Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Scrap Collector! The Flute player!

This Monday was unlike any other day for me as well as for the residents of Tilak road, Nal stop and Nav Sahyadri society. For these people saw today a scene which they had probably never seen before.

An unusual pair was walking down the streets. There was a scrap collector with his handcart, wearing his usual rags and along with him there was a well dressed youth shouting, “Scrap collector, waste papers…” just as the ragged old man shouts!

Why is this nice young man behaving in such a strange fashion? He appears to be from a good family from the look of his clothes and from the way he talks! Then why is he collecting scrap? These were the questions arising in the minds of the watching people…

And the answer? Only one.. Deepa Tai’s email! Because that youth was me! I was highly influenced by the film ‘Tomorrow’ which we had seen in Gadchiroli just like everyone else. I had read Deepa Tai’s mail around 5th or 6th of August and decided that I’ll spend 16th August collecting scrap with the scrap collector. But for some reason the 18th dawned. Anyways…

After reading the title of the article you must be wondering at the connection between the flute player and the scrap collector. It was the afternoon of 28th July that I was returning after posting a letter near the Nav Sahyadri post office when I heard some very melodious notes of the flute. When I reached the source of the sound, I saw that the scrap collector was sitting under a tree and was playing the flute very beautifully! The flute was broken in several places. He had apparently repaired it and was playing some very melodious songs. On asking him, I found out, someone had given off that flute as scrap some 5 to 6 years back which he had picked up. He
repaired the flute and started playing it… Over time, he quite liked his new pastime and developed it as his passion through diligent practice and perseverance without going for any music classes. Today he can play around 20 songs on the flute, new and old alike!

I met him on the 13th and asked him if I could accompany him on his rounds on the 18th. Accordingly on the 18th of August, we set off on our rounds at around 1 in the afternoon and walked for 8 to 10 km till 5.30 in the evening. After walking so much, our profit was 130

The scrap collector earns Rs. 170 to 220 on an average per day, after walking for almost 10 to 20 km. in such a meager profit, I wondered how he managed to raise his kids, pay the rent for his home and spare money for all his other expenses. Hesitating a little, I asked him this question. He told me he had a small farm in a village near Ahmednagar. However, he could not depend on this farm as his sole means of income and so he shifted to Pune. In the evening, I brought him home and gave him some snacks. And then he played some 7 – 8 songs on the flute foe all of us at home, my mother, my father and my grandmother. I have even done some video shooting on my mobile!

I still had some questions in my mind but didn’t have the courage to ask him… I did learn a few things though!
  1. I had completely lost my shame (not that I had much in the first place!).
  2. I experienced his life of endless efforts.
  3. And I learnt to find the silver lining for every cloud!
--- Siddharth Prabhune

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ramesh Panse's work

Ramesh Panse kaka is working on बाल शिक्षण (early childhood and elementary education) since last 23 years. He underlined the importance of improving baal-shikshan. It is one of the most important education and one of the most ignored in our country. Early childhood is the effective age during which mental capabilities such as grasping, understanding, memory of a kid are developing.

Rameshkaka made us think from the simplest things (right from seating arrangement for kids) to the complex things (the curriculam nature and its effects) about this education. To know more about Ramesh Panse please click here.

Nature of the problem

People as well as our education system thinks that baal-shikshan is obvious and it is not needed to pay much attention. Sagar pointed out the principle that Nayna told - try to identify a problem which the socienty/communitiy feels that it is a problem. But for this education, there hardly seems an demand or urge of people because they do not feel that it is a problem. Panse kaka's reply to this : Some problems of the society are not even known to people that they exist. Panse kaka mentioned that for such problems, one is needed to work at multiple levels - spreading awareness, scientific research and studies, hitting at the right points in the administrative network (such as approaching the education ministry for changes to implemented throughout), giving "proof-of-concept" for the theories/principles. Some of these steps might not show results immediately, but they are needed.

Principles of Gram-Mangal (as I understood)

We didn't have a discussion on education in higher classes, nor have I read any book of Panse kaka yet, so, for time being, I am writing considering only baal-shikshan.

