that had befallen them. But not this brave heart, who shook off the disappointments and the tragedies that beset her life, and extended a comforting hand to hundreds of other HIV positive women, giving them emotional support and the encouragement to face life’s challenges. Those were hard days for HIV patients. People then believed that AIDS virus would spread through air and even doctors were scared of treating HIV patients. “There were many myths about the disease, but the situation has improved much now,” says Kousalya, whose organization works with around 30,000 HIV positive women in 13 States.
There are about 2.5 million HIV positive people in India now. “About 40 percent of them are women. It is estimated that nearly 86 percent of the women got the virus from a single partner, in most cases their husband,” she discloses. She goes on to dispel certain false beliefs about the disease and says 92 percent of children born to HIV mothers are not born with the disease. Fifteen years ago the cost of anti-retroviral drugs used in treatment of HIV/AIDS – which can only be controlled and not cured – was very expensive. In 2000, when Kousalya began her treatment, she used to spend Rs.7500 every month on her medicine. Now the drugs are available free of cost in government hospitals. PWN along with other agencies fought for free treatment of HIV patients.
She finds that the biggest problem for women in India now is that while there is information on HIV available to sex workers and truckers, there is not enough of it for housewives. But her greatest hope for women in India is that they will shrug off the stigma the virus carries. “I’ve been living with HIV for 15 years. HIV is a label. Like any disease, people are creating the label so if they themselves remove the label, they can lead a normal life.”PWN has also started working among HIV positive children and adolescents.
PWN Plus' pan-India membership has ratcheted up from four to 7,000 plus, making it the only national-level lobby group to have a separate focus for HIV positive women. "One of PWN’s newer projects, Social Light Communications – supported by UNDP – has established a designing and printing unit for positive women in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Through this initiative, positive women design banners, posters, gift articles, jewelry and greeting cards to sell them to large corporations .The profit from this designing unit is being ploughed back into providing jobs for positive women. A textile shop at a district called Villupuram in Tamil Nadu– which sells saris – is also supported with the funds, and provides work to about 50 positive women on a regular basis. These saris are bought from whole sale merchants and sold by positive women to corporates and walk in customers.
Since 2013 PWN has also started working among HIV positive children and adolescents. “We conducted two programs and connected with about 150 children. “We want to find ways to stop discrimination of HIV children in schools and work for setting up of youth resource centres for HIV children, who could then come together and be a support for each other,” says Kousalya. Today, PWN+ helps some 10,000 women with HIV, and has member networks in other parts of India. It has also spun off social enterprises, including Social Light Communications, a business providing design and print services. Similarly, the network’s WE (Women Empowerment) shops – launched in 2007 – are providing livelihood to women across five states. "These mobile shops display and sell products like craft items, savories’ and honey made by positive women," informs Kousalya.
"Today," elaborates Kousalya, "we have 14 state networks in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Manipur, Pondicherry, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. Our networks in five states like Maharashtra, Mizoram, Manipur, Pondicherry and Haryana are operating without any external support or funding. “While focusing so much on kids, does the crusader regret not having any of her own? “Life is too short for regrets," she says. "I've made a name for myself because I am HIV positive. I consider this an advantage. Else, I may well have died unsung in Namakkal!"
As president of PWN Plus, Kousalya frequently travels in India and abroad playing multifarious roles – of activist, counselor and speaker on HIV and AIDS issues. She speaks fluent English and adroitly handles journalistic enquiries. "I have addressed the Indian Parliament (2000) about the problems of HIV-positive people, spoken at the British Parliament (2004), had interactions with erstwhile president Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (2006), U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (2006) and with Congress President Sonia Gandhi (2006)," she says with pride.
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Posted on
Jan
15
2016
Fri
8:21
AM
Why is this gold medalist from IIM (A) selling vegetables?
From Pradeep Khare
“If you’re climbing the ladder of life, you go rung by rung, one step at a time. Don’t look too far up, set your goals high but take one step at a time. Sometimes you don’t think you’re progressing until you step back and see how high you’ve really gone.”
Donny Osmond
You do not need to be an MBA to sell vegetables. But with 30-year-old Kaushlendra Kumar from IIM, Ahmedabad, choosing to do it, the socio-economic status of some 3000 poor farmers and 500 street vendors in Bihar has gone up. Kumar has also brought respectability to vegetable farming and selling through his innovations. In a country where a degree worth of 7-figure salary is utilized otherwise and probably for the better, I truly feel an overwhelming sense of pride in sharing his success story.
“The farmers know how to do farming but did not know the technique to enhance production and didn’t have a market,” said Kaushlendra, who has established the brand ‘Samriddhi’ and helps in organizing and professionalizing the vegetable growers and sellers through his organization, Kaushalya Foundation. As for vegetable vendors, they lead a hard life as most of them are migrants from villages. About 60 percent of them are women. They endure harassment from police and municipal bodies.

Hailing from a remote village in Nalanda in Bihar, Kaushalendra's initial education was in a rural government school before he moved to Navodaya Vidyalaya to complete his high school. Then, he cleared CAT to enter IIM, Ahmedabad, after graduating from Patna Science College. At IIM he won a gold medal and topped in agribusiness in 2007. He was particularly moved by the mass migration and poverty of vegetable growers in 1987 when a devastating flood ravaged the only railway track connecting their village to Patna’s wholesale vegetable market. The son of a farmer, who mostly studied under street lamps, always had an aim to revolutionise the lives of farmers.
“I spent my life in Patna without having any money in my pocket for several days. That was the period when everybody laughed at me and used to make fun of me”, recounted Kaushlendra, “Moreover, I had been deemed as a failure. At one point, I was making commitments without knowing how to fulfil them. But I always knew that in the end everything would fall in place.” And that is the belief that has carried Kaushlendra to the heights of the entrepreneur world.
“Kaushlendra has built a strong social capital and this shows how hardworking and honest he is to this social enterprise”, said P K Sinha, Professor of Marketing and Chairperson of Retailing at IIM-Ahmedabad and Kaushlendra’s mentor. But, despite the educational loan that he had taken to complete his IIM degree, he preferred not to attend the placement drive when multinationals queued to recruit the crème de la crème of the business school. And believe it or not, Kaushalendra opted not to go for those astounding pay packages because he wanted to sell vegetables. Can you believe it that with his scholarship money of Rs. 25,000, he set out to transform the very mundane of all daily activities – buying and selling vegetables! His first day sales was Rs 22, which has now touched Rs 5 crore in just three and a half years of its operation. None of this would have been possible if Kaushlendra had adopted the safe path: the run of the mill, ‘nine to five ‘job.
The Kaushalya Foundation launched project Samriddhii in Patna in February 2008. They also created a public private partnership with Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), Patna. However, in order to get such a large project off the ground the Foundation required quite a large sum of money. Thankfully, they managed to acquire a soft loan from the Friends of Women World Banking (FWWB), Ahmedabad. They received a second boost when Punjab National Bank (PNB) agreed to sanctioned Rs. 50 lakh for their project.
The biggest influence in Kaushlendra’s life has been his mother who has continually encouraged and supported him even in his darkest hour. “She has taught me that success is the by-product of struggle with patience and successful people write history”, he explained. But above all, his mother instilled within him the confidence to take on any challenge. She made sacrifices for her family and school children of their village. Today she is a primary school teacher in his village and Kaushlendra wants to do her proud.
With an eye on winning friends, Kaushalendra sells his vegetables with display tags that mention names of their areas of cultivation and the farmers who have grown them, apart from the price .He also knows the importance of walking the extra mile in business. So, he makes free home deliveries of vegetables, a cash memo which no other vegetable seller does. Cleanliness of vegetables is another critical area, as he knows that housewives not only want to buy fresh vegetables but are increasingly getting aware about healthy eating.
On the supply side, Kaushalendra has avoided middlemen by directly taking vegetables from chosen farmers and sharing profit with him. Today, he keeps visiting farmers across Bihar to train them in methods of farming and branding vegetables. Every week, he holds farmer's meetings at some nondescript village and returns home with new business partners.
At present, his cooperative is generating Rs.3 lakh revenue every month. This leaves him with enough money to pay Rs.5700 as monthly installment against the education loan he had taken for his MBA at Ahmedabad. Kaushlendra is also trying to change the social mindset of the young and educated in Bihar, who will do anything but work in agriculture sector.
The vegetable supply chain venture was so novel that the faculty at his alma mater and friends helped him design a light vegetable cart that could be pushed or attached to a cycle as well the technology that would enable him to increase the shelf-life of the vegetables through the summer heat. Initially, he even pushed his own cart to gauge public response and study the demands and gaps in his knowledge and marketing. And soon enough, Kaushalendra was nicknamed the IIM sabziwala.
When a group of 25 to 30 farmers in a village come together, a vegetable collection centre is set up in the village or its vicinity. These Samriddhii kendras are managed by the farmers themselves So far, eight collection centres have been set up in Patna and Nalanda districts. The farmers have an assured market in the collection centres. They are informed about the purchase price of all vegetables the previous night and if the price does not suit them, they can defer the sale or take their crop to the traditional mandi. However, selling to the Samriddhii kendras saves farmers the cost of transportation, weighing and packaging charges and the commission that mandis charge. The income of farmers, who have joined Samriddhii’s vegetable supply chain, has gone up from 0.25 to 1.50 times.
Kaushalendra’s strategy differs from that of retail giants like Reliance Fresh. “Retail giants undermine vendors. Farmers also suffer losses because the companies buy the best quality vegetables and they have to sell the rest at a throwaway price,” he said. Samridhi buys the entire produce from farmers at a fixed rate. To have an edge in the cut-throat market, Samridhi offers quality assurance for which it has roped in wives of farmers and vendors. After the produce is brought to collection centres, the women segregate vegetables according to quality and weigh and pack them. The best quality vegetables go to carts and the low-grade ones are supplied to hotels. As a result of this, women, who were confined to their homes, are now involved in sorting, grading and packaging of vegetables at the processing centres. They earn anything from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 each per month.
The recognition and rewards are their sustenance. In 2012 the organisation received the Sankalp award from Aavishkar and Intelecap, social sector investors. In 2010, the Willgro Award was given in Chennai. But he is looking ahead instead of recounting his achievements, when he says, “No business is small, as long as it delivers a big mission .The excitement has just begun."
