social


Empowerment with Srinivasan Services Trust

We all know the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.  But how many of us do this in our lives? Recently I was invited by SST , Srinivasan Services Trust, to visit Padavedu in Tamilnadu to observe their efforts which align perfectly with this proverb. SST was founded in 1996 and has a sound foundation encompassing sustainable initiatives touching key focus areas – infrastructure, women empowerment, social and cultural development, education, health and environment, resulting in equitable
distribution of wealth creation, reduced income gaps and human capacity building.

Padavedu is a beautiful scenic place that consists of 17 villages surrounded by Jawadu hills, forests, river, other water bodies and paddy, coconut & banana fields. So off I went, happy for the short break from Delhi’s winter and smog. The latter is what excites Delhites easily these days. The chance to breathe somewhere ELSE. Such are times. It was the kind of trip where one wonders if a village life is the kind of life we all should be living.  What exactly are we doing in urban fast paced concrete plethora we call cities?

Padavedu

We flew down to Chennai from where we drove down to Vellore, the city nearest to Padavedu cluster of villages. Our trip was very well planned and we had buffer for delays, ample time to rest overnight and the chance to begin our village visit on a fresh day. Once there, we visited various areas where SST is making its mark. SST works with the national, state governments and various communities across 5015 villages in 5 states of India, affecting the lives of 3.2 million people. Padavedu is one of the locations.

first stop – Pottery in kesavapuram

We visited a family that sustains its livelihood completely through pottery . The business is good throughout the year and especially good around festivals like Diwali. As we reach the house, we spot a lady kneading the clay as if dough for a bread except of course it’s a whole lot. Then she sprinkled some dry dust on it, which almost reminded me of oregano being sprinkled on a loaf just before baking. Well, at the end of the day, both the things do fill our stomach one way or the other :). The potter wheel was being manned by Sekhar who expertly and seemingly effortlessly gave it a good whirl and generated 4-5 earthern vessels in that single spin itself. Sekhar and his family create a large variety of things like diyas (various shapes, sizes), cooking utensils, pots, pans, show pieces and even gas stoves! One can light a fire under the earthern stove and cook meals . It has 2 “burners” too! If you have ever watched a potter work, you know how mesmerising it is (not talking about the movie Ghost here) to watch. Of course the reality of the effort dawns on oneself when one comes in contact with the clay oneself. We were given a chance to try our hands at pottery. Needless to say the virgin potters made some strange artwork only they could appreciate. They were bottomless, shapeless and purposeless. But something one creates always looks lovely to that person, be it a child or well, useless pottery. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

next stop – aanganvadi for pre-school kids at kesavapuram

Next up we visited a pre-school near by. It was bright, colourful and cheery. Caricatures of Mickey and Donald on the exterior walls and a few swings, greeted us in to the mini Disneyland. The kids seemed excited and probably amused by the new faces. They all recited a few poems for us. The primary focus being fun studies rather than stuff drilled into their brains. SST provides infrastructure for the schools and the reading material too. This is then handed over to the govt to run. The schools have a kitchen along with the classroom where meals are prepared on the spot and provided to the children. They arrive in the morning, play, learn, have their meal and then they all nap for a while just before their parents come to fetch them back. If only all schools followed this routine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

next stop – handicrafts with rope made with banana bark in chinna puttur!

Now comes the most exciting part of my trip – seeing the transformation of the humble banana leaf/bark into eco-friendly handicraft! We visited chinna puttur which was dotted with temples of headless goddesses! Legend has it that the Sage Jamadagni , due to some marital discord, ordered his son Parasurama to behead his own mother. The son followed the instructions, mother was decapitated as sacrifice and father, now pleased granted his son a boon. Needless to say, the son asked for his mother back and Sage Jamadagni reattached her head back. Now these idols signify the same. Annually the head is put on the goddess for a few days, prayed to and then packed back for next year! What was the point of doing it all one thinks, but How fascinating is all this! I digressed. But I couldn’t resist it.