1. Importance to children/students rather than importance to teachers : As an example, why is it needed for a teacher to have a table and chair (or a dias) in the class? Why can't he just sit with students? Also, why is that benches are needed till 4th standard? Can't it happen that children are sitting on covered floor which is more suitable for their sporty/unstable nature? etc.

2. No homeworks till 4th standard : Panse kaka and the teachers in school mentioned that all studies till 4th standard can be done in class only.

3. Project based learning : Rather than teaching all subjects independent of each other, can they be somehow combined? For example, consider a learning scheme based on web-charts. Consider water as a project/subject - there will be a chapter related to water in science, there can be a poem on water/rains in languages, there can be environmental awareness regarding water, there can be essay writing on usages or water, and a lot of it. For the exact benefits of this scheme, I guess one has to read the books on this subject.

4. School as something enjoyable : Students should love to come to school and they should feel homely there. As a simple example, the principal of the school (Kadekar sir) mentioned that, the sir and madam are not called "sir" and "madam" by the students. Instead they are called "kaka" and "mavshi" which makes children feel more closer and secure.

5. Group based learning : Rather than teaching the whole class, where students of different capabilities are addressed together, group based learning is emphasized. What that means is, one student might have more interest in languages and less interest in science. So, for a languages class, there will be some students who will lead the others - form groups of students of same level for each subject and teach/address the students in groups rather than as a whole class. Group based learning assures attention to every student and it caters to student's learning needs.

Different fronts that need to be worked on

As already mentioned, Panse kaka is working at various levels to tackle the problem.

1. Research is needed and is motivated. He himself has done lot of research in this and written a number of books based on his research.

2. Spreading awareness : He's running a monthly educational magazine

3. Gathering people who have similar thoughts and exchange thoughts: Baal shikshan parishad is an organization to which Panse kaka has contributed a lot (I am not sure if he founded it, sorry for my ignorance). The conference (adhiveshan) of the Parishad is conducted once a year which is happening in November this time. I will post the details in a separate mail.

4. Running schools implementing the principles/ideas at Vai and Aina (may be at some more places as well).

5. Creating a movement which will pressurize the government to take concrete actions

In my mail, I have just tried to give an overview of Panse kaka's work and thoughts about बाल शिक्षण.This by no means is complete. Interested junta can read his books for more understanding.


Monday, August 25, 2008

जनता की नाव

कुछ लोग व्यवस्था के रस्सी से बंधी नाव खें रहें है
संपूर्ण विकास का ज़ायका ले रहे है|
लाख खेंते है, नाव हिलती नहीं,
एक दुसरे को गालियाँ दे रहे है|

जब मैंने उनको कहा की रस्सी को काटो;
पहले रस्सी को काटो फिर नाव आगे बढाओ
वो तभी गुस्सा होके बोले की,
"बेवकूफ क्या तुम्हारे दिमाग में भूसा भरा है?
काम के समय ऐसी बातों को उठाते हो?
आना है तो आओ, तुम भी पतवार चलाओ!
तुम्हारे जैसे सिरफिरे ही काम के समय ऐसी बातों को उठाते है,
जानते नहीं रस्सी काटने से नाव बहनें का डर है?"

"रही रस्सी की बात, वोह एक एक दिन टूट जायेगी
नहीं तो हम व्यवस्था से इतनी बड़ी रस्सी माँगेंगे,
की बंधी होने के बावजूद, नाव को मंजिल--मक्दूत ले जाएंगे,
आना है तो आओ, तुम भी पतवार चलाओ"

सचमुच, मैं उनकी बातों को समझता नहीं
और कूद के तैरनें लगता

आवाजें आती है "अच्छा हुआ, अब काम के समय कोई सवालों को नहीं उठाएगा,
लेकिन इसके बाल बच्चों का क्या होगा?"

हर लहर मुझे थपडें मारती है,
हर लहर मुझे डुबाना चाहती है,
लेकिन हर लहर मुझे तैरना सिखाती है!