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2 Comments
Posted on Saturday, January 16, 2016 4:13:07 PM
From Proloy Kumar Bagchi
Thanks for this very encouraging story. We needed somebody in the agriculture sector who was unselfish to develop skills among farmers in the entire process of agricultural production and marketing of their produce. In fact, for the absence of such knowledge both, farmers and customers are being cheated by the middlemen operating at the wholesale markets. This story only makes one wish that there are more such MBAs who, instead of making a 7-digit salary in a corporate house, take up matters to straighten out matters that directly affect people and improve their lives. Hopefully, more such self-sacrificing MBAs opt for such unglamorous careers where they not only make money but also do good to the community
Posted on Friday, January 15, 2016 2:12:24 PM
From Dr.Rashmi Salil Kumar
Such Stories are so motivating...leave you spell--bound , really.
Kudos ..to such people ...and to people like you who capture the story and deliver them to us.
Posted on
Dec
31
2015
Thu
9:05
PM
Why is this Professor begging in a train?
From Pradeep Khare
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela
As the train leaves Churchgate station, a deep voice announces in chaste Marathi, “Vidya daan sarva sreshtha daan aahe. (Donation towards education is the greatest donation.)” Standing amid the crush of commuters in the humid second-class compartment, a middle-aged man with a rucksack follows up his opening aphorism with a one-minute speech on how a small donation from commuters could help rescue the poor from the scourge of illiteracy. He proceeds to deliver the same speech in fluent English and Hindi and then extends his donation box.
Professor Sandeep Desai has been following this unusual routine of begging in trains. A marine engineer by profession and an MBA from a leading management institute, he has sailed the world with leading shipping companies and has had extensive experience in Marketing in MNCs. He later switched to teaching at the prestigious S P Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai. Every morning, he boards a Churchgate-bound train from Goregaon and does the grueling commute back and forth between the two stations to collect donations for his half-constructed school at Nanar village in Ratnagiri district. “I do this for six hours daily,” says the Professor.

Desai’s social service began in 1997 when he quit his job and took up other assignments to fund Shloka, a free English-medium school for children from the Goregaon slums. He gathered the initial capital with his savings, and donations from well-wishers. He also generated funds from the numerous workshops he conducted on advertising, management and business communication. “We soon realised that the students were particularly weak in English and Maths, subjects they would need the most when they move on to higher studies," says Professor Desai."Even villages with a population of 3,500, 4,000 don't have a school nearby. The Shloka Missionaries (Public Charitable Trust) that he started in 2001 along with his mother Sudha and a friend, Noorul Islam, runs four schools - including one in Mumbai – where free education is provided for the poor. It aims to build one school each year in rural India.
In 2005, the Shloka Trust set up a primary school for slum children in Iraniwadi, Goregaon, Mumbai. In the first year itself, the school had an impressive turnout of 285 students. “After the first school, we began our second school at Ratnagiri for poor rural children, but the construction got delayed due to a shortage of funds,” he says. Professor Desai was in for a rude shock when he approached corporate houses for funds. “Most of them gave pathetic excuses. There was no place for extending help for such a cause in their minds”. In April 2008, armed with a donation box, he started approaching shopkeepers in Mumbai. “The amount we collected was not much, but the response was great," he recalled. Emboldened by the success of this venture, he decided to take the next step. He started begging for funds on local trains -- the lifeline of Mumbai which ferry millions of passengers every day. “The response has been great. I collect Rs 3000-Rs7000 a day,” says Desai.He used to collect a few hundred rupees when he started this initiative in 2009,but now people know him and donate more.
“In 2011, I was able to collect Rs 27 lakhs. It includes funds that I received through donations, cheques and also from Mumbai locals,” he says. The professor says it isn’t just about money—he actively looks for teaching volunteers as well. “So far 15 people have volunteered,” he says. “The volunteers are free to teach whatever subjects they want, but we insist that they teach for at least 10 hours a month.”
“I usually begin after noon and end by 6 pm. Commuters are usually reluctant to open their purse during peak hours,” he says. Initially he did feel awkward passing his hat around. “The first day I could not even make a speech till the train reached Andheri. But an inner voice told me that I was not begging for myself but for a greater cause that will change the lives of thousands of poor kids across Maharashtra,” he says. At times, some of the kinder passengers offer the professor refreshments -- as he tirelessly repeats his well-rehearsed speech to garner funds. Since he is not allowed to enter the ladies' compartment, a generous female passenger has offered to seek funds on his behalf there.
Desai accepts donations from Re 1 to Rs 1,000 with equal humility. “I go back and do my accounts till the last denomination and deposit the money in the bank account maintained by the trust,” he says. His contributors range from youngsters to senior citizens. “Once, two cops who got into the train to catch hold of some card-playing commuters heard my speech and donated some money. This school, when it comes up, will be a living testimony to the generosity of Mumbai commuters,” he concludes.
Actor Salman Khan was among the many people who came forward to lend a helping hand. The actor tweeted, “Prof Sandeep Desai ka jawab nahi. Kamaal karte ho yaar prof sahib,” The actor has not only donated money for the school but even tweeted the bank account number of the school so that his fans could contribute. “Salman called me up and he took my bank account details. He has told me that he will contribute,” Desai said, adding, “I have been inundated with calls and emails from across the world offering financial aid.”
But, according to Desai, he felt the “biggest” difference when he got into a train on a Monday morning and was about to deliver his one-minute speech in Marathi, Hindi and English on how commuters could help rescue the poor from the scourge of illiteracy. “People recognised me immediately and began donating money even before I began my speech. The response has been overwhelming and I collected Rs 8,200 in just three hours,” Desai said. “I think I can now fulfill the dream of my mother who was a school teacher. She too wanted to start a school in her village,” he added.
In Mumbai, the school they run is housed in a slum rehabilitation building in Goregaon, and caters to children who come to the city from rural areas. Started in 2005, the English medium school provides free education, free books, and free uniforms to the children. After providing them basic education Desai tries to accommodate them in regular schools .The other schools run by the trust are in Omerkhed (Yavatmal dist.), Kankavli (Sindhudurg dist.), and Sipur and Naijahr (Udaipur district in Rajasthan). In June 2013, another school, has been opened in Ratnagiri.
The experience is not without its downside though. The reactions that he receives every day are not always positive. Professor Desai has faced suspicion, ridicule, skepticism and hostility from commuters who refuse to believe his story; he has been accused of collecting the money for his own pocket. That is why the professor now keeps all his documents -- pertaining to the Trust, the schools run by it and the funds collected every day -- in his rucksack. He also keeps a meticulous account of the amount of funds he collects every day on the trains, right down to the last coin. Desai has to bear with ridicules and the occasional snide remark of a commuter. Once a lawyer challenged his modus operandi of collecting money, held him by collars, and took him to police. He says there is a thin line between begging and soliciting contributions from total strangers for a noble cause. He says that he explains his charitable work to the commuters and gives them his card and then seeks donations. As the good word about his work started spreading, the railway staff and even the police don’t harass him now.
A carefree bachelor married to his social causes, Desai says he had decided early in life that he would not marry. He took care of his father who was afflicted with Alzheimer disease for ten years. He later lost his mother to cancer. He philosophizes that the lord inspires him to do social work and those who contribute to his work have a reason to do that. “I have to speak about my work today; hopefully a time will come when my work will speak for itself,” says Desai.
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Posted on
Dec
16
2015
Wed
10:16
AM
An act of courage
From Pradeep Khare
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that
something else is more important than fear.”
― Ambrose Redmoon

It is said that ordinary people live for themselves, not for others, but there are one in a million, who risk their lives to save others. This makes them stand out, and they become extraordinary. The holy town of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh became witness to a rare saga of bravery and courage. It is my proud privilege to present Nikita, who has become larger than life, by her selfless act of saving the life of a four year old girl.Radheshyam who is a daily wage labourer in a small village Kailod Kanker.He is the proud father of Nikita.He is uneducated but ensures that his daughter goes to school regularly. He believes that education will help his daughter to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.
Young Nikita has spent her childhood without any luxuries of life. She has to walk about two kms daily to fetch water and firewood, along with her mother Mamta. She does not have access to TV or mobile. She studies in class VIII in Saraswati Vidyapeeth School, in Mangalia road .The Principal of the school Neetu Tiwari describes Nikita as an alert and regular student. She is doing well in studies and manages to remain among the top five students in her class. Apart from studies, she also likes to participate in other activities of the school.
On 8 Dec 2015,Nikita had accompanied thirty two of her classmates to a picnic to Devguradiya.Enroute the they decided to visit Ujjaini –the confluence of river Narmada and Shipra.At about 1.30 pm when the girls were having lunch on the bank of the river, they heard loud cries of a wailing mother whose child had drowned in the river. Several people present there just looked to that side, wondering what had happened. But not Nikita-without wasting a second, she got up and rushed towards the shore.Without giving any thought to her own safety, she instantly jumped into the river, and started swimming towards the drowning child. Undeterred by the cold water and weather, she soon reached to the child, who was struggling for life. She held the child firmly by her waist and swam back towards the shore. All the people who had gathered, on hearing the cries of the mother stood speechless. The mother who was waiting eagerly with baited breath, rushed towards Nikita and took her child in her lap. Tears of joy rolled down her eyes. The people present around clapped in excitement and showered praise on Nikita.
This real story leaves me thinking about the future of Nikita.Given the poor financial condition of her parents, how will her dreams of becoming a doctor be realized?
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Posted on
Dec
3
2015
Thu
2:04
PM
He left his plush job to teach underprivileged children
From Pradeep Khare
”If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.”
-Confucius
His father had to struggle a lot in the early years of his life to meet the basic expenses of his family. Due to severe financial crisis in the family, it was difficult for him to pursue his education. But he did not give up. He sold balloons and candies while he was a child to generate money for school fees. Can you believe it that in January 2010 his son founded H.H. High School in Brambe, a small village 20 kms from Ranchi-the capital of Jharkhand. This is his gift to the people of the village where he grew up.
