India: Journey of the Joy Called Life

India: Journey of the Joy Called Life

joy“Be like children in the kingdom of God,” said Christ.

As a child, I always wondered what this saying meant—sometimes I still do—though I have heard a really meaningful explanation which goes like this:

A personality trait in adults, akin to that in children, which is: to have unconditional love, perennial joy, unshakeable faith in ones parents, strong spirit and a “Go get it!” feeling which can never be explained. In short, to have the heart of a child – strong and soft, at the same time.

Observe a child for even a short period of time. And anyone would know what that biblical phrase means. So, I did too.

A few months ago, I was so worried about my son, that he did not exhibit an interest in outdoor activities and that his bicycle was rusting away. And then, suddenly one day, he got this urge to ride his bicycle.

We helped him, ran behind the bike, he fell down a little bit. His best friend was with him constantly, who had already mastered the art. His grandfather was there too. And then his father. It was a big moment! Yes, it was.

And I saw all the stages with my own eyes. Trying to ride, balancing, joy, falling, pouting, getting-back-on, smiling, balancing, riding-joy, smiling, more riding-joy, riding-fast-joy, exhilaration-joy, racing-joy, controlled-riding-joy, showing off-joy, being-a-pro-joy, and so on …

These were all different stages of joy. There was no disappointment even in falling. There was not an iota of doubt that he could not master it. I marveled at the heart of a child. Yes, I was that too, once, long ago; a few decades ago. He never doubted his joy, he never doubted his ability to master it. As adults, we have regressed a long way.

I wondered, “where is that beautiful joy in me now?”

Yes, I am very happy in my life. And I am joyful now and then for many of life’s blessings. But why isn’t that joy, that zest for life,  always there, 24/7, 365 days a year? I am not really sure, I guess “life happens” as they say.

So it made me wonder: “wouldn’t it be great if we all had that kind of childish joy always? Looking at the sky, filled with clouds, making out shapes, dragons and dinosaurs; licking an ice cream like a wild child; stopping to smell flowers; looking at a starry sky at night. Are these the things which give me joy?

Cuddling with my son; seeing him fulfill his aspirations; seeing him successful; seeing him joyful and happy and content. Is this what gives me joy as a mother?

“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
~Hafiz of Persia

So what gives me joy? All of the above, and this too:

Bringing silence into my life, even when it is noisy and filled with all the activities of being a mother, a wife, a woman.

Acceptance, forgiveness, and being content with life, even while  striving for my own personal sense of perfection.

Reconnecting to my own heart, my own inner self, seeking it in the stillness of my heart.

Will these bring me joy?

Being like a child, enjoying this beautiful journey of life, at the same time, not losing focus, and still loving, and accepting and trying, and being joyful all through!

joy riding

Oh be still, little heart… the wonders of a joyful heart! Stillness gives me joy!

What gives you joy? Has any simple life event helped you introspect, reconnect with your Higher Inner Self and brought back focus to your life?

This is an original post from our World Mom and Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan.

Her contributions to World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.

Photo credit to the author.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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INDIA: #DayOfTheGirl Celebrating Girlhood With Murals In School

INDIA: #DayOfTheGirl Celebrating Girlhood With Murals In School

In celebration of International Day of the Girl, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, interviewed the heads of a very special school in India. What she learned and felt was nothing short of amazing…

I was ushered in, inside the Vice-Principal’s room when I expressed my desire to interview both, the VP and the Head-Mistress. It was a completely relaxed chat, and I was so surprised about the open-door policy embraced by this school for all its teachers and students. All my prepared interview questions flew out of my head as they talked about the school, the students and their passion for teaching.

Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice-Principal (left) and Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, Head-Mistress (right) of the PSBB Millennium School

Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice-Principal (left) and Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, Head-Mistress (right) of the PSBB Millennium School

During the chat, I observed so many students and teachers, and other staff members of the school, knocking and walking in with something or the other which needed either the Vice Principal’s or Head mistress’ intervention. No, you don’t need any appointment to go and say ‘Hello’ to them. None of the students did.

