From dust to dusk October 31, 2009Posted by dcfrombc in International Social Justice Network.
Tags: British Council India, IIM, Justice, Munsiwada, PETA, Ramaji Vaid, Ruth Gee, Sahyog Trust, Social
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This post must begin with an apology since this was meant to be posted yesterday. We couldn’t. Because we were dog tired, sorry, dead tired (lest we offend animal lovers and PETA activisits for invoking the name of dog in vain) – after scouring Gujarat’s countryside on our field trips.
I accompanied Fred Guanais and Roberta Kacowicz from Brazil, Kevin Bacon from UK and Ruth Gee, our regional director in India and Sri Lanka to visit Rajendranagar and Munsiwada on field trip themed on access to healthcare. We were accompanied by Mahesh bhai from SRISTI and Priti Vashnavi from IIMA.
Sahayog Trust in Rajendranagar is at the forefront of leprosy patient rehabilitation in India, led by Suresh Soni.
We then made our way to Munsiwada village, deep into the tribal heartland in Sabarkantha district, to meet Ramaji Vaid, who uses traditional herbs to heal all those who come to him from far near, man or beast.
We left the high-speed fourlane highway for two lane state highway, which soon shrunk to thin ribbon of metalled road and eventually there was none. The last 2 kms to Ramaji Vaid is dirt track, and our convoy of Innovas bumped, rolled, groaned and finally, literally, scraped through to reach Ramaji’s village.
Ramaji welcomed us into his home, where his patients throng the long, colourful, verandah skirting his thatched mudhouse.
Ramaji patiently answers our questions, tells us how he picked up the knowledge of herbs from his father and careful observation of life around him. He tells us that his healing is not limited to human beings and domesticated animals but he has also found out herbal pesticides that are far less harmful than chemical ones but as effective.
Ramaji’s ‘laboratory’ is basic: chopper, knife, mortar and pestle, an electric grinder (all of Gujarat’s 18,000 villages have power practically 24×7, something even no metro city in India can boast of), open flame oven.
On our way back from Munsiwada, we take a wrong turn and loose our way in rural hinterland. But eventually we make it back to the highway and make sharp dash for Ahmedabad. The next event, the ‘Question Time’ with IIM-A students on Social Justice and Inclusive Growth’ is on from 9 pm (legend has it that IIM students sleep less than 4 hours a day on average during their gruelling 2 year course, preparing them for lifestyle to justify their 6 figure monthly salaries in the days ahead).
On the road, none for the road October 27, 2009Posted by dcfrombc in International Social Justice Network.
Tags: Ahmedabad, British Council, British Council India, IIM, Justice, Social
Sujata, Sanjay and I arrived in Ahmedabad day before yesterday, yet it seems as if we’ve been here for ages. For one, accompanied by Priti Vaishnavi of IIMA and Ramesh Patel of SRISTI, we have covered close to a thousand miles on the road, recce-ing the places colloquium delegates are likely to visit as part of their field trips.
And even as I prepare to upload the blog, delegates are getting ready to hit the road. Here are a couple of glimpses of what life on Indian highways look like.
In the evening, when we return today from the field trips, several of our delegates take part in a Question Time style event with the IIMA students on the topic of Social Justice and Inclusive Growth. I believe sparks will fly.
Before I sign off, I cannot resist uploading this picture of Sujata eventually falling to the guiles of the non-alcoholic beer. When in Rome, do as Romans do!
Setting the scene October 23, 2009Posted by dcfrombc in International Social Justice Network.
Tags: Ahmedabad, Brazil, British Council, British Council India, China, Health care, IIM, India, Justice, Livelihood, Mahatma Gandhi, Mexico, Primary education, Right based work, Social, South Africa, UK
The First Colloquium of the International Social Justice Network (ISJN) sets its scene at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIM – A), India, from 27 to 29 October.
Part of British Council India’s Intercultural Dialogue programme, the colloquium hopes to establish the first international network of policy makers working in the area of social justice and equity in the middle income economies (India, China, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa) and the UK, and facilitate South-North learning on critical issues such as education, livelihood, shelter, healthcare and civil rights.
Our partners, the IIM – A, is particularly apt as hosts for the colloquium. It is, without doubt, India’s premier business school and amongst the world’s best. The co-convener of the ISJN colloquium is the remarkable Prof Anil Gupta, who leads a team of students and researchers in documenting innovation, ideas and entrepreneurship in rural India.
The best and brightest usually sign up for Prof Gupta’s courses and usually accompany the iconic professor on his ‘shodhyatras’ – long treks that cover hundreds of miles in rural India. A business survey carried out sometime back said that over 50% of India’s CEO’s are IIM-A alumni. It is difficult to imagine better grooming ground of future corporate leaders.
The architecture of the IIM-A campus is stunning. Created by Louis Kahn, Balakrishna Doshi and Anant Raje, the exposed brickwork buildings with huge arches and open spaces give the 60 acre original campus a timeless, monumental look. This youtube clip captures a touching conversation between Kahn’s son Nathaniel and Balakrishna Doshi, part of Nataniel Kahn’s Oscar-nominated documentary My Architect: a Son’s Journey (2003).
On our recent visit a few weeks back, Sujata, Sanjay and I dropped in at the Ashram, a tranquil heart in the middle of a bustling city. Schoolchildren bussed in from various parts of the state trooped around in relative silence, flakes of hushed conversation in various languages, Indian and foreign, swirled around and settled almost as silently as snow.
On the verandah of the house where the Mahatma lived from 1918 to 1930, sat an avuncular man, inviting visitors to try their hand at spinning the charkha, the wheel that spun a thousand revolutions in India under the Mahtama’s leadership.
I gave it an honest try, though Sujata and Sanjay were clearly not impressed!
After long discussions with Prof Gupta, and his students, Raju Mahana and Gautam Prateek on the programme and various aspects of managing the project, we were shown the colloquium venue by Mr Baskaran. The Blue Room, named after its famed blue carpet, now alas, replaced with standard beige, is a large hall, about 100 feet square, with plenty of natural light and all the accoutrements of an international conference room.
Late in the evening, directed by Moumita, our colleague in Ahmedabad (Sujata has named her Magic Moumita), we find ourselves in Manek Chowk , the market place in old town, now thick with crowds looking for the best deal on practically everything under the sun. Sujata heads for the spectacular “churan” shops that sell delectable natural digestives and mouth fresheners (never mind the unpalatable, unmanageable translation! If you are wondering why on earth digestives and mouth fresheners would go together, please post a comment.)
It is difficult to miss a certain innocence in Ahmedabad, however fragile it may be below the surface. Is it because there are ice-cream parlours where in other cityscapes thirsty eyes would seek out bars? Or could it be because we see in the Mahatma’s own backyard MontBlanc re-branding the messiah of anti-globalisation as a uber-cool khadi-clad fashion icon?
There’s lots to talk about Ahmedabad. And there’s a lot to talk in Ahmedabad – our next post will be live from the ISJN Colloquium.