Inspired by his father’s struggle for education, he made it to BIT Mesra from where he did Engineering followed by an MBA. It is my proud privilege to present Shadab Hassan, the Founder Director of HH High School, Brambe named after his grandfather and freedom fighter Hamid Hassan, who took part in the Quit India Movement. Shadab was determined to open a school in Brambe so that the underprivileged and disadvantaged kids of the village did not have to face the problems which his father faced in his childhood.

Knowing how difficult it was for parents to find a decent school in Brambe, Shadab, along with his mother Roshan Ara and father, brought together a bunch of around 80 kids and started teaching them. But getting these 80 kids wasn’t easy. They went around the nearby villages, knocking each door and finding out the number of children in each household, how many kids went to school, and if not why. This is where the ‘Reach2teach’ campaign came into effect where people in the village and its surrounding areas were made to understand the importance of education and how it would help them craft a better future for their children in the coming years. Crossing various hurdles like poverty, part-time or full time jobs that these children were already bound to, they started attending school after the school authorities assured their parents and guardians that they could continue with their jobs.
In his innovative style , Shadab, along with some active volunteers (students from local universities) went around the villages with admission forms and started enrolling kids then and there. This campaign became quite successful and many parents agreed to send their children to school because of on-the-spot registration taking place in the village itself. “Now that the kids started coming to school, the authorities made use of whatever amenities they could arrange for and created a makeshift classroom for the kids in a semi-constructed building in the residential premises of the school,” says Shadab. Benches, chairs and tables were absolutely unheard of and the only place to sit, write and read were the huge carpets that were hired by the school at Rs 20 per day along with a rolling blackboard which allowed the teacher to teach the children and conduct the classes. “At this juncture, no teacher was appointed from outside. I took charge along with some volunteers who were either friends or students from local universities,” he adds.
Around 30% of the children in the school were either orphans or had a single parent who often approached the school authorities requesting them to waive their fees. “We started offering absolutely free of cost education for such children along with orphaned kids who were staying with a relative or guardian. The school also provided books, stationery items, school uniform, shoes and socks for such children so that they could concentrate on their studies without having to worry about the fees,” points out Shahdab.
The only way to sustain the school was to increase the number of students in the school. A number of initiatives and campaigns began which attracted many students from Brambe. To bring children from nearby villages, the school organized for a van which saved their families the cost of commuting. This problem led to a wonderful breakthrough in the school’s method of teaching where the managing committee of the school came up with the idea of conducting extra classes for weak students. The concept of organizing video conferencing in a regular classroom was introduced in the school which opened doors for people around the world who wish to teach underprivileged children but were unable to do so till now.
Apart from providing quality education to the kids of Brambe, H. H. High School also developed partnerships with people in the local community for delivering value to the students and eventually the community at large. Instead of hiring professionals for basic jobs such as stitching of uniforms, HHHS believes in helping the local people by getting the student’s uniforms stitched from them. It not only gives rise to employment in the village and a positive attitude towards the school, but also helps the children and the school save a lot of money. One out of three will study for free “India being a densely populated country, it is quite common to find more than three to four children in a family. Typically, only one or two get an education, the rest are sent to work to bring in extra income,” says Shahdab. HHHS came up with the idea of offering free education for one out of three siblings of a family as this would ease the parent’s burden of having to pay for the education of all their children. This also encourages more and more children to continue their education without any worries.
Another problem faced by parents is the fact that books and supplies add to the cost of education. “Keeping this in mind, we came up with the concept of allowing children to reuse textbooks so that they not only save money but also develop a sense of responsibility when they use their books with care,” adds Shahdab. The school also initiated a programme called ‘Maatri’ which aims at women empowerment in various ways. One of the main aims of this initiative is to educate the mothers of the students by setting up special classes for women every Sunday in the village itself. Along with basic education, they also create awareness about health and sanitation, and teach them how to practice safe child rearing practices.
Google has come forward and made use of the already existing LIVE Classroom setup. It has become common for Google employees to take out time from their busy schedule during the day and teach various subjects like English, Mathematics, Science and IT to the students and give them an out-of-classroom experience like never before. “They also discuss their own job profiles, difficulties and achievements and try to inspire the kids to continue their education and to achieve their goals in life. In recognition of the wonderful efforts put in by the school, Google gifted a 32’’ LCD so that the children could have a rewarding experience through these video classes,” says Shahdab.
“What could be more rewarding and prestigious for a founder of a school than to be acknowledged by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and also receive the Yuva Prabodhan-2012 award,” says Shahdab. At present, H.H. High School has 1000 students out which around 180 orphans or single parent children are studying free of cost. Their entire education is sponsored by individuals and organizations who donate money through’ Bless a Child initiative.’ In its four years of existence, the school has been able to construct 22 classrooms, provide equipments and facilities for sports like badminton, football, volleyball, cricket, table tennis, and carom board etc. It has appointed 22 full time teachers who are paid monthly salaries for their service.
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Posted on
Nov
16
2015
Mon
7:11
PM
A Wedding with a Difference
From Pradeep Khare
“Not everyone believes that marriage transforms miserable and immature single people into paragons of maturity and bliss.”
_BELLA DEPAULO
This is a unique story. A story of two people with exemplary courage, spirit and ideals. A story that shows, more than any Bollywood movie can, that true love has a higher purpose. That marriages can achieve a lot. Even more surprisingly, what mere weddings can achieve a lot! But this wedding, the wedding of Thilak and Dhana on June 1st 2012 was different. It was a wedding that ‘made a difference’. The wedding reception was a fundraiser for an education fund for underprivileged children. No box gifts were allowed; only donations to the fund. The children from 8 homes in Chennai were invited to the wedding reception. The bride did not wear any silk clothes or expensive ornaments and the wedding followed a much-researched simple ritual attended by close relatives.
Thilak and Dhana have been friends for years, and share a passion for social work and children’s causes.It sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet it is so hard to actually execute! How does a bride tell her family that she does not want to get dressed up and that she wants to marry so that she can adopt? And that the groom wants to pay for the reception from his own pocket – not his parents’ or in-laws’? And that he says No to gifts? Thilak and Dhana waited almost 2 years to convince their family to do just that!

No, Dhana and Thilak were not in love when they first thought of marriage. You see, both of them are uncommon, a little odd. Dhana had been avoiding marriage, for her passion lay with animals and social work. Thilak had decided he would not marry for he was convinced that he could not find a companion who would share his social passion, his adventurous spirit, and his quiet spirituality. But Gods smiled at these two wonderful individuals and brought them together in a way that is so apt!
A little baby girl called Theresa played cupid in this couple’s life. Who is Theresa? She was a non-affected six-month old girl abandoned by her teen-aged HIV+ve mother. She first triggered motherly love in Dhana’s heart. Then Dhana proposed to Thilak, a friend then, to marry her so that she could adopt the baby. Adoption homes try to find parents before the baby turns one year as children find it difficult to adjust to new homes as they grow up. Dhana could not convince her folks in time and Theresa was adopted by another set of loving parents. But the wedding fundraiser in June was in the name of Theresa Educational Fund commemorating the love that brought these two beautiful individuals together.
Thilak was associated with the India against Corruption movement and thereafter he dedicated his life to the welfare of the underprivileged children. He is the co-founder of Sevai Karangal along with Nandan, which monitors and supports eight Children’s homes in the city of Chennai. The organization works with a difference: They don’t just donate. Rather, they ensure people engage with the homes and the children. The monthly social treks conducted by Chennai Trekking Club take Chennaiites to celebrate their birthdays at the Children’s homes or take the children out on joyful treks.
Thilak insists that what children need is attention and love more than anything else – a sense of familiarity, a joy. He raises funds for infrastructure – he had a block built at one of the homes when he noticed the rooms were cramped for the kids. He organized for water filters after he tested the water in a couple of the homes. He raises funds for their school books and stationery and uniforms. He raises funds for their education. He, along with other volunteers, organizes Diwali events at the homes. He also supports an Old Age home. Till date he has channelized close to Rs. 7 lacs to the various homes in about 4 years.
His involvement can be gauged from the fact that he monitors closely whether the money is being utilized effectively, if the children are being taken care of properly. He carries surprise visits to homes, takes some goodies for the kids. Thilak later explained that these sudden visits help him gauge the real situation and also keeps the pressure on caretakers at the homes.Besides engagement and funding, the organization has set-up a mentorship project called Navigator, akin to the Big Brother Big Sister program in United States and workshops to improve creative skills in the children.
No, Thilak is not from any rich family. The poor guy shuffles his time between work and passion so that he can sustain himself as well as provide for his passion. Dhana is not a rich girl either. She is rich in her heart.Thilak and Dhana, who decided to get married so they could adopt the non-affected baby girl of a HIV+ve mother. We wish the couple great success and happiness in their journey together.
As these two ordinary citizens of our country took those seven steps to bind themselves in matrimony, they did more than that – they set an example for others to follow, they gave meaning to the structure called marriage, they brought hope in the lives of so many children, they brought faith back to cynical hearts. We salute their spirit and their ideals.
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2 Comments
Posted on Thursday, December 3, 2015 1:56:01 PM
From Pradeep Khare
Thanks Jyoti ji for your encouraging comments.
Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2015 4:56:13 PM
From Jyoti Verma
Great ardous efforts!!!! keep it up.
Posted on
Oct
31
2015
Sat
12:43
PM
A Drug Addict, Prisoner & Now a School Teacher
From Pradeep Khare
“The most important journey you will take in your life will usually be the one of self-transformation. Often, this is the scariest because it requires the greatest changes, in your life.”
― Shannon L. Alder
A drug addict, who was sentenced to 12 years in jail for drug pedaling today shines as a role model for his village, running a free school for its children. His is a classic case of the adage ‘behind every culprit, there is victim crying for help’. Dara Singh got a chance to turn to a new leaf, thanks to the Art of Living program conducted in Udaipur jail. The son of a farmer, Dara spent his childhood in a village, living a simple life. His parents sent him to study to a place far away from his village. Peer pressure led the young Dara to experiment with drugs, and then there was no turning back. “In the beginning, they provide me the drugs (smack) free of cost, but once I got addicted, they started telling me that I need to pay for it as these drugs are costly. Neither could I manage such money, nor could not leave the addiction. So I got involved in pedaling of drugs,” he recounts.