And as we proceeded to chat, I became more surprised and awed at the way they addressed students on a first name basis, from various grades who had popped in for a chat. Who could remember so many names? They did!

It has been a great pleasure to chat with Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice Principal and Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the head Mistress of PSBB Millennium School in Chennai, India. They spoke about their teaching journey, their vision for girls and boys in the school and the murals. It was the murals which sparked my curiosity and led me into their doorway. I included picture of them throughout the interview below, and I hope you find them as beautiful, as I did! Now on to the interview…

What inspired the murals? Who did them?

Initially, we got a palm imprint from all the girls of the school to say, “I am proud of being a girl.” The boys of the school wanted to join, too, to say, “We respect you.” This was done to celebrate the “Day of the Girl Child.”

These murals were an extension of the same theme.

The senior students were encouraged to paint the walls sharing their thoughts on being a girl, and the boys also joined, to express how they felt about their girl-classmates.  The result was the lovely messages that came across on the walls.

Mother Earth Needs Her Daughters

Mother Earth Needs Her Daughters

What was the effect of the murals?

They are receiving a lot of attention. The occurrences of boys teasing girls has reduced considerably. Bullying is also greatly reduced. Respect between the genders has increased. The general attitude has improved.

These murals are painted at the backdrop of the playground, and all the children at some point in time look at them at least once a day. And whether they want to or not, they have to acknowledge their presence consciously or subconsciously. Children right from grade 1 to 12 share the playground and so they would look at them. They would talk about them. And it would create an impact as to how girls are viewed.

The murals affect the thought process of both the boys and girls as they grow up. Boys would respect girls and girls would grow up to be secure, and confident in this society.

Girls Make The World Bright, But Struggle To See The Light

Girls Make The World Bright, But Struggle To See The Light

What is the % of boys and girls in the school?

Boys beat girls by being 54% and girls are 46%. But this is still a great ratio for the state where female infanticide is rampant in the rural areas.

Let Me See The World

Let Me See The World

Can you comment about the performance of the girls and boys in the school?

Girls always out-beat boys! They are more sincere, they are meticulous in their planning and definitely more hardworking.

Do Not Let My Life End

Do Not Let My Life End

They also spoke about their respective personal teaching career and their journey in the school. Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, the Vice Principal joined as a Mathematics teacher and now in addition to her duties as a Vice Principal, she continues teaching Mathematics for Grade 12. She is also the HOD for the Math department. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience in mathematics, and she is passionate about it.

Girls Are Great, Nurture Their Fate

Girls Are Great, Nurture Their Fate

Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the Head Mistress is also the HOD of the Social Science department. She also manages dual responsibilities and says she would never trade the joy she finds in teaching for anything. When I asked about her retirement, she says, she is a grandmother, too, and would love to go and spend time with her grandchild. But she feels strongly attached to the school, the children, and even to the principal.

A Girl Child Today, A Mother One Day

A Girl Child Today, A Mother One Day

The Principal of the PSBB Millennium School, Mrs. Sita Uma Maheswaran also had a few words for World Moms Blog in spite of her very busy schedule. The below conversation is from the Principal.

Do you feel like there is a true cultural shift taking place to recognize the importance of the girl child?

On one hand, we Indians, have so many woman deities  being worshipped as God.  On the other hand, we still have women and young girls being gang raped.
There is a lot of talk happening about justice and equality but it us yet to reach the rural level. Urban girls are more enthused, and they do pride in their being a woman and appreciating girls. But it is a known fact that there are certain cities where women fear to step out.
Girls Are Great, learn To Appreciate Them

Girls Are Great, learn To Appreciate Them

What is the main factor driving this force?

