Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Request from Melghat

******FINAL UPDATE, Feb 2010*******
Phew! Getting a laptop is not easy. After a two month long struggle, our volunteers in Mumbai managed to secure a new laptop with a very good configuration for Anil Dhurve. We also plan to try and sell some of his paintings, the proceeds of which will be set aside for his education.

**********21st December - UPDATE**********
The money for the laptop has been raised, thanks to all our volunteers and friends. We will soon be placing an order for the laptop and then handing it over to the boy. Thank you all, for following this blog faithfully. The last and final update will be soon, after the boy receives the machine.

**********20th December - UPDATE**********
In continuation with our efforts to get the laptop for Anil Dhurve, my friend in Samsug has offered the following quote Pl check out the configuration in this link
The model no is Samsung NP-R420 and the price is Rs 20000/-.Have checked the notebook, prima facie looks like this will more than satisfy his requirements and it is a high end one. He has to load Coral Draw and photoshop separately.If anybody can get a lower price than this , it would be excellent. Lets try to clear this before 24th Dec as discussed


Please look into back to back email conversations (Oldest one first and so on) below requesting help for a boy from a tribal village in Amravati, to pursue his education in Mumbai. He requires a laptop computer for his Arts course. He is being referred to us by our friends in KHOJ.

Please talk to your friends, offices, relatives, whomever you can talk to and find out if a used laptop computer can be donated or sold off at a cheap rate to the boy.

MAIL 1 - The request
Dear friends,

Greetings from KHOJ!

We are writing to you with an urgent appeal -
Anil Dhurve is a tribal boy from one of the interior villages of Chikhaldara block in Melghat region of Amravati district. He met us with a problem relating to non payment of wages on Employment Guarantee Programme some 7-8 years ago. While that issues was resolved and proper payments made, Anil remained in touch with us. We realised he was stuck in class XII and could not clear his English paper.

We pursuaded him to volunteer with KHOJ and continue with education. He got admittted in BA from the Yashwantrao Chavan Open University. He continued his attempt at clearing class XII as well although unsuccessful on many occassions. He cleared his BA and thereafter managed to clear Class XII after we put him to a Coaching Class where his tution fees were paid by the tutor.

During these years we realised that he was very good with painting and had a passion for drawing. He joined a local college and did his Art Teacher Diploma. Thereafter he applied for the GD Art Course in Mumbai at Raheja School of Art and cleared his entrance. Currently he is in his 3rd year. He has successfully cleared all his previous exams. There was a struggle seeking admission to Tribal hostel in Mumbai but finally in the second year we have managed to secure him a seat in the hostel.

We have also mobilised some friends to support his travel and course related expenses. He is however struggling to buy a laptop to help him in the course related work. He has saved up around Rs15000. However he needs another 10000 Rs to buy him a decent laptop. He is saving up his laptop money and working with some local mentor to earn on a part time basis to meet his other expenses.

We are struggling for the last 4-5 months to ensure him this support albeit unsuccessful. If any one you can either support him with some contribution or a laptop that can support graphic related work, it would be a great help to enable Anil to complete his remaining 2 years with slight ease.

This is an earnest request from KHOJ to explore whatever support you can lend to Anil. You can send him the contribution directly or if you need you many send it to us we can also treat is a donation under 80 G of Income tax and issue a receipt for the same and forward this support to Anil.

In case you would like to speak to Anil , his number is 9004914008 and the name is Anil Jinda Dhurve. He has a bank account in Union Bank of India, Achalpur branch. His account number is 399202010008135.

We look forward to your valuable support in providing Anil an opportunity to shape his talent.

With regards,
Purnima / Bandya

MAIL 2 - The questions

Hi Purnima/Bandya,

Hope you are doing well and good to hear the news of the activities. Dream India has moved on since our visit to your place way back in 2005 (You can check all our news from this bog: http://di2020.blogspot.com) but since we do not really have volunteers in the area, we are unable to contribute much here. But we will do our best.
Regarding the current request, I had a few questions

  • Should he want a laptop only or will a desktop computer do? It is much easier for us to arrange for a desktop than a laptop.

