Tuesday, March 24, 2009

VGKK… a tribal venture!

Finally we did it!
This trip to B R Hills was pending since almost 2 months. Thanks to our Doc that he could organize this trip to VGKK (Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra) at B R Hills. On Jan 28th, after dropping one of our colleague at the airport, we met our Doc’s friend Dr. Prashanth who works for Karuna Trust health initiatives. Since he was going to attend a conference in Srilanka and we could not discuss with him much on that day. He recommended us to visit him once he is back from his conference and he invited us to VGKK, B R Hills where he takes care of some of the health programs. Since we had not seen B R Hills, we accepted his invitation without any second thought and we promised to organize for the same on his return from Srilanka.

Opportunity knocks only once! so we did not want to miss it. We kept planning for this trip since then and finally we had the dates and team fixed. It’s the same Kodachadrigaa’ team (Doc, TS, Srivatsa and I) again. Srivatsa’s ‘black panther’ (Ford Fusion), his ‘golden eye’ (Canon camera), guest house stay at VGKK… made us feel excited about our weekend event.

We started from Bangalore on Saturday morning at 8.00 Am and reached B R Hills at 11.30 Am. Tatte Idli at Bidadi, Srivatsa’s rally drive, Kannada songs, TS’s PJs, Doc’s marriage worries, were few of the highlights of the journey till we reached B R Hills. It is so true that communication gap exists everywhere; we were in a remote hill station and there was no communication sent to VGKK on our visit to book the guest house. After all the drama from the admin in-charge Mr. Arun at VGKK (though we had to make couple of calls to Dr. Prashanth), finally there was a positive sign that we would get the guest house. It was a bit of relief for us because our plan was to stay there overnight and learn about the place for 2 days. He also made one of his staff members Mr. Manjunath who works as a teacher to take us around the campus and introduce us to all the activities of VGKK.

Without getting into too much of details, I will just share the learning exercises we experienced during the trip. Hope there is some benefit to all those who read this blog as well.

1. VGKK… activities at its best
I must say these tribal people are lucky. 25 years back B R Hills was just a tribal village where people were seen only in pain. Thanks to Dr. Sudarshan, the founder of VGKK and its initiatives because of which we can see a Tribal hospital, roads, education environment and above all the earning capacity of the tribal citizens have been increased with the technology resource centre as a base.

As we walked into the campus, it was like we are entering in to totally a new world. There was a tribal hospital at the entrance. This hospital serves tribal people of many villages around B R Hills. Of course the services are free of cost. There are lot many initiatives like telemedicine, psychology counseling to understand mental patterns of villagers, in-patient, out-patient care, mobile services to the tribal settlements, laboratory, x-ray facilities etc.

And then the next set of buildings and beautiful cottages were for education. They have a tribal school which gives free education to the tribal children. It is a residential course and the children get to stay in the beautiful cottages. They have all types of facilities like canteen, sports, science labs, library and many more.

The whole campus is energy efficient. Solar energy is getting used to the maximum. And also a lot of low cost methodologies used in building structures and the campus development. I do not think whether I got such good facilities for my school education. But these tribal children are lucky enough to have access to the VGKK.

2. Honey…pickle… silk weaving…!
I am sure you will be wondering why I am saying these names. Well… these are the activities of the vocational training centre (VTC) at VGKK.

There are vocational trainings which are being executed in the campus which also gives commercial returns for sustainability. We met the head of the VTC Mr. Venkatesh who explained us on all the different trainings they offer to the tribal people depending on the demand for the skill. One such skill which was on demand during our visit was silk weaving. They have all the equipments and set up for the manual weaving and the silk threads are just rolling and rolling and rolling every day. Lucky those who are undergoing this training as they will have a skill for their livelihood once they are trained her for 6 months. There were quite a few people who were undergoing this training.

Also VTC, as commercial activities for its sustainability, has two small scale food processing units. One is honey making (Prakruthi Honey is the name) and the second is the pickle making unit. Since B R Hills is a tourist destination, these products will find a way out of these units. They sell them at a modest profitable price and share the profits among the entrepreneurs. All of us bought honey bottles.

Major challenge, the only challenge for all the vocational training institutions are that the marketing of goods. It is extremely difficult to sell the products produced by identifying the right market place. Export is the only option but it needs extensive financial support and branding mechanisms.

I wish them best of luck for their marketing and sustenance.