Attitude among men is the main factor, irrespective of whether they are educated or not. The way they have been brought up with values in life, the way they have seen their mother or sister being treated – this can have a great effect!
I Am A Girl, Not A Choice

I Am A Girl, Not A Choice

How do you think these murals are affecting the thought process of girls and boys in the school?

There is respect which is breeding unknowingly for the girls, from the side of the boys.  They realize that girls are to be respected and  appreciated.
Give Girls The Wings To Fly

Give Girls The Wings To Fly

What was your journey like to become the principal of such a prestigious school?

I began as a Teacher Trainee in PSBB Senior Secondary School in 1986.  It has been a roller coaster ride since then. There have been many a thrilling moments and a lot of learning. It is but natural when you get to work under some one like Dr Mrs Y G Parthasarathy, The Dean and Director of the school. Becoming Principal was a lot of responsibility. The work is more challenging. My perspectives have changed, too, because of the broader outlook. I work with more people now, and the goals that I set for myself are different, too.
Girl Child - The Greatest Gift To Mankind

Girl Child – The Greatest Gift To Mankind

What is your one wish for girls in your school and all over the world?

Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the Head-Mistress said, ” I want girls in my school and all over the world to have self-respect, self-esteem and know that they are powerful. I want to teach the girls in my school to face the challenging world with confidence and courage and know that they can be whatever they aspire you to.”

K(no)w Mother, K(no)w Daughter, K(no)w Life

K(no)w Mother, K(no)w Daughter, K(no)w Life

Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice Principal said, “I want to teach my girls courage, valor and self-esteem. The great South Indian poet Bharathi said, “It is a great blessing to be born as a human, and even greater honor and privilege to be born as a woman.” I want my girls to realize that. I want my girls to be mothers, sisters, daughters and to be an embodiment of love for this entire race.”

There were a few other teachers too who shared their wish for girls everywhere.

Girls Education Can Change The World

Girls Education Can Change The World

Mrs. Mukhtar Tahsin Fathima, third grade teacher

Mrs. Mukhtar Tahsin Fathima, 3 – grade teacher

Mrs. Mukhtar Tahsin Fathima, the third grade teacher said, “I want all girls to have awareness about sexual education. I want them to know and be able to protect themselves under any untoward circumstances. I want little children, both, boys and girls, to be given adequate sexual education, and the ability to take care of themselves and seek help when they need it. They should also let down their reservations, shyness and taboo and come out and speak and discuss and be aware of things.”

Mrs. Deepa Seshadri, English Teacher

Mrs. Deepa Seshadri, English Teacher

Mrs. Deepa Seshadri, the English teacher said, “I want my girls to be able to wear and talk what they feel like. They should have the freedom to be natural and happy. They should not have to live in a world where any spontaneous or innocent act is misconstrued in a wrong way. My girls as well as boy students should be able to live in a world which is liberated from prejudice of gender-related actions.”

Mrs. Banumathi, Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Banu, Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Banu the Kindergarten teacher said, “I want equality for all my students. When gender equality is ensured, everything else follows. Education of girl-child, empowerment of women, better living conditions for girls and women and many such issues are resolved.

Girls have a say in everything happening with them. They are independent, and they get to decide what they want to do with their lives. I have brought up my daughter, instilling that she is equal or better than just about any of her counterparts. Every mother and teacher need to do the same with their children. “

The Principal of the school, Mrs. Sita Umamaheswaran said, “I want my girls to know they are no less than any boy or man. To dream big, and set goals that they can work toward. Enjoy womanhood and be in a world that respects women and safeguards them.”

The students of this school have expressed their wish for girls across the world, through these hand-painted, beautiful and striking murals.

What is your wish for the Girl-Child across the world?

This is an original post from our World Mom and Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan on the occasion of the “#DayOfTheGirl Child.”

Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.