Back to handicraft – we spot several ladies sitting next to a temple (now that’s a very very common sight there) making handicraft with ropes. The rope for said handicraft can be single or double threaded. We were shown how the thread is woven from banana fibre. First the leaves/bark are dried and then when it is pulled apart, it comes out in long strands. These strands are then spooled on to a bicycle rim, upcycled (no pun intended) to form an innovative apparatus, that helps spin this fibre into rope! This rope is dried in the sun and it truly has a good tensile strength. This rope is then further used to make handicrafts like lamp shades, jewellery boxes, baskets, showpieces etc. The women who do this, do it part time. In alignment with the proverb mentioned above, SST’s role here is not limited to only teaching the women how to fish, they also teach them how to find more fish, how to descale it, sell it for profit, and maintain records. In other words SST not just teaches these women the skill , they also provide them bulk orders, help them sell these items, they teach them basic accountancy, book keeping and even maintaining of the minutes of various meetings! The village functions as a well oiled machine with records kept for everything. They take loans to start the project, soon repay them back and then start saving up the money they generate from the handicraft business. The women who learn all this, teach others around them and pay it forward. It’s a wonderful initiative in more ways than one.

 

 

 

 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Next stop – traditional lunch

Much excited with the days activities, we now needed food for more than just our thoughts and we now headed to the SST office in Padavedu. We were given a traditional home made south indian meal comprising of many many items.

 

next stop – vermicompost that recycles garbage & produces organic fertiliser in chinna puttur

We proceeded to the vermicompost facility where women were segregating garbage into recyclable and non recyclable. We should all be ideally doing this at source, that is our own house.

Vermicompost is the product of the composting process using various species of worms. Vermicast is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms. It is basically shit that looks like chocolate sprinkles.  Vermicast is known to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer. The vermicast thus formed is sold to farmers in the vicinity.

We came face to face with the earth worms that eat this garbage and generate the shit sprinkles. It wasn’t pretty. But the end result is good for all of us and it would truly help us avoid manmade disasters like the Gazipur landfill etc which are permanently on fire and literally “breath-taking”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final stop – temple care

And as we came to a close, we visited a few 12th century Ram temples , excavated by and looked after by SST. Every temple is similar to the ones around it and yet unique in some way. In fact Padavedu is a land of temples. At every 10 metres you will find one! Due to some natural disaster most of these temples were buried. TVS/SST have unearthed and takes care of many of these. The construction activites in Padavedu are hence supervised because there’s a very high chance that excavation will yield yet another ancient temple!

I was quite impressed with how SST transforms these villages and partners with local and central government agencies and other institutions/ companies to find solutions to the problems faced by the communities it works with. We were constantly told that SST works as change agents, not donors. Backed by this philosophy, SST has been working towards Sustainable Development Goals since last 20 years and their initiatives are in line with the ongoing government macro initiatives- ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’,  ‘Start-up India ’ and ‘Swachh Bharat
Abhiyan’.

My take aways from this trip –

Hope after seeing at least SOME organisations that believe in paying it forward.

Fascinating eco-friendly activities.

The legends and myths and mysteries of Padavedu. I really want to explore this more.

The calm & serene forests & fields really make me feel like spending a longer period of time there. Oh and the 4G signal works well in these villages. If internet is sorted, everything seems doable.

Padavedu has so much to explore, yet hardly anyone has even heard of it. I surely want to visit it again.

 

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored by SST but the views expressed here are personal.

 



Delhi’s queer pride parade 2009 2

Last year I had posted about the First ever Delhi queer pride parade event. This year they are back again! As always, the event is open to straight people as well.

For us as Delhi’s bloggers here’s what we can do:
1. Support Delhi’s LGBT people. From the moral police stopping the screening of films like “Fire” we come down to supporting LGBT’s in the open.
2. Blog about it and spread awareness about it.
3. This would be a very interesting photo-op in every sense, from the documentation of this event to photographing it artistically, what with rainbow coloured masks.

A similar march will take place in Kolkata Sunday and in Sri Lanka too.

The agenda as mentioned on their blog is here:

We assemble at Barakhamaba Road at 5 pm and the march will start at 5.30 pm. We should reach Jantar Mantar at around 7.30 pm – where we have organised some space for people to come up and say a few words or sing or shout slogans! Everyone is welcome!

Why Queer pride parade?

Today in India, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face violence and discrimination from different quarters. Here are some examples of our daily oppression:

· Lesbians are subject to violence, forced into marriage and even driven to commit suicide by their families.

· Gay men are blackmailed by organized scandals that often involve the police.

· Hijras are routinely arrested and raped by the police.

· Same sex couples who have lived together for years cannot buy a house together or will their property to each other or even adopt a child as a couple if they wish.