  • What configuration is he looking at?
  • Is the boy in Mumbai currently? If so, one of us can go and meet him in person

We are not promising anything, but we will surely try to help here. I have some connections with some corporates from whom we have received computers for our work in the past. Based on your answers for the above, we will try to see what we can do.

Varun R
Dream India

MAIL 3 - The Replies

Dear Varun,

Thanks for the response and good to know that Dream India is continuing its journey.

Anil is based in Mumbai and resides at the Tribal Hostel in Goregaon. You may contact him on his mobile and set up a meeting.

From our discussions, we have understood that he is in need of a laptop since he resides in a hostel and it would be difficult for him to maintain and take care of the desktop. Hence he needs a laptop. Configuartion should be able to support graphics related work and so a hard disk with greater storage is critical. However he probably would be able to share his needs better than me.

Can you have a chat with him or should we ask him to contact you and may be you could meet at some convenient time.


MAIL 4 - Conversation with the boy

Had a long chat with Anil Dhurve today, probably the first impression that anyone would get is the struggle that he has been undergoing, firstly to finish his studies, then to persue the Art Course and also trying to meet his daily expenses through some small odd jobs here and there. The pain is quite evident in his tone, yet optimistic too.

He is in his third year of the course which requires lot of designing work specially in Coral Draw, Photoshop and illustrator. In the fourth year, he will be doing designing of adfilms and TV serials etc . In both third and fourth year, he has plenty of assignments with respect to these topics. So obviously a PC that supports the above s/w will be required. He did not mention any configuration, but I guess this would require a 1GB RAM and 40GB HDD. Coming to the specific issue of Desktop vs Laptop, he mentioned the following points :
1) He stays in the hostel, and his room is also shared by 3 other students , so when he has to go to college etc , the desktop can always be used by his roommates too
2) As mentioned previously , he has several assignments for which presently he has to take printouts ( worth almost Rs 300/-) everytime , and if he would have a laptop, he can show it as a soft copy
3) All the students in his class have an access to PC, which he does not have presently and hence he has to give handmade assignments , so obviously one loses out on the grades too.
4) He is also not sure as to how long will he stay in the hostel ,hence a laptop would be easier for him. ( He has no PC access at the college

He has tried to contact the local MLA at Melghat for sponsorship of the laptop, but of no use……. And he was quite willing to come to Pada and speak to the kids ( when I am requested him for motivating them ) !!

Maybe one of us could talk and meet him before taking the final decision


MAIL 5 - Face to face conversation


I had the opportunity to meet Anil Dhurve at his trial’s hostel yesterday. The meeting lasted for almost 90 minutes .Here’s the gist of it all:

Anil Dhurve hails from the family of landless laborers of Melghat ( village name: Toranwadi). His family is comprised of his ailing father , mother , younger brother and his wife .The only source of income for the family is the small odd jobs done in the fields and any labour job as and when it comes. The annual income of the family stretches upto Rs 20000/- with great difficulty. But during famine or poor rains, the family has to go without food too as there is no money .Or they have to borrow money from the Sahukar .and repays with interest. In case , they do not , then their asset like cows or similar is confiscated). In fact Anil also told me , that till today at least 75 villages of Meghan do not have electricity. which is why snake bites etc are very common and many people have died because of this . In fact most of these villages are in the BPL category . So Anil Dhurve has pursued his education amidst this background. He has studied upto Std X in Ashramshala .He went on to do his STDXII , despite all the economic severity.In fact he has given his English exams eight times to clear it. This shows his grit and determination. He has studied only under the lantern throughout and probably studied under proper light only in Mumbai. He is the highest educated boy from Melghat and is keen to set up and example and wants the youngsters of Melghat to get inspired by his struggle. Hence he decided not to get married and have his younger brother married instead.