Then he paid the price. He discontinued his studies and started pedaling drugs in a big way. In 2001, the Rajasthan Police arrested him with 750 grams of smack while smuggling it into Bihar from Rajasthan. He was convicted and imprisoned. “I did not want to commit any crime but addiction is a dangerous thing. When I felt the need for intoxication, I was prepared to do anything. I had to steal and I was ready to even kill just to get the money to buy drugs,” he explains.

In the world of crime, he lived a life full of fear. “I could neither eat well nor could rest. Yet in that dreadful fear, the plan to commit crimes would continue in my mind,” he recalls. The same pattern continued inside the jail too. “I had decided how to live my life. I had decided to lead a life of a criminal. I was plotting how I will take revenge on those who sent me to jail,” he confesses. All that changed one day when he did the Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique taught in the Art of Living Prison Program. “From the first time I did the Sudarshan Kriya, my thought process changed and I became more and more positive. I experienced that all the criminal thoughts were disappearing from my mind, and began to strongly dislike the criminal world,” he recollects.
Sharing that the kriya was a new lifeline for him, Dara says: “Yoga, meditation and Sudarshan Kriya is very important because prisoners are full of fear and revengeful. That’s why they commit more crimes. Such techniques give one the courage and confidence to keep away from criminal activities and lead a good life in the society. If I would not have attended the Art of Living Program, I would have been involved in theft, murder, drugs, kidnapping and other criminal acts after being released from jail. It was only the Art of Living Program which brought me back to the mainstream. The inclination to do something positive for society and the strength to implement the good ideas for society is because of my practices of the Art of Living techniques.”
That transformation made a big difference to his life outside the jail. “When I came out of jail after seven and half years, no one wanted to talk to me. But I would still go to the village and talk about the tremendous reform I experienced in jail because of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the rehabilitation program I did. People were frightened of me due to my past life, but the transformation in me changed people’s perception about me. I left the company of substance abusers. I made a decision to stop talking to them and joined the company of other people. The Art of Living circles provided me with good company and they started believing in me. They were able to remove the stigma,” he narrates.
At this crucial phase of his life, The Art of Living provided the much needed support. He was given to run a free school for the poor village children under the aegis of the Art of Living. It is financed by Sri Sri Ved Vigyan Mahavidyalaya Bangalore. This school is located in Sarangkhera village near Kota. With the dedicated efforts of Dara Singh, this school is doing better than the government school there. This project has not only helped improve his reputation, but also raise his self-esteem. “I run the free school with about 500 children from poor families, mostly children of daily wagers. Most are first generation school goers. The school bears all the expenditure of children including a meal uniforms, school bag and books, shoes, socks, etc. Around 150 children are provided free transportation also, which has encouraged people from about a dozen neighboring villages to send their children to school.” he explains with pride. A solar project which has been set up in the school, at an estimated cost of Rs 28 lakhs, has proved to be a boon for about 800 villagers of Sarangkhera. Belying his checkered past, he now talks philosophically: “Life is short and there is lots of service to do.”
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2 Comments
Posted on Saturday, November 7, 2015 12:42:41 PM
From Pradeep Khare
Thanks a lot Dr Rashmi ,for sparing your valuable time to read the story posted by me and appreciating it.Your kind words will go a long way in helping me to continue on my mission.
Regards
Maj Pradeep Khare
Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 9:26:21 AM
From Dr.Rashmi Salil Kumar
It is always so heart-warming , to read your true stories.
Kudos again , Sir !
Posted on
Oct
16
2015
Fri
12:30
PM
From Peon to CEO of his own company
From Pradeep Khare
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.” - Arnold
When he graduated in 1998 with a BA degree from Government College, Dhaliara, near his village in Himachal Pradesh, he hadn’t ever used a computer. He moved to Chandigarh about fifteen years ago. He was jittery about his future, when a friend told him that a computer course would enable him to get a job for ₹ 5000 a month. He came to Chandigarh, in search of a job. Very soon he realized that a plain graduate like him could not get a job, unless he acquires some professional qualification. He was not the one to go back empty-handed. He got a job as a peon at the local Aptech Computer Education Centre, and managed to fund his one-year computer course as well. To save money, he often had to skip meals, because he knew that his parents could not support him as they were not financially well off.
It is my privilege to present before you Mr. Chhotu Sharma who is now is the founder CEO of CS Group. He is a Microsoft Certified Software Developer and has been training IT professionals in Microsoft technologies since last 12 years. He is recognized as "The Guru of Microsoft Technologies". For his excellent work in the field of education, he has been conferred with the title of "Himachal Gaurav" by the Chief Minister in the year 2007.
Working as a peon, Chhotu had to spend all day at the centre, which gave him a lot of free time to practice his computer lessons. He also started guiding other students with their programming lessons—and discovering his skills as a teacher. He decided to make a career in the field of computers. After becoming a Microsoft certified software developer, Chhotu continued teaching. He bought a bicycle which he used to reach the houses, where he would provide home tuitions in Computers. He was also offered a job of a part time Computer Instructor in Aptech for their evening classes. By 2000, he was earning enough to buy a motorbike and his first PC, with which he started his own computer institute in a rented two-room flat. In six months he had 80 students and more computers— all in a bigger place.
His students have been picked up by Fortune 500 companies including Microsoft, Accenture, TCS, Infosys and others. In the year 2009, he established CS Soft Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a company offering complete IT solutions in multifarious IT applications. He has been instrumental in shaping the goals and evolving the values of CS Soft Solutions. Pvt. Ltd. His strong penchant for excellence at professional as well as at personal front, backed by a sincere and an honest approach towards life are the basic reasons for the success of the ventures he has launched and actively developed. These qualities of sincerity and honesty easily percolate among his students, ensuring their success in future lives too.
Today, he teaches advanced software development to more than 1000 students in his own Chandigarh-based CS Infotech. About 125 employees work in CS Soft Solutions, his software development company in Mohali. Chhotu also helps those in need: he reaches out to deserving students, funds marriages and helps youngsters from his village get an education. Some of his students testimonials mentioned below speak volumes about the dedication and effectiveness of Chotu Sharma and his faculty members.
Name: - RUNEET VASHISHT
Company: - Microsoft Technologies
My association with Mr Chhotu Sharma goes around a decade back now. He has been a Teacher, Mentor and Friend to me. Mr Sharma has been a pioneer of Technical education; He has always been ahead of the curve in anticipating ever changing technology and dissipating it to budding technologist helping them build their careers.
Name: - Yadvinder Rana
Company: - FISERV
He is a master of technology and has been doing a great job by mentoring, teaching and building good technocrats who are doing well in the IT Industry. I thank him for him for his extraordinary efforts in mounting careers and giving good professionals to IT industry.
It is said ‘behind every successful man, there is a woman’. The woman in Chotu Sharma’s life is Shalini Sharma. She is an embodiment of immense patience and optimism while possessing, sharp analytical as well as people management skills. Sincerity, simplicity and honesty have been her hallmark. She has trained thousands of students since last 10 years. She has prowess in the wide array of languages such as C, C++, C# ASP. Net, Visual Basic, Ajax, Silver Light etc. Her current affiliations include being a Trainer at CS Infotech and the Director at CS Soft Solutions Pvt. Ltd. She received her Bachelor's in Technology in Computer Science from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. Abreast with Chhotu Sharma in imparting technical training, since the existence of CS Group, she's tirelessly worked with full dedication and sincerity.
“Back in my village, I never thought I’d get this far,” says Chhotu. “But all it takes is a little extra education and effort to make it work.” When asked about his future plans, Chotu Sharma said, “By providing total solutions we tend to move further for the accomplishment of our vision viz, to be the leader in the industry oriented quality education and training and be the country’s premier institute for certification in the field of ICT.”
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Posted on
Sep
29
2015
Tue
5:01
PM
An epitome of courage and optimism.
From Pradeep Khare
“I have had this desire my whole life to prove people wrong, to show them I could do things they didn’t think I could do.” David A. Paterson
At 13, a freak accident caused her to lose both her hands and severely damaged her legs, raising serious doubts about whether she would ever walk again. But this young girl braved all odds and emerged victorious. Today, she is a dedicated social worker, a motivational speaker and model for accessible clothing in India. She is also a Global Shaper from the Chennai Hub, which is a part of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.
It is my privilege to present Malvika Iyer's amazing story of grit! She was born in Kumbakonam. Her father was transferred to Rajasthan when she was still very young. She spent nearly 13 years of her early life in Bikaner, Rajasthan. She had a very healthy and a happy childhood. She was a tomboy; she enjoyed outdoor sports and learnt swimming and skating. She also learnt Kathak for about seven years. It was a fun-filled life, till the fateful day of May 26, 2002 when she met with an accident. Some months before the accident, an ammunition depot had caught fire in the city and hand shells, grenades and other bits and pieces were scattered all over the city. One such piece landed in her neighbourhood.They were told, that it was a defused shell. She was trying to stick something on her jeans pocket, and she wanted something heavy to hammer it with. She just took this shell and hit it.With the first hit, the shell exploded in her hand. There was almost nothing left of her hands. Both her legs had severe injuries, nerve damage and multiple fractures. It took nearly two years and several surgeries for her to walk again. For the first three days after the explosion, she was totally conscious, aware of each and every thing happening around her, but her body was numb. Within moments of the explosion,she heard her mom screaming, "Meri bachhi ke haath chale gaye!" she was taken to the hospital immediately. There was so much damage to her limbs that her body went into a state of shock. She could not feel anything as the four main nerves were instantly cut. There was 80 per cent blood loss. When she reached the hospital her BP was zero, the doctors were not sure whether she would even survive.
The doctors were not sure whether they would be able to save her leg, especially the left one. It was dangling, just hanging from a small bit of skin. They wanted to amputate it, but her parents did not want to risk any more damage. They took her in an ambulance to Jaipur. The splinters were stuck all over her legs and had penetrated deep within. She remembers those days and nights filled with pain. But the doctors were good and managed to save her leg. Though completely disfigured, with no sensation in her left leg and a foot drop (difficulty in lifting the front part of the foot) in the right, she felt lucky that she still had them. Her hands were completely cut off. Later a skin grafting operation was done and with that she was left with just two stumps.

