Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Lessons from Bill Gates talk in Mumbai

I heard Bill Gates in Mumbai last weekend.  It was connected to giving and philanthropy.  He made some interesting remarks from which there was much to learn.

1.  When asked about the use of his funds in perpetuity, he said that Melinda and he would like to spend the funds in their lifetime. They wanted to see that money being used for maximum benefit, for the causes they thought were important to serve.  In response to what about 'future funding', he said that he hoped that in the future too, there would be other donors that would set aside money for noble causes, and they were not the only donors.

2.  On how he would like to be remembered?  He said they wanted to cure those kinds of diseases, which after their cure, people would not remember that the disease even existed. So, how would you remember a person who funded the cure of a disease, if you forgot even about the disease.  Or sanitation, either you have toilets or you don't.  After you have them, the new generation does not remember what life was like without it.

3.  On what he would he behind for his family?  He said, he wanted his children's feeling of self worth come more from what they earned themselves, than from what he left them in inheritance.

Amazing thoughts.
Much to learn, and much to imbibe. 

महानगर - by राकेश कौशिक

On our Foundation Day, I quoted the first few lines from a poem written by Rakesh Kaushik, महानगर,

It is an interesting poem, that refers to the insensitivities that a city cultivates.  Where nobody is a friend.

I hope, that at Somaiya Vidyavihar, we build people, so that they are sensitive to one other, their community, their society, and ultimately, the whole world.

I referred to Sahir Ludhianvi's poem, जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पे वो कहाँ हैं ।
and that, we will strive to build in our campus, those that feel for our country.  And that our founder, Shri K. J. Somaiya's favourite motto was:

न मानुषात् परो धर्म  - There is no religion greater than service to humanity.

Let us live up to those ideals.


Here is the poem.

तुम्हारे पास जो भी आता है।
उस पर
तुम्हारा ही रंग चढ़ जाता है।
तभी तो
जब एक मनुष्य
कूड़ेदान से लिपट कर
जूठन से अपना पेट भर रहा था,
पास से गुज़र रहे
मुझ पर
कोई प्रतिक्रिया नहीं हुई।
मैं भी
दूसरे हज़ारों राहगीरों की तरह
चलता रहा।
मेरी आँखों ने उसे देख कर भी
अनदेखा कर दिया।
मेरा दिल पत्थर का हो गया।
और थोड़ी देर बाद
उसी कूड़ेदान से
एक कुत्ता भी
अपना पेट भर रहा था।
तुम कितने महान हो।
तुम्हें कुत्ते और आदमी में
कोई फ़र्क नज़र नहीं आता।
दोनों की भूख
एक ही कूड़ेदान से मिटाते हो।
तुम कितने समदर्शी हो।
विशाल अट्टालिकाओं के साथ हैं,
एक तरफ़
पाँच तारा होटलों में
थिरकते कदम,
रंगीन शामें,
डिस्को, कैबरे,
पानी की तरह बहती शराब,
और दूसरी तरफ़
भूख़, गऱीबी,
फ़ुटपाथों पर पड़े लोग,
कालीघाट पर
ग्राहकों की राह तकता
रोटी के लिए बिकता शबाब।
ये कैसा नशा है तुम्हारे नाम में
कि आदमी
फ़ुटपाथ पर, झुग्गियों में,
मुरगी के दड़बों से घरों में रह कर भी,
गंदगी, प्रदूषण, भूख, ग़रीबी,
हर दु:ख सह कर भी,
तुम्हारे ही गुण गाता है।
तुम्हारी हवा में
ये कैसा ज़हर है,
जो आदमी को आदमी नहीं
एक मशीन बना देता है।
चेहरों पर
झूठी मुस्कानें चिपका देता है।
हमदर्दी, प्यार, अपनापन
शब्दों को अर्थहीन कर देता है।
तुम्हारी धरती पर
पाँव पड़ते ही
इंसान बदल जाता है।
तुम्हारे पास जो भी आता है।
उस पर
तुम्हारा ही रंग चढ़ जाता है।

The link to the same is here:


Thursday, 18 September 2014

On the visit of Raghuram Rajan to Somaiya Vidyavihar

It was wonderful to have Dr. Raghuram Rajan to commemorate the foundation day of Somaiya Vidyavihar.  He saw our student innovations and gave away the awards with the patience that they deserved.  

