Tuesday, June 30, 2009
If you have come across any bright students coming from poor financial background who have finished their 10th standard this year (April 2009) and scored more than 80%,
please ask them to contact the NGO-Prerana (supported by Infy foundation).
The NGO is conducting a written test and those who clear the test will be eligible for financial help for their further studies.
Please ask the students to contact the people mentioned below to get the form:
#580, shubhakar, 44th cross, 1st 'A' main road, jayanagar 7th block Bangalore - mob no - 9900906338 (Saraswati)
Mr. Shivkumar (9986630301) - Hanumanthnagar office
Ms. Bindu (9964534667) - Yeshwantpur office
Even if you dont know anyone, please pass on this info, some one might be in need of this help desperately.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Please add us to your Twitter account if you have one and also encourage other Tweeters to do the same.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I've been in regular touch with Karuna and Abdul as well as Jugal.
First Karuna- has been given all the cheques now. She stopped by my office to say hi. She came with one of her relatives.. since she was scared to travel alone. I must say meeting her has certainly cheered me up because she looked like a different person from the last time I saw her. She was wearing some earrings and a bindi and carried a very ladylike purse and overall looked better kept than the last time at her in laws place. Work is going well, and kids are good too. She had to pay a total of Rs 1600 towards school uniforms and is relieved about this money that's come in.
Shabira - Abdul and me have been speaking every other day, he's gone to the govt office a few times with no positive response yet. Jugal tells me there are some documents that Abdul has not yet submitted and once that's through some money will be sanctioned. The operation was yesterday I have not called him yet to check how it went, will let you know.
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Monday, June 15, 2009
The aftermath of Aila has changed the face of the Sundarbans. Much of the relief efforts in various parts of the region are being undertaken by private citizens, NGOs etc. Of these, a group from Jadavpur University is making. regular trips to different villages carrying with them medical, educational etc supplies. At the end of my message you can read a report from one such visit.
If you live outside Calcutta and you would like to help out, please send money. This group prefers to do its own buying of supplies. Knowing the people involved, I personally vouch for their sincerity and integrity. If you live within Calcutta and would like to join a trip, please call Samantak Das at 9434212841 or Deeptanil Ray at 9831495484 to find out what you can do.
After the devastating cyclone Aila hit West Bengal, I had accompanied some teachers and students of Jadavpur University on their second trip to the cyclone-afflicted villages. We had gone to the villages Bijoynagar and Birajnagar on the Bali Island, Sunderbans (Bali 2 panchayat area), on Thursday, June 4, with some relief materials, and distributed them first-hand. Here's a brief sketchy account of our journey to the cyclone-affected regions of the Sunderbans. This was circulated among friends who had contributed, and followed up by a detailed report, with the exact figures and quantities of the things we bought for the cyclone-relief, and the costs incurred.
Despite our reluctance to carry a camera, we had decided to carry one, since sometimes pictures document situations better than words. Those occasional pictures taken during the trip can be found here:
Soumyo, Dipanjan, and Abhijit— all of them PG1 students from JU English, and myself, a doctoral fellow from the same department, had gone to Burrabazar on Wednesday afternoon to buy the materials, except for rice dal, and packets of biscuits which we bought from Goshaba on Thursday, to save on the transportation cost. At around 9 pm, we transported the material— 200 heavy tarpaulin sheets, 200 lungis, sarees, and gamchas, a carton containing 100 zeoline bottles— to the campus on a tempo van. Some packets of medicines had also been bought and/or collected earlier.
On early Thursday morning we— five in number, Samantakda and Sujitda (teachers from the Comparative Literature department), me, Soumyo, and Abhijit (from the English department) started for Gadkhali on two vehicles, and there was also a gentleman separately carrying some medicines for Champa who got off at some point. One of Samantakda's friends, Jitda, had brought along his Bolero which was packed tight from above and inside with the sacks and with Soumyo tucked in uncomfortably somewhere between. The others fought for precious space with some of the tarpaulin sheets inside Samantakda's Omni van.
Gadkhali is at a distance of 112 km from the city, and it is reached by the road to the left of Science City passing through the Bantala leather complex and later through Kultali, with Canning roughly on the other side. The motorable road ends at Gadkhali; from here you cross the river Bidyadhari to reach Goshaba. On our way, we saw many broken houses and/or their remains, some remains of uprooted trees that have now been used for firewood, maacher bheri overflowing with saline water, numerous people camping along the road, and bleaching powder, where it's not really needed, spread meticulously on both sides of the metalled road (like the white lines you witness during a school sports) to mark the passage of ministers.