· LGBTI people are constantly mocked, demeaned and denied their basic human rights of self-expression.

All this is happening because Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code treats LGBTI people as criminals. It has been used to arrest, prosecute, terrorize and blackmail sexual minorities. It has strengthened the already existing stereotypes, hatred and abuse in homes, schools, workplaces and streets, forcing millions of LGBTI people to live in fear and silence at tragic cost to themselves and their families. And yet, these lives go on. They go on as a struggle every single day.


It is essential that –

· Section 377 is duly read down in the Delhi High Court and this precedent replicated across the country.

· The government introduce specific legislation protecting queer people from discrimination on the basis of their gender and sexuality.

· Violence against LGBTI people by the police be addressed and severely reprehended.

· Discrimination and violence against LGBTI people in all spheres of life (family, workplace, educational institutions) be acknowledged and addressed.

· Positive efforts, such as the Aravani Welfare Board set up by the Tamil Nadu Government for the hijra community, are replicated in other parts of the country.

· All persons are able to exercise their right to live their lives with dignity and freedom, regardless of their gender and sexuality identities.

For more details, visit http://delhiqueerpride.blogspot.com



Exclusive! Delhi Bloggers Bloc Presents DBM#30: Meetup with Shashi Tharoor 1

Ahoy Bloggerati and Twitterati! Here’s an opportunity you can’t afford to miss.

Meet Shashi Tharoor, one of the most charismatic leaders we have in the new parliament in an exclusive informal Meetup with Delhi Bloggers Bloc.

As you know, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, has been recently elected as the Congress Member of Parliament, from Thiruvanathapuram, and much like us bloggers & social media enthusiasts, is himself an activist and excellent writer (award-winning author of eleven books).  He has put in a lifetime of work in the United Nations and was India’s candidate to succeed United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006, and finished a close second out of seven contenders. Dr. Tharoor was also  named a “Global Leader of Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. You can read more about him at his official website http://shashitharoor.in/

One of his recent tweets (@shashitharoor on Twitter) will give you an idea of how he has also adapted well to the 140 character space of Twitter:

“First day in Parliament. From the sublime (the historic Central Hall for the Cong legislators meeting) to the bureacratic (8 forms to fill)!”
AGENDA
Introduction to the meet
A few words by Dr. Tharoor on his impressions of Twitter and Social Media.
Q&A with Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Congress Member of Parliament, Thiruvanathapuram.
And if time permits, informal discussion on use of social media and twitter by policy makers.
Date: Thursday, 21st April, 2008
Time: 6:00 pm to 7 pm.
Venue: The Attic, 36, Regal Building (first floor), Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001.
Tel : 2374 6050, 5150 3436
Map: http://bit.ly/DBM30
Directions:
Please note that this meet is contributory with 100/- as the contribution per person, which goes to contribute to venue charges and snacks. We have limited seats (60) at the venue, so participation will be on a first come first served basis ONLY. Please be on time. No gatecrashing. Timings are subject to slight variation on short notice subject to availability of Dr. Shashi Tharoor.

For any information contact:
Twilight Fairy at +919811511719
Sanjay Shrivastava at +919873707071
Follow @delhitweetup on Twitter for updates.
While you are at it, join our Facebook group or mailing list

The entrance to The Attic is on Parliament Street (Sansad Marg), on the left side, after Park Hotel. It is just above the erstwhile pub DV8 (now Sports Bar).

By Metro – get off at Rajiv Chowk ( Connaught Place ) station on Line 2 Central Secretariat to Vishwa Vidyalaya ( Delhi University )

Parking – In Palika Parking, Near Jantar Mantar or Hanuman mandir.



DBM#25- a meet for delhi bloggers and microbloggers – a roundup 9

On 20th, Delhi witnessed its second twitter meet. Unlike the previous twitter meet, which was held in a cafe, this meet was sponsored by Incube Business centre. The meet started at 5pm. I got there by about 5:20pm thanks to the traffic. There were already some twitter enthusiasts who had introduced themselves to each other. Kumar Rahul was fully prepared with a laptop, ready to just start. We had another round of introductions during which we noted down the twitter id’s or mail id’s (of those who were not on twitter). During the intro round, Gautam Ghosh walked in and I quickly put the onus of kickstarting a session, onto him. Gautam talked about what twitter really meant for him. Conversations are what matter – at the end of the day, whichever platform you are on.