She was treated at a Bone and Joint clinic in Anna Nagar in Chennai. After months of intense
therapy, she was finally able to walk. She took her first few painful steps in November 2003, one and a half years after the accident. They started enquiring about artificial hands. She found a German prosthetics company called Ottobock that had a branch in Chennai. That is how she got a pair of bio-electric hands. She started practicing to write; initially her handwriting was very big, and then slowly, with practice, she improved. This was in December 2003. In four months her friends would be appearing for their 10th board exams. She was in touch with a very close friend in Bikaner. She used to tell her how they were preparing. Her mom found this coaching centre right behind their street.
She had just three months to prepare. She put in her best and got a State rank among the private candidates, she scored centum in both Math and Science and 97 in Hindi, also a State first. She felt like a celebrity. The next day, all the leading newspapers covered her. They wrote about how she overcame her disability to achieve this distinction. It was all very encouraging. She was invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (then President of India). She was given an award for outstanding model student by Wisdom magazine.
After 12th, she joined St Stephen's College, Delhi, where she graduated in Economics (Honours). She then did her Master's in Social Work from the Delhi School of Social Work. During her field training, she had the opportunity to work with differently-abled children. She could empathize with them and understand them better. In 2014, she was invited for a TED Talk and that talk completely changed the course of her life. When she started talking about herself, she realised that she was actually much better off than a lot of people, who would complain, even without any problem in their life. She was seen as a motivational speaker. Now she gets invited to talk at colleges and schools or to corporates in Chennai and other cities. Last year, she was invited to host the India Inclusion Summit in Bangalore. She was the emcee and had the opportunity to meet a lot of differently-abled people. She It was a great honour to be able to host such a programme.
Presently, she is a Junior Research Fellow doing Ph.D. in Social Work at the Madras School of Social Work. Recently she did a ramp walk at NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), Chennai. She is a model for accessible clothing, which is an initiative of Ability Foundation and NIFT.The students designed two gowns for her, taking into considering her prosthetic hand. She was the showstopper for that evening and it was an amazing experience. Ever since then she has been writing about accessible clothing.
She was invited to host a Run in Bangalore recently she went all by herself. She handled everything, from the airport, all the travelling, the stay in the hotel, etc. Today she can do ninety per cent of her work on her own. However her legs still hurt when she walks. Even then, she doesn’t have any regrets. Dancing was her first love. She used to be sad that she could not dance like before. But now she has started dancing again. She cannot dance as gracefully as before, but she still dances. At the Bangalore Run, she danced on the stage. She thinks life is all about making the best with what you have. In February, 2015 she got engaged to a wonderful man, a design engineer, and there is a lot to look forward to in life rather than just sitting around thinking of what could have been. Having read this I strongly recommend you to see Malvika Iyer standing tall and sharing the experiences of her life, by using the link below.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9el_A5O9ZQI
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Posted on
Aug
31
2015
Mon
9:11
PM
Victory of a man over a mountain
From Pradeep Khare
“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.
You can climb it and cross to the other side.You can go around it.You can dig under it.You can fly over it.You can blow it up.You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.You can turn around and go back the way you came. Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Life has always been a bundle of problems. Most of us keep on complaining, blaming and criticizing others .Some people keep on thinking and analyzing how the problems can be solved by the authorities. This is the story of a man who did not think, but act. He was among India’s poorest of poor. He decided, if those in power would not help his people, he would. This is a man who wanted to “Do-It-Himself”. Then, without pausing for a thought, he went ahead and did just that with his bare hands.
This is the story of Dashrath Manjhi: the man who moved a mountain, so his people could reach a doctor in time. It was 1960, landless labourers, the Musahars, lived amid rocky terrain in the remote Atri block of Gaya, Bihar in northern India. In the hamlet of Gehlour, they were regarded the lowest of the low in a caste-ridden society, and denied the basics: water supply, electricity, a school and a medical centre. A 300-foot tall mountain loomed between them and civilization in the adjoining Wazirganj .Like all the Musahar men, Manjhi worked on the other side of the mountain. At noon, his wife Phaguni would bring his lunch. As they had no road, the trek took hours over the mountain. Manjhi tilled fields for a landlord on the other side. He would quarry stone, and in a few hours would be tired and hungry. Manjhi would watch and wait for Phaguni. That day, she came to him empty handed, injured. As the harsh sun beat down, Phaguni tripped on loose rock. Her water pot shattered. She slid down several feet, injuring her leg. Hours past noon, she limped to her husband. Manjhi rushed to chastise her for being late, but on seeing her tears, he became emotional.
He made a decision of a lifetime: he would make a path through the mountain. Having made up his mind to challenge the mountain, Manjhi sold his goats to buy a hammer, chisel and crowbar. He climbed to the top and started chipping away the peak of the mountain. Years later, he would recount, “That mountain had shattered so many pots; claimed lives. I could not bear that it hurt my wife. If it took all my life now, I would carve a road through the mountain.” In a few days, word about the unusual adventure of Manjhi spread. The work was so arduous that it left him with no energy to earn his livelihood. He had no option but to quit his job. His family often went without food. Then, Phaguni fell ill. The doctor was in Wazirganj, 75 kilometres over the mountain. In the absence of any approach road it was not possible for Manjhi to take his wife to the doctor. The inevitable happened, Phalguni died. Her death only spurred him on. It was not easy. Unyielding, the mountain would cascade rocks at him. Hurt, he would rest and start again. At times, he helped people carry their things over the mountain for a small fee- money to feed his children. After 10 years, as Manjhi chipped away, people saw a cleft in the mountain; some came to help. In 1982, Gehlour was in for a surprise. After he had chipped at the mountain for 10 years, people saw the cleft Baba, the revered man Manjhi broke through a thin wall of rock and walked out into an open space.

After 22 years, Dashrath Das Manjhi, the outcast landless labourer had conquered the mountain: he had carved out a road 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. Wazirganj, with its doctors, jobs and school, was now only 5 kilometres away. People from 60 villages in Atri could use his road. Children had to walk only 3 kilometres to reach school. Grateful, they began to call him ‘Baba’, the revered man. But, Manjhi did not stop there. He began knocking on doors, asking for the road to be tarred and connected to the main road. He walked along the railway line all the way to New Delhi, collecting signatures of station masters in a book. He submitted a petition for his road, a hospital for his people, a school and water. In July 2006, ‘Baba’ went to the then-Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s ‘Junta Durbar’. The minister, overwhelmed, got up and offered ‘Baba’ his chair, his minister’s seat; a rare honor for a man of Manjhi’s background.
The government rewarded his efforts with a plot of land. Manjhi donated the land back for a hospital. They also nominated him for the ‘Padma Shree’, but forest ministry officials fought the nomination, calling his work illegal. “I do not care for these awards, this fame, the money,” he said. “All I want is a road, a school and a hospital for our people. They toil so hard. It will help their women and children.” He had carved out a road 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. It would take the government 30 years more to tar the road .On August 17, 2007, Dashrath Manjhi, the man who moved a mountain lost his battle with cancer. All that he had done was for no personal gain. “I started this work out of love for my wife, but continued it for my people. Had I not started it no one would have.” Manjhi’s words reflect the reality of our country.
Manjhi’s legacy and his inspiration, live on- It lives on among the thousands of Indians who are making a difference to their fellowmen, fighting new battles and overcoming challenges. It lives on in so many of you who are moving your own mountains. ... I salute the spirit of Dasrath Manjhi, which drove him to conquer a mountain.
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Posted on
Aug
16
2015
Sun
9:35
PM
Changing the life of rag pickers and protecting the environment
From Pradeep Khare
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
― Edward Everett Hale
Though everyone knows that plastics are not good for the environment, yet they are ubiquitous. Until the time you and I learn to say ‘No’ to plastics, the situation may not change much. The tons of plastic waste generated daily in our cities is a major environmental hazard. Lots of people keep complaining about the menace, but thankfully some are trying to address the problem in their own small ways.
A Delhi based couple Anita and Shalabh Ahuja are doing a fabulous job, teaming up with rag pickers who supply plastic waste to them, which are made into stylish bags, footwear and other accessories and sold at boutiques in Europe. They have put into practice the three “R’s” for environment conservation viz, Reuse-Reduce-Recycle. The profitable 100 percent export venture could have become a good commercial enterprise. But the couple stuck to their guns to let it remain a non-profit one, so that the earnings from the business could be used to uplift those living at the bottom of the pyramid.

The feedback from the rag pickers is encouraging. “I was a rag picker and having a hand to mouth existence, but with the training I got from ‘Conserve India’ today I earn ₹ 16000 per month,” says Shamim, a resident of Laxminagar slum in Delhi who has been with Conserve India for past twelve years. He had been picking waste near Anita’s house, but now he is the cutting master at their factory located at Bahadurgarh in West Delhi.
But Conserve India had a humble beginning. Anita, who is the Creative Director of Conserve India, used to be unhappy about the rubbish heap in the capital and the failure of the Municipal Corporation to effectively clear the garbage. She was also disturbed by the tendency of the people in the neighborhood to always accuse the rag pickers whenever a theft occurred in the vicinity. She felt the rag pickers were actually doing a yeoman service to the environment by collecting the waste and carrying them to recycling plants.
Initially, Ahuja’s got the waste of several colonies collected in a park and then got it segregated. Wet kitchen waste would be converted into compost while dry refuse like polythene bags would be put aside. That project didn't quite work but led her to the idea of doing something about plastic bags. Over the next two years Ahuja experimented with recycling the bags. She tried weaving them together to create a tarpaulin-like covering for the shacks of slum dwellers. Another time she tried pasting pieces of the polyethylene onto canvas and cardboard. She saw that a thicker fabric could be used to make bric-a-brac like pen holders and file folders, and realized she'd finally found a successful recipe when her homemade products were popular at a fair at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. She decided to venture into accessories.
