It's been an interesting week. One of the best things about being with an organization like AID (Association for India's Development) is that we get several speakers every year who share their experiences of working at the grassroots level in India, or being the voice for those who need it the most. This week we had the opportunity to listen to and interact with three speakers.
P. Sainath is a journalist, photographer, and the ONLY full-time appointed Rural Editor in the country. Some years ago, he wrote a series of essays for the Times of India on poverty and rural issues. These essays were compiled into his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought, which won him the Magsaysay award. The stories are deceptively simple and humorous, but leave you with a clear picture about the reality of every day life for the majority of Indians who don't see the benefits from rapid and reckless globalization.
Also, his series of photographs titled Visible Work, Invisible Women - about the reality of life for women in rural India was used as the theme for the AID Calendar in 2003, and his pictures traveled through North America in an exhibition. (This year's theme for the calendar is food, and they should be available shortly).
I have this collection of photographs in the calendar - the pictures are powerful and moving. But can't find them anywhere online. Here's one that I found.
So though I knew about P.Sainath, and had read his book, it was a different and interesting experience to hear him speak. He is a very intelligent, forceful speaker. He has lived in villages for several years, with the people about whom he writes, and knows them and their lives intimately. More recently, he has been the voice of farmers all over India who have been committing suicide due to the effects of the global, monopolized agricultural practices that are sweeping across the world.
I wish I could start all over again and take courses in journalism and history from him, and do something substantial with my life. He is very inspiring, and if you haven't already, you should check out Everybody Loves a Good Drought or his other essays.
Ravi and Aravinda were the other speakers, the founders of AID, who returned in India 10 years ago after graduate school here, to work full-time at the grassroots level, living in rural India and working to find sustainable, intelligent and environmentally friendly solutions to problems faced by the majority of Indians who are being left behind in this scramble for "development".
They showed us their latest invention - a bamboo hot pack lined with hay and jute, which cooks rice and keeps it warm for up to 8 hours, with 60% less fuel use and time commitment! This amazing invention is fully biodegradable, local and efficient!
BTW, the movie Swades was partially inspired by Ravi's path in life - check out this wiki entry and you will see! We have met and listened to them several times, and as always, their talk was full of information that left us pondering, and re-evaluating our lives.
So it's been a very interesting week so far! Interactions like these reinforce our conviction to live as lightly as possible on the planet, to always be aware of the ecological consequences of our actions, and to take a stand against issues that are close to our hearts and be vocal about them.