Thursday, 13 September 2018

Kiranmayi - II

One child from the next village to ours, Kumarapalle, is handicapped. A wrong intervention at the local PHC has rendered her lame for life. A friend helped her, and now she had a Jaipur foot, and a crutch. Till then she used to drag herself on the ground.
Her father is a small farmer, and paints houses on the side. He has done everything to support her, and she has finished her intermediate and college.
What logistical effort that means, only someone living in an interior village can understand. When the bus stop is 5 km away, and is a long long walk for all. And this is a child on a crutch. Her younger brother would go to the busstop daily in the evening to being her on his cycle. On days he could not, she would walk down, her arms acheing from pressing on the crutches, by the time she reached home. Walking doen the long silent roads.
My friend, whom I met on FB, has been crediting a small sum into her account monthly. To meet her college expenses.
Battling health, fate and poverty, the girl has moved on, and registered for MSW, masters in social work. This year.
This year in post graduation her mess and staying fees have become steep.
My friend suggested that she credit that extra sum to her, and that maybe it will be good for the girl to treat it as a loan and replay as and when she gets a job.
I told her that. She said she would ask her father.
They did not ask for the extra amount. Then I called up the father one day.
"How can we take, promising to repay. What do we know what tomoirrow will bring. And then we will fail our word.
All these years of painting has damanged my lungs. The doctor said. My medicines cost 1500/- per month. My wifes legs are swelling up, and we are doing tests to diagnose. There is no work these days.
What loan can we take in these times."
These are how we have cornered the poor of our land. And then when we from our privilege speak of difficult terms like credit worthiness. they do not understand them. I too have ceased to understand these words.
My friend has started crediting into her account a sun to cover her college expenses. Skipping the repayment plan.

Jeevani Milk - Kommireddigaripalle

                  Kommireddigaripalle   school and balwadi.
(started 12th Sept 2018)

The village asked for help for the children. A friend offered to sponser this.
The questionaire showed the poor health of the children.
The teacher called all the parents of the school also on this first day of milk. Gave them all also a glass each. Asked them if they were happy and wanted this for their wards. They were clear they wanted it for their children !
Milk, Ashwagandhadhi, loha bhasmam.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

PaalaGuttaPalleBags, at the Collectorate

The women came after a long day. To Chittoor, SC Corporation.
To discuss what is possible for them as a group, to move forward.

After the article in The Hindu, the department sent an assistant to the village to check them out. Yesterday they called and requested and fixed a meeting today. And set out at 6 in the morning.

They took along a collection of bags. And paper cuttings.

They said the E.O. was very cordial. Seated them for a long discussion. Told them that there are many schemes they can avail of.He also the told them that he was also an SC and understood their issues well, and would be with them completely.

He said he was very impressed that women from such a remote village had achieved such a name for quality. His assistant who had come had given him a description of overgrown oaths to the village !

The women grumbled that they had to deal with the same questions about us, how we are in this village, why we chose to come here etc. We came up in their discussions about how the bag business started and grew. Annapurna, "You please give us a complete story, on why you came here, what made you want to come and stay etc. We are asked that all the time.," That is one of the hardest questions for me to answer ...

They now will register formally, after getting their caste certificates this week.

A super meeting, they said.

Women, given a stick, can leverage and shake the earth.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Hindu - on PaalaGuttaPalleBags


Paalaguttapalle bags a better future
Paalaguttapalle bags a better future

Plastic ban? Orders are pouring in for cloth bags made by a small group of Dalit women

E.Paalaguttapalle, a hamlet with about 60 families of landless farm workers, can't be found on Google Maps even after zooming into its nearest village, Pakala, in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district. But the women of the Dalitwada, who faced extreme poverty after the drought in parts of Rayalseema from 2010-15, are now flooded with orders for their cloth bags.
Self-managing an informal enterprise, aided by the attractive social media posts of their supporters, the women have won over faraway buyers with their innovation, quality and efficiency.

A stitch in time

It all began with a lucky conversation. Aparna Krishnan, a former software engineer from Chennai, who moved to Paalaguttapalle to become an organic farmer, was asked by one of her dealers if she knew someone who could supply cotton bags to Hyderabad. Ms. Krishnan contacted N. Annapurna, who did tailoring jobs to support her family, and gave her ₹ 1,000 to buy cloth.
Once the bags were done, she had them delivered to Hyderabad. Ms. Annapurna earned ₹ 1,000 for the order. Soon, more orders arrived, and the team grew to ten. With no skills other than farm work and cattle-rearing, the women quickly learnt screen-printing and embroidery, and adapted kolam patterns to expand their range of designs.
Ms. Krishnan helped the group with the initial finance, sourcing material, and marketing via the Paalaguttapalle Bags website and Facebook page. Everything else — maintaining inventory, purchasing and unloading material, packing and posting the bags in old rice sacks, apportioning work and sharing earnings — is done by the women themselves.

