Friday, October 26, 2012

My Dream Home : An Open Ashram : )

The mornings are so pleasant here. As we get ready for our morning walk, we can hear the birds chirping on the beautiful green trees around. The sun is about to rise and it looks so beautiful to walk along the river Ganga. Ganga is an example of continuity and it is the reason why I chose this place to live, 20 km outside the beautiful city Kanpur.

A dip in Ganga  and then spending sometime in "Bharat Temple" makes my day . When we are not travelling we spend our time here, in our beautiful "Open Ashram".

This is what I dream, when I dream of my sweet home. It would be an ashram open for all. A place which would be in harmony with nature and will be an example of openness, compassion & love.

I dream of a small ashram on the bank of river Ganga. This would be a place with many small huts, a dormitory, open air amphi-theatre, all religion temple( Bharat Temple), a big garden and a small farm land to grow some fresh organic crops. It would be a self sustainable place where nothing comes from out, everything needed for a basic living is grown here. A small beautiful garden with lovely colorful flower and a small pond make it more serene. 

And this all will be done by "Shram Daan" (donating physical labor). I dream to mobilize 100s of young people to this place and make this possible with their help, each and everything is made by volunteers, with their hardwork and sweat. Not a penny will be spend to hire labor, everyone is labor here, everyone is owner here. They have complete ownership of the space and can anytime drop in their and spend their time here. An open space where we all can have daily meditation, group lunches and circle of sharing.

It would be an open space for everyone. Anyone can drop in and be one with the place.

# Inspired by Sabarmati Ashram, Manav Sadha, Mahatma Gandhi & Jayesh Bhai : )

If you are in sync with this, lets join hand and dream together of this beautiful space !

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Should an auto driver take you with what meter reads?

"Bhaiya ! Will you go to Defence Colony ?", said the girl with a couple of big bags in her hand while coming out of Select City Walk, Delhi's one of the best shopping mall.

"Madam 80Rs. !", replied the auto driver.

"Are you insane, it is not more than 60Rs.", replied the girl. Making different faces she moved on to next auto.

"She must have spend 5000 Rs. on shopping but she is not ready to pay 80Rs, which is a reasonable price", murmured the auto driver.

This is a very common scene when we take an auto in Delhi. Sometimes auto drivers ask too much and sometimes we are so ignorant that we don't try to understand the reason why is he not taking us by meter.

I have been trying to dig this for a long time and a couple of months back I realized, its not just auto drivers' fault but the whole system is forcing them to break the law and ask more than what meter reads.

Let's go back a couple of years. In June 2010 CNG was at 21.9 Rs./kg and was increased to 27.5 Rs./kg in July 2010 and at that time the revised auto fare was set at 19 Rs. for first 2 km and then 6.5 Rs./km for every additional km. Current CNG rate is 38.5 Rs./kg, which means fare raised by 11 Rs. in last two years but there is no change in auto fares, they are still the same.

Do auto drivers get subsidy in buying vegetables or healthcare or education or rising home rent in Delhi? All these prices have changed and each item has seen a new high in last two years. On an average, our salary increases by around 10% every year. But who cares about auto drivers, private security guards, peons and many more in such types of jobs.

This is just one part of the story. The other part is far more shocking. In Delhi you need to pay a bribe of around 2 lakhs to 3 lakhs to get an auto license. So, the cost of an auto in Delhi is not less than Rs.5 lakh and may go upto 6 lakh. And after this bribe and all, every auto driver has to give something between 100 Rs. to 200 Rs. everyday as a bribe to different policemen. If we think that this is driver's fault and he is giving bribe, then I feel we are wrong. It's the system that we have created and not just the driver, we all are equally responsible for this. When we all are using that auto, why don't we share the bribe ? (I know you might find this vague but that the truth) Why should the driver bear it all ?

Do we ever think all this while taking an auto ? Do we think that most of the auto drivers are on a rented auto, for which they pay 300 Rs. for one shift ?

Then how can an auto driver take you with what meter reads ?

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Journey of Youth Alliance

Dear Friends,

Hope you all are doing great ! I came to Delhi last year in May with a vision to work with young people and make Youth Alliance a place where young can dream of a better and happy India. First person I explained all this in Delhi was Divya (met in Jagriti Yatra, now a TFI fellow), we started the ground work, sat for hours to discuss the plans. We launched our Campus Ambassador program and met Vibhuti in July. Vibhuti has been an integral part of the organization since then, she has seen the whole team growing and moving forward. Eventually came Shivang, Udit & Akanksha (these were three who stayed with us from the 20 who came for our first Campus Ambassador meeting in August). Now we were a strong team of 5 who were working on ground to make things happen. We launched Samarpan (Volunteering Program), it went on well, we got good no. of applications but we failed to channelize them and keep them engaged.