Photo credit for the murals, to the PSBB Millennium School.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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INDIA: A Sports Club, A Community, and The Boys

INDIA: A Sports Club, A Community, and The Boys

The boys after a game of chess

The boys after a game of chess

It all started with one eleven year old boy’s boredom. He wondered how to keep himself occupied in the holidays which were to come the next week. He talked about it to his friend, and they decided to coach the younger kids in their community. And the idea evolved. Today, Ashram Avenue Sports Club, the one in my community which has over 20 kids, some coaches, some students, some both, in various types of sports have joined in the plan.

So, in my community there is a club, started by tweens. They coach the younger kids (aged from 5 to 10) in football, cricket, badminton, chess, art and crafts. They created a website, a Facebook page. They even collected money from all parents, and appointed a treasurer and are keeping balance ledgers. This money is utilized to buy supplies like balls, sport kits, first aid, etc.

There are two adults who are administrators, keeping an eye on everything they do. Once in a while they check the account books, talk to parents and just about do whatever needs immediate attention. My house is the venue for the chess coaching. An empty plot nearby is the ground for the outdoor games. Yes, they sought permission from the plot owner, and he was kind enough to rent it out to these budding idea machines for no cost at all.

So, during the weekend and holidays, they have a schedule which involves all these games with breaks in between.

I am so happy! That is the point of this post.

The parents are happy with this arrangement. There are a lot of problems, too, but everyone likes this idea. And hence, we are constantly evolving and as and when we face any issues, we try to sort it out among ourselves.

No, these kids are not great coaches. They are not training the younger kids to become Olympic Players either. For that, a few other children are enrolled in professional sports schools. But this is for keeping the children happily engaged and in a good and structured manner.

I do not know how long this will last. It has lasted now for about a month. And it has constantly been evolving into something more meaningful and more effective. This is a good community where I am living. Everybody almost knows everybody else. It has its own positives and negatives. But so far the positives have outweighed the negatives.

As a mother, what does this mean to me? Personally, my son was not an outdoorsy type of person. He was more into intellectual things and not into exploring sports and activities. Well, there is nothing wrong in that, because everyone has their own interests and abilities. But this initiative has made him explore sports. He is familiar with all sports but now he is interested in playing, too.

I do not expect him to excel in sports. I only want him to know and understand the joys of physical activity, sports and games. For that I am grateful to these “coach-children” who made this happen.

Has anything special happened in your community which left you mildly surprised and at the same time immensely thankful?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Purnima, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.

Photo credit to the author.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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INDIA: Perfection, Competition and Swami Vivekananda

INDIA: Perfection, Competition and Swami Vivekananda

 

"Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man – Swami Vivakananda"

“Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man – Swami Vivakananda”

Sometime back I wrote about Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s school teacher and my perspective and how it was appropriate for our lives here too. To bring up a good human being and to help him/her learn and get educated is the role of the parent and also the teacher at school.

Well, there were these competitions going on in my seven year old son’s school again, here, in India. This time it was Western Music. I am so fond of these musicals. My son sang some of my favorites and then Que Sara Sara and Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. He continued to the preliminaries, quarter finals, semi-finals and the finals. But one day while preparing for the finals at home, my son suddenly said, “Not all are going to win.” 

I said, “Yes, they are not. But if you want to win, you need to practise.”

 

He was not the type of person who was interested to sing, but the type who loved to listen to music and songs. And I discovered this during this time.

“But amma, I don’t care.”

“Well, you should do your best. And then if you don’t get to win, that is fine. But you should not just give up.”

“I am not giving up. I just don’t want to sing.”

“Oh?”

Well, I was at a loss of words. I did not want him to do something he did not want to do. But then we were already into the finals, and I thought was it not a sheer waste if he did not even participate? This got me thinking…

The next day I found this quote in his school’s website.

Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man – Swami Vivakananda.

We send our children to school for education and the teachers and parents are loving and affectionate and try to encourage the children to imbibe knowledge.

But then, what do they actually learn? Only what they chose to!