A bagful of luck

Their first big order arrived in 2017 — the women made 1,700 bags for the Organic World Congress in Noida and generated revenue of Rs 5 lakh. In February 2018, they turned a profit of Rs 25,000 at a handloom expo in Goa, which they attended unprepared with little stock. More recently, they dispatched a large consignment to an organic firm in the U.S. They have also taken orders from several engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu.
“We are able to earn a decent living now,” Ms. Annapurna says. Their hectic order schedule is met by roping in women from surrounding villages.
A room in Ms. Krishan’s home is the collective's workshop and store; the women sew the bags in their homes on machines they have each saved money to buy. The Paalaguttapalle Bags' customisable range now includes grocery bags, totes, conference bags featuring logos, tiffin carry bags for schoolchildren, jewellery pouches and fancy gift bags.
Ms. Annapurna says. “We want to make Paalaguttapalle Bags famous, for which we must make high-quality, good-looking bags. We are approaching banks for finance to buy more equipment.”
Their latest innovation is a strong, canvas vegetable bag with compartments to keep tomatoes, say, from being squished by heavier potatoes. Ms. Krishnan's Facebook post on the bag has fetched an overwhelming response — it will take the women a couple of months to turn out orders for about 2,000 bags priced at ₹ 350 each.

Indian Express - on PaalaGuttaPalleBags

Making a difference,one bag at a time

Their latest vegetable compartment bag arrived in the market in June. The women do everything from sourcing the materials to stitching the bags.
Published: 14th August 2018 03:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2018 03:31 AM  |  A+A-
Express News Service
CHENNAI : Two months back, a new kind of canvas bag — the vegetable compartment bag — was trending on social media. This is one of the creations of Paalaguttapalle bags, made by a group of women in Paalaguttapalle village of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh.When farming and agriculture didn’t fetch them a basic livelihood, a few women in Paalaguttapalle got together and used their tailoring and screen printing skills to sustain their families. It started a year ago with four women and currently, there are nine. They make totes, lunch bags, and bags with logos.
“When I was in Chennai, someone suggested the design to me. I passed on the idea to the women, who were already involved in crafting bags. We were flooded by orders. It is an independent initiative,” says Aparna Krishnan, a software engineer who currently lives in Paalaguttapalle village. She helps the women with selling the Paalaguttapalle bags.
Their latest vegetable compartment bag arrived in the market in June. The women do everything from sourcing the materials to stitching the bags. It takes approximately five days to make 20 bags. Cotton brought from Madurai is used to bring in the sustainable factor. The sturdy material and intricate stitching help in retaining the longevity of the bags. Each bag has six spacious compartments and is available in two sizes — the large one can hold 10 kgs and the extra large can hold 15 kg. Each pocket can accommodate one or two kg. This facility decreases the burden of carrying multiple bags for groceries and prevents vegetables from getting squashed.
The final product is neatly folded, wrapped and packed inside a bag. They delivery it through post, which generally takes a week. The bags are shipped across the globe. So far, about 2,000 bags have been sold. If the bag is maintained properly, it can sustain a lifetime. “The primary advantage is that it is environment-friendly and helps in cutting down on plastic. Secondly, it improves livelihood. Both are important issues,” says Aparna. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Temples and Temple Priests - Shefali Vaidya

