Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Dubai Airport

The first taste of middle-east was given in the form of Dubai. Our flight from Kolkata, scheduled to land at 1.15 p.m. (Dubai time) landed at 12.40, well ahead of the scheduled time. We were brought by a bus to the Transfer Terminal (supposed to be for passengers who have an onward journey only. In the flight itself I had been informed through the in-flight TV that my flight to Frankfurt EK - 047 will be leaving by Gate No. 22. I thought that must be one of the last Gates in Dubai. When I got in.... Ooh, in spite of a sea of passengers, the security was quite tight, my Passport and Visa were scrutinized thoroughly--much more than at Kolkata, and then when I looked for Gate No. 22, I was shown a long street of shops, almost like the Burrabazaar of Kolkata, of course, much decent, clean and straight. And much more, I found that there are 50 Gates for boarding ! My goodness! When I think of six gates in Kolkata, where, still they keep shifting your Boarding Gate abruptly, I just can't imagine how they manage 50 gates. Well, I saw the staff to be prompt, cold without feelings, strict, and from all over the world. And of course, even my Boarding Pass went through a Swipe Machine to create records for on-flight details. And now, I wait at the 22nd Gate working on a free Wireless Internet connection provided on the laptops. That's a new world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The European Journey - the Departure

I had finished packing all things by noon on 28 August, Tuesday, and had carried a heavy suitcase to my office in the ground floor. As the clock was ticking away the time, I checked and re-checked things. Everything seemed to be fine, and I had instructed sufficiently everyone on what needs to be done. At 7.00 p.m. accompanied by Fr. Markus and Fr. Herman, we went for a dinner at The Embassy. A simple meal with some fish fry, chicken, daal, mixed vegetable, a plate of vegetable fried rice, and two naan, were all in the menu. The delicious meal really helped me as I did not have a good meal during the day. At 9.20 p.m. some of our Staff took the luggages to the bus standing outside the gate. Mr. Mishra, a friend of mine, came to bid me "good bye". All of them waving their hands, and me waving back to them from the sleeper coach... it was all fine. But then, when I opened the mobile, the unthinkable had happened. It just would not open! Several times during the night I tried. It just would not budge. I think I slept off as we passed through Malda at 11.oo p.m. Again, I woke up at 4.10. The bus was still at Baharampur. The road had been bad and there was some traffic jam. So, we had taken five hours to cover 115 kilometers. Well, the journey continued. I reached Proggaloy at Barasat, just five kilometers from Calcutta airport, so that it is easier for me to leave in the morning.

After a wash and breakfast with Fr. Soosaimanickam, the Director of Proggaloy, I went to meet our Bishop Alphonse D'Souza who is at St. Xavier's College, Calcutta for some medical check-up. The Bishop has not been keeping too well of late. He was very happy to see me. I spent about 40 minutes with him. I briefed him once again my travel plans, asked him for his blessings, and came to Seva Kendra in Calcutta where I finished my lunch with Fr. Reggie. It was time to go to Esplanade in Calcutta, where I purchased some masala (Sambaar Masala and Rasam Masala) to take with me to Germany-- to cook some Indian food there, because Ms. Julia, my friend, has planned an Indian dinner there! I took a bus back to Barasat, to spend some time quietly in reading and in internet.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sanitation for Agumpur Girl Children

Agumpur is 65 kilometers south of Raiganj, in Gazole Block of Malda district. The St. Anne's Children's hostel had 115 primary school girl children with just only one toilet. And the children were having hard time for bath and other natural needs. Ultimately, we approached Manos Unidas who sanctioned 4545 Euros for the purpose without much delay. Now, the children have five toilets, urinals, a tank to hold water for their bath, and a submersible pump that faithfully provides water to the needs of the children and other inmates. The Completion Report is made available here for everyone's view. We thank Manos Unidas and all their donors for their generous help. May the laughter of these children continue to motivate you and may the Almighty and Ever loving God shower His Blessings upon all the donors.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let us Bank !

I am preparing to leave for Germany and Spain on 30 Aug. I had some pleasant experience as well in the process of preparing for my departure. My travel agent had helped me get some 200 Euro before I got my Visa, so that it got recorded in my Passport. But that may not be sufficient. I did not want to burden anyone when I reach Europe. So, I thought of carrying some more money. But how do I do it. Many suggested that I carry a Traveler's Cheque. Some told me to take hard cash. Can I use my Debit Card? Some said, "That is Better". I was told by some to get a "Traveling Card". I approached the Branch Manager of ICICI Bank Branch at Karnajora. Mr. Jonathan Noor was more than willing to help with with every bit of details. Although it is a rural branch, he coordinated with another Branch authorized to issue the Card, and took care to get all my papers done in a single day, and still more helped me to understand the entire concept of using the Traveling Card, its benefits, and how safe is my money. Waaw! I found the experience great! Thank you ICICI for selecting such good people. I really enjoyed the experience of Banking! We can bank on the banker at Karnajora!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Departure of Sanjay and Shivangi

Mr. Sanjay Nahak, presently the District Coordinator of Malda district, and Ms. Shivangi Gupta, presently the Micro-Insurance program officer, both working at Social Welfare Institute, were given a farewell on 14 August 2007, at a simple function. The Director Puthumai A. Nazarene and Fr. Markus Mardi, the Asst. Director appreciated the hard work put in by the two. In response, both of them thanked the Director and all SWI Staff for the learning opportunity they had while they were at work in SWI. Both of them are expected to join other organizations shortly.