And also, sometimes they don’t learn and at other times they are very smart in academics. They also indulge in sports and other extra-curricular activities. We are happy, sometimes sad, and at times indifferent to various achievements, successes and failures and mediocre performances of our children. So many choices, actions, results, and yet Swami Vivekananda says we are all perfect.

If everyone is perfect, then where are the gaps? Why do only some people win? Why are there so many differences and scales of grades? ‘Manifestation’ is the significant word. What manifests out of a child is important. And whatever manifests, the society, the parents and the teachers are responsible to some extent. And then the children themselves are finally responsible. We bring up a child, giving him a lot of room to explore, think, discover and find joy, and, thereby, allow him to manifest his perfection.

I did not ask him to practise a lot for the singing competition. If he is not interested, let him not be. Maybe he is interested in building robots. Maybe he is interested in literary pursuits. Maybe he is interested in astronomy when he points out the pole star and Venus.

Because he is talented to sing, does not mean he should want to do it or become the next pop star. Whatever he allows to be manifested from himself, only will be, and I cannot force it.

And the reason for what he focuses on, no one can understand. It is his own mind acting under his own will and there are no explanations for that. So, let me not put a restraint to the manifestation of his perfection. Let him lay down his own options and channel his own interests.

In the end, he did end up participating in the finals, but without practising and the results are not out! But I shouldn’t care about the results because he doesn’t, right?

Is your child exercising independence in what he wants to do in life and what he wants to achieve? If so, are they different from what you think? And how do you handle it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Purnima, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.

Photo credit to Wiki Media Commons.

 

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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WORLD VOICE: A Village Made Into Heaven

WORLD VOICE: A Village Made Into Heaven

A couple of weeks ago, we featured a remote village, Piplantri (Western India) on the Gates Foundation. Piplantri is a model village, whose actions of change have been very well received all over India.

Aloe Vera products from the small scale industries

Aloe Vera products from the small scale industries

They plant 111 trees for every girl child who is born, create a fixed deposit of INR 31,000 (approx. USD 620) in her name which attains maturity when she is 18 years old and chalk up a legal agreement between the parents of the girl child and the government that they won’t get their girls married off before she is 18 years old. They also have Aloe Vera industries in which the women of the village are employed. So they have achieved MDGs #3 (promote gender equality and empower women), #4 (reduce child mortality), and #7 (ensure environmental sustainability) at one go. Today on the blog, I would like to introduce Mr. Shyam Sundar Paliwal and his wife, Anita, who were the pioneers of this change action in their village. Anita is 42 years old, and she got married after she finished her 12th grade. It was an arranged marriage and the couple were happy.

Their first daughter Kiran was 18 years old when she passed away. She died due to dehydration. That was the turning point in their life, and they vowed to make lives of others happy.

They also have another daughter Hemanshi (22) and a son Rahul (15) who is in 10th grade. Hemanshi is married and has a child, too.

The women of the village tending Aloe Vera

The women of the village tending Aloe Vera

Anita recalls that when she came to her in-laws place after she got married, the first lesson she received from her father-in-law was to plant banana saplings such that they bear fruits during the rainy season and then plant mango saplings around the banana trees. Banana trees absorb water during the monsoon and transfers this water to the mango trees through its roots during the arid summer season. She says she has stuck to this piece of advice to date in her village and ensured that her villagers follow such age-old farming wisdom.

Anita, who is the wife of the ex-sarpanch (ruling political head) of the village, Piplantri, is a very active community member. She is a Zila Parishad Member (Elected person of the district council). Her husband has always been supportive of her as a woman and wants her to do her best for her villagers. He has never restricted her in any way. Though she is more educated than him, he has never been jealous of her, but has only encouraged her and furthered her growth and development as an active member of their society and community. She says, if only all women of the world gets a husband like Shyam, the women of the world will be better off and we would not be speaking of women’s rights here. 

