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Stories of hope that made me smile

March 8, 2010

These are the news items we skip normally. What make news are death and destruction, vile politics and crass vulgarism, war and earthquakes and pestilence. Every newspaper worth its salt also carries what they call – human interest stories, stories of hope and of coming good despite all odds. These are the stories that we most often skip, or do not take heed to. Today’s Times of India also had its share of ‘news’ but then it also had stories that made me feel good first thing in the morning, they made me smile. They made me believe that life is worth the struggle – that there is a rainbow at the horizon. Some of these stories I have tried to encapsulate into small snippets. Here they are:

This Yuvraj Thrives on Hope: Story of a young 20 year old Yuvraj Walmiki who comes from very humble background and after having been rejected from the Indian hockey team ten times finally made it to the team that went to Dhaka and won the silver medal. Lives in a small room with his family, in Mumbai where there is no running water and no electricity. Is saving the stipend he receives from his employer, Air India to buy a house of his own. Also takes care of his brother who was handicapped after a fall. This young man has shown that one can achieve what one strives for, if one has the will and the focus. He scored three goals for India in Dhaka. Yuvraj is now in Delhi to play some practice matches with the World XI team. His other younger brother is following his footsteps and is also a hockey player.

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan! Army greens Ladakh: The cold and arid region of Ladakh where temperatures dip to minus 45 degrees Celsius is now a place where tomatoes, potatoes, brinjal, cucumber, garlic and onion are being grown. Thanks to the efforts of the DRDO and the Indian army. Earlier they used to airlift vegetables from Chandigarh which would cost Rs 150 per kg for transportation alone. And then the vegetables would sometime take three days to reach the forward posts making them inedible. With arid agrarian technology introduced by the Defense Research and Development Organization the region is now growing more than 5000 tons of vegetables per year. The people of Ladakh have found in this new prosperity and independence from unscrupulous middlemen. They are in fact selling their produce for profit. Something that was unthinkable some years ago has been achieved and the people of Ladakh have found new vigor in their lives, thanks to DRDO and the Indian army.

Bangalore-schooled MBA graduate heads home as village sarpanch: For most it would have been a step backward but for the 30 year old Chhavi Rajawat leaving behind corporate glamour and city life to head back to her village Soda in Rajasthan as its sarpanch (village head) has been a journey to her roots. A student of Rishi Valley School, Bangalore, Delhi’s Lady Sriram College (one of the top colleges in the country) and an MBA from Pune, she has worked in five companies before deciding to change track and head back to her village. There was an initial resentment to this city girl but she fought back and won the election for the village head. Her challenge, she believes is to change the mindset of the people of this dusty village and only that can bring about real development. She is bringing in a change that she could not have possibly done ensconced in the corporate world. Rural India is changing, thanks to people like Chhavi Rajawat.

Hunar, Hisab & Himmat: This is a story of educated Muslim women who work with young girls from their community and teach them to stand on their own feet. Education is the key and this gives them self-confidence. They feel that keeping the Muslim women uneducated robs them of a better life. They teach hygiene, physiology, and constitutional rights. Women like Jameela Nishat from Hyderabad and Razia Abdur Rahim Patel from Pune have taken up the cudgels to help women become independent. That includes the knowledge of handling money which gives these young women self esteem and take decisions independent of their male counterparts. They realized early on that there was a thirst among Muslim women for knowledge. They encourage women to educate themselves and become community leaders. They help women realize their potential (hunar), teach them how they can turn that into financial gains (hisab) and this gives them confidence (himmat). This is truly commendable.

Hope for Bihar tea trade brews in Kishanganj: When entrepreneur Raj Karan Daftary first started planting tea bushes in barren lands on the foothills of the Himalayas in Kishenganj, Bihar people thought he was crazy. Today the district boasts of 25000 acres of tea gardens and the migration from this region to other parts of the country has stopped. The region has prospered and even some of the corporate have jumped on to the bandwagon. The quality of the tea produced is so good that marketing of the produce is no problem. The state government netted Rs 25 lakhs as sales tax from the sale of tea from this region alone.  The Tea Board of India has declared five blocks of Pothia, Thakurganj, Kishenganj, Bahadurganj and Dighalbank as non-traditional areas for growing tea under its new area development scheme. As a mandatory incentive, the board has offered Rs 40,000 subsidy per acre of plantation. The foresight and the entrepreneurship of Daftary have worked its magic. The region has transformed.

