Saturday, August 20, 2011

Payir connects to the world - Wirelessly

Friday Aug, 19th 2011 is a memorable day in the diary of Payir Trust, and Payir Innovations... We connected to the world wireless using Radio Wave transmission from our nearest telephone exchange (~5km away).

This has been a long journey which started in November 2010. We were connected to the internet over wired line from Puthanampatti exchange. BSNL ran a special line for ~5Km. We used to get ~2Mbps, which was heavily shared by the many computers in our IT center, Learning center for e-Learning, and Health center for tele-medicine. This was also the main contact line for our founder, employees and volunteers to connect to the rest of the world and spread the work we do. However running a cable for ~5km, exclusively for us with not much revenue, had its own challenges - physical, natural and human interventional. As a result, we were out of internet services for many days, sometime months...

We were brain-storming on various ideas on how to connect wirelessly. We contacted RuTag unit in IIT-M as well. We explored various ideas which were either expensive or not feasible. Finally we had a ray of hope in Mr. Kuppuswamy, an ex-employee of BSNL, now retired and settled in Bangalore. He is part of our Friends of Payir - Bangalore Chapter. He introduced us to the Chief General Manager of BSNL Mr. Mahendrakumar, who took special interest in getting wireless connection to Payir.

The initial steps happened at a lightning pace:
- BSNL 'emerging business unit' did feasibility study in Thenur and gave the go ahead signal
- BSNL Head Telecom Office approved our request to erect a wireless Radio Wave Tower in our premises
- We got in touch with Mr. Nagaraj of Vista Infotech, who gave special attention to Payir to get tower installed and all other necessary cabling and equipments

Then came change of personnel in BSNL, the TN elections and things were stalled. We were patient but persistent in our goal to get wireless connectivity in Thenur, and kept talking to various people in BSNL. Finally we got the approval to install the 8Mbps modem on our tower, after a lot of last mile push.

We are now happy that our time, money and efforts have paid off, and we are getting 3-4 Mbps uninterrupted internet connection for the past 2 days. We plan to utilize this for the uninterrupted continuity of our current services, and future activities. We have the provision to transmit wireless upto 21km radius, and plan to transmit and connect many other village centers to the internet, and truly make RURAL world CONNECTS TO URBAN world a reality

We would like to thank all our supporters and well wishers who have helped us to achieve this feat.

Friday, November 26, 2010

HOPE for us to Have and Give

Today I visited a person who is nearing 80. She has done yeoman service in her professional life spanning nearly 50 years and still doing in other ways. During our conversation, at one point she told that she is surprised that I carry the hope for a better to-morrow. She says, with the magnitude of (immoral) happenings that she sees around today, people (like her) of her generation hope only for the end of their mortal life. I am sure, this is not one person's commentary, but of many.
This strikes me very hard. If our generation is creating such disdain with our previous one, we need to question ourselves what is that we are giving to our next generation? I tell myself that all these stuff of working for social development is secondary, tertiary more so...the most important meaningful work we can do to create HOPE...a hope that communities and societies based on compassion, honor and truth can exist even among the ruins created by the same human society.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jai Ho

