Monday, 31 March 2014

Crayons of Hope - Episode 1 - What's in a Name?

After nearly 10 years, I stepped into a school. Honestly, it was neither very nostalgic nor did any memories of school flashed on my mind. I walked in to meet the principal. But then, the peon stopped me and asked me to sit down at the entrance. I waited for nearly half an hour and then, I was sent in to meet the headmistress. As I mentioned in the introduction post, we decided to go ahead with the Crayons of Hope project.

After a few days, I was scheduled to take up the first session at the school. This session was focused on self discovery. In this session, our objective was to delve into ourselves and discover what's within us. We started with the meaning of our names. A lot of thought, idea, discussion goes in when parents name their children. They choose between hundreds of names for their kid. In most cases, parents try to ensure that the kid grows to represent what he is named, in some or the other way. In fact, the names also represent, in some way, the parents' aspirations from their kids. This more so true in India where each name has a story behind it. So, it was very normal for me to assume that all these kids knew the story behind their names.

However, I was totally astonished when I could see that 90% of the children didn't know the meaning of their names, forget the story or logic or reasoning behind it. They kept saying their name and asking me for the meaning of it and I was taken aback. After all, I didn't know the meaning of all their names. I'd often read in articles on social welfare that the ground realities are different but then, never did I feel in the wildest of my dreams that the ground realities are so different. And yes, the kids I was speaking too were scholarly, could speak all 3 languages (English, Kannada, Hindi) and were sufficiently mature and knowledgeable.

Unfortunately, this is the truth in our lives. We speak and discus about so many matters everyday but if we are asked to speak a few words about ourselves, we are dumbstruck. Our focus on details for other things is very high but our focus on understanding ourselves is too low. We spend a lot of time to give ourselves things, like we buy, we spend, we talk, we boast, we socialize, etc. May be, we just don't give that time to ourselves to introspect who we are and what are we doing. Long ago, I started an exercise to do a quarterly review of my life to quantify my progress, and I stalled it after 3-4 quarters. May be, that will be an interesting thing to do to promote self realization. Defining ourselves is quite a tough task and can get really challenging at times.

The time spent with the kids was extraordinarily amazing. There were so many questions. I tried to get some teachers who helped some kids with the meanings of their names. However, we could not help a lot of them. Unfortunately, I had no access to the internet too. I promised the kids that I will come up with the meanings of all their names in the next session. We progressed into self realization and the kids came up with their own ideas about themselves. All these ideas were put up in the postcards. The postcards indeed turned into amazing pieces of art.

It was a great experience for me, and I believe, for the kids too. They looked excited, happy and curious to find out more about themselves. May be, this little hint will help them to get an understanding. May be, they'll go home and ask their parents, "Why did you name me this?" May be, they'll go on and google more about themselves. The path to discovering, uncovering and exploring has just been opened. I hope to find out more as the days go by. We've just sowed some seeds of hope.

Its time for some homework now.

Aneesa Banu
Bhumika L
Earth, Role
Faisal Pasha
Decisive, Wise
Collection of Poems
Lord of Mountain
Removing Darkness
Irfan Khan
Kishan Kumar
Young Krishna
Goddess of Wealth
Playful, Light hearted
Mary Stella
Mir Hamza Ali
Mirza Abbas Ali Baig
Prince, Lion
Mohd Kousar Ali
Mohd Sharif
Nanditha Nandu
Preethi Singh
Puran Joshi
Raghavendra Nair
Destroying Sins
Rubiya Sultana
Saba Farheen
Sabiha Banu
Moment in time
Shahid Mubarak
Shaik Mujaheed
Head, Warrior
Shakti Kiran
Wish, Desire
Umme Salma
Lord of Venkata Hill
Zahid Ali
Devotee, Unselfish

So, this evidences that I am a sincere student. Haha ;)

Check out the photo gallery on Facebook

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Crayons of Hope - An Introduction to the Fellowship program

Towards the mid of 2013, I started feeling that life is incomplete. After living over here, on the earth, for 26 years, and working in the banking and financial services industry for nearly 5 years, things looked not so bright to me. Despite attempts to discover reasons for this new found sadness, I wasn't able to point at one. There was a strike of some unsatisfied feeling in me and I felt my life lacks something. Some void, something missing. The search led me to the grand old Maslow's need hierarchy theory. I wasn't sure but probably, I was just moving from the Safety needs to Belonging needs. Slowly, I started realizing that it had always been my dream to do something for the society, for the people around me, as soon as I am done with certain responsibilities of life. May be, the time had come.

Source: Wikipedia

Over the last 2 years, I had been searching for opportunities in this direction but all the volunteering opportunities wanted me to engage over the 2 days on the weekend and it seemed an impossible task to me. I tried to do some advisory work or support some of my friends who are in the social sector but then, that too was very heavy on me. I enrolled for the M121 Fellowship, an online social entrepreneurship course conducted by Movement121, Chicago. The course taught me more about running a social business. I have always been interested in these things, be it volunteering at NSS (National Service Scheme), attending rural camps, participating in debates on empowerment, reading about NGOs, thinking about Micro-finance, etc. After completing the M121 fellowship in mid of 2013, I was desperately in need of something to fill the gap that its absence would create.