Then there is a story of Bihari NRI’s coming back and doing something for the state. It is payback time for them. Clearly, what happened in Punjab in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s could well be replicated in Bihar and other parts of the country that have lagged behind traditionally.

Kind savior of the strays: This is the story of Neeta Devdur Bavdekar who has the passion of taking care of stray dogs. There are some sixty dogs in her two storey house in Jalahalli, Bangalore. All kinds of dogs find shelter in her house. She does not have a regular job, but that does not deter her from taking care of these stray animals. Her friends and relatives support her and send food for her dogs regularly. Neighbors are angry and find her passion for dogs a nuisance. The district administration has served her notice to relocate her dogs or else… Neeta Devdur Bavdekar deserves kudos not threats.

These are some of the stories in today’s Times of India – stories that most people will overlook. It is the bad and the gory that catches our attention. Before I pen down, I might add that the media has done another commendable job when NDTV (a leading news channel) organized the Greenathon – a campaign to light homes in rural India through solar lanterns. This initiative was sponsored by Toyota. The message was for a greener India and the organizers could manage to collect Rs 3.8 crores in 48 hours of nonstop coverage. Milind Soman, top model and TV personality jogged 100 kilometers in 48 hours and raised more than Rs 50 lakhs. This NDTV initiative will see more than 180 villages get solar electricity. Lighting each village costs Rs 2.5 lakhs and celebrities and individuals were coming forward and adopting villages. This is the second year that the NDTV has taken this initiative. This made me smile once again. Media can do a lot of good if they want to. Thank you Pronnoy Roy and the NDTV team for this hugely effective drive to light up rural India.  And thank you Cyrus Broacha for the constant jabbering that made it fun to watch.

When one sees such positive energy around oneself one cannot help but think – life is beautiful, it is just how we make it out to be.

Addendum: Boy from humble background makes it big: R. Vinay Kumar has just been included in the Indian cricket team for the T20 World Cup to be played in the West Indies. Vinay hails from a family of very modest means. His father was an auto-rickshaw driver. He did not have enough to buy cricket gear when he first began playing the game as a boy – his coach chipped in for him. His father, himself an athlete and a kabbadi player understood Vinay’s needs when he saw his son’s talent as a young boy. Vinay says that his parents sacrificed a lot for him. His father, Ranganath looks back and says that he does not know how he managed with his limited income. What he does remember is that he plied the auto rickshaw day and night to make ends meet. Vinay, has since done the family proud and Ranganath does not need to drive the auto any more. The family has shifted to Bangalore, from their home town of Davangere. Vinay looks forward to making the country proud now. Well done Vinay and kudos to parents like Ranganath who live their children’s dreams!!!

Abhishek Bhartiya gives hope: He helps his father, a cobbler, mend shoes in his spare time while his mother stitches rags to support the family, but financial hardships have not stopped Abhishek Kumar Bhartiya from coming out with flying colours in the IIT entrance exam.

Abhishek, who secured 154th rank in the SC category of IIT entrance test, now wants to propel his dreams by pursuing aerospace engineering at IIT-Kanpur here. His father earns Rs 60-70 daily and mother stitches old clothings to earn money. But “this has never held them back from facilitating our education,” Abhishek says, dedicating his success to his parents. Abhishek, who also tries to pitch in by polishing shoes at his father’s shop, has three young brothers and the family of six lives in a one room accommodation with no electricity.

“We have just one small room where six of us live and that too without electricity. So, he used to study under the lantern for five-six hours in the night,” says his father Rajendra Prasad. Source:  29.05.2010

Well done Abhishek, what you have done is truly commendable. You are a source of inspiration to many.

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