By the end of August we started preparing for Come Alive '11. Everyone liked the idea and started working towards it, on the event day we had around 40 people who turned up for the event, although we have reached out to more than 500 during marketing in Campuses. Everyone enjoyed it, energy went high, team became stronger, a working group turned into a friend group. All this time Samarpan was moving at snails pace and we were unable to figure out how to go about it. 

For the month of November, December, January Youth Alliance worked like a government organization. I was struggling on whether to continue with my job or quit, if I quit how will I manage my daily expenses etc. but finally I left job in November and traveled for December. By then the team was low on energy, they used to push me to start the work and not be so lazy. A couple of them later shared they also thought to join some other NGO. They really used to call me and say,"YA ko kya ho gaya hai, hum kuch krte kyun nhi hain, humare organization ki image kharab ho rahi hai." (Why are we not doing anything, the image of our organization is being damaged). 

December and January the months after leaving the job were really tough. At this time my team, Shefali(my school friend and my strength), Kishan Bhaiya (my roommate during TFI and my biggest supporter), Ashita (my co-voyager in journey of life) and my family especially my brothers were my biggest support and they all used to encourage me a lot. Finally the plan of "Lead The Change" came into being (I was in Goa, when we finalized the name). Met many people with that plan, it got changed every time I met a new person. Swapnil (Jagriti Yatra) and Anshu Bhaiya (Goonj) were the biggest support in refining the idea. On Valentine's Day Anshu bhaiya got a hint from my face (I really dont know how, I didn't even talk about funds) and gave me a cheque as his love for the initiative.

Finally we launched application for LTC in February '12 and got whopping 270 applications and finally 18 Changeagents on board. The journey started on 12 March and since then we have never looked back. LTC 1 went really great, it strengthened our believes in each other, in the cause. LTC one was a real success and the best thing was that, it gave us committed and passionate young people. LTC made our team even stronger with the likes of Angna, Subhash, Ajay, Seema, Shashank and all the other members.  During LTC, I met Ravi Bhaiya (Manzil) and he was someone I came in sync with, someone I can relate to. His simple and pure thoughts have been a great support since then, a small chat with him energizes me to the core.

While things were moving ahead, finances were a big problem(it still is : ) ) and it was even hard to support myself. Neeraj (a two decade old friend), Anish(school friend), Dishant (college friend) and many more friends supported both me and Youth Alliance. By this time Kishan bhaiya and Subhashini (my lovely friend at NIIT and TFI fellow) had become the key part of our team. As the season changed we launched our next program Gramya Manthan, which was a huge challenge both logistically and financially. It was a National Program which attracted people from different states and finally we had 30 people from 11 different states. Again there were many small small stake-holders, someone sponsoring first two days, someone giving his ambulance for free, some cash donation and finally we pulled it across and big thanks to the people from LTC 1. Those sleepless nights of preparation and then sleepless mornings of reflection during the program. During the program we used to get up at 5:30am and work till 11:00pm, then sleep by 2am or 3am. Organizing GM was one of the best phase of this journey, being with such an amazing bunch of individuals in scorching Kanpur heat. Again we came up with some amazing plans, amazing people who became part of our team.

One thing was sure, where there is a will, there is a way ! (One of the most famous saying in YA @Shivang/Udit ). Back in Delhi we launched LTC 2 in July and the group was learning, YA was learning, making new friends, I was growing as a person and my team was taking responsibilities which are not easy. In August this year Vibhuti shared that lets make Come Alive a huge event this year, I replied, go do it. I was all busy with LTC 2 interviews and did not pay much heed to what she is saying (I really wanted her to take the lead on this). But Vibhuti was determined and she started working on it, shared idea with her friends, made a team, mobilized resources and I wasn't aware of much. I came to know a couple of weeks back that Vibhuti, Mohika-Neha (her college friends), Angna, Seema, Shashank and few others are working really hard on it. 20 days to go and the venue for 2nd October was not yet final and leaving all this undone, I left for London to attend a conference. I was pretty sure that they will put things in place and manage something and the same happened. When I called Vibhuti from London, she told C.P. is almost done, I was surprised because that was a dream location for us, later they shared all the struggles they had to face. But here also we got an angel in NDMC who supported us, good people are everywhere : )

Finally 2nd October came, last year there were 40 people, I expected around 100 this year. The program started after few glitches and when it started the amphi- theatre was jam packed with around 1000 people. I was in shock and over excited, this was like a dream come true. I was like the happiest person on earth, dancing, singing, flying kites, giving hugs doing (pulling legs of team members) and literally doing everything. They have made it large, more than any of us has imagined. One thing is sure now that the team has grown, they have taken the ownership and they are ready for larger roles and responsibility.

The journey has just started, we have to walk together, need more friends, more stakeholders. We have to work harder, plan for LTC 3 to be launched on 21st October and Learning Center to be launched by December in Tishti village. 

Yes, it is the time to celebrate the opening of our first livelihood center "Swaraj" in the village we are working and for the amazing work team has done on 2nd October !!

Will end with one line, " None of us is as strong as ALL of us" : )

Love you all !