This search led me to the Crayons of Hope (COH) program while exploring an article on One Billion Minds. The program sounded too simple for me. Simple, not from the execution point of view but from the thought point of view. The program's plan/structure was easy to understand.
  • COH fellows will approach a school/NGO and ask for a class or set of students for the program
  • The students will spend 1-2 hours every month with the COH fellows
  • In each session, the COH fellows will speak/discuss about one topic of importance to the children over themes like self discovery, goals, dreams, environment, family, nation, sports, etc.
  • The children will sketch a postcard on their understanding/learning
  • These postcards will be sent to COH
  • COH receives postcards from all fellows
  • COH sends these postcards to other fellows, ie, the postcards are exchanged
  • In the next session, the children receive postcards from their friends in the other part of the world, an unknown friend, a new friend, and in the process, the kid learns about the thoughts, experiences and feelings of the children in a different location
  • Over the 12 sessions, the children get to convey their thoughts and also learn others' thoughts.

I applied to the fellowship and received a mail from Swastika saying I have been accepted. The next task was to figure out a school or NGO for me to get started. This process took quite a long time, almost 3 months. At last, I found the school next to my home, Subhash Memorial English High School, receptive to this idea. After an initial discussion and a lot of convincing efforts, the head mistress agreed to connect me to 30-40 kids of different classes for this project. The idea looked great to me. In fact, I thought I will take up one class, but then, getting kids of different age groups would be an interesting value addition. We thought that the kids from Class III to Class X would be our target segment. I left a couple of brochures with her and sent an introduction mail as well. In a week's time, the message reached the children and the interested children enrolled their names with the school office. About 41 children enrolled their names and I decided to go ahead with all of them, assuming some could leave the course over a period of time either due to transfers or change of school or in case they do not find this interesting.


The Need  
  • For millions of children around the world, destiny has already been written.
  • And for most of them it will not change in a lifetime.
  • Now. Imagine 1 million children exchanging 12 million postcards every year.
  • Each child will exchange 12 postcards during the year.
  • Postcards follow a different theme every month.
Target Impact
  • Every postcard is a hand drawn story of identity, hope and friendship from one child to another.
  • Children covered in the program follow 12 consecutive themes designed to bring out their perspective on issues concerning them.
  • Receiving a postcard will help her understand what the issues mean to another child somewhere else in the world.
How we work?
  • Crayons of Hope is a Not for Profit organization based in India.
  • We offer a global One Year Fellowship to young people around the world to help us run the program.
  • Fellows work with schools and institutions in their communities and help children craft their postcards every month.
Crayons of Hope is not a new program. The work has been in progress from nearly 2 years. With the fellows program, COH aims to improve its reach. The application to the fellowship is open through the year. The following links can be of help.

Web link -
Facebook -
Twitter -

So, my hope journey with Crayons of Hope has begun. I'm excited to cover these 12 sessions with kids all around me. On a lighter (or serious) note, life has moved on from being called Bhaiyya to Uncle and may be, that just shows up that there is a lot more to share with higher responsibility. In my introduction session with the children, they almost assumed that I was there to conduct a drawing competition. In fact, even the teachers had a similar opinion until I explained them the whole objective that goes behind the final sketch.

Creating hope with a postcard is tough. Things that aren't tough make life boring. So, let's get going...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

And all of a sudden, Sahara (Subroto Roy) becomes a villian

All information/data on this post has been sourced from the internet. Everything in this post belongs to the respective owners.

The recent incidents in the life of Mr Subroto Roy have been baffling. From being one of the most respected businessman who has a strong network of people working for him, to being summoned by the Supreme Court and being sent to the Tihar jail, everything is confusing. It is the same Sahara group, which has sponsored the Indian cricket team for ages. Why didn't anybody raise questions over the group's business or about its money back then? How did the BCCI accept the Sahara group as the National Cricket Team's sponsor without verifying the details about the Sahara group? For sure, there are irregularities when you go by law, but then, are we battling egos?

Awards (source: wikipedia)

  • Honorary doctorate in business leadership from the University of East London (2013).[29]
  • Business Icon of the Year award at the Powerbrands Hall of Fame Awards in London in 2011.[30] 
  • ITA – TV Icon of the Year 2007. 
  • Global Leadership Award in 2004. 
  • Businessmen of the Year Award in 2002
  • Best Industrialist Award in 2002
  • Vishisht Rashtriya Udaan Samman (2010) by a daily from India’s top most publication house
  • Vocational Award for Excellence (2010) by Rotary International
  • Karmaveer Samman (1995)
  • Udyam Shree (1994)
  • Baba-E-Rozgar Award (1992)
  • National Citizen Award in 2001
  • Academy Award in the Indian Television Academy Awards for his contribution to Indian television
  • Honorary degree of D. Litt. by Lalit Narayan Mithila University, Darbhanga
  • Featured regularly in the India Today (India’s leading magazine) list of 50 Most Powerful People of India, since 2003.
  • 10 most influential businessmen in India by the news magazine India Today in 2012
  • In 2004, the company he founded was termed by Time magazine as "the second largest employer in India" after Indian Railways.
So, when all these awards were being given, did the jury close their eyes? Here's a bit of what the Subroto Roy's life looked like before pronouncing this debacle.

Now, who do we blame? For what? Should we even blame? What shocks me is the fact that our courts couldn't summon people who have used banks to their benefit, taken loans in crores, requested write offs and continued enjoying their lives. Why are the courts silent on other promoters/businessmen who have been listed as defaulters? There is nothing wrong in what the courts are doing with Subroto Roy, if that is in the books of law, but are they referring to the same book when it comes to the Mallyas, the Mittals, and others who have done something similar. There are no answers.