Thursday, December 31, 2009

Point Return – It’s New again

Well, I am not writing about the Point Return initiative by D.V Sridharan. I am just using his initiatives name for my blog post with due respects. What I am trying to say is that the point is to return to Jan 1st every year. Today being the last day of the great year 2009, my head is having a tailspin over the kind of activities I had done in the past one year. For me, new-year does not mean anything except that it gives me a reason to try something new. And of course, there will be a lot of learning for me as I pass the puzzles of times that I encounter in the 365 days of one more year’s life time. Surprisingly, year 2009 gave me some of the best times ever. I could get to do a lot of new things, I could work on my passion for certain things that wanted to pursue. Looks like in spite of many mistakes i have committed, I have lived the phrase of ‘being passionate’ this year.
Now the most sensitive part of life is my own life and my world. That everyone calls it personal. Even I do. There were a lot of break downs this year and also a lot of exciting times spent. As I said I could work on many things that I can call it as my passion. To name them, the list goes like this: time spent on Photography, time spent on attending music concerts and plays, time spent on adventure activities, time spent on public functions, more number of books bought, read and wrote a few reviews, quite a bit of poetry, more time spent on writing, time spent on meeting new people, joining guitar classes, time spent on social networking, tweeting and information sharing and spending time with my close friends and making new friends. So I have made use of my weekends very effectively. Not to forget, I have had many breakdowns and failures in the above list as well. One of them is I haven’t spent enough time with my parents and my little sister. One good time spent was when cousin gang went on a Bannerghatta trip. I was extensively travelling and could not concentrate on that. I regret to admit that. But I shall look forward to spend a good time with them the coming year.
I have had some lucky breaks in spite of the downturn with respect to my career. I have moved on to a new promising and challenging role. Oracle is keeping me busy enough during the weekdays and I am trying hard to meet the expectations of my seniors. Of course, I do not know how far they are satisfied with my performance. So, my stint at office is more of learning and spending my time more on the kind of activities that were totally new to me. There were a lot of break downs as I am still a beginner with respect to some of the critical business aspects. But I am lucky enough having survived without the pink slip thus far.
Now that I have three separate lanes in my life, one being the career which I already blah’d it out, the other two lanes are my personal life (no comments) and my social commitment - my NGO. Like every year, there were more failures than successes this year as well. There were more interactions with respect our project with many people, many organizations and many private sector companies. Some of them promised us good, some of them promised us to promise good, some of them failed to keep up their promise and some of them totally forgot what they promised us. Accepting this challenge, we are moving on and on. So every year will be the same as there is no end for challenges. As Narasim says, for every two steps of going forward, we have been going a step backward. But we gain one step at least and will keep trying our luck given the commitment and certain hope we have in our proposal.
Well, now that I have shared about all the three dimensions of my life, now I would like to list down the activities that I did in the past one year. This gives me a details on what I did most and how much did I spend? That led to my zero savings life. I may miss some of the activities in the list if I do not remember or if it is not very interesting.
Jan 5, 2009
Visit to Toyota Technical Training Institute, Bidadi to learn about their training programs.