At Gadkhali, we saw a few vans with relief materials brought in by some clubs and small welfare societies, and a small number of relief camps set up by the Bharat Sevashram Sangha, RSS, TMC, and by 2-3 voluntary organisations. Though the people lining up before them were many, the size of each of these camps was considerably small, and I sincerely hoped that these were only stoppage points from where relief went to the Sunderbans' interior. There were 3-4 parked army trucks of the 20th Battalion. By then, we were already surrounded by desperate people from different villages where no relief had reached a week and a half after the cyclone. And we had no answers for them.
After Sujitda, Samantakda, and Soumyo had visited Bijoynagar and Birajnagar on the Thursday immediately following the cyclone, they had arranged for some youths from Birjanagar to help us with the transportation. These young men had voluntarily come to help again, and without them it was next to impossible to move all that stuff. We said farewell to Jitda and his driver, climbed on to a bhatbhati (a medium-sized leaky boat that runs on kata tel like the city autorickshaw) with the youths from Birajnagar, and crossed the river to Goshaba.
At Goshaba, we bought 15 quintals of rice and 3 quintals of dal, and 15 cartons of biscuits. It took us one and a half hour on the river Bidyabati to reach our island by boat. A few hundred people of the thousands living on the riverside of this rather big island have had some 'relief' in the form of chnire-gur and paper-thin plastic sheets after the cyclone. The chief minister had crossed this region, but, as on Thursday, nothing had been done. And as for the people living in the interiors of similar islands across the Sunderbans, their condition is left for you to imagine.
We left the river Bidyadhari behind at one point, and entered a 10-feet wide canal that cut some way into the island. We had the low tide to keep the boat afloat, but the boat's motor was no match the receding waters, and it was a tremendous act of collective effort that prevented the boat from capsizing. In chest-deep to knee-deep foaming water and mud, almost all of the twenty people atop the boat got down, and pushed and heaved and tugged to keep it going. There was a village youth with a spinal cord injury who pushed alongside us and kept up the cheer.
When we reached Birajnagar, we saw groups of men working desperately on the embankments that the cylone had blown off. I learnt this was a voluntary effort pioneered by a schoolteacher. The panchayat had done nothing; sulking away in anger in aftermath of the recent electoral happenings. Everywhere you could see devastation, remains of houses and trees, and precious crops, and faces with an expression of pain I remain incapable of describing.
The news had spread and soon noisy crowds lined up before the 'distribution centre' we had set up. The infinitesimal quantity of things we had brought along started evaporating fast. A man in his forties was standing next to me, staring at the rice with vacuous eyes. He had lost everything to the cyclone, his house, his family, and the memory of large quantities of rice. An old man with a white beard, of about seventy years of age, was shouting angrily at having to wait in queue. Later I spotted him; tears flowing down his cheeks, putting a fistful of uncooked rice in his mouth. We saw a woman with a baby suffering from acute diarrhoea; there were many.
We started on our return journey in the evening. Near the canal, we heard a few angry words from a group of people whom we had been incapable of providing anything. And there were the few people whom we had seen silently working on the embankments. With Saturday's high tide right ahead, they were preparing for another great fight. A lonely people, I thought, when deserted by the gods and the government. The boat moved easily with the rising tide, and shadows loomed large over the numerous islands of the Sunderbans, none of which we were capable of visiting.
As we had appeared tripping and falling along the muddy canal side in Birajnagar, Soumyo and I had befriended a child who heartily laughed at our predicament. His name was Biswajit Mondol, I later learnt, a student of Class VI, and of the many I talked to, his was one of the most innocent and cheerful face you can ever come across in a child. On the day of the cyclone, Biswajit was inside his house, and his father stood in chest-deep water throughout the night with his child on his shoulders. In the morning, they found three-fourths of their house gone. How they survived is a strange question of chance considering that the cyclone had washed away houses and trees, people and livestock in their neighbourhood. Their family had spent the next four days without food, in semi-starvation as on Thursday.
With three of his friends he accompanied us on our boat to Gadkhali. While we were in the middle of the river, he excitedly pointed out a spot where he swore he saw a group of mermen— people of the underwater villages devoured by the river and the floods long ago. They have islands just like ours, he told us, where they have men, women and children living under the waters without any contact with the outside world.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009
Visited Momina today...
Did not spend too much time because she was not feeling too well.... She has completed 8 months and 2 days of pregnancy. She had visited the doctor yesterday. She is looking very weak...
Her kids join school tomorrow. The second one also starts school tomorrow.. I gave her the Rs 4,500 which Parul had transferred.. Looks like she needed the money with the admissions and delivery all round the corner....