Making of the Tailors

A six months long Tailoring training program for tribal girls --drop outs from primary schools-- commenced on 20 Feb 2007 at DDC, our training center, came to an end with the issue of Certificates, a cultural program and giving away of prizes on 14 Aug 2007. Of the thirty girls, 26 of them passed successfully and they will now join some tailors at their villages / towns for better experience or they will begin the trade by themselves. Mr. Mahadeb Dey, the Asst. General Manager, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development graced the occasion. In the picture you can see Ms. Lakhi Oraon, a poor tribal girl from Chanchol, Malda district, receiving a Tailoring Machine as first prize from R. Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director and Mr. Mahadeb Dey.

Increasing Income...

The Community Based Disaster Preparedness Program (CBDP) aims at building resilience among the vulnerable people to ensure that they are able to cope up with the natural disasters. Since poverty is one important factor, and dependence on agriculture for the poor means, they are left with no alternate sources of income, SWI has begun to support over 500 families through trainings in animal husbandry, poultry and micro-fishery. This will mean that the selected families will have other alternate sources of income throughout the year besides the crop that is seasonal. Ms. Barnali Roy and Ms. Rekha Soren along with their team are busy ensuring that the trainings are completed on time and the fishes, chickens and other materials are distributed properly to the deserving community.

Positive Strokes

On Sunday 12 Aug, I drove to Kumarganj (110 kms from Raiganj) on the Bangladesh Border, close to Balurghat town along with Sr. Rosy and Mr. Mathias (our driver), and we reached there at 11.00 a.m. A Motivation Seminar for teachers of all the schools supported by SWI was coming to conclusion on that day. Fr. Babla Mondal was the resource person for the three days workshop. At 11.20 I was asked to give the final address, and the 53 teachers and me discussed on giving and the impact of Positive Stroke to the students in their primary schools, and also on the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom, and how, our schools must impart wisdom along with knowledge. After lunch, we traveled along with Fr. John Kennedy, the Parish Priest of Kumarganj to Katnidanga and Bagdol, where my friend Fr. Emilius Soreng lives in one of the most interior parts of the diocese with over 175 children there. We had coffee and some cool drinks and from there we traveled to Bishrail to wish the FIHM sisters who had inaugurated their convent that day in the morning. We had dinner with the Claretian fathers staying at Bishrail. Fr. Selvaraj cmf, Bishrail, is a wonderful host always. By the time we returned to Raiganj at 10.30 p.m. the body was aching to go to bed. And I did just that!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Garden at the Waterfront

Every person who has visited Social Welfare Institute knows that the present Director loves gardens. He had prepared a beautiful garden in front of the training institute (DDC) at Chotparua. Now, DDC is in the process of getting another. The entire large pond is being enclosed, and a beautiful garden area is being prepared. Mr. Mathias Hembrom and other non-office Staff of SWI are busy in the making. Besides a picturesque view and a romantic look, the garden will also have two large umbrellas built for people to have group discussions or for a cup of coffee beside the garden. Sr. Rosy of the Canossian sisters has agreed to take care of it, to make it bloom with roses and lilies!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The German Consulate

Tuesday, 7 August 2007 : It was an wonderful experience to spend some time at the Kolkata (Calcutta) German Consulate for me (Puthumai). I reached the Consulate at 8.45 a.m. The doors were well guarded. And once I was at the Security, I was told that due to some reasons they will not accept any more applications for the day. I was worried. Mr. Felix, a friend who came with me told the Security man that as I am from Northern part of Bengal, and that I am in very responsible position, it would not be possible for me to apply for a visa another day. The Security officer called someone on the intercom. I was allowed to file the application as the 12th man for the day. I went in. My friend was not allowed in. Once I was in the air-conditioned room, I spent the time reading about Germany.... about the technological innovations that is going on in Germany, the slowly progressing economy there and on the Indo-German relationship. There were plenty of matter to read. I sat quitely reading them. Others were making a lot of noise. Well, a German young lady came to the counter at 9.02 a.m. And the interviews began. I saw her questioning some, accepting some, rejecting some, getting upset with the travel agents who had not brought any original traveler, but had brought handful of Visa Application Forms and Passports of people etc. At 10.20 my time came. I gave the form and other documents. I introduced myself. She kept asking for some of the papers which I had in my hands. I kept speaking to her as she kept browsing through my papers. I told her the purpose of my visit. She was extremely satisfied. She asked me, " Are planning to return to your place today?". I replied, "Yes". "Well", she said, "you come at 3.00 p.m. And I shall get your Visa done!" I just couldn't believe my ears. "You mean, this evening?". Pat came the reply, " Yes. I shall do it for you. We can recognize the genuine travelers quite instantly." I thanked her and returned. All that I know was the number of notices I saw at the Consulate which said, "Visa Applications may take up to five working days for processing." My goodness! I know now, I am Welcome in Germany by every German citizen! The richness and the promptness of Germany was already visible.

Puthumai to Visit Germany and Spain

The Director of Social Welfare Institute, Puthumai A. Nazarene will visit some of his friends and benefactors in Germany and Spain. He is expected to leave India on 30 Aug, 2007 morning to Frankfurt via Dubai and will return on 12 Sept. We are grateful to all the friends, specially the Kuester family for taking extra-ordinary trouble in arranging for his trip to Germany. He may also visit the offices of some of the funding partners in these countries.