Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jeyamary Weds Surendran

Ms. Anto Xavier Jeyamary, the only daughter of my eldest brother, married Mr. Surendran, a driver by profession. Jeyamary is a teacher by profession with a Masters in Science (Chemistry) and a Bachelor degree in Education. However, she is under employed as she has not got any permanent job! (Height of unemployment in India) This was a arranged marriage, and both of them hail from the same village, Adaikalapuram in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu. The wedding ceremony took place on 30 December 2009, at 10.30 a.m., at Arockia Annai Church (Our Lady of Health) in the village with six priests officiating at the function. The marriage was attended by over 700 guests and involved dinner on 29 December, and Breakfast, grand lunch and dinner on 30 December 2009.

In total over 2,000 meals were served! We all wish the newly wed couple, long life, sweet days and healthy relationship. May God bless them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I travel a lot in India on the trains. One sight that cripples your eyes is the sight of children coming around to sweep the wagon in which you travel, and ask you pitiably for some money. I give at times generously, and sometimes meagerly. And I avoid giving any money rarely...when I see that actually it is a group that is coming around. These children are in their pre-teens, malnourished, shabbily dressed and usually between 6 - 9 years old. And they travel in these trains long distances. Once they have some money, they get into the next train and return. But, return to where? Do not know! Some of them can be seen on the platform of large railway stations. Some of them just seem to vanish.

Some organizations have taken up rehabilitation programs for these children. But none of seem to have any study on how exactly these children spend their 24 hours. What do they do for their survival? Entertainment? Shelter? How many of them approach to what? What are their other core competencies. Why don't we see teenage "sweepers" in the trains? (Although one / two are rarely visible, no regulars.) At the transition from preteen to teenage what happens to them? How and where do they disappear?

A student from Western Washington University will be coming in here soon: Andrew Roberts. He is willing to take the challenge. To sit in railway stations, to travel in local trains and follow these children to see what actually happens to them. How do they spend their 24 hours.

Meanwhile, if any of you have any better ideas as to what can be done for these children, write to me at

Friday, December 25, 2009

First Cave-Man of the Written History

From the Christmas reflections...given by Puthumai A. Nazarene, on 24 Dec 2009, midnight.

"Look at the Child. Look at his fragility. The One, who is born without a mother in heaven, is born without a father on earth. The one who will walk on the seas, and has the power to cross the oceans in seven steps, as Job describes, is now powerless even to stand up! The one whose breath can bring life, the one who speaks, and things come into being, is now lying, not able to speak a word! The one in whose hands are the entire human destiny, the moon and the stars, the one when he touches the dead rise to life, and the dumb begin to speak, now can not lift his fingers! It is in weakness divinity is!

Look at the symbolism of his birth. He is born in Bethlehem. Beth means “house”, and lehem means “bread”. It is “House of Bread”. The one who will be saying, “I am the living Bread. The one who eats of me shall never die”, is born in the house of Bread. Come all of you. And Eat of Him! He is born to be eaten. He is born to be shared. He is born to be broken. He would say, “I am the bread that has come down from heaven.” Yes, the bread from heaven is born in the house of bread, in a manger—a place for animals to eat! The symbolism of bread and eating cannot be left out. He will take a bread and tell his disciples, “Take this bread and eat, because this is my body…broken for you”. That is it. He is born to be eaten!

He is born in the manger, in a cave. Caves have small openings as doors. You need to bend yourself to enter in there. The one who does not want to bend oneself, stands outside! In humility we must bend ourselves before him. If you want to meet him, see him, you need to humble yourself and enter in. The one who did not find a place to be born is now born under the earth in a cave! Jesus becomes the first cave-man of the written history…to begin a new history. And from under the earth he will shake the pillars of history. Here on, the human history itself will get divided. Before Christ and After Christ!

(To receive the entire text write to me at :

Happy Christmas

Dear all, I wish you a Very Happy Christmas! May the joy and peace of newborn Christ fill your hearts with His Love.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

People Solution

It was yesterday, 23 December 2009. I reached Raiganj the previous evening, and in the morning, at the invitation of the priests at the Cathedral church in Chotparua, I shifted myself from Raiganj to stay with them during the Christmas. And the priests here had given me a room in the second floor. I reached there after meeting several of my friends, and consulting the doctors for a minor infection that I suffer from, at about 8.00 p.m. It was dark as I climbed up to leave my briefcase. I found that the lights on the wall that light up the staircase were not working. Immediately after that I joined them for dinner, at which I said about the staircase. The younger priests who were supposed to take care of house maintenance complained that the lights have been fixed in the “wrong places” that it is too difficult to change bulbs. They said, however, that they would give a try again. When I finished my dinner, taken my pills, and climbing up I saw two young priests and a housekeeper struggling with the bulb. They had brought a bamboo to climb up….which would have been extremely dangerous. The position of the bulb was in between two floors with no straight floor underneath. One of them was saying that the last time he changed the bulb, a year ago, they had brought a ladder and had it footed on single leg, and the other side was held by someone.