Jan 10, 2009
Visit to Nettur Technical Training Foundation, Electronic City to learn about their training programs.
Feb 15, 2009
We filed our project proposal for Sankalp Awards. Our proposal did not get shortlisted.
Feb 22, 2009
After a long time, I delivered my promise to my dad by visiting my granny in a village called Budili, Hindupur district of AP.
March 5, 2009
My friend Sup got married. Attended his wedding party.
March 21, 2009
Visit to VGKK at BR Hills. This was both for the study and for the trek
April 5, 2009
Bought the Canon Sx10 camera and started my Photography times
April 22, 2009
Uploaded the Paradise Lost- A short documentary on Kandavara on web
April 23, 2009
I voted for NOBODY
April 30, 2009 - May 18, 2009
Mission Sarpass - We climbed up the Sarpass peak successfully during the YHAI National Himalayan Expedition
May 31, 2009
Participated in the Sun feast Run - 5km Maja run
June 6, 2009
Participated in the Silicon India Start-up event at Nimhans convention centre
June 12, 2009
Visited Pondicherry for 2 days to attend my friend's wedding
July 2, 2009
Attended the SHSF book release function at Royal Orchid and met with Rashmi Bansal the author of the book
July 26, 2009
Namitha's farewell at office
July 30, 2009
Got inspired by the book IIM to Ganjdundwara that inspired me to take up a big project
Aug 1, 2009
Friendship day moon light trek to Bilkal Rangaswamy betta
Aug 8, 2009
Moonlight trek to Savanadurga hillock
Aug 14,2009
Visited the Lalbagh flower show
Aug 15, 2009
Meruthi Parvatha trek with a thrilling story to end
Aug 23, 2009
Published 'My story with Ganesha' on my blog
Aug 30, 2009
Fun drive to Channapattana
Sep 5, 2009
Paid my tribute to all my teachers while travelling to Pune
Sep 6, 2009
Trek to Singad peak near Pune with Hari
Sep 9, 2009
Interesting and a moving meeting with a Sardarji in Pune
Sep 12, 2009
Trek and camping at Lohagad peak with Hari
Sep 18, 2009
My first (only one) photo feature published on Citizen Matters
Sep 18, 2009
Attended BIAF performances at Chowdaiah memorial hall. Photos published on Citizen Matters on 21st Sep
Sep 21, 2009
Attended Raghu Dixit's concert at Yuva Dussera in Mysore
Sep 27, 2009
Bannerghatta visit with cousins
Oct 9, 2009
Attended the Jazz concert by Germans at Chowdaiah memorial hall
Oct 11, 2009
Participated in the Cyclothon and had a thrilling experience
Oct 21, 2009
I got my guitar
Oct 24, 2009
Eye opening meeting and presentation at Rotary Club, Bengaluru
Oct 24, 2009
Participated in the Nike Run
Oct 29, 2009
State level YHAI Island expedition for 3 days
Nov 10, 2009
Bengaluru Raining photographs published on Citizen Matters
Nov 10, 2009
My first guitar class at Kaladhar music school
Nov 11, 2009
Adventurous visit to attend Doc’s wedding reception
Nov 15, 2009
Moving discussion with a Doctor who promised to serve the needy and a social entrepreneur who is doing brilliant work
Nov 20, 2009
Described about Beautiful Bengaluru
Nov 21, 2009
Visit to Unnati vocational training centre campus
Nov 26, 2009
4 days visit to Hampi, Badami, Aihole, Pattadkal and Tangadgi
Dec 5, 2009
Trek to Karighatta and Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta
Dec 13, 2009
Attended Raghu Dixit’s concert at Gnanajyothi audi
Dec 19, 2009
Attended the Carnatic vocal concert by Dr. Balamuralikrishna
Dec 19, 2009
Dec 25, 2009
Trip to Dandeli and experience at Milind's home stay
Wow! The list looks huge to me. Although I have not included many of my good friends’ weddings because there were many weddings this year and I attended only a few.
Times! Passion! Friends! Music! Adventure! Reading! Writing! Memories…Overwhelmed!
So, I am left with only one day. Today!
And again the point is to return to January 1st and a new year of 2010. I am looking forward for the best time as I got during this year and enough courage to face the challenges that will come along my way.
I wish you and your family a wonderful and prosperous ‘New Year 2010’!
PS: This is my 50th post in this year :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where Relationship Begins...