3. Dodda Sampige… God of nature!Our next visit was to a place called Dodda sampige. To visit this place, one should take the permission from the forest department (Range Forest Officer) as it is a place inside the wild forest range. Once they give permission, a forest guard will be with you until you complete the trip. So we did the same and we trekked 8 km to the Dodda Sampige tree. It was such an uplifting experience for all four of us as we liked the trek inside the forest very much. Even though we heard some wild animals roaring in the jungle, we were thrilled to be present there. There were many tribal children who came there just to beg for money. We started talking to them and they were feeling shy to talk to us and share their problems. When I asked about them going to a school, they said they have a school to go but none of the teachers are ready to come there and teach! What a tragedy! All they were chanting was “Kasa kodu” (meaning ‘give me money’).

We reached the place in an hour from the place we started. And there was a group from Bangalore (group of 17 women) performing pooja to the 800 year old Sampige tree. Yes! Even we were surprised to learn that the tree was 800 year old. It had a huge base with huge trunk and over 800 years of its life, it had lost two of its branches. Only one was remaining but still it was very huge.

This tree is the god for a tribal group called Soligas. They worship this tree and they believe in nature. There was a person by name Ranganath Sharma who explained us on the belief Soligas had in the nature and the reason they used to worship this tree. It is a very old tradition. Since forest was the home for most of the tribes, they believed in nature a lot. For any event whether it is good or bad, they used to worship this tree. And for every event, they believed in planting a tree. Amazing isn’t it? I wonder how many trees we would plant in our lifetime and what will be the occasion?

We were thrilled to learn this capital idea of performing pooja to a tree and planting trees on every event they used to conduct. I guess only because of them, we have the thick and lively forests even now.

Can we all plant a tree every year? May be on our birthdays? Or any occasion? Think over!

4. A commitment or a sacrifice?
Since the whole trip was organized based on Dr. Prashanth’s recommendation, we thought of meeting him in Mysore on Sunday evening. We left B R Hills on Sunday afternoon and started our journey to Mysore. We reached Mysore very soon but because we had our Doc who knew Mysore very well from his college days, he took us round and round and round to reach the place which Prashanth wanted us to go. Finally our smart Doc, called his dear friend Prashanth and requested him to meet us at a place which is a known place for both of them. Finally we met the other doctor who took us to the M G Road of Mysore (Kalidasa street – even he is a bachelor; now you know why Kalidasa street for all 5 unmarried bachelors). He was apologetic to us because of his unscheduled work he could not be with us for 2 days.

We went into a café and ordered some snacks and started our discussion. The objective of the discussion was to explore the feasibilities for a long term health initiative for Chickballapur district where we have our NGO operations. Doc initiated the discussion by asking Prashanth on Karuna Trust’s activities and what Prashanth is actually focusing on. Prashanth gave us detailed report on his activities and his commitment to the community health initiatives. We were pleased to learn that he has such a wide knowledge on the community health and primary health activities. The whole NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) activities are in his brain cells. Hats-off to his commitment towards the needy community. The reason for me to say this is there are many doctors who are busy in their own world. Hardly a few devote their full available time to the community health assisting the poor. We have seen and pleaded so many of them to do half a day job in the village we are working but we did not succeed even once.

Prashanth detailed us on few of the new initiatives of NRHM and asked us to go through the NRHM initiatives which are displayed on its website. We have enough work now and we need to work on targets before we meet the Joint Director of Health at the Vidhana Soudha. Prashanth also offered us to take us to Dr. Sudarshan once. Before that we have enough homework to do.

The learning here was Prashanth’s commitment. I do not know whether it is a sacrifice but he is doing the right thing to do. All it takes is the ‘Social Quotient’ a person has in his heart. Bravo!

That was the end of our thrilling memorable 2-day breathtakingly beautiful trip to B R Hills. As always, we did get some good photography experience as well. Since Srivatsa was bored of our discussion with Prashanth, he drove his panther to Bangalore in 90 minutes. Wow!

Hope you all enjoyed reading our learning experiences! You are welcome to join us for more such events!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Joy of waiting!

Well… it was a dream for all of us
that, one day we will reach there…
now it’s time! It’s our time now…
to say! We will be there!
excitement every day;
anxiety at its peak!
Sailing through the time
and it’s like waiting for ‘our time’!