मैं मुडके देखता हूँ, तो दूर किनारे पर...
कुछ लोग व्यवस्था के रस्सी से बंधी नाव खें रहें है
संपूर्ण विकास का जायका ले रहे है|
लाख खेंते है, नाव हिलती नहीं,
एक दुसरे को गालियाँ दे रहे है|

-श्याम बहाद्दुर नम्र

Monday, August 11, 2008

New World

Noise levels in the room were increasing. Everyone was speaking on top of their voices. This was a usual scene in our ‘Vishwashanti PG Accommodation’ in Ahmedabad. Usually the topics would be something like…how much weight someone has gained, or lost…who broke up with her boy friend…who got a new one…Samarbhai’s (our PG owner) new affair…etc. And everything had to begin with “You know what??!!!!”

But today however the discussion was going on a different topic.

It all started with an advertisement of Kingfisher Airlines on some magazine which was lying on bed. On impulse I asked suddenly, “People, do you think Vijay Mallya is someway responsible for ruining thousands of peoples’ life because of his liquor kingdom??”
And now, it was all of them against me.
“How can you hold him responsible??”… “He is just doing business; he is not coming and telling you to start drinking!!”…”Don’t you have your own brain?? You don’t know how much to drink or what??”…”And everyone does not become a drunkard…I mean….come on!!”….”Yaar! I can’t imagine a party without Drinks!”….”I swear! God knows what my entire family will do if there are no drinks!!”
Vijay Mallya had just too many fans on his side.
All I was saying that when there are hundred thousand better things to produce in world & better ways of generating income, why should one choose to produce things that ruin peoples and in turn society??? And then sell them wrapped in dreams of ‘Unchi Pasand’, or a dashing personality???
But nobody was in a state of listening to me. In this high of status, in things, modern culture, broad mind, nobody had time to think whether it was right or wrong.
How can things be like this?? How can people do something like this?? How can one talk like this?....were the only questions that would spin my head all the time.
“Wow cake!! I wish we had drinks in hostel today.”….But why?? Nobody knows.
I was by now used to hearing proud justifications of father who takes bribe, because he has to give his family a decent life…I mean…c’mon!! How only money matters, by hook or crook how you should earn money, how all this right & wrong stuff was Pakau!!

Head on shoulders and feet heavily grounded was what my bringing up was all about. The moment we (me and my sis) would start flying high, my father will happily bang us back to ground. So this hostel & CEPT University, both were royal cultural shocks for me.

In my hostel I was seeing a 21 year old girl, left behind by her parents who immigrated to US on the basis of blood relation, just to settle her younger brother in US. I was seeing a girl who was in Ahmedabad for her CAT preparation, who didn’t attend the class for a single day and was spending Rs 3000 per month for accommodation. I was seeing people who were working in call centres after doing their B. Com., and didn’t have a slightest idea of what are they going to do ahead.

And in CEPT?? One of the prime institutes in India...you would be awed by knowledge of your professors and then see them all drunk, talking crap in the welcome party arranged for students. All the would be planners…dreaming of entering planning commission one day, were too lazy to put their discarded coffee cups in dustbin…
This was my Ahmedabad life all about.
What is their philosophy of life?? That one governing principle…???
Masti?? Aish??Money??Movies??
But…is this life?? Is this life all about??? Or is it just that I am abnormal….I don’t know how to live life…how to ‘enjoy’?? I would be with them, talk to them, laugh with them…They thought I am their good friend. I thought they were not my friends.
They were not bad! Everyone had a pure person living inside them….but often it was suppressed by the kind of choices they made for their life. One voice within me constantly said…this is not done!! There is a clear difference between right and wrong!! It is not relative….Some things are wrong no matter how many justifications you find for them…But what is going around us?? Today nobody is bothered about it. The reference line between right and wrong is fading away….

Many times I would get fed up with Ahmedabad. Pune was hundred times better, I would think. May be because there was Tekdi…there was Sudarshan rangamanch…there was Sandeep khare….But above all, I had my own small world. There was dad, mom, few but true friends…who talked my language, not of words…but thoughts…and there was swadhyay…which taught us that language in the first place…
There, any good article one came across would be shared, good books, music would be shared, cross references between Ayn Rand writings, Stephen Covey and Bhagwad Geeta would be found out…

May be here onwards I will come across all hypocrites.
And while being with them in the so called ‘corporate’ culture of ‘excuse me’, ‘sorry’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Nice to meet you’ etc…this small world of mine was like my fragile protection. It was all I had…and it had to be guarded with all my life….