In 1998, when the Delhi government launched the ‘Bhagidari’ campaign, asking its citizens to participate in civic initiatives, the conservationist, Anita Ahuja and her IIT-alumna husband Shalabh rose to the challenge and launched ‘Conserve.’ With a seed grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the duo began advocating waste management through seminars and workshops. Initially they planned to wash, dry and press the plastics into thick sheets and sell them as cheap night shelters. However the finished sheets gave the look of leather and a designer friend used it to make a few handbags that became a hit with buyers. In 2002, Shalabh designed an innovative, now patented, process that “up-cycles” this dirty waste into beautiful Handmade Recycled Plastic, known as HRP. It is made from polythene bags picked from Delhi’s streets, rubber from old truck tyres inner tubes, old denims and saris. The processes used to make ‘Conserve’ bags and accessories have been specifically developed to be as energy efficient as possible and to keep out polluting dyes and chemicals. This not only helps the environment, it also cuts costs, giving the organization more money to invest in other social projects.
The couple took to the business and it grew into 100 percent export venture. In foreign stores their products are marketed on the strength of the environmental and social causes they support. Profit from the business was ploughed back into training the rag pickers and many were absorbed into Conserve India as permanent employees. Most of the rag-pickers are poor, illiterate and belong to rural immigrant families. Many start working at the young age of five to eight years. Most of them have never attended any school. While collecting rags they are subjected to chemical poisons and infections. Due to malnutrition, they suffer from stunted growth and anemia.
Conserve India pays above the prevailing market rate to these rag pickers for the waste they supply, and cares for their wellbeing. There are about 600 rag pickers working with Conserve India. They pay about ₹ 5200 per month to rag pickers working with them. Those who bring sorted plastics are paid ₹ 18-₹ 25 per kilogram, which is more than the ₹ 12 per kg market rate. Conserve India has tied up with a local hospital, which sends doctors to visit slums where the rag pickers reside to address their health needs. They also run a primary school for kids of rag pickers, where about seventy children are now studying.
The rag picking community is unorganized; it is difficult for them to protect their rights. By giving them ‘Conserve Employee Cards’, Conserve India helps them have a voice in the society. Conserve India has also started a campaign called Recognition for Rag pickers. As part of this, the organization is trying to persuade the Delhi government to create an official register so as to recognize Delhi’s 150,000 rag pickers and give them their right to a fair wage. It has not only brought dignity to the rag pickers but also helped them to improve their economic status. These workers of Conserve also undergo medical screenings to help them diagnose health problems on time and send their young children to the Conserve School. It has trained more than 1200 people in making of handbags and footwear. With an initial funding from Asian Development Bank, Conserve India is now starting two new projects for tracking the general welfare of its workers and providing health clinics for those who have no access to healthcare.
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Posted on
Jul
30
2015
Thu
2:59
PM
She won over cancer!
From Pradeep Khare
“You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It's a mindset.”
-Dave Pelzer
She was all set to go on a pilgrimage to Mansarover in May 2015, but had to postpone her trip because of the massive earthquake in Nepal. She is 53 years old and weighs 80 kgs.This is no barrier for her. Not even the fact that she has undergone a major operation for breast cancer. Meet Mrs Meenabehn Nathwani of Rajkot Gujrat, who has become an epitome of courage and will power by defeating the scourge of cancer with the help of medicines, yogic exercises and meditation.
Meenabehn belongs to a middle class family. She did her graduation in Commerce and got married to an Army man. Her husband had to quit his job after 5 years because of his father’s serious illness. Back home the couple started running a canteen in a local College about 15 years ago. They sell snacks to the College students from 9 am to 12 noon.Meenabehn is fond of cooking a variety of dishes. This hobby soon became her profession. She started supplying ready-made food for birthdays and kitty parties. People praised the tasty dishes prepared by her. She says she never took it as a burden, but put her heart and soul into it. Her involvement can be seen from the fact that she always imagined the appreciation and blessings from the people who would eat the food cooked by her. Her husband also helps her in the Canteen as well as the catering business.

Meena was leading a normal life bringing up her two sons and getting them married. The happiness of the family was punctured by an unexpected incident in June 2014, when she was diagnosed of breast cancer stage two. This shocking news disturbed her sons and daughters in law but she remained calm and stable. After a battery of medical tests she was advised to undergo operation.
She had a doubt whether the cancer had spread to other organs, so she got further tests done. Fortunately she was relieved to know that it was only localized. She heard an inner voice telling her “nothing will happen, you will be alright”.She believed it with unwavering faith and all the negativities vanished! “I decided with firm determination that I have to defeat cancer” said Meenabehn.
She prepared herself mentally for the D day .Belief in God and constant prayers gave her strength. The operation was successfully performed on 12 Sept 2014.Regular doses of medicines along with Chemotherapy sessions continued for about three months which caused weakness and aversion for food. Her positive bent of mind kept her away from depression. “I took all nutritious food even if they were not to my taste or liking, as I needed energy to recoup” said Meena. Her family supported her all through her illness and always gave her hope. Her main source of strength was her affirmation,”I am perfectly healthy and full of energy. Each day and in every way I am getting better and better”
Her belief in God has stood her in good stead all through her life. She has gone on pilgrimage to Amarnath and other shrines. Three months after the operation she consulted a yoga teacher Nirmal Sinh Jadeja who advised her to practice Pranayama & meditation. After another three months she resumed her ‘asana’ practice & in next six months she was diagnosed completely healthy by her doctors .Meena does yogic exercises daily for one hour in the morning and meditation for one hour daily in the evening. Talking about her philosophy of life she said, “no one is aware of the future, there will be ups and downs in life. Sad moments and illness may occur, but one should maintain his balance.Strenghten your will power and don’t let negativities come near you.If you do this then you can achieve whatever you want.” When asked to give a message to cancer patients, she said “Don’t worry or panic when cancer is detected.You should remain stable and after six or seven months you will get back to normal life. Always think positive and expect the best. Draw strength from prayers and you will be blessed. Meenabehn radiates hope and confidence in cancer patients when she talks to them. She is all set to go on a trip to Mansarover, which is not easy for normally healthy people.
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Posted on
Jul
15
2015
Wed
5:47
PM
A poor farmer's son becomes a footballer, and then founder CEO!
From Pradeep Khare
“Sports unite and motivate people. Today, the reason I am able to run a company successfully is because of the foundations I built as a sportsman."
-Varun Chandran
He was teased for his funny 'Mallu' accent and eating habits. He fought 'racism'. As a small boy his ambition didn't go beyond chopping logs in the forests like his father, or following his uncle into the Army. He sacrificed his football career for his family. Today, Varun Chandran, from a small Kerala village, is the CEO of his own IT Company, and a dollar millionaire. Remarkably, he has set up a part of his operations near the same small village where he was born. His own journey, from an impoverished home in a small village in Kerala, to a Silicon Valley millionaire, follows the pattern of a rags to riches story.
Varun was born in Paadam, a small village near Kollam. Most of the 800 families were poor landless labourers working in the nearby forest. His mother ran a grocery shop. A strong-willed, ambitious woman, she insisted that her children attend the English medium primary school in the neighboring town. “If it weren't for my mother, I don't think I would have gone to school. She made sure that we were educated, unlike most children of the village. “He still remembers studying under the light of a kerosene lamp, as the village wasn't connected to the grid until he was 10 years old. “In fact, I can't remember ever studying under an electric bulb. Even after we got electricity, power supply was intermittent and afflicted by voltage fluctuations. During the monsoon season we never had any power as the trees in the forest near our village invariably collapsed on to the electricity poles."
Money was hard to come by. The grocery store was not doing well. Their indebtedness rose to the point that everything in their house was taken away, and they had to sleep on the floor. “The school fee was ₹ 25 a month but my parents couldn't pay the fees for six or seven months. I was thrown out of the class many times. I had to go through this humiliating experience many times in school .I also realized how the colour of your skin puts you at a disadvantage. There were teachers who called me 'the black boy'. It used to make me cry. That became my nickname in school. Some even called me a crow. It hurt me a lot and I hated it. I had more bad experiences than good ones in that school." said a nostalgic Varun. But he used football to channelize all his anger. So inspired was Varun by the rags to riches story of I M Vijayan, the well-known Malayali football player, that he wanted to be like him. "I saw myself in I M Vijayan," he says of his idol.

He soon became the school football captain and brought an inter-school trophy back to school. He won a government sports scholarship to enter a college in Trivandrum. "That was my first step into the outside world. “From then on, progress was steady for Varun the footballer. He went on to captain the Kerala University football team." Just before finishing his college degree, Varun was picked to attend a selection camp for the next Santosh Trophy -- his opportunity to play for the Kerala senior side! But during the camp, he injured his shoulder badly and had to leave. He was back in his village, nursing his injury. But the situation at home was terrible; there was no food and an air of tension in the family.
Narrating his struggle Varun said, "I had dropped out of college in 2003 without a degree. After my injury, I wasn't a footballer either. My mother scolded me, and told me to get out and find myself a job.” He asked his grandmother for help. She took her gold bangle off her wrist, and gave it to him along with ₹ 3,000, saying, "Go and start a new life.” Varun went to Bangalore where a man from his village was a contractor. The man allowed him to stay rent-free in a tiny place that housed seven of his contract workers. Bangalore was booming at the time and there were lots of call centre jobs available. He attended around 40 interviews for call center jobs, but failed because he found it difficult to say a single sentence in English.” After each failed attempt, I used to sit at the Sivaji Nagar bus stop and cry my heart out” said Varun. He went to the public library and began to read and learn new English words with the help of a dictionary. After three months, he got a job in a call Centre.
He encountered another turning point in his life. During his travels, he met one Abhoy Singh from Delhi who gave him his email id and asked him to keep in touch. “I didn't know what an email was. I found out that it had something to do with computers.” He joined a private institute to learn about computers. “As a footballer, I had travelled all around India. But the Internet took me all around the world. Just as I M Vijayan had inspired him to become a footballer, Abhoy inspired him to learn computing, and become a programmer and an entrepreneur. "But neither of them knows the influence they have had on my life!" he says.