He spoke at length about growing inequalities, and the absence of any innovation of the type that occurred in the early 20th century.

He spoke on how the routine jobs are being 'automated' leading to loss of jobs and opportunity, and the non routine skilled jobs are being paid even more.  That is leading to greater and greater inequality.

In many ways, what we are trying to do, is to address these inequalities.  Our work at http://www.helpachild.in/ in providing scholarships to those students who are needy and promising, ensures that they have opportunity, that they would have otherwise not had.  

Similarly, we are trying to provide education in rural and urban communities.  Recently, in a meeting if our Sakarwadi school, our member Mr. Saudagar complained, that after we nurture students until the 10th, society loses them, because they have no bride to take them to college. 

With that inspiration, we have now decide to apply to te government to allow us to expand our offering until the 12th in these schools.

Similarly, in our K. J. Somaiya Vocational training institute, we have tried to attract students from the Pratikshanagar slum, where we also run a health centre in association with the Ramkrishna Mission.  Bhanupriya, was one such student from Pratikshanagar, who graduated from our program, and is now part of the skilled workforce in a company in Mumbai.

He also mentioned on how we need to do major innovations.  These should help transform productivity, and provide opportunity.  

I think innovations should be such to also provide solutions to the problems plaguing society.  Such as water, food security, health and livelihoods.  

At nareshwadi, we are trying to engage our Environmental Students under the guidance of Rajendra Singh (waterman of India) to help make more water available using traditional techniques.  And to work with other organizations to help in sanitation.  

We are trying to add to livelihoods by providing a jasmine growing Programme, and now planning to create a extraction plant and sell te same to international companies such as IFF.

Hope that we can make the world a bit easier for others.  As Sureshbhai had posted a poets words:

माना के इस ज़मीं को गुलज़ार न कर सके 
कुछ खार तो कम कर गये गुज़रे जिधर से हम

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Banking for those who are not served

Last month, when in Dahanu, we were celebrating the opening of our new school building, and the success of our Jasmine growing programmes in the villages of Divshi and Ghadchinchla.  This Jasmine programme started when our young hostel students, who wanted their mothers to stay at home instead of leaving to earn daily wages, asked Patricia Gokhale, if she could think of something. The Jasmine is what she started.  THe villagers harvest about 2 kg per day.  At about Rs. 100 per kg, each home is earning a supplementary income of Rs 200 per day.  And over 300 mothers stayed at home, with their families.

They have had little or no exposure to formal banking.  And the bank that they did go to, was a few km away.  

I spoke to Vishvaveer Ahuja, of Head of RBL bank, and we are delighted that he has brought doorstep banking to these villages.  The bankers go to the villagers, with handheld devices, and the bankin has started.

The neighboring villages are keen to know how this happened, and also desire to start banking

Saturday, 13 September 2014

On facilities, encouragement, and amazing results

A few days ago, I visited Sakarwadi, where one of our schools, Somaiya Vidya Mandir, and where many children come from very difficult backgrounds. This is where, we also started a sports programme a few years ago. There are about 500 students in the school from class 5-10. And, 60 students from the school are playing at the Pune Division level. In Badminton, Table Tennis and Hockey. Amazing, what a bit of facilities and encouragement can do!!! 10% of the school children having won in the Zilla, the district, and now at the Pune Division. Next step, the State level. And these kids are faring well academically too.

Foundation Day 2015

It was humbling to speak to all our faculty this past week.  We have over 1400 faculty, and I believe that over a thousand came together today, to celebrate our 55th birthday of Somaiya Vidyavihar.  It was the first time, that we had come together as all the faculty.  And to meet everyone together.

The idea came from Vijay Joshi, that why don't I address all the faculty together, and explain the vision of the Somaiya Trust, and what we are trying to do in the fields of education, health care, rural and tribal development, and the preservation of Indian culture.

There was so much energy in the room.  To see all of us together, in one room, in one place.

Thank you all for coming.  Thank you all, for being part of the Somaiya Family.  There is so much we want to do.  We cannot do it without you.  But with you, we can create the world we dream of.