But keeping this world together was increasingly being difficult. One friend in US, one in UK, me in Ahmedabad, one in Balewadi and one left in Pune. All we had was mobile phones and G-Talk…that’s it…Often I would get depressed. This was not done!! I was loosing my hope. There must exist some other world…I would think…A better one….which I don’t know how to enter.

On such frustrated turn of life something like Nirman will happen to me was the last thing I expected.I still remember….it was a lazy Sunday morning. Outside was pleasantly lit with morning rays. I was at my pg., gearing up for the day. We didn’t have college because it was thesis semester. But there was pile of work waiting for me. And suddenly my cel phone rang with message alert. “Woah!! Right in morning its ringing!! I wondered. Yes. Because generally it never rings. It was ashwinitai’s (our family friend) message. Lips automatically turned into smile. “Hi! Hows you? You know Abhay Bang right? He conducts some camp for young people at SEARCH Gadchiroli. The forms are available now. You can also ask for the form through e-mail. It is worth attending. Google a bit on this. Chinmay has soft copy of the form in his email. I will ask him to forward it to you. What else?? When are you coming to Pune? Missing you!”
From this small message, to me attending Nirman, is a small but interesting journey. After that message I read more about Nirman through articles in Saptahik Sakal, read the form…and I thought…may be this has key to the world which I think of…may be this would open hose closed doors…

Hoping this I came to Nirman and in these 7 days I realized…this is it!!! This is what I was looking for…so franticly…People here were talking my language…not of words…but of thoughts...
All the reference line were matching. 84 people…from different places…different backgrounds…met while searching for a new world. How much change we will bring in the situation around us is still in unclear. But we at least will live on our terms…without compromising on them…without submitting to this so called ‘corporate culture’…Just when I had started loosing faith in this world, God has extended his hand.Today that small world of mine is all crowded with many new friends rushing to enter it. My cel keeps ringing!! Just when I thought that after taking up job life will be monotonous and kind of boring…its all so refreshing

I just hope I find my bread and butter on this path and then life will be an all time fun!!

-Amruta Pradhan

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Learning Home

This was my 1st visit to "learning home". What is this learning home? Ummm… should I call it a school? Nope! Is it an educational institute? Yes… but it still sounds a very big word… I would rather say that it is a small and beautiful homely world - just for children!

Many of us must have experienced in our school days when just for the purpose of some inspection or any minor visit, we all were requested or ( scolded?) to sit neatly, in perfect rows, according to height, and then unanimously say " good morning" or " namasteeeee"…

Gone is that ideology! Learning home has no such army rules. When I was little awkward to enter a group, one small boy said, "hi! Come! Sit here with me!". such a warm greet! Then I joined them. I played a small game with those 1st and 2nd standard students, listened to their stories, songs.

The first thing I noticed was the harmony among those students and also between them and their "taai" ( don't want to call her a teacher!). All were active participants and no one was left out. They were thoroughly enjoying each and every moment. Songs were interesting with lot of humor and acting in it. All were moving, dancing, jumping, and clapping according to their own wish. If anyone doesn't want to move so much, he was free to choose his own way of expression by all means! The whole environment was as fresh as those little champs!

After some time I moved to another group of 4th standard students. All students were engrossed in writing some essay except one who welcomed me by his own style. " why are you here? Who are you? What is your name?" he fired with his AK- 47! I was little fumbled. Such an arrogant attitude! But before I could settle myself to give him a few answers, the same boy held my hand and said, " will you chat with me?".