I looked up and gave them a flash answer. It is really easy to change the bulb! How? I told the priest (who was stronger physically) to pick up the housekeeper on his shoulder and that is exactly the height they needed. Believe it or not! With the housekeeper comfortably sitting on the shoulders of the priest, in a minute the fused bulb was replaced with a good one, and the lights came!

Moral of the event: a) Complicated problems often have simpler solutions. b) When you can not solve problems, seek advice. c) If things do not solve problems, people can. d) If you are willing to carry someone for a while, he would not mind making the place filled with light for you e) Problems can look clueless simply because of your perception

Have a Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Action is Inaction

The only action the government of West Bengal seem to be busy with, as it is feeling the heat of being in action for over 30 years ruling the State is: inaction. On 17th December 2009, Shri Anisur Rehman, Minister in Charge of Panchyats and Rural Development, West Bengal announced at a press conference that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) which is implemented as West Bengal Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (WBREGS)is being revised and the wages will now be Rs.100 per day from 1 January 2010. What these statements however do not reveal is how the State Government has withheld the rightful arrear payments of NREGS workers of Rs.500-Rs.1000 per job card holder.Wage revision for NREGA has been in the offing since February 2009, when the Finance Minister of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee declared in his budget speech that the central government would pay Rs.100 as wages for NREGA in 2009-10. Rural Development Ministry under the Government of India soon after that asked states to send in request for revision of wages. The notification said that it was willing to pay revised wages with retrospective effect from 1st April 2009.
West Bengal Government, disregarding even the fact that the West Bengal legal minimum wage for agricultural workers was Rs.87.50 from 1st April onwards, asked for a revision to Rs.81 only from the Central Government. In protest, several non-profit organizations wrote to the Government, to pay at least the minimum wages of 87.50 as permitted according to the State's law. Some other organizations also took up the matter with the Union government for removing the 100 days cap in view of the drought and spiralling prices. In response, the Central Interestingly, in reply, the Central Government stated that the cap on 100 days could also be lifted, if the State Governments used the funds provided to them under the Calamity Relief Fund.
It has now been notified that the West Bengal Government will pay Rupees.87.50 from 2 December 2009 and Rs. 100 from 1st January 2009. On the whole this means that workers in West Bengal have lost Rs.19 per person day since 1 April 2009. (Rupees 100 - 81). This is a massive loss for the State and for NREGS workers. Till date the number of person days generated in West Bengal from 1st April 2009 has been 77.016 million person days. So West Bengal has failed to claim Rupees.1463.304 million (Rupees.19 X 77.016). This means each household that worked has lost Rupees.491 on an average. In December, a further loss of about Rupees 400 can be expected by each household that works this month if they work for more than 24 days.
The Government seems to feel that it is difficult administratively to give arrears. They may also fear that it will lead to corruption and misappropriation. But how is it that there is no administrative problem ever standing in the way of paying arrears to Government employees. We can however be sure that the non payment of arrears to poor agricultural workers who are NREGS workers will certainly not mean an end to corruption. Excuses have many faces, and this is one of them. In stead of raising big noise all over the country about the exorbitant price rise and its impact on the common man, it is time that the Left Front government begins to pay what is rightfully due to the poor.
(Written with inputs from several persons, and a mail from Dr. Prabir Chatterjee)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Privilege of the Wealthiest

The old saying "Survival of the Fittest" has gone through an evolutionary process in the post Adam Smith era, and it can now be called "Privilege of the Wealthiest". Looking across the entire country, the wealthiest and politically powerful seem to make no mistakes, er..they are never noticed, or if they are, just condoned. India has seen hundreds of scams, running into billions of dollars! The recent scam of a state level politician Madhu Koda is said to be worth 2 billion rupees. Then we have the breed of Jayalalitha, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mayawati... and there are too many of them. And what is the amount of black money deposited in Swiss banks by our Indians: 1500 billion dollars! Oooh! That is more than 13 times the Indian foreign debt, and if brought back, can wipe out India's hunger. But no one will do it. Because it is the money of the law makers, law keepers and that of the wealthier class who can always beat around the law.

We also have another kind: children (mainly sons) of political powers and businessmen who run into crimes--hit and run cases, murders, rapes... just to name a few, and yet go scot free, almost. The law seem to look the other way round as the law-keepers and law-makers are in concurrence with one another. I do not think this is what free economies do to their economically vibrant citizens.