She actually did not expect me to come back after the last visit (our last visit was with Rahul from TISS). Her phone was not working so was not able to call her also all this while.
Have requested her to call me every week or at least once in two weeks so I know how she is feeling. I don't know when I can go next because once the rains start, going there would be really difficult.
Hopefully by next month the Taj/TISS cheques should start reaching her...
I've spoken to Purnima a couple of times over the past ten days. The heat has really been troubling the poor girl. Purnima and her son-in-law took Aahana to the Indian Inst. of Cerebral Palsy on Friday. Aahana checked out fine, but they referred her to a paediatrician who practices along with my sons' paediatrician. She also happens to be my aunt-in-law's friend and I've heard good things about her, so I know Aahana will be well-looked after. The IICP will also be giving Purnima a letter stating Aahana's level of disability which they can produce in the court for the change of guardianship.
My place was on their way so they stopped while going back home to pick up the cheque. She has called the Panchtatwa up to personally thank them.
I have also spoken to her about setting up a trust fund for Aahana and she wasn't averse to the idea at all.
Friday, June 12, 2009
We gathered 25 votes. I'm still in an OMIGOD I can't believe it kind of frame of mind.
Renie Ravin from Indiblogger called to let me know India Helps had won and for a good first three seconds I had my brain scan-matching friend's voices to check who could be bluffing me. But this is the real McCoy.
All ye who took time out to vote for us, thank you on bended knees. All those who jumped right into India Helps when I started out with a blog and a hope to help, you are my backbone. Here's wishing we do make a positive difference to lives brutalised by disaster.
Thank you and do keep reading us and writing in.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009
You asked me about the Aila relief work and I'm in a better position now to talk about them. Things are pretty difficult for folks in the low-lying areas and that's not really very far out of Calcutta, actually.
Relief work is being undertaken by private citizens, NGOs etc.
Clothes, rations etc are being collected from across the city and I'm donating to Rotary effort. Also, in a more private way, I'm sending clothes for a friend's maid's child and so on. You know how it goes. The work though is mainly needed outside Cal. Within Cal the damage is less scary. Outside, folks are dying by the day. I plan on buying supplies and sending them.
Edited to add: If any folks in Kolkata would like to help out or if anyone would like to pitch in to help the cyclone victims, do write in to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Race for Life
Every summer, the women of Britain get the bug - the bug to "Race for Life". This is a 5k race run (or walked, in my instance!) to raise money for Cancer Research UK. I have been wanting to do this for years and decided to go for it this year. So on Sunday, 14 June, I shall be racing for life in Basildon, Essex.
I foolishly thought this will spur me to get off my arse and train properly. Unfortunately, despite the best wills in the world, it didn't quite turn out that way! No excuses. My race partner and I have decided we are just going to wing it. (May be we'll glug Red Bull prior to the start!) As I walk that distance (it is 1.5 miles to P's school) everyday, I am not worried but my only desire was to jog it. Oh well.
So far, the Spouse has put up half of my pledged amount of £50. Can I entreat you, my loving reader, to shell out a £1 for this cause? Needless to say, it is for a good cause.
Please sponsor me http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lavanyaa <http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lavanyaa>
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Monday, June 8, 2009
Rahul from TISS had messaged me. TISS has agreed for a sum of Rs 10,000 (not sure for how long) to be given to Momina Khatoon.
The money will go to her within two weeks. They also want to provide her some psycho social help. for which the faculty of TISS will be visiting her.
I was not able to visit her this weekend, also her phone is not reachable
Sunday, June 7, 2009
days are left. Please vote for us here:
if you think we're doing something worth supporting...
Friday, June 5, 2009
I spoke with Abdul last evening as well as just some time back. He met the required person at Mantralaya yesterday who has asked him to fill certain forms and submit by Tuesday. He has asked one of his younger brothers who is better versed in writing to help with the same and will ask me for help needed, if any.
The operation that we needed to raise money for has been postponed to 18th June. Until then shes undergoing various tests at Wadala and Sion..
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Thursday, June 4, 2009
Jugal from Times now just called me, we've been speaking over the last two weeks over this case, he had also been trying to help out etc. He just called and gave me some encouraging news.. one of his friends had a contact through whom they managed to put this case forward to a Maharashtra Minister, who said that they would have taken on this case and her medical expenses had they known of it earlier, and don't mind doing so even now.
Abdul is meeting him this afternoon with necessary documents, lets hope for the best. Both Jugal and Abdul said they'll call me back as soon as the meeting is over.
Pray hard folks!