His name was Rutu. Anyone can easily notice the difference between him and other children. He was sitting on a chair with few cut pieces of sponge. Rutu was unable to walk on his own or even sitting independently without support was not possible. He is a victim of "cerebral palsy". It occurs due to brain lesion in early years of life before myelination of the brain gets completed. Though he was not participating in classroom work, he was all with them! Everyone was taking his care. One small girl came and wiped his mouth. The other came and took all efforts to make him sit properly in a chair. Those small children were taking care that Rutu should never feel that he is not exactly like others, he has certain problems, limitations. If children of year say 7 or 8 can have such a high emotional quotient, why do grown ups not understand such small things? Do they think little more or not at all?? Don't know but " the little prince''(a book written by Antoine De Saint-Exupery) correctly says, " all grown-ups are like that"! I was taken aback by Rutu's knowledge about car. He was no less than any 4th standard student in that class room except certain motor skills. Today, how many children with cerebral palsy go to the school? There are many such patients coming for physiotherapy treatment in our pediatric dept. Very less parents are enthusiastic about their child's education. This attitude is because of physical limitations. So even transport, compliance of the school teacher pose a problem. But here, Rutu was getting mixed up with all. He was happy and energetic! I remembered one incidence from "Tottochan"( a book written by Tetstuko Kuroyanagi) where the headmaster of "Tomoii" school took all efforts to get takahashi and yaasukichan ( both had certain physical limitations) their best physical abilities. Afterall what is school? It is the first exposure to the external world. Here we learn not just the syllabus but also different ways to tackle the problem, different ways to handle the situation, different styles of behaviors, does and don'ts in a particular situation, different angles of looking at life. So, how can we ignore children with physical limitations? Mixing with all types of people, acceptance of minute adjustments and a very positive approach towards self and life! Rutu, along with all his classmates are really becoming " good human beings" !! No need of special lecture on " moral education"!

In one corner one taai was making hard efforts to make student learn some mathematical concept. Giving her as much time needed, leading her towards correct definition, giving her hints, telling her the same concept in different ways and if still not understood asking her to think about it and come up with her own logic! That girl then came up with her own definition and logic. I would not say that it was illogical but atleast it was difficult to understand for taai and me! At the end taai was somewhat successful in coming up with an acceptable definition.

There were many charts, drawings attached to the wall. One chart captured my attention. The title was " when do I laugh and when do I cry?" Children had written wide variety of reasons. Such an easy technique of self analysis! Psychology lessons start here!

Then I met Prerana taai Walimbe who is the head of "Learning Home''. She gave a brief idea about the basic principles and philosophy of "Learning Home''. We all must be knowing Ramesh Panse who is an educationist. He runs an NGO called 'Gram-mangal'. learning home is one of the educational institutes run by Gram-mangal. Basic principle on which it runs is " brain based education" and " multiple intelligence theory". To say in brief, it is a cognitive learning process. It takes into account child's various skills and intelligence and tries to stimulate them by variety of techniques. It tries to achieve multidimensional growth of the child. It means educating the child according to his/her need. Afterall education is one of our basic needs. It is a food for our brain! Learning home does not follow SSC board syllabus blindly. But it definitely takes into account what all abilities are to be developed for each standard student. So, they work to develop 'Abilities….. '

Examination methodology is different from that of typical 'SSC board' type. It goes on checking the development of a particular ability. No terms called 'pass' and 'fail'. Detailed evaluation of each and every student is given to the parents. This is possible because of less number of students and personal interaction with each student and parents.

At the end, while coming down from the stairs, I got the last shock! Many students were sitting in a big circle around our state map deeply involved in finding something.. I said 'bye' to them and one smart girl asked me, " do you know the names of the rivers which flow through Nandurbar district?" I just smiled and then came out with a masked face! I had definitely understood the need of many more "learning homes"!

-Mukta Gundi

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First attempt: What does Arun Deshpande do?


What is Sustainability?
If we analyse our way of living we see that we need energy for fulfilling many of our needs. Everything that we do is driven by energy. Let us look at our most basic needs.

1. Food:
Energy of the sun is used by plants and through photosynthesis it is converted to certain carbon derivatives, which we can eat. If we pluck a fruit from a tree and eat it, we get some energy. It is nothing but solar energy in another form. Energy is required for our sustenance. However we do not always pluck fruits of the tree and eat it. Sometimes, we also eat Alphonso mangoes which reach us all the way from Ratnagiri. A lot of energy is required, for preservation of these fruits, transporting them all over the world etc. Thus much more energy is expended in post production work.

Where does this energy required for processes such as transport etc. come from? Today most of this energy comes from fossil fuels i.e. petrol, diesel etc. So, today our lifestyle is completely dependent on these fossil fuels. Our entire existence is possible only because of fossil fuels.