Varun read everything he could lay his hands on. He got a job with Entity Data, a Hyderabad-based company, as a business development executive. He did so well, that they sent him to the US after three months. He joined SAP and later Oracle and was sent to Singapore. Silicon Valley kindled the desire to start something on his own. "I read a lot about the guys who had start-ups and dreamt of the day I would have one of my own. I knew I had to create something that would solve problems, make people's lives easier, and be desirable. “While still working for Oracle, he had started to develop products, that would help users identify the best sales and marketing approaches by giving them data on potential customers' likes and dislikes, and the best customers to target their products at. In 2012 he decided to set up a company from his house in Singapore. He registered the company in Singapore -- the best place in the world to start a company. He created a website in just 30 minutes. He named it Corporate 360 as "we take care of organizations’ 360 degree marketing profile."
The product he created is Tech Sales Cloud-a sales and marketing tool that analyses large datasets in order to help sales and marketing teams target customers better. He met some corporate houses and showed them the product, and within three months, he got three orders. "The first order was for $500 from a customer in the UK, and when I got it, I was screaming and jumping up and down in my bedroom” said an ecstatic Varun. The year ended with $250,000 in revenue. Then he decided to expand by hiring contractors, seven from Kerala and four from Manila. He had cleared the family's debts and bought a house in Pathanapuram. In 2012, the company had some 50 customers and revenue of $600,000. In November 2013, Varun started a development center in Pathanapuram rather than the usual choices of Bangalore or Hyderabad.
It was initially tough to get good programmers. “When I advertised for candidates, nobody was interested. Youngsters didn't want to come and stay and work in a small town. They feel you are not working, unless you sit in some Techno Park.” said Varun.Today, he works out of his own office building situated on land he purchased in Pathanapuram, and employs 17 people. He is in the process of building an IT park there. He wants to prove that IT jobs aren't just in Techno Parks in big cities, that it can be done from anywhere in the world. Varun soon plans to open sales and marketing offices in Silicon Valley and London. But his product development will continue to be done in Manila and Kerala, and the head office will continue to remain in Singapore. By 2017, he plans to make it a $5 million company with operations in five countries.
His advice to young entrepreneurs is to innovate products that will be useful to millions of people. “Build products that will solve problems. Create the right culture and build your team around it. Improvise every day; don't ever stop no matter what happens!”
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Posted on
Jun
30
2015
Tue
6:29
PM
The making of a CA
From Pradeep Khare

“Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and don't give up.”
-Rachel Corrie
His parents often engaged in family quarrels over financial issues in the household. He got fed up with the tense atmosphere prevailing at home and ran away at the tender age of just 8 years. He had to do petty jobs as a child labourer in hotels at Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain. When he used to go and give tea to bank officers, he would dream to become like them one day. Luck brought him to Mumbai where he got inspiration from a girl and enrolled for Class X examination through open school. This story which runs on the lines of a film script is soon going to be the subject of a biopic. The real life hero of this story is Mukesh Singh Rajput who has become a qualified Chartered Accountant. Not only this, a biographical account of his struggleful life has been published in the form of a book titled “CA pass –the real story”. The book is being released on 01 July 2015.
Mukesh did not have the company of bright students for doing group study, so he formed a group of weak students. His sincere efforts broke the age old myth, that blind cannot lead the blind, and he succeeded. During these difficult days he earned money by doing an assortment of odd jobs like security guard, boiler man, bus conductor and even at octroi posts. After passing Class X examination, Mukesh went to the girl he fancied. His enthusiasm was punctured, when he came to know that she had been married off by her parents. Having lost his first love, he found it difficult to come to terms with life. It took him three years to reconcile. He came back to Bhopal and took up the job of a security guard. In the meantime he developed liking for another girl. When she came to know of it, she got annoyed and chided him for not even passing Class XII.Mukesh took it as a challenge and put his heart and soul into it.No wonder he cleared the examination with good marks in the first attempt. Armed with his new found success, he went to his girlfriend’s house to share the good news. His disappointment knew no bounds when he came to know, that not only she had been married, but had also become a mother. However there seemed a ray of hope as the girl was seeking divorce. Without losing time, Mukesh proposed to her, but she rejected saying”you first do something for your career, before you come to me.” After being second time unlucky in love Mukesh was baffled. In desperation he became a driver.
Then came the turning point of his life. One day he was asked to go and hand over a document to a CA in his office. He was mighty impressed to see the CA’s office! Deep down in his heart he nurtured a dream of becoming a CA himself someday. On enquiring, how does one become a CA, he was told that it was very difficult.Mukesh determined to stretch himself to realize his dream. He switched over and became the driver of a loading auto, in the hope that he would be able to find some time for studies. His efforts paid off and he completed his graduation in 1998, and that too without any coaching. He got admission in CA Intermediate in 2000.Nonetheless coping up with studies was an uphill task along with his tiring job. He failed six times in the IPCC-Integrated Professional Competence Course, but did not give up. Sure enough, his persistence paid, and he passed in the seventh attempt. Another girl came in his life in those days. He was quite hopeful that she would accept him, but luck again played hide and seek. She committed suicide because of family problems.Mukesh was once again disappointed, but reconciled and decided to complete CA for the sake of his siblings. His efforts bore fruit and in 2010 Mukesh became a full-fledged CA and started practicing in Bhopal.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Mukesh decided to share the secrets of his success. He penned down his experiences during his long struggle, for the benefit of CA aspirants. There is something in this book for both categories of students-those who have all the amenities but find excuses not to study, and also those who have nothing but find reasons to study. He has given tips on memorizing and also how to overcome examination phobia. The book outlines practical approaches of turning failures into achievers.Mukesh has also launched a website to guide students and help them to realize their dreams. He has shown to the world the even a professional course like CA can be completed against all odds, provided one doesn’t give up ,and continues to chase his dreams.
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Posted on
Jun
14
2015
Sun
11:09
AM
Teaching on wheels
From Pradeep Khare
“Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.”
Maggie Gallagher
Aditya Kumar’s unique mobile cycle school is almost like a landmark of Lucknow— visible in slums and streets every day. For the last 18 years, without charging even one paisa, Aditya has been giving tuitions to slum children, who have never been to a classroom. All his tools of teaching are carried on his bicycle as he pedals 50 to 60 km a day, teaching in five to six locations, from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm. While the slum children are taught in Hindi, he takes English lessons for youth aspiring to enter the job market. He is a traveling teacher who does not need a classroom. While cycling around the city he looks out for children on streets who show an interest in learning English. Extremely poor himself, his passion to help the poorest with education has sustained him. Sometimes, he does not even have money to get his cycle repaired, but some Good Samaritan helps him out.
This frail man has something in common with the Samajwadi Party (SP) government in Uttar Pradesh. He rides a bicycle, which is the election symbol of the Samajwadi Party (SP); and he offers free education -- a much-hyped programme of the state government. But the similarities end there. Kumar launched ‘Aditya ki Shiksha Kranti ‘almost two decades ago, in an effort to teach English to youngsters who could not afford conversation classes. Interestingly he now has many keen students from the shanties, who are improving their English.

A graduate of science from DAV College, Kanpur, Kumar comes from a poverty stricken family. While in school, he worked as a labourer and simultaneously finished his education. “Twelve days in a month I went to school and the rest of the days I worked as a labourer on construction sites. My teachers supported me and admired me for my dedication towards learning,” added Kumar. Hailing from Salempur village of Kayamganj area in Farrukhabad, Kumar left his village of 400 residents in 1992 and came to Kanpur. His motive was to "get the fear of English" out of the minds of students. Kumar said that while he was studying for B.Sc, he feared the "angrezi" (English) in which he was expected to be conversant. The fear always chased him; so much so that he decided to take it "head on”. He decided not only overcome the fear of English himself but also teach English to slum-dwelling kids. By 1995, he was the owner of a second-hand bicycle. He had learnt to "read and write good English". Soon, he started an "English-speaking school", which would run mostly on his bicycle. .
Life was not easy when he first came to Lucknow to earn a living. For a month he lived on the Charbagh railway station that became his second home. Right there students collected around him and he tutored them. In due course those students who could not afford to pay a fee but wanted to learn English also came. Initially he refused to teach without being paid. “But each time I refused a student I felt bad. One day I just decided to teach everyone who wanted to learn English” Kumar adds with a smile.
“What sir is doing for us is without parallel. No one will teach anyone for free, but he is doing it. Every day without fail, he teaches us. Today if you don’t know English you won’t get a good job. Sir is helping us to realize our dream,” said Rishi Chaudhary, who is preparing for an examination for the post of a probationary officer in a bank.
"Where ever I got students, I would sit and teach -- by the roadside, in parks, near slums. I had a board on the cycle, and students would just read it and stop me. I was one of them, I understood what it meant to be poor and without support," Aditya says, with a grim expression. Aspiring to be a bureaucrat and join the Indian Administrative Service or the Provincial Civil Services, he settled for taking tuitions, for a fee of Rs.300 per month in Kanpur.
Having pedaled in Kanpur and then in Lucknow for a lakh kilometers or more by now, he says he has faced rough times. He has been the target of violence, and people have been suspicious and beaten him up for sitting with a bunch of boys and girls along roadsides.” Then I put up a small board on the cycle, announcing - 'Aditya Master Saheb'. Things have improved, and on and off there are even people who tip me with Rs.100 or so for food and tea."
Living in a room that is just five feet square at Nishatganj that was offered to him by a compassionate man, Aditya remarks on life's ironies: When he first began, he had no students. These days, he has no dearth of students, as girls especially, flock around him to learn English in the hope of finding work at call centers and as receptionists. But most of them can’t afford to pay any fees! It is ironical that the state government spends crores of rupees on education, but cannot offer him support, despite his unrelenting campaign to educate poor kids from slums. Having made several futile attempts to meet Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his officials, Kumar says he is now fed up of standing in long, serpentine queues.
Kumar's classes are presently being conducted at Balu Adda, Kudiya Ghat and Samta Mulak Chauraha in Lucknow. Aditya teaches over 2,000 students in a month. Over the last twenty years, he has taught at least one lakh students, he says.
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Posted on
May
31
2015
Sun
5:07
PM
He challenged his limits and became a Dictionary man
Modified on
May
31
2015
Sun
5:08
PM
From Pradeep Khare
“I was given a dictionary when I was seven, and I read it because I had nothing else to read. I read it the way you read a book.”