Shyam Sundar won the panchayat elections in 2005 and he says he first wanted the people who worked in the government offices to be comfortable. He installed the first AC in the office, brought in some comfortable furniture and ensured that people in all echelons of the society were treated equally. (In rural India, at times, the upper caste people are given more respect and sit on chairs, whereas the lower caste people are treated shabbily and sit down on the floor. Read more about the Evils of Caste system in India here). He said, he worked on the psychology of the ruling body to make them happy and comfortable. He says, only if they are happy, they would start working on reform measures and help provide for the remaining villagers. He, at his own expense, made the offices a comfortable place to work and conducive to provide better results.

He started small. In this difficult water shortage era, he diverted the waste water from all houses/offices towards the fields. Better water conservation was ensured. If waste water does not stagnate anywhere, there would be no mosquitoes and no dengue and fewer diseases. So, he solved primarily problems with simple, cost-effective solutions.

He installed drinking RO water systems in schools. Brought in furniture for the students and made the public schools better than the expensive private schools. People started flocking towards government schools. He raised awareness slowly and in a small way, which evolved out.

Mrs. Anita Paliwal working on the Water Harvesting Structure

Mrs. Anita Paliwal working on the Water Harvesting Structure

He started rain water harvesting with the help of government. He built canals. He used the women of the village who were unemployed. To the left is a picture of Anita, who at times does not hesitate to get into the fields with a mean sickle. She and her husband were instrumental in starting the water harvesting structure of the village. In most of his welfare activities 90% of the employed are women and 10% alone are men. Women of the village have been blessed indeed to have him there, says Anita. In addition to 25,00,000 Aloe Vera plants, there are 10,000 rose shrubs which are also used in small-scale industries for toiletries and medicinal supplements. Women are employed in all of these schemes.

Mr. Shyan Sundar Paliwal and Mrs. Anita Paliwal with Anna Hazare

Mr. Shyan Sundar Paliwal and Mrs. Anita Paliwal with Anna Hazare

He started the Kiran Nidhi Yojna with the 76-year-old International Social Activist, Anna Hazare to ensure that no girl child is married off before 18 years old. This man who himself did not study in a college, ensures that all girl children in his village get a college degree. He also nudges the parents to get their girls married off in collective wedding, so that money is conserved and better utilised for other public welfare schemes or for their own savings. This scheme also granted government land to the parents in return for planting 111 trees on the birth of their daughter in that land, and tending to it to fruition before their girl child is 18 years old. On the death of any community member, the family is requested to plant trees again.

He says this again works on their psychology. The girl children treat the trees as their own brothers and sisters. After all, the saplings were planted on the day of their birth. And the parents get emotionally attached to the trees which came into existence on the day their family member was born or died.  They then take care of it as a family member, and would under no means cut it down. He says, it is all in the hearts of the people. If people get involved with their hearts, anything is possible. He made people to get emotionally attached to nature and trees and the earth.

I learnt something new from Anita and Shyam that day – Ecofeminism.  It is such a beautiful concept. Women and nature have been connected since time immemorial and this couple have harnessed it.

After all, he who was not highly educated could work on such things and make that beautiful village into a heaven, he says, the whole world could change too. And we would have no need to talk about the MDGs or uplifting of any downtrodden society/community.

When asked how he felt when his village was showcased by the Gates Foundation on their Blog, he gushed with happiness and pride. The district collector and Panchayat officials were so excited, too, he said. But his only complaint was that he could not get a hard copy of the magazine which he could show his villagers. He is so proud like a father, like the father of the heaven he created.

He also invites donation to his Kiran Yojna Scheme for the fixed deposit of INR 31000 of every girl child born in his village. He invites the contributors, readers and fans of World Moms Blog to make a trip to Piplantri. He wants people to embrace such change and for them to build upon it to suit their own society, and community.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Purnima, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.

Photo credit to Piplantri.com

What do you think about the traditions put in place to support girls and women in the community  of Piplantri? 

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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