Can we keep living he way we are today (totally dependent on fossil fuels)? The answer is a clear NO because of 2 reasons that I can think of.

a. The fossil fuels are limited: Fossil fuels are formed by the decomposition of vegetation over millions of years. That means the fossil fuels we are using today took millions of years to form. Either we wait for a million more years before the next deposit of fossil fuel is formed or we find some way in which this cycle of millions of years be reduced to a sustainable time period.

b. They are environmentally hazardous: When does something become environmentally hazardous? Firstly it is poisonous the second reason is a little involved. I will need to elaborate.

If we observe things around us, everything in nature is cyclic. Elements such as carbon, nitrogen etc. flow through a cycle. Let us take the example of carbon. Its present in the air as Carbon dioxide. Plants take in the carbon dioxide and convert it to carbohydrates. When we consume plants, we get carbohydrates which when oxidized, release energy and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide returns to the air and the cycle completes. If we break this cycle, then we will not be able to sustain.

Life depends on the flow of energy and materials. If we break this flow, life cannot sustain. Our Current life is not sustainable.

With this background, we need to ask the question, are we living a life which is sustainable? If not, then what should be done to make it sustainable.

There could be a hundred ways to make our lives sustainable. It is necessary that we start thinking in that direction. Arun Deshpande has done just that. He has also started implementing some of his ideas.

The project at Ankoli is a step towards establishing a model of life which is sustainable.

As I am wondering about sustainability and writing about a new lifestyle altogether, I feel that people who wrote the Ten Commandments or the religious books must have gone through a similar exercise. It is exactly like setting up a code of living for which I believe the religious books were written. The difference is that the codes that we are about to set will have to displace the existing lifestyle. This makes it all the more challenging. Arun kaka has taken up that challenge!!

As I understood, he is not just trying to develop a sustainable model, but also fighting against the prevailing lifestyle. The idea is of a 'Rurban Lifestyle'. The motivation is that urban and rural lifestyles, each have their own shortcomings. Let us develop a lifestyle which eliminates the shortcomings of both these and is sustainable. Just to name a few, the shortcomings of the cities are that they consume much more that they produce, they are environmentally hazardous. Simply put they are extremely unsustainable. On the other hand, the current village system has its own shortcoming, such as lack of education, social problems (caste, andhashraddha etc).

Another very interesting thing to keep a note of is that many conclusions that we will draw will be in line with Gandhi's philosophy. I have not done an in depth study of Gandhi's philosophy but the little that I know has a lot of similarity. Also what was the motivation behind Gandhi's philosophy is not know to me but our motivation is sustainability. I would like to treat this similarity as a coincidence at this point. :))

First I will write about those things which I understood well

1. Water: A very important requirement. For water Arun kaka has developed the project of Water Bank. As the name suggests it is a place where you store water. Keep all the excess water that you have. What ever water comes in the form of rain is stored in the water bank. The water bank is designed depending on the no. of people it is made for. It is lined with a plastic sheet, so that water does not percolate. (Yes it is different from Pani Adwa, Pani Jirwa). On the contrary water is pumped out from the wells and stored in the water bank. A particular chemical is put on the water which minimises the evaporation of water. This water is then used for the farming as well as domestic needs.

2. Housing: Arun Kaka has developed fantastic dome structures which can be made out of bamboo. They are also called geodesic domes. They are very strong structures and are environmentally friendly. The best part is that we can build our house on our own in one day :)))). So Housing is a solved problem.

Now some of the things that I am still unsure about.
3. Food: Hmmm.... We need to grow what we need. Or all that we need must be grown in our Panch Kroshi. This needs more elaboration. Ankoli junta, help me out with this.

4. Other Needs: This is where the real challenge is. How does one's needs such as education, health etc. get satisfied. Actually this aspect puts me to think about another very fundamental thing in today's world. That is MONEY. What I am thinking about is that if all people start living like that, what will be the source of money?? Basically what will be the medium of exchange. I am actually stuck here, because in this kind of lifestyle i don't see any occupation or dhanda which will fetch me money.I have reached a very dreamy conclusion, that the new medium of exchange will be energy.

