Saturday, December 20, 2008

கேட்போரின் எண்ணம்

[ நூறாவது மின்பதிவைத் தாய் மொழியில் செய்வதில் மகிழ்ச்சி! ]

சில கானங்களில் வரிகள் மனதை வருடுகின்றன....
சிலவற்றில் இராகம் நெஞ்சில் இறங்குகின்றன...
பலவற்றில் பாடகரின் பண்பட்ட குரல் உள்ளத்தை உருக்குகின்றன...
ஆனால் ஒன்றிரண்டு மட்டுமே கேட்போரின் எண்ணத்தைக் கூறுகின்றன..

"நீங்காத பாரம் என் நெஞ்சோடுதான்..
நான் தேடும் சுமைதாங்கி நீயல்லவா?
நான் வாழும் நேரம் உன் மார்போடுதான்..
நீ என்னைத் தாலாட்டும் தாயல்லவா?"

[English translation follows!]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is targeting the poor alone always efficacious?

With my on and off involvement with centers close to social development, I find one attitude that may have to be changed for better efficacy of social initiatives. Let me have the first stab at defining the attitude.

"A social initiative will produce a better impact when it is targeted towards the economically poorer sections of the society. The richer the beneficiaries are, the lesser social impact it has.."

While in general this point has a validity, it has to be revisited for every specific case. Here is an example. A team of my friends and I conducted a science demo in a private school nearby. When I talked about this, "Don't you think your initiative would be more useful to students of government schools?" was one question that popped up universally. My answer is "In my case doing it in *this* private school is likely to have a higher social impact" . Why?

1. This private school doesn't have a lab infrastructure in spite of the students paying a nominal school fee (Rs. 200/- per month).

2. The students here do have a capability to read, listen to and understand English, Telugu and Hindi which provides us flexibility in our implementation. So, it gets easier for us to get more students to start "thinking and reasoning science" - a better success rate at our initiative. On the other hand, a government school on which we are working on the ability to grasp English is lesser providing us with challenges (lesser number of teachers from our office)

Much more importantly, access to better education sure is relatively much more difficult for the poor. However, schools that fall in the economic category of the one that we are working on also face problems faced by government schools (non-availability of teachers, labs etc.). In addition to that they also suffer the ignorance of NGOs that rush to help poor quality government schools. It is almost as if these students are paying Rs. 200/- per month to be ignored!

Thankfully, in our case, we need to ignite as many minds to think and reason (in science and others..). In our eyes, whether the students have the ability to pay Rs.200/- or not, if their inclination to reason is lacking, they are equally poor! Only the former is equipped with a skill (English language) that offers flexibility for us to make a better impact.

A society, apart from being categorized into economically richer and poorer, can also be categorized into rich and poor based on other criteria. And the economically richer need not be richer (or have better opportunity) in all the other categories. Social upliftment, one must remember, is not only the upliftment of the economically poorest, but the upliftment of the society as a whole.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ask my room mate and he will tell you that i read a book at about a page per day before dozing off. Now that I've started off with tamil books its worse. Yesterday i bought a book called 'Katrathum petrathum' (those learnt and those acquired) in which novelist sujatha shared his views and experiences with a sumptuous and proportionate dose of comedy and insightful facts. An engrossing read. But the best part is, i didnt have to fumble with my rusty tamil reading ability. My dad did it adding the much missed flow. Sujatha through my dad's goggles sure looks wiser.

Wood to stone

This is a piece of Wood that got buried for 200000 years and gradually turned to stone!! Showcased in Madras museum. For the historically inclined this place is a treat.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Terrorism in, parochialism out ... for now at least

I am not interested in going deep into the Mumbai terror strikes, which is already over-analyzed in all spheres. But the one silver lining that I see out of this unprecedented and audacious act is that everyone, including the politicians have for once forgot about petty parochialism. Raj Thackrey shut up for sometime now, or if he is still talking, there is none to listen. But it is such a pity that sanity on one issue has to be established only superceding it with a far worse insanity! Pity!