Milind’s Homestay, Dandeli

I read a blog. I like all bloggers. I feel, without them, we will not get to know many things. Last week, when we were disappointed knowing that the PWD Guesthouse that TS had booked at Ganesh Gudi, Dandeli was taken away by some of the senior engineers from the department. What can TS do? Or what can we do when something is not available? So we were in a jinxed state as to what do we do for our 3 days trip to Dandeli. We had only one day left with us to arrange for an accommodation as our train tickets were confirmed. And then I read a blog. I am not able to trace out now as to which blog it was, but that turned out to be too good a success.
It was Milind’s Homestay and I read excellent reviews about it in the blog. I had no higher expectation from it other than getting a basic accommodation for ourselves at Dandeli for 3 days. Initially when I spoke to Milind, he did not promise me any luck. But after a while and going through his busy schedule of holiday season’s bookings, he called me back saying he can give us one house and he can accommodate all 9 of us. As per the blog, the accommodation and food would cost us anywhere ranging between 800-1500 Rs per person per day. I was not worried about the cost as I wanted to make sure that we need some basic accommodation at any cost. All other resorts and jungle resorts were full and they had nodded me negative to my request. And of course all of them were outrageously expensive.
TS kept trying his luck with Ganesh Gudi guest house, but he returned with no better luck except that they promised us to give the old guest house with only 5 beds and a common toilet area. We were a bit reluctant to that offer as we had a newly married couple in our team and a ‘Kisaan from Kandwar’ who will be more uncomfortable without a western commode. So finally, all of us, agreed for the ‘expensive’ decision. I called Milind and got the confirmation on the booking. He also offered to arrange a jeep for us for three days to move around the places. He had offered that he himself would come along with us as a guide with no additional cost. The plan was to get down at Dharwad station at 7.30 Am and the jeep (14 seater cruiser) driver Rajesh would pick us up at the railway station.
We were delayed by one hour and we finally reached Dharwad at 8.30 Am. By then Harish had reached Dharwad from Pune and was asleep in the giant jeep. Rajesh, without wasting much time, drove us to Dandeli in full speed which made the drive feel like a four wheel drive (4x4). Milind was not at home in the morning but everything was organized for us. We entered the old house and we saw the neat dormitories.

We glanced through the house, toilets and the garden at the back yard. We were quite contented with the facilities. He had a 24 hours gas geyser, one color TV, and few chairs to sit inside the house other than the beds. Even though the old house did not look good by its appearance, the facilities were good. Milind has three houses with six beds each. All the three houses are in a row and with a garden space attached for the camp fire and related activities. His house is 200 meters from these guest houses. For food we had to walk down to his house. His house is also a very old house which is very big because they are a big joint family. It looked like a Railway coach from one end to the other with a lot of rooms attached. Madhumita - Milind’s wife, Corporator of the ward in old Dandeli, welcomed us and served us the breakfast. After the great breakfast of Shavige (noodles) made in Konkan cuisine style, we headed out for our first activity of Crocodile trails.
After our first activity, we met with Milind. He, like Madhumita, looks tall, smart, fair and young by appearance. During the initial first discussion with him, we came to know that he is a very honest and a good guy. From then onwards, he was with us throughout our trip and he planned all the activities for us. We enjoyed the way we were treated for the next three days. Coming from a hotel management background, working for years in Dubai, Kuwait, and Goa, Milind knows how to treat the customers well. He gets in to the customers shoes and acts as per their tastes and preferences. Wherever we were stuck to make some decisions, he used to make it easy by convincing us about the activity with a proper reasoning. Since he is in to the politics in the corporation, he knows a lot of people and he has a network of people who can help him in every way. In that way, we could explore lot more places where many people (common tourists) cannot even go. Also, once he came to know that we are a team of amateur photographers and adventurists, he came up with the activities that matched with our preferences. He took us to the moon light trekking which was absolutely thrilling. Trekking to a small hillock called ‘Huligudda’ under the moon light in the wild forest without torch, made the whole trip worth enough. He tried to spot many interesting birds and species so that we can take a photograph of the same. One such event was when he spotted a spider eating a cockroach in the late night at his house; he came to us and took us there just to show it to us so that we can take a photograph of the same. We appreciated for him being so good to us.

Likewise all the three days we had a good time with him and his Homestay. Our activities were as follows: Crocodile trails, Supa dam catchment area visit, Bird watching, visit to Kaneri river and syntheri rocks, visit to Aalemane (we prepared the sugarcane juice by ourselves in the manual traditional machine), Moon Light Trekking to Huligudda, visit to Anshi wildlife sanctuary, Kali river white water rafting.

