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June 2011

What Dream Does Kamlabhai Aspire for from $300?

Kalesh Kumar's picture

We were in Kachnaria village, about 45 kms from the Biora Block headquarters in late May. Kachnaria has a population of 2600 with 290 households identified as extremely poor and supported by the Madhya Pradesh Poverty Initiatives Project, which has created 12 Self Help Groups of women thus far. My good friend Raman Wadhwa from the state project office and other colleagues were with us when we me with the Village Development Council (VDC) members.

Raman and I joined the VDC meeting as guests and the Sakhi (a lady from the village who takes care of bookkeeping for the rest of the group) formally introduced us to the group as observers and instructed us to sign the attendance registration along with other members. The proceedings of a community group that has learned over the last few months to stand on their own feet and lead respectful life has many intricate lessons for federating and finding a common place for everything that is significant in life, including prayer in the beginning in Hindi (“Humko man ki sakthi dena… man vijay kare… “roughly translated as “Oh God, Give strength to our mind, for the mind to be victorious… make ourselves victorious over our mind for us to cheer the victory of others...”) their long log books of money brought in by each Self Help Group (SHG) and their inquisitive interactions ensure that money taken by members as loan was spent for productive purposes.

A Bridge Across Poverty for $30,000 in Chapran Village, India

Kalesh Kumar's picture

Chattarpur district in Madhya Pradesh state of India is famous for the Khajuraho temples. About 40 kms from the district headquarters is large village called Chapran, which is surrounded by minor tributaries of the river Ganges and the backwaters from Lehsura dam, causing the village to become like a water-trapped island, particularly during the monsoon season.

A few years back, the only option available for the villagers was to walk along a railway bridge to cross the surrounding water. Unfortunately, a blind turn along the railway track made it impossible for a passer-by to see if a train was oncoming, until it was too late. To avoid disaster, they often had no option other than to jump off the 12 metre high bridge or risk losing a limb or their life by getting crushed under the train.

Laxmibai’s aged eyes crinkled with tears as she narrated the tragic story of her son-in-law to us: “Five years ago Raju, who was 25 years old, had come to our village on the eve of a festival. It was monsoon season and the village was surrounded by water.” Taking a deep breath, she continued, “On his return home, he was riding a bicycle along the railway track, to cross the water. Suddenly a train appeared around the blind turn … some laborers who were working in a nearby field later told us that he didn’t have time to even get off the bicycle. We had to collect his body in a sack, there were limbs all over. Had there been an overbridge or any other arrangement to safely cross the stream, this tragedy would not have happened.”

At 80, Thimmakka Has Planted More than 8,000 Saplings

Kalesh Kumar's picture

I was in Karnataka, travelling to the village of Kudur in Ramanagara district, about 35 kms from Bengeluru (formerly Bangalore). The dusty road leading to Hulikal and Kudur village seemed monotonous, but for a four kilometer stretch, it came alive with massive trees, spreading shade and providing home to innumerable birds and animals. This unique pattern of the line of trees attracted everyone's attention and appreciation. That's when accompanying officials told us about environmentalist Saalu Marada Thimmakka.

Thimmaka was married young to a landless laborer Chinnappa and they made their living tilling land and cutting stones. Despite a long wait and countless prayers and poojas, the couple did not have any children. The personal suffering coupled with snide remarks of the society that looked down at childless couples as a curse from gods that lead them to a unique engagement that is now widely recognized.