One by one the days are gone…
looking at the calendar everyday!
dates are real but the dreams are yet to be!
sure of the time! and this will be ours…
Every moment feels inspiring
all of us dream one dream
we have a long time to wait
It’s the joy of waiting!

Preparations are ON!
and communication at its best!
amidst our routine journey,
working on our dreams…a tough job!
all of us wait for the progress!
Perhaps! That’s our feel good factor…
every day is a progress and
every moment is an achievement…
all in the joy of waiting again!

We will wait… we will wait
till the day… we say…
We are here… and this was our dream”!

Dedicated to “Mission Sarpass”
For more details on "Sarpass": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sar_Pass_Trek

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Life...Over the time!


Everything in life is time bound. Is it not? Perhaps! Every one of you will want to add some more hours to our existing 24 hours day. But even then… will it be enough? I do not think so. The reason for me to write this post is very simple (do not think, I just had time to write it) that I am not liking the expressions of ‘no time’.

I have everything else but for time! Have you heard of people saying this? So why is time required then? Anyway! It’s just that ‘time’ has taken our lives for a free ride. Today evening I got down from the bus and was walking home; there comes this little guy asking for time. He stays near my house. He asked “Excuse me! Can I know the time please?” and I said “its 7:00 pm sharp”. The guy started running and out of curiosity I asked him “why are you running?” he stopped and he reaction was “Why were you running in the morning? I said “that’s because i was getting late and I had to catch my 7.15 Volvo”. He just smiled at me and said “it’s getting late for my tuitions now” and ran away.

Early from the bed till you go back to sleep, you operate over the time. I need to catch the bus to office at 7.15 for that I need to get up early and forcefully get to the bus stop. Reach office ‘late’ everyday as the bus will never be ‘on time’ or there would be a traffic jam and the bus will be stuck in the jam for a ‘long time’. Responses to our colleagues will be like “give me some time I shall revert back to you”; there will be a ‘deadline’ of 24 hours for any process and they call it as ‘turnaround time’. Without peacefully having lunch, we will keep saying I have very ‘less time’ today to complete my work. By the time we realize if we missed anything for today, it will be time to catch the bus again; 8 hours working time is over for the day. Still! There will be calls scheduled in the evening as we work for ‘US time’ (as if we have all the time in the world) and we try fixing the same. It’s like, “can we have the call at 10 AM EST?” oh no! by the time I reach home, it will be 10 AM EST. Catch the bus, come home and without even talking to anyone at home, you will get into a call and end up spending few more hours. Sometimes end up waiting for the calls without doing a thing! After which have dinner (again at abnormal time) and go to bed. Before sleeping you will think, oh boy! Never realized how the time passed today; tough long day! End of the day! You would have missed a lot of good things like talking to parents, friends, reading books, writing, things that you really like! I mean those things you REALLY LIKE!

The reason for missing things you like is because “you did not have enough time”. Back again to the basic equation of “over the time”! It is very silly that for a lot of questions we give the same answer. Questions like why haven’t you shaved today? Why didn’t you cut your nails? Why are you late? You were supposed to call me yesterday but why didn’t you? Why did not you complete this? The answer is the same. There are many questions like this. Sometimes I get warnings from my friends like “You were supposed to do this for me yesterday” and they become angry on me for which the only answer I can give is…

Everything around us is time bound. Every work we do is time bound. Perhaps! The reason we are under such a traumatic recession is because we have done so much to save time and now we do not have enough work to do. May be time management is the cause for this recession. If everything was delayed, people would’ve stayed at their job without losing it! (my analysis lol do not quote this anywhere)

I do not know who invented time? Time was not invented, at least not in the conventional sense. In fact, time does not exist at all, not in any way. Time is merely a convention of thought and conversation. If time actually existed, it could be measured and quantified by something that cannot be suspended.

I read the following in some article and found interesting to quote here: “The world is full of silliness created for the convenience of communication and enterprise. The moment you need something to be real, you risk falling into the illusion. The illusion serves a convenient purpose. It need not be believed in though.”

That is how I believe we have fallen flat for time! time! And time again.

I just feel like not wearing my watch (however I have mobiles which show time and laptop which shows time) these days. I do not want to give reason as I do not have ‘time’. Do you think it is possible?

Well at least I will take a break for few days and spend all the hours without looking at the clock and fixing up the time for any activity. Yeyeye! what an idea sirji?

Well… its ‘time’ again for me to sleep as I need to get up early! :(