Jamaica Kincaid
He did not know how to use a dictionary. His father was a class IV dropout and his mother was once completely illiterate. He is one of three children from a family of farmers in Mahiravani, near Nashik. He is the first in his family to have received complete formal education. “My parents were not financially well off, but they were determined to educate us. I originally wanted to become a painter but because I got good grades, I was sent to an engineering college,” he says. Having had schooling in Marathi medium, getting admission to the Government Polytechnic of Ahmednagar was a challenge. He was one among the minority who did not speak English, a factor that prompted some of the other students to leave the course and made him consider the same. “I was on the brink of quitting but I remembered the sacrifices my parents had made to educate me, and I could not let them go waste. When I approached a Professor with my problem, he advised me to get a dictionary. I found it to be a strange word and did not know what to do about it,” he says.
It is my proud privilege to present Mr Sunil Khandbahale who now happens to be the proud creator of digital dictionaries in 22 vernacular languages. Still he is a picture of unassuming self-assurance and eager observation. For a man who has garnered much acclaim for creating online and mobile-based dictionaries for all the officially recognized Indian languages, he looks around with some awe at the interiors of the Le Meridien hotel in the city, where he was invited to speak about his work at INK 2013. “This is the first time I have sat in a plane,” he reveals with a smile, “I was more worried about checking in and buckling my seatbelt than the actual talk.”

Sunil did eventually learn its meaning and procured a dictionary, spending hours making notes and learning new words. . At the end of the year when the results were out, only four out of the sixty students had passed in all the subjects.” I had almost lost all hopes of completing my studies and becoming an engineer, as I was sure I was not one of those four students who had made it. To everyone’s surprise and most importantly my own, I had topped the class! It was at that moment I understood how strongly my success was connected to my friendship with the Dictionary. Sometimes, I feel I must thank God that I came from a non-English medium background, because of which I could realize the difficulties posed by a new language “says Sunil. The achievement led him to think that his friends who had left the course would have stood a better chance, if they also had access to a dictionary. “The dictionary was my friend, and that friendship had helped me to see this day. So I started making photocopies of my dictionary, with all my notes and observations and sharing it, but the reach was limited. I then considered printing it as a booklet but that raised a lot of new costs which I could not bear. This was in 1997, and computers were becoming popular, so I decided a digital dictionary was the way to go,” he reminisces.
Recalling his struggle with computers in a bid to learn programming Sunil said “With reference to a paper advertisement, I prepared for the entrance exam of a renowned computer institute. I was qualified too but, I was thrown out because, I had no money to pay their fees. I literally begged them. I told them that I was ready to take up even the sweeper’s job, but they didn’t listen. I took this as a challenge. I left my home, locked myself in a ten square feet room with a borrowed computer & books, and started self-learning. I’d do this for 18-20 hours a day. At one point I had to undergo a surgery because of sitting for long hours. After six months however, I had become familiar with almost all the programming languages. “Sunil finally released an online English-Marathi-English dictionary, the first of its kind. The venture met with much praise and soon Sunil was flooded with requests for more languages, which he promptly obliged, “Though my personal expertise could only be used for Marathi, Hindi and English, I soon reached out to linguists and experts in various fields for help, mostly at universities. When they saw that I wanted to create a linguistic community, they were immediately on board, asking for nothing in return.” he added.
Describing his efforts to reach out to the people, Sunil said” I wrote a dictionary program that I wanted – a software which was world’s first ever search engine made in Marathi. It went viral in no time. I started copying and sharing it on CDs but then again, how many CDs? So I decided to set-up a website where the software could be downloaded for free and it became popular. Soon I realized that mobile phones with internet had become popular. I learnt mobile programming and developed multilingual dictionaries on different platforms, but this was not enough. Over 93% of mobile phones in India were just basic phones with no capability to run any kind of application. Then, I figured out the common denominator – SMS. I set-up a SMS service called ‘Dictionary on SMS’ – which I call my inclusive innovation.”
Sunil and his team have now created dictionaries for all vernacular languages to English and vice-versa, with around 22 languages to their credit. However, he is far from done with his efforts, with his dream being a global linguistic community. Elaborating his future plans he said “I have a four-stage plan; the first is to create dictionaries for all officially recognized languages, the second to cover all vernacular languages and dialects, because there are so many, in the third stage we plan to include international languages and the final stage is to integrate all this together into a system where English is not needed as a link and users can directly translate from one language to another.”
And how many of these stages has he completed? “One so far, and it took me thirteen years,” he says with a smile, before adding, “but now things should move faster, thanks to all the help I am getting.” Sunil has built a technology enabled multilingual translation platform for 23 languages in 16 domains with extensive vocabulary of 10 million words/phrases, which is being used by 120 million users in 150 countries. Talking about reaching out to the rural areas Sunil said “Although my technology has been widely recognized and won awards but I realize that, presently it is only in hands of few. I want to give it to those who can benefit the most from it. I am finding my way to rural villages, remote areas and places where most technology has not yet reached. I am providing people in these areas with opportunities for language awareness and maybe most importantly – a window to self-confidence and hope. To give you an example, I distributed dictionary apps to few school dropouts of some villages. Surprisingly, I saw, after a month, that their vocabulary had considerably improved! While farming, grazing and feeding the cattle I watched them play around with words like cow, water, farm, goat etc. Now, my mission is to repeat this success story across the hundreds & thousands of villages.”
Sunil also runs a social organization called Global Prosperity Foundation.Org that was set-up to encourage rural education and development. Since it was education that transformed his life, he wants to gift the same to the underprivileged children. His brother and a colleague are helping him in this venture. His core focus is language, as it’s a huge domain. He has created khandbahale.com as a free multilingual dictionary and khandbahale.org as a lingual fraternity to work on different language related projects. He wants to create seamless, real-time translation platform for all the languages in the world, using which a speaker can speak in his own mother tongue, and the listener will automatically listen to it, in his own mother tongue. No linking language would be required. From not-knowing-dictionary to publicly being titled as Dictionary-Man, Word Smith & Linguistic-Enabler, he has been recognized as Green-Man, Social Entrepreneur, and Inclusive Innovator & Youth-Icon. Sunil has come a long way! Spelling out his secret of success he said “I would like to mention two things. One is – how you look at the problem at micro level and second is- how you take initiative to solve it at macro level.”
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1 Comment
Posted on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 6:17:18 PM
From Dr.Rashmi Salil Kumar
Truly a motivating and very inspiring story. Hats off to this young man !
Posted on
May
18
2015
Mon
9:44
AM
She rejected a drunk bridegroom
From Pradeep Khare
“Alcoholism does more havoc than three historical scourge together; famine, plague and war”
-William Gladstone
It is the third of April 2015.The wedding festivities are in full swing. People are singing, dancing and making merry. They have enjoyed the feast laid out by the parents of the bride. The priest is now guiding the bride and bridegroom to take the seven vows around the sacred fire. He is also explaining the meaning of the seven vows for a healthy, happy married life. The bride observes that the bridegroom is under the influence of alcohol, so much so that he cannot stand on his own .He is being supported by his relatives to stand and move around the sacred fire. There is no time to consult anyone, she takes a decision of her lifetime. She tells the priest to stop it and walks out. She declares that she is not going to get married to a drunkard. People are shocked and surprised-some are amused and bewildered at this bizarre turn of events. This is not the shooting of a film or television serial but a reality. Yes they say reality bites.
If you thought this could happen only in the metro cities of India, then you will be surprised that now even girls in rural India are standing up for themselves. A small tribal hamlet of Chattisgarh was a witness to this truly courageous happening. The bride who is the heroine of this story is twenty year old Urmila Sonwani of village ‘Devbhog’ about 250 kms from the capital Raipur. Urmila is a school dropout after class eight, and works as a daily wage labourer along with her father. The village is so backward that it does not even have proper roads, school or medical facilities. Urmila’s father cannot even afford a mobile phone.
Urmila’s father was very happy when he came to know that his daughter’s marriage had been finalized to a boy employed in the government sector. In order to arrange for a decent marriage, he had to sell half the small piece of land that he had inherited. But Urmila who took the spontaneous decision of her lifetime to reject the drunkard bridegroom, has no regrets. She consoles her parents by saying that at least her life has been saved from being ruined. She said “if I had fallen seriously ill a lot of money would have been spent in my medical treatment” She has actually saved herself from a disastrous marriage and a drunkard husband who would have made life hell for her!
Urmila’s parents were shocked when she abruptly walked out of the marriage ritual. But she boldly told the entire gathering “what will be my future if I marry a man who cannot support himself, how will he support me?” The news of a girl refusing to marry a drunk groom spread like wild fire in the village. The local panchayat members of ‘Gada ’community met and discussed the case. They supported the brave action of Urmila. They decided to ostracize the family of the bridegroom for such an obnoxious act. The priests of the area decided not to solemnize any marriage where the bridegroom or his relatives are intoxicated.
The active role played by the media in highlighting this incident alerted the CG government. Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh praised Urmila for her courageous decision. Her parents were also presented a certificate by the District Collector Mr Niranjan Das at a special function held in their honour. The Minister for Women and Child Development Ms Ramsheela Sahu visited Urmila’s parents and touched their feet. She praised them for the bold act of their daughter. She declared that Urmila would be the brand ambassador for her Ministry, who would lead the de addiction campaign called ‘Mata Vahini’ in the state. The story of Urmila would also be included in school text books for motivation of girls. Moreover Urmila would also be honoured in State functions. The amount of awareness this incident has generated, can be gauged from the fact that a group of about 40 girls formed ‘Urmila Vahini’ and took a pledge not to get married to alcoholics. Shankarachatya Jagatguru Swami Swarupanand Saraswati has supported Urmila saying that if the marriage rituals are performed under the influence of liquor then they are not valid.
Let’s take a look at similar incidents happening across the country. In Ajnar, a small village near Kanpur, in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh, Neha, daughter of Shripat Ahirwar, was ready for her ‘jaimal,’ a ritual in Hindu weddings. All of a sudden, she noticed that the groom, Arvind, a native of Ragauli village, was in a drunken state and was fighting with her siblings over the music. Neha’s siblings had stopped the music since it was disturbing the priest, but Arvind and his friends created a scene over this.N