Most important aspect and the most satisfying aspect of this Homestay and our three day visit was the FOOD. I have put on atleast 2 kilograms of weight after eating the kind of food Madhumita and her team of cooks prepared for us. All the dishes were special. They served both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. After looking at the way we were eating during the first day’s lunch, they started preparing many varieties of foods that we had not tasted. One such feast was when they prepared the Banana flower curry. That was simply out of the world. We all enjoyed the food royally. Every meal was loaded with new dishes that we hadn’t tasted earlier. Madhumita comes from Maharashtrian family so the food was a mix of both Konkan and Maharashtrian cuisine. I am sure if the same amount and quality of food, if have it in Bengaluru, we would end up paying thousands of rupees per head per meal. All the non-veggies had a feast of different varieties of fish and chicken dishes. Right now it’s mouthwatering as I am writing about it.
All in all, Milind’s Homestay was a heavenly place for us. It was like a typical home stay along with his family members. Even though Milind is yet to completely formalize his venture, as he says by himself, he is still learning the business. One day he would like to grow it on to a major business. I am sure and we all are sure he will succeed. As his signature statement says “Where relationship begins…” he will definitely have the customer retention to the fullest. Nobody will be dissatisfied if they get in to his relationship.
The whole reason for me to write about it is to promote his Homestay. We enjoyed it a lot and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to visit Dandeli and have a good time spent there. One can contact Milind at his mail id wildmilind at yahoo dot com or call him on his mobile 9945ninefive9505 to book the Homestay. I think his Homestay is the most economical in that region. Costing would vary between 500 Rs to 1500 Rs per person per day depending on your requirements and activities.
We all could get such a lovely satisfying experience because I read a blog which had Milind’s contact. I hope my blog will also help someone to get in touch with Milind. I wish Milind all the very best in his endeavors.
Visit my Flickr set for more photographs of our trip:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

I don’t want to be just a health worker. I want to be such a woman that I can start a hospital and be an executive, and look over all the health problems of all the women in Braldu. I want to become a very famous woman of this area” says Jahan. Jahan is a girl who was lucky enough to get benefited from one of the schools that Dr. Greg Mortenson built in the Korphe village of Baltistan that is situated south west of the K2 peak and the whole karakoram range of Pakistan.

Greg Mortenson is a mountaineer turned humanitarian. To honor his sister’s memory, in 1993, he climbed K2 the world’s second highest mountain in the Karakoram Range and he fails to reach the summit by a few meters. While recovering from the failure and the climb, he accidently reaches a village called Korphe. In that village, Mortenson meets a group of children sitting in the dirt, writing with sticks in the sand, and looking at their destitution, he promises them to build a school in Korphe. This promise and the decision of constructing schools for the people of Korphe will turn the whole life of Dr. Greg Mortenson. Three Cups of Tea is the book written by Dr. Greg Mortenson and co authored by David Oliver Relin. They both with their wonderful efforts narrate the whole story of ‘One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time’

Talking to the people of Korphe, meeting the elders of the village, he will gain more confidence to his newly set vision. The Korphe village nurmadhar (village head), Haji Ali will come forward to embrace and share Greg’s vision of building a school. After all, the Korphe village and most of the villages in Pakistan waited enough to see the funds released by the Pakistani government to construct government schools. Waiting for so long years, Korphe village people had got adjusted to the system. Every American mountaineer who visits Baltistan, they promise something or the other to the people and end up not returning their promise. But in Greg’s eyes, these villagers developed a strange confidence and an unconditional agreement. Greg during his few days rest at the village, before heading back to America, with the help of Haji Ali and others, will work on estimating the cost of the school and plan out things so that as soon as he returns to America, he can raise enough funds for the same.

Greg, with no money left with him and no job after returning to the states starts his new life with a greater vision and challenge set for him. His only objective will be to save money, raise money and get back to Pakistan as soon as possible. With the most challenging effort of writing 580 letters to all his friends and contacts in America, he will get hardly any response to his request for funds. With all the ups, downs and struggling times, one day he will run in to a person who changes his vision to a possible reality. Dr. Jean Hoerni, a senior retired and wealthy mountaineer, buying into the courage and ambition of Greg Mortenson will agree to donate 12000$ with which one school can be built for Korphe to fulfill his promise. More than anything Hoerni will like the fact that for the first time an American wants to help the Muslim children of Pakistan; which so far was just not even thought out by any other person. After this event, Greg gains more courage and begins his journey towards constructing the school.

Building the first school will become more challenging when Greg learns from the villagers that, to construct a school at Korphe, first they will need to construct the bridge for the Braldu River. So Greg had to go back to the states again to raise money for the bridge. Hoerni, who donated the money for the school, will get convinced with his idea of constructing the bridge and donates 10000$ more for the same. Winning moment by moment, Greg reaches to fulfill his first promise. His courage of building schools for more villages in Pakistan will transform his vision to a greater long term vision of his life. Greg decides to build many numbers of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan region. His career was decided.