This was followed by a talk on kwippy.com by co-founder – Mayank dhingra, who also got caught in the traffic and arrived midway Gautam’s session.

By the time this session ended, we had already overshot a lot of time and quickly rushed to the refreshment part of our agenda.

Some tasty grub later, we came back in, to discuss the TOI case of plagiarism that I had faced. I was also carrying the copy of What’s hot with the corrigendum in it. Everyone seemed amused by the whole sequence of events. This was followed by a talk on “Bill of rights” by Kumar Rahul. This is a collection of points he plans to take up with @scobleizer.

We followed this with another round of some rather tasty sandwiches, samosas, tea & coffee. Just before we all were leaving, someone suggested we click a group picture, so we did with about 1/4th of the participants. All pictures would be uploaded soon and a post shall be here to keep you all updated. Tune into the rss feed of this blog :).

There were about 40 participants, even though the confirmations were more than double. A lot of names may not have been noted down, so if your name is missing, please do drop in a comment. A list of attendees, in no particular order. Those not on twitter have had their mail id’s mentioned.

Twilight Fairy : @twilightfairy

Sanjay: @mojosanjay

Gautam: @gautamghosh

Kumar Rahul: @kumar_rahul

Vishal Singhal: @vishalsinghal

Ashutosh: @xyzashu

Divya: @dichakravarty (all the way from bangalore)

Sameer: @sameergupta

Mayank Gupta: @mayankgupta

Krisnair: @krisnair

Nikhil: freakynikh at gmail dot com

Amrita: kumar dot amrita at gmail dot com

Rajbir: @rajjo19

Nitin: @ndhawan

Niraj: imniraj at gmail dot com

Vidhi: @vidhithakur

Vimoh: @vimoh

Dipankar: @dipankarsarkar

Maitrayee: maitrayee.rcy at gmail dot com

Ketu Desai: swetaketu79 at gmail dot com

Aionava: myspeedpost at gmail dot com

Abhijit: @jeetblog

Abhishek: @abhishek

Arun: @simplyarun

Pankaj: @pjain

Rohit: rohit.sharma3 at wipro dot com

Gurudatt : @prolificd

Mayank Dhingra: @mayankdhingra

Arjun : @arjunghosh

Gayatri : @grath

Sanjay Jha

Manik

Monica : @jasuja

Check some of the tweets from that day. Here are the posts on this event written by Gautam, Mayank. If anyone else has written anything about the event, please leave a comment here and it will be added in the roundup.



Social Media & Blog camp! – a description 8

I have been organising Delhi Blogger Meets and events around Delhi Bloggers, since many years now. Recently we did something quite differently. On 7th June’08, we managed to present a Social Media & blog camp for Delhi Bloggers Bloc – an online community of Delhi Bloggers. Blogging has come a long way and is one of the most powerful tools that are a part of “Social Media”. This post has been long pending since I was in the process of changing jobs during that time, and was also waiting for some of the speakers to provide me with their presentations. I still haven’t received all, but well, better late than never!

The DBB – social media and blog camp was held at Indiatimes, Gurgaon office on 7th June’08. The event venue, meal and snacks were sponsored by Indiatimes. We also had IBM & WordPress as promoters for this event. Tyroo ads was the online partner as well. There was another corporate – a leading telecom giant – who was going to be one of the sponsors but backed out at the last moment. All part of the game I guess! The event tags and pens were sponsored by Puneet of Superblogsecrets.com. Getting sponsorship was a learning experience in designing pitches and preparing concept notes. The giveaways were uber cool and perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises of the day. Indiatimes provided t-shirts and stationery. IBM provided sippers. WordPress provided some rather cute badges (which got lapped up very very quickly & I kept getting requests for them much later as well) and stickers. Indiatimes also had a lucky draw and provided all speakers as well as the lucky winners – a USB watch! How cool is that? A watch which also doubles up as a USB device.

We had released only 100 passes for this event and later had to extend them because of the high demand! I had to refuse some ppl who wanted to attend since we were already overflowing capacity. I had also been getting a lot of calls from people who wanted to speak at this event on a lot of interesting topics. However, we had to limit that too, much as we didnt like it! We had planned several talks by eminent personalities on relevant topics. The topics touched on web2.0 aspects in a lot of spheres.