**I really need to understand this MONEY thing.
Well this much for now. More in a few days as I myself build a little clarity. Those who visited ankoli please add to what ive written.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Khuda Ke Liye

The first emotion I experienced after seeing the movie was of extreme relief. When some long standing conflict that you are facing suddenly gets resolved, a heavy burden you are carrying suddenly gets released, the air you breathe suddenly fills your lungs completely without being obstructed in any way... Thats how I felt and am still feeling as I write. Conflict, violence, wars on the basis of religion, the current religious intolerance around the world has worried me for a long time now. I was unable to find a solution to this, because I felt that the problem was in the fundamentals of the religions. That two religions cannot coexist was a fundamental truth and that was what was written in the texts of the religions. But I was WRONG. The movie made me realize this which is why the relief :))

Varied Interpretations

Many religions today rely on texts. What is written in the texts is believed to be the truth. But is it possible to put truth, 'satya' into words? Can words capture the truth and convey its completeness? This is the risk we run when we write about higher concepts, and which is where the scope for interpretation enters. How true it is when they say 'to read between the lines'!! A set of words can be extrapolated in so many ways!! What needs to be done is to bring out peaceful interpretations, tolerant interpretations. This is exactly what 'Khuda Ke Liye' does. An interpretation which is as powerful, if not more to the fundamentalist interpretations of Islam which are in vogue today.

The solution to the problem of inter religious conflicts lies in the study of religious texts not just by people who follow the particular religion but by people who follow other religions as well. Not just by men but by women also. By rich, poor, young, old; all people. Let all these interpretations come out and from them, form the power of collective wisdom, let the truth emerge!!

Nasseruddin Shah

Waah!! What a performer! I wonder how the process must have been when he was delivering his dialogs in the court scene. I would have really liked to witness how he practiced his dialogs and how the path to perfection was!! This movie has done some fundamental research of Islam without which this last court scene which is the essence of this movie is not possible. My respects to the director (Shoaib Mansoor) and the researcher for bringing this interpretation and to Nasseruddin Shah for his capacity to carry off such a powerful message.


The movie has described how the world views Islam and how there is diversity in how Muslims themselves view Islam. It is necessary that people such as the one represented by Nasseruddin Shah speak up and bring to the open their interpretations and understandings. Its necessary for us all to understand each other and to do so understand each others beliefs too. Otherwise its just not possible to understand why a person thinks or acts in a particular way.

A must watch!!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Reply and the Learning

This is a follow up to the article that I wrote about How to file and RTI. You can read it here!! I got the reply to the RTI application that I had filed. Mr. Joglekar who gave me the relevant documents was a very friendly person and was the first Public Information Officer for IIT when the RTI Act was passed. He explained to me how an organization can be proactive and make as much information public so the the need for filing for information does not remain. For example IIT can maintain a website where all the developmental activities that it is doing can be put up for people to read.

Reply Summary

About 250 trees have been felled at various locations across IIT. The purpose of felling of these trees is for new constructions such as hostel extension, new department, convention centre etc. What is interesting to note is that if we have to cut a tree then we have to inform the Tree Authority of BMC first, then they survey the area and mark the trees that need to be cut. Only after that can the trees be cut. Also for every tree that is cut, two new saplings need to be planted and a deposit of the order of Rs. 5000 per tree is to be kept with the BMC. A regular update of survival of these trees is to be given to the Corporation and after a period of three years, if the survival rate is found adequate, the deposit is returned. This was some of the factual information.

Whether any alternate solution was studied, the reply plainly says that no alternate solution was found.

This is the section which used to be completely covered with trees


This experience brought up so many points that I wouldn't have learnt otherwise.

  • Functioning of a government machinery
The government machinery has a clear hierarchy in its functioning. If we want that something be done in a different way, we have to make sure that we are heard by the most upstream person in the decision making. For example, in case of the cutting of trees, it is the Dean of Planning activities in IIT who takes these decisions. The Horticulture department will execute the orders given by the Dean. They are not directly responsible for taking any decisions.