Dr. Jean Hoerni will become official donor for all his projects and before he died, his only expectation was to see a photograph of the completed Korphe School. Promotion of education for girls in a place where people were against to it will make Greg’s life miserable; but his perseverance and courage he gains from each of his projects and the smile he keeps seeing on every girl’s face that gets education from his school keeps him reaching spirited heights. Eventually his vision turns into an organization called Central Asia Institute (CAI) for which Hoerni makes him the director and co-founder. Before Hoerni died, he donates one million US dollars to this institute through with Greg’s work increased beyond his expectation.

The kind of challenges Greg went through are unimaginable. I cried many times reading several events including he being kidnapped by terrorists, his painful time during the Kargil war, his painful journey to US and back to Pakistan, people who oppose to his projects, will make us think twice as to whether he has really done such remarkable work or not. But Greg, passionate about girls’ education in the Pakistan and Afghanistan region, has dealt with every obstacle with a smile on his face. He belongs to them and they have accepted him as their family. So far he has constructed 131 schools in that region educating more than 50000 students from the schools. With all the support extended to him by his wife Tara, his two kids, and the members of CAI, he is doing a number of wonderful projects in the land of bombs and shells. The amount of risks he has taken to make his vision a reality is too challenging. Nobody would be willing to spend their time in the place where we can see shells and bombs raining and the whole countryside turned a war field. But Greg had that courage. He took risks. He promoted books for bombs.

Greg says, the only way to counter the global problem of terrorism is by promoting education. Give education to them so that they will not get in to Terrorism. He says “if you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight with high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls. If the girls can just get to the fifth grade level, everything changes”. Along with his school projects, he is also doing number of other projects such as creating tailoring centers for women, water harvest projects and many other community development projects that are interconnected with one other. He also has helped many of the refugee camps evolved because of the war and assisted them with what they need to survive their lives. He continues to raise funds for his projects in the US and across the world trying to counter the terrorism by creating peace through books and education.

It was Haji Ali who shared these interesting lines which became the title of the book – “If you have the first cup of tea with us, you are a stranger; if you have the second cup of tea with us, you are our guest; and if you have the third cup of tea with us, you become our family”. That’s how Mortenson becomes a part of Haji Ali’s and the whole country’s man.

Even though this is a real story and a non-fiction book, as I read it, I felt I am reading a fictional novel. I enjoyed reading the book and it is a greater lesson for all of us to know, learn and do something for the needy.

I have just given the summary of the book in terms of how I felt. But one has to read it to understand the challenges and the tough time Greg went through in the past 16 years to make such brilliant vision a success. My review is not even 1 % justification of Greg’s wonderful project. I am sure you will be touched, moved and inspired by Greg Mortenson and his vision.

I am also very optimistic that he will receive the next ‘Nobel peace prize’.

One can still help for the cause of girls’ education by buying this book. 7% of the book money will directly go into the CAIs projects for Girls’ education. So please buy and read.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Decision Equilibrium

A disclaimer tag for most of the soulful lives on this planet is quite usual. The point is that every individual – ‘I’ for example is bound to ‘rise and set’ in the eyes of the other. As far as I am concerned, even before I planned my living, my life is surrendered. Surrendered to one power, that keeps me challenging to extract the maximum. Maximum, out of the limited time I have got. It is that decision which is challenging. Not to decide, but beyond that. I am not philosophical about what I decide and how I decided. But, it is some kind of a natural instinct to do it and do it right. I do not think any of the management theories that I studied during my business program taught me all these. As I said, it is not a philosophy nor is it a theory. Perhaps, I can call it my own theory or my own philosophy. That never existed thus far.

Sometimes, like most of us, I feel lazy to look at it. Look at it just because it was committed to look at it. Doing it is optional, given the alternative lives one can think of. But, deciding on that decision of attending to the wake-up call to play the game, challenged is what I had to perform. Good that I woke up! Woke-up from the dreams or woke-up from the reality. It does not matter because I am going to face the real game; a game that is set on the biggest playground. I see a lot of players, I would never even think of challenging against for a win. And a place I can see all kinds of games on one single playground. When I play, I encounter breathlessness because of the minimum space between the games and the players. I fight out for my place; my right and my game. And I play. I concentrate on my target and others too, not to let them lose or win, but to defend. Defend from the game I play. As I play, they play the same game. I am blocked. Blocked out of the reality and it looks as if I am banned from the game. I get out of the block and run towards the goal. To win!