Khoj has been with him throughout his life for now almost nearly a decade and encouraged him to pursue his Arts diploma, looking at his talent and creative abilities.They couldn’t have got it more right, and one look at all his paintings indeed justifies more than that. I have attached some of his paintings . One of them is called Mumbai which shows a collage of some of the elements that constitute this city , ie The trains, the Churchgate Station building with the clock, Dalal Street , Bollywood ( depicting actress Rekha) . I thought this one was a true masterpiece.and then another one depicting malnutrion which is a major killer in Melghat. Here he shows a tribal woman , with a dead body of her child in the lap that depicts absolute melancholy. One can visualize the anguish even without physically being there.He can also sketch a portrait of any person in front of him in half an hour to forty five minutes.

The art course pursued by him is a four year course, of which he has completed two years .The second year mark sheet is also attached.As he has mentioned to me earlier, most of the assignments have to handmade instead of a PC , hence timeconsuming.The Mumbai painting that is attached was a part of his assignment and he has got 7/10 for this which is indeed excellent , considering the fact that the highest mark that is given is only upto 8. Some of his other assignments are also attached.The one on Michael Jackson was for an assignment of making a cover page for the Biography of MJ.He had also shown me the cover in the form of a book cover or cover page , which was quite an excellent stuff.

His small room is shared by his fellowmate who is from Nasik and doing some Diploma in teachers education.He has to spend atleast Rs 300 per assignment and also for the stationery etc and colours.He walks almost for 25minutes froom his hostel to Goregaon station as he can save Rs 10 per day by not going by bus !! He is saving every rupee in order to support his education.Financially he is supported by one of his friend who is doing his PHD at IIT ( who is also not economically sound) and by some friends here and there. Initially he used to survive on Vada Paav only when he did not get the admission at the Tribal hostel.That lead to appendix problem. But now ,guess , he is fine , and trying to cope with whatever meals the hostel gives him , but cannot afford to have a tiffin for his college.

Despite all this he has managed to save Rs 10000/- for his laptop and he is willing to give that as well. He cannot go to his native village as that too costs him Rs 800 /-!!

And last but not the least …. I spoke to Bandya from Khoj and has given a strong reference , saying that the boy is extremely commited and honest to the core. His talents definitely need an outlet.and he has struggled incessantly.If any good samaritans can help him out, it will be of immense help.

I feel that we must encourage such talents , and he deserves all the help that we can give. At a later stage we can try and highlight his condition through the newspaper , like publishing an article in Mumbai mirror etc , where help can pour in. , in a nutshell , do as much as possible so that he remains a true inspiration to his clan.




Saturday, May 02, 2009

Road discipline - A dreamer's ideas

I dont know the exact facts but India is probably the home to the largest percentage of traffic accidents in the world. Sample this, just in one day, three people - all aged between 19 and 30, very young by any standards - died in separate accidents across Chennai.

Now, I have been a rash driver myself in my college days, throwing caution to the winds, speeding through red lights, changing lanes erratically all these used to be a part of my 'normal' driving. By default everyone in India has been getting their license by a very flimsy system of testing by the Regional Transport Office and its officers. So the general public cannot be really faulted for not knowing traffic rules or not respecting fellow road occupants. But the government, well that is a different issue.

Till I entered America, I didn't know a lot of things about traffic management, the host of traffic rules and signs that were available, not even the methods of safe driving. When I returned to homeland after a year of driving around in the USA, I saw the various traffic signs more acutely than they ever did before. In fact I didnt even realise before that they existed. So poor is the traffic education available and given to the people of our country. And this along with bad enforcement, more than bad roads or any other excuse given by the traffic police, is the main reason behind the hundreds of deaths everyday on our roads.

I wont get into why the men in charge of traffic are so apathetic, that will be too tedious and common a topic and that is not what I want to discuss in this article. Rather, I want to highlight the ways in which I think good traffic sense can be inculcated in the drivers that drive on the roads today

It is not easy to teach an old dog new tricks, and so expecting the millions that drive on the roads to learn all the rules and abide by them overnight is impossible. After a few conversations with the men regulating rules on the roads, I figured out that the department does not really believe it can make a change. So much is the chaos that rules the roads, that they feel that the challenge ahead is like trying to make a shoal of fish swim in a straight line. The department needs to believe in itself that they can enforce a traffic rule and make sure that a majority of the motorists follow that, barring which they will be punished suitably. For which I have come up with a fancy idea.