Preethi, a Homeopathic Doctor, even though has been with us on and off for past couple of months, was initiated into actual community work yesterday. And it turned out to be a day to remember for her.
Preethi came back from the field visit saying she can't take off from her memory the tears and the eyes that beheld it! She, with a deep thought, asked me when the house for her in the village will be ready (she is now staying in the farm). I was a little perplexed .. she told, staying there she can physically help with the construction work of Amutha's home .. the beholder of those tears.
I opined that while it is a good thought, we should also look at alternate solutions for Amutha. Preethi is just going through exactly the battles I went through when I started living with the community here. Our breed of people bleeds with the heart which actually does. For many of the policy makers, growth model managers and students of development theories Preethi's decision may seem emotional, a solution that is neither scalable nor sustainable, that has little direction and has limited impact. On the contrary, I believe, what she is carrying now is something that will in certainty bring in happiness to the immediate life of Amutha and her son. There is an indirect consequence that this happiness spreads. Thats a far better impact than many of the theories which never sees the daylight and when it does brings no solace for people like Amutha..contradictorily these policies landed her in trouble in the first place!
As I was discussing with Preethi about Amutha, the MSN page I was browsing had an article "Anil Ambani's $1 billion home still not in the list of Forbes most expensive homes"... Jai Ho!!! I pray, Preethi's heart and her breed of people swell large enough to be some day listed in the annals of history!
Now, let me get to the day of Preethi's! She visited a few homes where our health workers found it very hard to make an impact even though care is absolutely necessary. Later she had a meeting with a group of ladies.
When coming back, she visited Amutha whose husband moved out of her life immediately after a boy was born. Amutha has very few relatives and her son is also not a healthy boy. While she goes out to do daily labour work, she is not the "strong" ones whom a farm owner/employer prefers...she can't be a load (wo)man, masons won't prefer her or she can't do paddy thrashing. She won't get work all days because of this and she may not be equally paid like the rest.
Now, through a Government housing scheme she was offered a "pucca concrete" house for her thatched home. The Government pays Rs.70,000, part of it by supplies. Like many of the ill planned schemes, some 3 lakh homes were to come in the 1st year across the state. The timing was wrong, demand shot up, prices of raw materials went up by nearly 200%. A brick which was costing Rs. 2.75 a month before is now Rs.6 .. and if the person is lucky to get a hand on it. Anyway, lot of her neighbours convinced Amutha to go for it. Now, she is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, with her house raced down and not knowing how to finish this building!
Amutha found a patient ear in Preethi to tell all her life sorrows and sufferings. She being pushed into a dependent life all through her life and the daily suffering she has to go through, any Tom, Dick and Harry has an idea for her. I have seen many times she takes a decision which hurts her later. We can endlessly debate on the attitudal change that change makers have to bring in her...but for some one who suffers day in and day out .. who is loved by very few, who goes empty stomach many days, on whom the society slants its concocted eye ... the only comfort given is love and sharing.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In search

Many of these days, I keep questioning myself what I would do if I decide to just be an individual person of help to those who are suffering. I would be able to relate my emotions more truly without the constraints of being part of an organization. I would truly be a nomad moving from one place to another doing whatever little help, making those small differences, adding life skills and passing on my values. I would have no one to command but just be a partner for someone, some groups of human beings who wants solace in life and a better tomorrow. I would just be answerable to my own conscience and to those lives I am part of. There will still be goals, changes, improvements, setbacks but no reports to write about, nothing to tell anyone.

Deep inside, this is me..these are the reasons Payir was founded. My life is meant to be lived this way. Now, it hurts with such pain that no longer my life is this way.
Why is it, people have to find a motive with Payir except other than these? While I understand and value discussions, debates and sharing ideas, Why is it, people want to push their own "development theories and timelines" when I live my life only for these ideals? Why is it sometimes, "the purpose and effect of use" of donations/contributions not only be explained but rationally proved?! Why is it, Payir and myself are not considered as an instrument in and for the community and every minute of our existence goes on thinking about the community we share our lives with?

My journey continues in search of a better answer than the narrow constrains of being part of an organization ... knowing and working with its own practical limitation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hazards of one-dimensonal solutions

Our broad band connection is the back bone for our Software development, E-learning initiative and Tele-Medicine – each one of them making a huge difference to our efforts here. In the first place, this type of connection to a rural area beyond the normal limits, itself was a tremendous effort by the local staff of BSNL.
Lately, for the past 3 months, we have been having constant issues with this connection. And I don't think the initial level of efforts is there now to try solving the issues. Normally, such issues are not one-dimensional but our working culture wants to solve that way. In this case – distance from sender tower to us is larger than normal limits.
I think, in solving issues that has a high amount of social impact, one needs to first decongest the small bottle necks. While, a larger and permanent solution could come from the "one-dimensional" issue – the high level of technicalities, economics and time for creating such solutions means insisting on it can tremendously slow social progress.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The people element at Payir

My visit to Thenur, like Senthil loved to put it time and again, was more a dawn of a relation with Payir and the people there, than a mere volunteering activity. And I suppose that is exactly what I ended up making it... I have wonderful memories of the place, listing all of which will be quite literally impossible. But I do have a few words to say about those extraordinary people... Let me mention here that there are many many more people I should be listing and that the I am not doing justice to a whole lot of people by not taking their names here. These people are the first few I would want to speak about, though...