  • With not Against
Many a times certain things have to be done. For example, the capacity of students in IIT needs to be increased. Now its the responsibility of the Dean to fulfill this requirement. The Dean has no other option but to build new buildings which means cut more trees. So its necessary to have communication with Deans without which it would be unfair to assume that the decision makers are not concerned about the environment. It would be more fruitful if we can convince the Dean and work with him.

  • Development Vs Environment?
The classic question!! A difficult answer. If we want to stop certain developmental activity because we feel it is harming the environment, we must have an alternate solution ready. Otherwise our argument has not strength. But, will there always be an alternate solution? Maybe not.. And then what do we do?

  • Politics? hmmm....
With this one act of filing for information, I realized the power of being in a position of power. What if the Dean was a proactive person really concerned about environment. What if he put efforts to study the campus, demarcate areas which will be maintained green, develop a proposal which will study how much expansion is possible in the campus, make sure all new buildings coming up are built taking into account energy efficiency.

More importantly what if I was the Dean? Why do I not want to be in a position of power, if that is the best possible position to be in to make a difference? I don't have the conviction to answer this question.

  • One small step by thousands of people?
This brings me to a borrowed dream seen by many people in the past!! How will an individual be the change agent. How will every person stand up for the environment. But even before I start so many obstacles come in. Poverty, caste issues, religion, violence, population... and then when all of these are solved, we can start thinking about environment. Very true, sitting in my room in front of a laptop its very easy to lament about the state of the environment because I don't have to struggle for food everyday. Really, this world is complex and necessarily exploitative in nature. One can survive only at the expense of the other.

Its so difficult to find meaning to life, ain't it?


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Animal Farm


I finished "Animal Farm" by George Orwell in this week. I had read it in my childhood and had also seen the movie, but probably understood the novella in its truest sense this time.A fantastic book and a MUST READ for everyone.

The book is a satire of the Bolshevik revolution that took place in Soviet Russia in 1917 and the events that then folded up. A farm called Manor Farm owned by some Mr. Jones (Tsar of Russia) has many animals who are living in misery and suffering under the monarchy of Mr. Jones. An elderly boar on the farm, the Old Major (resembles Marx as well as Lenin) gives a passionate speech and incites the animals to fight for their freedom. As a result, the "Rebellion" takes place and Jones is driven out of the farm. Two pigs Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin) then unite and lead the other animals. In the course of time, the rivalry and power struggle between these two increases and finally Napoleon captures the power. How does then the beautiful dream of Freedom, Self-governance, Equality and Happiness crashes is better to be read actually from the book than from me. The torment of the Proletariat (the lowest class of citizens) really astounds us. A glimpse of this can be seen from how the commandments that the animal originally decide for themselves are changed to suit the dictatorship of Napoleon.
The Original Seven Commandments
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

Written originally by Snowball, the Seven Commandments were the "unalterable" principles of 'Animalism'. Since not all of the animals can remember them (or read them), they are boiled down into one basic statement: 'Four legs good, two legs bad!' (with wings counting as legs for this purpose).

All of the Seven Commandments are eventually broken by Napoleon and his pigs for their own personal gain. Squealer (Napoleon's media manager) constantly changes the Commandments to the pigs' benefit, taking advantage of the other animals. For example:

  • No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets
  • No animal shall drink alcohol to excess
  • No animal shall kill any other animal without cause
  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
In the end, the pigs learn to stand on two legs and regard the four-legged populace as inferiors. They start to wear Mr. Jones' clothes, sleep in beds and drink alcohol. They brutally order the killings of all of the confessing animals who try to oppose the despotism (who are forced to confess to crimes they did not commit)

The Commandments' summation "Four legs good, two legs bad!" is changed to 'Four legs good, two legs better!' as the pigs become more human. Finally they start dealings with those humans whom the animals have been hating all through the course of their revolution. (Socialism kneeling in front of Capitalism may be)

I will definitely say that the allegory is extremely subtle and just too good. Reading the document attached with this mail will give you a detailed overview of the book as well as the real life significance of characters in the story which is very interesting.

I will definitely like to discuss various issues that are raised in the book. Anyone interested, please communicate.

In the end, a must read. Just go for it!!

- Amrut