I played my game. Not because I decided to wake up. But because of the word I gave. To save myself not to convince myself that I do not have integrity. To show integrity in what I have spoken and what I am doing. When I am in between the goals, I think of home, or away from home. Not because I want to get there, but because I need to counter the competition. I want to win in the game. I just need to bounce back at the opposition to reach the other end to conquer them. And when I did, I did not win. I just scored a point. Point is to win. So I need to keep winning more points in life. If I fail, I will not lose the game. I just lose one point. If I did lose another point, I am not good enough for a game. I studied ‘Game theory’ not because I could play game. But it helped to convince myself that there is a theory behind the game I play. And a zero-sum-game is what life is all about.

My non-theoretical and non-philosophical way of dealing with the game of my life is not because I ‘decide’ to wake-up in the morning sun to play the game (that can be fictional sometimes) but because of the ‘word’ given to myself. That word decided the game of my life.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Battlefield of Education

“What is your name?” I heard a sweet voice from behind. I was cleaning my camera lens with the used cotton that I had kept it in my camera bag. I turned and was about to smile, “What is your name?” heard it again. This time it was not the sweet voice but a bit rough voice. “My name is Srikanth” I said. I smiled as my eyes met with 4 eyes of two faces that looked as if they are ready to meet with enlightenment soon. They smiled back. They started staring at me like the way they would stare at an alien. I was in my dirt smeared shorts, sticky tees, waist camera pouch and my shooter in the neck. “What is your name?” they asked me again. Very patiently (first time ever in my life showed that much patience) I answered “My name is Srikanth”. They looked thrilled listening to my answer. For that matter, even I was surprised as these village boys were talking to me in ‘English’. I was about to ask them their names, they opened their mouth and uttered “What is your name?” again. I answered with a loud and strong voice “My name is Srikanth, I am from Bengaluru”. I then said “Now tell me your names”. They did not open their mouth. They kept looking at each others’ faces like something strange happened to them all of a sudden. Then I asked “What happened?” Then I discovered that they did not understand my question properly. They did not care much about my question to them. The sweet voice again pierced my ears asking “What is your name?” For a moment I was shocked. This time I was not patient and was not violent either. My adrenaline pumped faster and felt something heavy hitting my head with the use of ‘English’ that I did not know. Yes I did not know; that they knew only that much to talk in ‘English’. I had to face the two faces with an artificial smile before tears rolled out of my eyes.
It was a village well-known and is in the history books of India. This was the place where the great ‘Battle of Talikot’ or the ‘Battle of Rakkasa-Tangadi’ was fought in the year 1565. Now the village is just called as Tangadgi which is on the north Shore of Krishna River. After three continuous days of touring in Hampi, Badami and Pattadakal; fourth day, we decided to visit Aihole during the first half of the day and then visit this small village. We wanted to visit this historic battle site since many years to perform a solemn ceremony that should be performed by every one of us. Harish, TS and I dropped our 33 drops of blood on the 33 stones lined up in 3 lines of 11 stones each. The meaning of this ceremony is that we mingled our blood with the blood of dead to express our gratitude for the fallen who made ultimate sacrifice for all of us to live our fortune. The number thirty-three is the size of one platoon in formation in army troops.

After our blood donation kind of activity, we were heading back towards our jeep parked at the entrance of the village. One of my friend had to attend to the nature call so he went behind the bushes. TS and I decided to wait for him while the rest of our gang headed towards the jeep. While we were waiting, TS had to get water from the jeep, so he left and I started taking some clicks from my shooter. As I clicked and taking care of my camera lens, I met these two bright faces. Somashekara was on his bicycle and Seetharama – the short guy was behind him. They did not know how to talk in ‘English’ except for that question repeated infinite times at me. Somashekara was in his 10th standard and Seetharama in his 7th. They both and all the children of that village were studying at the government high school in their village. I felt a little relieved when I heard that there is a high school in the village. While I was talking to them, they were not completely listening to me; they started staring at my lens and then at my round cap and then my sun glasses and then finally Seetharama opened his mouth and asked me to show him my camera. Somashekara being senior to Seetharama asked me the cost of the camera. I had to disclose in a very unwillingly low voice thinking of my credit card bills, “twenty-five-thousand-rupees”. They both wide opened their mouth and showed me their inner tongue as if they wanted me to click the photograph of the wild life inside their mouth. Somashekara kept asking questions at his level and Seetharama kept staring and listening to both of us.

