Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everest Talent Search Competitions

Early in the year, Kartheeban of Team Everest initiated a conversation with Senthil to find out if Team Everest can team up with Payir to conduct a series of competitions for the various schools in and around Thenur.  Team Everest provided a set of competitions that they would like to conduct and they provided the financials and support for the same. The team from Payir - Pachaimuthu, Saranya, Chellamma, Kavitha and Vinodha - worked on this project and made it a great success. They were later joined by Mythili.  

There were a set of 9 competitions that were held at 9 different schools. The competitions include Dance, Drawing/Sketching/Painting, Oratory, Singing, Thirukural recital, Bharathiyar Songs, Mimcry, Quiz and a few others. The competitions were held from classes 1st to 10th. The various schools where the competitions were conducted in the following schools --  
Varadharajapuram Panchayat Union Primary School
T. Kalathur Panchayat Union Primary School
T.Kalathur A.D.W Primary School
Kannapadi Panchayat Union Middle School
Nathakadu A.D.W High School
Nathakkadu A.D.W Primary School
Thenur Panchayat Union Middle School
Thottiapatti Panchayat Union Primary School
Thenur A.D.W Primary School

It was completely driven by the team. I am extremely surprised by their scale of execution.  This team of 6 people worked on the schedules, method of executing the competitions, the content of the competitions, certificates and prizes allotment.  

When I visited Thenur this weekend, the team was busy finalising the prizes and certificates with great enthusiasm. There are atleast 300+ prizes to be organized across 9 schools and double the number of certificates to be handed over. They plan to distribute the prizes by the end of this week - before all the schools close for summer.  

This same team is working on month long free summer camp starting on 1st May. More details on that later. 

Great work Pachaimuthu and team and many thanks to Kartheeban and his Team Everest

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Full Circle!

Mrach 10th, 2005 was the day when I was first introduced to the villagers by Periappa at Seerkalai amman temple (Thenur’s guarding diety). The main agenda at that meeting was on the kumbakishesham (consecration) of the temple and next was the introduction of me and about Payir.

Last night I was in an equally important village meeting for Payir. I had said earlier in one of my blogs that the perception about Payir by a section of the population (or a few villagers) has turned scathing. One major reason is concerning a funeral ground belonging to a section of the Dalit community. Our Trust’s (where primarily the hospital & learning center are located) geographical location is in such a way that we are on the way out from the village beyond the Dalit/SC Streets. Within the Dalit community, we have 3 primary sections - Pallar (PL), Paraiyar (PR) and Sakiliyar (has only a few families). Thenur (for about 800 families) has about 12 different funeral/burial grounds each for certain communities. One such funeral place - for the PR - was partly in the Trust property (my grand father had given a space 60 years before) and partly in the storm drain. after the hospital came up, the village decided to extend the road through SC street connecting to the main road.

As the funeral place was just about 100 m from the hospital and patients (or who ever needs to come to Payir) have to walk besides the funeral place, we proposed that it be shifted to an alternative place. This was when Periappa was alive. Anyway, after his demise, I took this up around mid last year. Now, the complexities that needs to be understood is, an alternative place can not one where the dead body be taken through any of the streets belonging to any of the other castes which are supposedly upper in the ladder - PL or otherwise! And there are very few Government vacant lands around. One possible location was just on the main road opposite to the hospital but that place was in front of a farm bought (after the hospital came up) by a person belonging to a Dalit - PL. This guy became our trouble monger. He started weaving stories - pitching caste and personal integrity factors. 

So, I had asked for a public debate on this matter. Our point was to look at the long term as many times villagers/mainly patients and women were wary of walking past a burning body or till the point it was fresh in their minds. But funeral places are always a very emotional stuff for villagers! To cut the story short, at the Panchayat level Gram Sabha it was decided to call a community level meeting (were all caste groups/heads are represented). Now, these community meetings itself is an interesting one. First, the heads of all castes belonging to other than Dalits are called for what is called a "vella modu" meeting. After a decision is taken within this group, the Dalit heads are called for - either the same day or on another!!!

This was the meeting I came from last night. The two primary agenda of this meeting, similar to the one on March 05,  was about organizing a festival for our Seerkali amman temple and next this!! I represented Payir and put my case through. Also, took the occasion to ask the bigger question within me on how and why did the perspective of Payir as their own community organization had changed. The meeting went well and they agreed on 2 things....see, if an acceptable alternate land can be found and next call for another meeting with the representation from the Dalit groups and put a suggestion through to consider shifting the funeral place.

During this discussion and what I have seen in the last couple of months, this matter has taken a lot of caste over-tones. Since, I come from the upper rung of the caste structure and I being the face of Payir, some have taken this issue of between upper and lower caste. Also, many times during the discussion, judgemental remarks based on caste has been passed. 

So many questions crop within me on this trial! hmm, hope to find answers before the next big meeting!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Here is how some of the advertisements in Indian television goes -

1. A guy drives around in a sleek bike. He notices a lot construction activity going - large skylines growing up and not a greenery in sight. He stops his bike in front of one of these monstrosities, gets down and tears down a foreign job offer letter. The background voice says with so much development happening in India, why go abroad?

2. Some kids eat a brand of biscuit and show their strong muscles; the view shifts to a great Manhattan skyline and back ground voice says - "Building strong foundation". 
Hmmm. Not surprisingly, there is an inherent message in these advertisements that development equals to great skyline and no trees. Development means cities and massive construction.

The common consensus in media world is that development means construction and sky lines. But, do not blame them, because most us also think in the same terms. We are brought up with the idea that development means cities and skylines. In fact, I stay in those monstrous looking building in Bangalore. Is it our education that makes us inherently think that development means buildings, sky line and infrastructure?

What is development for you? How will you define it to be more inclusive?

Picture Source: Atomic Shark

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Payir at India Today

India Today has a good article on Payir. Read more about it at Home Run - Spirit of Youth


Thursday, April 2, 2009

In retrospective

There is a reason for so much detailing of my Nainital trip. I was going through a lot of internal upheavals with the many moral compromises that I was making as a person, to an organization whose ultimate vision was facilitating a Truth based society - for which I was the face of it. The trip gave me time to retrospect on these which I am sharing here.
Payir as an organization, though run and largely managed by people from the community, has failed to involve the community at large in its initiatives, it failed to create enough and alternate capacities/resources for each program, a few of its program was not based on actual need/demand and became a provider, the community's perception about Payir over the last year was that it was associated with Power circles, becoming a power center of its own and a section of the community started perceiving us as a separate entity and not part of the civil (village) society.
My own compromises to Truth manifested by way of telling lies, where it was certainly unwarranted, being and showing anger, judging people and reacting based on that. And I was also getting tied down to family/relatives problems. People started to perceive me as someone intelligent but not as a leader.