For the refreshing company they offered me, the endless chats we shared, for the visits they accompanied me on, for all their time and patience with me, I thank Saroja and Karthi. I learnt more about art from them than I could ever hope to teach them.

For those sweaty mornings we spent working together on cataloging, her sweet way of humming while we were at it, I shall remember Then. I hope the kids still adore her like they did when I was there, and I hope they don't test her patience as much!

For all those fresh conversations laced with a rustic wit, for all the profound knowledge about various fields that he imparted to me, I shall remember Ponnudurai Sir. I hope his daughter, Ahalya, is doing fine and that his wife's scanning has shown good results...

For all those evenings that I spent running behind her, I shall remember my first ever cycle student... I hope Mallika is doing good. Tell her I want my ride with her, as a pillion, on her cycle the next time I visit!

For those evenings that we spent scraping the violin, the guffaws we shared about extinct species, the little nothings in our evenings, the delicious parting lunch that she and her mum prepared for us, the pleasant and patient, the haunting trademark smile of hers, I shall remember Mythili. I hope this multi-faceted lady has been practicing sketching. Have you, Mythili?

To all those refreshing coffees that she took special efforts to brew just for me, to all those mouth watering dishes she indulged me with, to all the motherly love and affection that she gave me... I shall forever remain indebted to Jayamma. I hope she has learnt to sign her name right now. Somebody please tell her I miss the coffees' she used to brew me in the kitchen, after freshly cleaning the place with cow-dung-mixed-water!

To those endless engaging conversations that captured my days effortlessly, to all those narration filled evenings that seemed ever too short for me to let go, to all the borrowed eccentricities that I can add to my own character henceforth, to all those enthusiastic pursuits that he set me unto, to all the glorious moments that he managed to spare for me despite his time being too expensive to be spent on trifles like me, to have taught me just about every lesson that I have learnt during my stay there and for opening my vision to capture new perspectives of life that I had never seen existing before... to all of these and much more, I can barely thank Senthil enough. He is 'THE' magic charm behind Payir... the wonderful man who can ceaselessly manage to keep you in awe of him!

Besides, I hope Senthil (NOT the founder!) Sir's daughter is doing good. Manoharan Sir, I hope he is not as busy as Senthil usually keeps him! Gajendran Sir, I hope he has been hunting as much as he likes. I hope Soubhagyam Ma'am and Selvaraj Sirare keeping well... And, how are the folks in the Chutti school and the BPO?

I can only wish they're all keeping well... and that I shall!

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Do the farms look green?

How can one ever expect a man chasing greedy goals to understand what it means for a farmer when the rains disappoint him yet again? Or how it shatters a villager to see arable lands without cultivation? How can one expect a man who spends half his life in an AC chamber to understand what if feels like to stand on a parched land feeling the sun’s fury on one’s head and to look into a well that shows no traces of water despite the numerous bores that scar it? How can one ever get a man, skipping a job that pays him in lakhs for another that pays him a few thousands more, to understand how folks in the village work on all the days of the week for much longer hours and do far more strenuous work for an annual income that amounts only to those few thousands?

Cultivation is tough job. Constant and persistent vigilance, sheer hard work, endless perseverance is what it takes to get a good yield. In the end their crop is sold at a mere amount. So, what lies ahead for the farmers there if they don’t move out and the current state of affairs don’t improve? Can we hold them responsible for wanting a better standard of life that their endless efforts in their farms don’t seem to accommodate? What destiny awaits these fertile lands when each farmer decides to move into towns in pursuit of better pay and a better quality of life? How do we propose to feed the huge population if such a thing ever happens?

Folks in the villages seem quite ignorant of how life in the towns is. But their ignorance seems much lesser than the ignorance town folks have about village life. People in the cities have no clue how a village functions and how dramatically their way of life is changing the rural life. Media seems to be barely reaching out to addressing certain issues they must have addressed ages ago. Issues that deserve all the attention they can afford to get; issues that would certainly hold much more relevance to the Indian masses than certain other news pieces that cram our media like which business tycoon is dating which actress.

Misplaced priorities and misplaced focus are commonplace problems. Sometimes they don’t make much difference. At other times, they make all the difference there is to make. Sad...

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