Shefali Vaidya
It was high noon, the temple was deserted. I was the only visitor. It was a very quiet temple, though very old and very beautiful. The Goddess glowed in the soft golden light of the oil lamps. Her Shringara was tastefully done, a bright green pattu saree with a yellow border adorned the Murti, with rows of jasmine, mogra, rose and Aboli garlands arrayed in contrasting colour combinations. Her jewellery sparkled. I stood in front of the Sannidhi, mesmerised. Clearly, the Archakas had spent many hours getting Her Shringara just right!
At first, I couldn’t see any Archaka, dazzled as I was with the radiance of the Murti. Then I saw him, a frail man with a white beard, sitting uncomfortably on a hard wooden stool in a corner just outside the Sannidhi. When he saw me, he stood up and came to me with a pooja thali, putting each step gingerly in front of another, probably troubled by arthritic knees.
I put the flowers I had brought me with into the thali. He went into the Sannidhi with the string of Mallipoo that I had brought, taking a moment or two to decide exactly where it would go. He then arranged it lovingly on the Murti, taking care to tuck in the ends neatly. He then chanted a shloka and did the Arati. When he came out with the thali, I put in my offering. He smiled and dropped a pinch of Kumkum on my outstretched hand and muttered blessings.
The temple did not get too many visitors on a normal day. It is not in the city and it is not ‘popular’. In all the time that I was there admiring the architecture, I was the only devotee. And yet, the Archaka toiled on, serving the Devi and the devotees.
The Archakas have a hard life. An average day for an Archaka starts at 4 a.m! They have to follow many vows to maintain their ritual purity. The day is long and involves standing on one’s feet for hours at a time. The heat inside the garbhagriha emanating from so many oil lamps can be stifling. Their salaries are a pittance and in temples that fall outside the popular circuit, the offerings in the thali are too meagre. And yet, most Archakas do their jobs with a smile on their face and devotion in their heart.
In all the temples I visited in Tamil Nadu, not once was I asked for money nor was I treated differently because I put in more money. The Archaka offered Tirtha and Kumkum to all, exactly the same way. I know there is a lot of hate going around and terms like ‘brahminical supremacy’ are being fished our liberally, but the Archakas I met, especially in the out of way temples, are anything but rich and arrogant. They work hard, standing for hours on their feet, performing their duties with love and devotion.
Why do they choose this life? I asked this question to a young Archaka who spoke good English. He is an engineer from a reputed institute, but chose to follow this profession. ‘Kulachara’, he replied with a smile. ‘Family tradition’ ‘if I must serve someone, I would rather serve Him’.
Hard to argue with that. But it is time we, as a community, understand the tremendous service the Archakas are rendering for the Dharma. Why must we, the urban, well-to-do Hindus always scramble for change when we go to the temple, especially when we never think twice about paying 200 rupees for a movie ticket?
Next time you are in a temple, be generous in your offerings in the Pooja thali. We don’t have the concept of compulsory zakat or tithe, but we can open our hearts and pockets for those who live to serve the Dharma!
And before any of you bleeding heart liberals ask me, ‘but but but, what about the millions of starving children’, it is good that your heart beats for the starving children when it comes to going to a temple. I hope it beats with equal fervour each time you buy a coffee at Starbucks, eat out with your family, when you are buying a new cell phone or when you blow 500 rupees on a multiplex experience!
Shefali Vaidya

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Swami Paramarthananda’s Lectures on Bhartruhari’s Niti Shatakam

Verse 75 ...

In this verse, Bhartruhari divides the entire humanity into four groups of people. The first one he calls Uttamāha, the best. The second one is Madhayamaha and the third one is Adhamaha. The fourth one he says - I don’t know how to name them. They are such terrible people! I am at a loss to find an appropriate expression for them.

The first line defines Uttama Purushaha. ētē sathpurushāh- there are some rare noble people called the Uttama Janāha. What is their greatness? parārtha ghatakāh - they are involved in fulfilling the interests of others. They are involved in selfless service like a candle burning itself and shedding light for others. Or they are like an incense stick which burns itself, spreading fragrance all around. Similarly, they expend themselves doing good to others. So, parārtha ghatakāh or parārtha kārakāh; How? swārtham parityajya - without bothering about their own personal interest, without considering about themselves. At the cost of their own interest, they do good to others. These are the Uttama Purushāha.

The second ones are Sāmānyāha - they are the Madhayama Purushāha, the intermediary ones. parārtham udyama bhrutaha - they also take efforts for the service and wellbeing of others. udyama means effort. bhrut means taking. So, they also do a lot of things for others, but very careful. swārtha avirōdhēna - without affecting their personal interest. They take to such actions which are not detrimental to their benefit

What is Adhamaha, the terrible one? tēmī mānusha rākshasāh - the Adhama ones are demons in human form. parahitam nighnanti - who destroy the interest of others, for fulfilling their own personal ends. They are utterly selfish people. They don’t care about the world. They want to get the maximum benefit. These are the third variety. Then, comes the fourth variety for whom the authors says - I don’t know what to say. We can give the name Adhamādhamāha. Who are they? yē nighnantiparahitam-they destroy the interest of other people, the future of others. Nirardhakam means without any benefit for themselves. At-least, the previous one destroyed for his personal gain. But this fourth variety person doesn’t get any benefit and others also don’t get any benefit.