The traffic department should first come out with a statement that over a period of, say the next one year, it will be implementing various rules stage-wise and clear and mass advertisement will be done on the upcoming implementation along with detailsl of the punishment in case of failure to follow the rules. (This advertising can be done via posters, advertisements in the various media forms - Radio, TV, Cinema theatres etc.) The plan should be laid out beforehand and a book that will include the plan and all these rules should be published and made available at many locations around the city for a nominal price. Policemen should be thoroughly trained in these rules and they should realise that unless they follow the rules (and this hardly happens in the present scenario), we cannot expect the public to follow them. Some of the aspects of the plan can be as follows:

Rear view mirrors and turn indicators
The department could start off by implementing a small but vital rule and making sure that an entire city follows it. For eg, say neccesitating 'proper rear view mirrors in the correct position' in every vehicle. I stress upon 'proper' and 'correct position' here, as I have seen many large vehicles like lorries or buses have tiny mirrors that offer almost no visibility, and many cars run around with their mirrors folded so that they could squeeze into small gaps without damaging them. Usage of these mirrors and good education on the practice of checking the blind spot while changing lanes will go a long way in avoiding accidents. 

Turn indicators are also a necessity that come in handy when changing lanes and without these, people tend to swerve across lanes mindless of the motorists behind. Traffic Police should bring in the rule that every vehicle should have indicators in 'working' condition and they should be used extensively. (Guess what the auto wallahs would have to say to this!)

Lane discipline
What are traffic lanes? Many on the roads today, do not understand the concept of lanes and more often than not, consider the road as one wide stretch of land ahead, where they can sweve about however they please without bothering about the people behind him. Such indisciplined driving not only leads to accidents but also to irritation leading to road rages. The first step to solve this problem could be to clearly paint lane lines on roads. One traffic marking that I fail to understand in India is that the line dividing the road into two sides of traffic flowing in opposite directions and the line dividing the same of a road into different lanes, can be of the same colour. This is stated in this Government of India website where it says that both these lines can be of white colour. This creates quite a bit of confusion among motorists and thereby, these two lines should be different colours, ideally, the line dividing the road, yellow, and the line dividing both sides of the road into lanes, white.

Once these markings are clearly done, animated films showing the technique of switching on indicators, looking over shoulder (I do that even when riding a bike in India and it is very helpful), and moving left or right, will have to be screened in the media for a protracted period of time. Results will take time coming, but they will surely come in.

Mobile cops
The practice of positioning cops stationary in cars and bikes in various places around the city and booking offenders is good, but not enough. If one has to enforce rules that are significant as far as preventing accidents on the move are concerned, then cops have to move around the city in their vehicles. Bikes are a better bet in our crowded roads and sirens and police lights (Red and Blud) should be effectively used while pursuing and punishing offenders. This method of policing would be very effective while enforcing rules like the one mentioned in the previous point.

Traffic signboards
These go a long way in directing traffic and hence, should be placed prominently at all places. Though we do currently have a host of traffic signboards at all places, the size of these could be increased and rules that prosecute people who stick posters on these signboards should be strictly enforced. Signs for Stop, Pedestrian crossings, Speed limits, Speed breakers, hospital and school zones, no horn/no parking zones, 'one-way' road signs etc. should be placed in clearly visible locations and violation of these should attract considerable penalties that would discourage the motorist from committing the offence one more time. (Once I was caught speeding in America at 4 am when there was absolutely no traffic on the highway, but still shelled out a whopping $140 as fine. That was the last time I stepped above the speed limit)

If the traffic department manages to achieve even some of these points over a period of a year, it will have more confidence to move forward even more to slowly implement other forms and methods of traffic control. It would be impossible, and in fact foolish, to think that traffic discipline in India could equal that present in many western nations, our population is enough to lay off any such idea. But if the people in charge of traffic control can put their foot down and tell the citizens that they want to bring more control and discipline on the roads and that no nonsense will be tolerated, we drivers can surely be taught good lessons in driving and the roads can be a lot safer place in our country