The camp kicked off with N Madhavan’s talk on taxonomy of blogs – a way for newbies to identify where they are in this blogosphere. Madhavan is a senior journalist with HT with an active interest in New Media.

This was followed by a web 2.0 – travel industry perspective. Digital Marketing for the Travel Industry in the Web 2.0. Scenario was presented by Nirat Bhatnagar, co-founder of chahiye.info.

Rajesh Lalwani of blogworks.in presented two back to back sessions. Both were very well received. The first was Where are you going in your social media car? This session presented a perspective on social media – we talk so much about it but are we getting there yet? This was followed by an excellent case study Impact of social media on purchase – derived from personal expriences on purchase.

The next session was by Shyam Somanadh, Principal Architect, Network18 (Web18) who presented Participatory Media: The view from inside. He talked about some of the things that the Web18 team had done wrt social media on their own website. This was the time I learnt that “participatory” media is yet another term for social media.

This was followed by a quick talk on Twitter by Sanjukta Basu where she discussed twitter and also used it for a live demo.

We had to omit a rather interesting session on Social media – Socio cultural implications and trends – by Manav Deep Mianwal, Head Brand & Media, Airtel enterprise services since he couldnt be there due to personal reasons. We were running short of time, so this provided some getting back on track.

We quickly jumped to the session on Social media in the corporate context – presented by Natraj Akella, Brand strategy & marketing, IBM.
After this we had worked up quite an appetite and moved on to a great sumptuous lunch. The whole place was jampacked and people could be seen enjoying and of course networking.
After lunch we started with Bringing “Social” to software presented by Manish Dhingra, founder Tekriti software. This session talked about how to incoporate that social context in software.

This was followed by a “light” session – Exploiting the Internet – Riding somebody else’s Success by Jamshed V Rajan, Director products, Ibibo web pvt limited. Jammy is known for his humour blog – ouchmytoe.com and also showed us a rather interesting video on Social Media.

Then came a very debated session Protecting “New” in New Media by Prashant Singh. It presented various insights into our psyche about social media. Nikhil of Medianama.com, actually willingly gave up his session so that discussion around this topic could go on. He later presented his own take on the same topic.

A much needed session on Law & Technology was well presented by Gurpreet Singh, Internet Attorney. He discussed copyrights and trademarks.

This was followed by an interactive session on What makes mobile social networks successful? This was presented by Ekta Rohra Jafri.

The last session of the day was one that a lot of people had been waiting for. The monetary aspect of blogging (how could we not include that? 🙂 ).
Blogging Superstars : How to monetize a blog effectively? was conducted by Mohit Maheshewari, Co-founder Tonic Tag Media Pvt Ltd.

This event was quite well received by both the audience as well as those who wanted to present something. It is amazing to see how social media creeps into everything – be it the corporate world, purchase, travel, traditional media etc. There were a lot of other interesting topics that I wanted to have during our session. However due to limited time we could not. I would have also personally liked to do an elaborate session on photography and how it is benefitting due to social media. Due to lack of time with me as well as a well known photographer I had approached, we could not conduct this one. Next time surely!

The participants were a very intresting mix with people from internet companies, startups, national TV channels, IT personnel, civil society, lawyers, brand managers, social workers, mainstream newspapers etc. The news about this event had reached a lot of people. A surprise entrant was Pavan Duggal, the well known lawyer who also attended this event, having heard of it from a friend.

The day ended with a closing thanks by me, followed by lucky draw and surveys/feedbacks.
It was a fruitful day full of compliments for the enormous effort behind it. All this would not have been possible without Garima and Sanjay – my co-organisers for the event. Garima worked from the Indiatimes end. Sanjay and I, designed pitches, made powerplay presentations, posters, tags, schedules, invites, concept notes etc.

Here’s a mini glimpse of how Amit Ranjan of slideshare.net, saw it and enjoyed it :).  Here’s what Sanjukta, an oldie in our DBB group, had to say :). “social media and blog camp by Delhi Bloggers Bloc ws a total hit..v v engaging, interesting sessions. m proud to b an oldie in this grp “, says Sanjukta on twitter! Thanks Sanjukta :). Here’s what Shyam Somnadh says about the day. Here’s what Kreeti tweeted about the day – here and here.

Here are some of the pictures we clicked that day. It was a day very well spent after which we proceeded to sleep off the sleepless nights spent behind the organising of this mega event.