Nimmornage rokka na en anthirri?” he asked. Meaning: “what do you call for money in Bengaluru?” Then I wondered how good their teachers must be in their school. And hesitantly I answered both of them that it is called the same rupee as they call it here. Somashekara did not believe. He said “my father has got some bigger rupee note that is available only in Bengaluru”; he also said his father has kept it in the showcase frame. I then took a great time in convincing them that it is the same and had to open my wallet to show them a few rupees. They finally got convinced and were feeling proud that they have seen what I have in my wallet.

For a few minutes, they did not speak to me, they kept talking to each other about 1 rupee, 2 rupee notes that they had at home. I interrupted them and asked them what is it that they would like to do after their schooling. They had no answer. I asked who their role model is. They had no answer. I asked them why are they even studying. They had no answer. Finally I had to make them understand what I am trying to ask them giving an example of a ‘Doctor’. “Ah… hmmm…I do not know” Somashekara said. Being a senior to Seetharama, he did not know the answer. Seetharama told me that he would not like to answer in front of Somashekara. Then I had to bend down and give my ears to him. He made some ‘…sssss’ noise in my ears and I finally got what he wanted to say. He said he would like to become a Policeman. I asked him loudly, “how will you become a Policeman?” Firstly I disclosed about it in front of Somashekara and he was embarrassed and feeling shy for that. Second, he did not know the answer. But he said if he goes to Hunugunda which is a bus ride away from the village, he can become a Policeman. I wondered what kind of basic education these bright kids are getting in the government school. In my mind our proposal for vocational training centre took a deep breath saying ‘let me take care of these guys’.
Finally, Seetharama could not resist. He asked me to show him my camera again. I took his picture and showed him his bright eyes captured in my lens. He was jumping out of joy that without looking into a mirror he could see himself so neat. He started shouting that made the other children in the village move towards the place we were standing. A team of small kids ranging from 3 years to 10 years assembled and started posing to my camera. TS came and stood as one among them while I was clicking a photograph of all the girls. I think TS felt shy realizing he joined the girls’ team and he left the scene to assist my other friend. Even those girls could not stop blushing after posing for a photo with TS. After that I made them dance, jump and play in front of me to take some good shots. They did all that I made them do. Every photo I clicked, they surrounded me to show the picture to them so that they feel good about it. I played like this for some time until my friend was ready to go and kept thinking of the divide that exists in most of the rural parts of India. Without basic education, basic foundation for livelihood, no one knows what their future is.

Seetharama made me click a number of photographs including a bullock cart and a man with two cows walking into the village. He noticed that I was giving some lecture to these kids and he came near us. In his harsh-regional-style-language, he told them not to become a slave like him in the future and showed me by telling them “if you study well, you will be like him”. For a moment I thought this is the closest divide which is not much of difference. The meaning remains the same that a man working as a slave in the village and us working in this IT industry as slaves. Except that our lifestyle is a bit different. Everywhere ‘Divide and Rule’ is dominant, but in a different context. I could not resist laughing at it myself thinking ours is a ‘Digital divide and digital rule’. But I encouraged both Somashekara and Seetharama to study well. And I told them “if any other alien like me walks into the village, they should talk to him in ‘English’ and they have to prepare for that moment from now on”.

Feeling proud, they both gave me stiff handshake. Like their question to me in the beginning, they gave me a minimum of 25 handshakes each. I then told good bye and gave handshake to all the kids asking them to tell their names one by one. Kalavathi, Shilpa, Soma, Bhavya, Munirathna, Kaveramma, Seetharama, Somashekara…and many millions of children are in the same helpless state in our country. Bridging this divide is a greater challenge in itself. Somewhere it has started, but not enough.
Is this the state of affairs with our education system?Any of the authorities listening? Those who are ruling the state listening? Can anyone help these kids to know what they want to become in future?