Look at the law-keepers. The national example is the stretched hands of policemen taking money from truck drivers, across the country, just shamelessly. As you come to the north and eastern parts of India, you see it a lot frequently. Look at the shape of the police: Bulging in their tummies, fat and over-weight, giving an impression of slackness, inaction and apathy.

In the final analysis two things seem to work better. a) There is always a huge gap between knowledge and understanding of the law, and keeping it. b) Power, economic or political, can buy the law. The only silver line that stands out amidst these dark clouds is: a pro-active judiciary...which unfortunately seem to have its own woes these days.


On 16 Dec, I left for Delhi, to attend a meeting on Lessons Learned in Inter-Agency Coordination, which was to be held on 17-18 Dec 2009. The travel to Delhi was uneventful. But, it was only when I booked the prepaid taxi did I realize that the venue is going to be really far. We were traveling towards south-east direction, got into the nearby State of Haryana, beyond the Ashoka Wildlife sanctuary and the Shooting Range (which is being readied for the Commonwealth Games 2010), and reached the picturesque Surajkund hills where our Hotel Atrium was located.

About Atrium: it is so beautiful from outside, and interiors well done, but services and food: minimal, and upkeep: absolutely poor. I wouldn't recommend you to go there, and certainly if someone is going to offer me a room for a stay there, I would refuse.

The meetings went on well and it was a great opportunity to meet some really great people. I was pleased to meet Anil Sharma, Prof. V.K. Menon, Sarbjit ji, G.Padmanabhan, Nupur Arora, Raghavan, Annie Joseph and many more. I could also meet some of my old friends: Myank ji from Gujarat, Ravi from upper Assam, Vikrant from Delhi, Dr. Bhanu from Uttar Pradesh, to name a few. The most surprising element was my chance to meet J. Radhakrishnan, whom I admire a lot, and have read about him, heard about him, but never seen him.

I must say something about Radhakrishnan. He was the Collector of Kumbakonam when a fire in a school killed about 23 innocent children. Radhakrishnan took prompt action: to get the guilty punished; and the most important of all: he did not allow the bodies of the children to be further mutilated by sending them to post-mortem. Such sense of respect to the feelings of the parents, and respect to the bodies of the young children, is rarely seen in administration. When I announced this fact, not known to many in the group, everyone clapped hands to appreciate him. He was also made the Collector of Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu, immediately after Tsunami, to take care of the relief operations, and brought in accolades to the administration. I wish I could spend more time with him. (I miss another friend of mine: Sunil Paliwal, who was the Collector of Kanyakumari district, and handled tsunami relief operations there. I have lost touch with him. Any one knows where he is?)

With severe cough, cold and mild fever, I required some good rest, at least in the evenings. But I lost it on both the nights as hundreds of mosquitoes attacked me and found my room a safe haven. Atrium: a place for attrition.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Donkey and the Shovellers

The other day, a friend of mine sent me a mail with this interesting story. Since I thought it to be thought provoking, I am sharing it with you all. The story is titled as : "The Donkey Attitude"

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided: since the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway, it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. shoveler

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw.

With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

The Moral of the story is :
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.
2. Free your mind from worries - Most never happens.
3. Live simply and appreciate what you have.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less from people but more from God.
6. But above all, be watchful. Don't walk into a well down under (The sixth moral is from me!)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Request for books

Hello, all the readers, well-wishers and friends of me, and this blog!

This is an open letter to all of you. I am gathering books on the following two topics: Disaster and Development. The books related to disasters could be in the range of books that have studies, researches, opinions, disaster management, training modules, and anything related to emergencies or climate change issues. The books on development could be on: social development, economic development, studies and researches into societies / communities, books relating to challenges to development. Even journals on these subjects would be wonderful. (Not necessarily new books, even old ones in usable condition will do.)

If you wish to share any of these, you can mail them to : Puthumai A. Nazarene, Seva Kendra, 52-B Radhanath Choudhury Road, Kolkata - 700015, West Bengal, India. Before mailing, please alert me through an email to: or in my personal e-mail address that is known to you.

Where Life is full of Life!

The list of volunteers coming to learn about India and interested to learn more and more from the experiences of people like me seem to be expanding everyday. We have Ms. Vera from Germany who is here with me since 1 September, and she is expected to stay on till mid-August 2010 ! We are waiting for two more students to join us in the second week of January 2010 from the Seattle University, and for a short while towards the end of second quarter by another student from Western Washington University. Seattle University may also send a student during the summer quarter, if everything goes well. May be, a daughter of one of my friends in Netherlands could land up next year.... It is all exciting to see so many young people working with you, learning with you and you learn and get transformed by the commitment, zeal and enthusiasm of these young people. Life is full of life!