Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The forbidden C-word

"Counselling?!! Counselling is for weirdos... not for me!" 
"We do not have 'problems' that we need to go  for counselling."
Just many of the statements I have heard from various sources but mainly men. I do not get why men (I know only about Indian men!) are averse to the concept of counselling. When you suggest that its not only when you have problems that you opt for counselling, its like trying to talk to a wall. I guess it is like one of those things like 'Men don't cry!' facade that men like to put up. Or it must be the zealousness to provide solutions to all the problems by themselves rather than ask for help... Asking for directions, anyone???

According to European Association for Counselling, counselling may be concerned with addressing and resolving specific problems, making decisions, coping with crisis, improving relationships, developmental issues, promoting and developing personal awareness, working with feelings, thoughts, perceptions and internal or external conflict. The overall aim is to provide clients with opportunities to work in self-defined ways, towards living in more satisfying and resourceful ways as individuals and as members of the broader society.

What is weird about that?  But I have not had the luck to be able to convince a man about  that till now. In this case I have found women to be more open to the concept of counselling.

The reason I actually believe that  counseling  can help is due to personal experience during certain phase of my life where just talking to my parents, friends was not enough. It was helpful to have a professional person who could guide me, someone non judgmental and though a stranger, but trustworthy. Someone who knows you is bound to bring his or her notions about what you are, what is right or wrong for them into the picture and even though may be your well wisher, not exactly able to help you. 

I just hope that this narrow mindedness about counselling doesn't stop them from asking for help if  they need it... and more important not stop people who want to opt for it...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Internship Diary... continued

Visit to Wani Block of Yavatmal District

I have never been to a village like Borgaon before. This was the first time for me. Borgaon is a small village near Wani with about 260 families living here. I got the opportunity to spend time in this village to observe the Gram Panchayat Micro Planning process which was being done an enthusiastic team of young resource persons and field coordinators. This was the first time village experience since the gram panchayats in Kerala where I come from are very different from those in the rest of India. The household survey was being carried out and I accompanied the resource persons while they conducted household surveys. This was an enriching experience in terms of the understanding of the kind of living situation of the households, their education levels, livelihood issues etc. Also I could draw parallels from the survey we had conducted in the koliwadas in Mumbai and understand the contrast and compare with kind of input that was obtained.

What struck me while roaming around the village was the lack of sewage lined and the way the waste water was just let out into the common galis and not even a dug and directed outside. This reflected the utter lack of awareness regarding the health problems that could result out of this neglect. Water scarcity was another issue here. There was also no provision of toilets and the villagers all were used to open defecation which is again an critical health hazard. There was some input from the villagers that when there is no water for daily needs then there is no point in building toilets which would increase consumption of water! Even those household which had toilets.

One of the most memorable events was the Kishori Baithak which was attended by about 30 teenage girls. An ice breaker called Bhasmasur was a runaway success with the girls. This was followed by a story told by the field coordinator which spoke about child marriage and lack of education and the consequences of the same. The Kishori Baithak was a very interesting session with lots of fun and information being parted to the girls about everything ranging from importance of education in the life of a girl, career, marriage and health. In addition we were able to get information about problems of school dropout, lack of uniforms, improper midday meals.

Another interesting event during this process was the Mahila Gram Sabha. Through various sources in the village we had come to know that this was the first gram sabha in last ten years. We were initially apprehensive about the participation of the women, we felt that many wouldn't turn up. But it was heartening to see more than 40 women turn up. In addition there were many young and old men who were curious to know what was happening. The presence of the gram sewak and sarpanch also made the people realise that this was a serious harbinger of change. This process went quite smoothly with discussion of village development and action plan. Also various concerns and issues were brought to the forefront.

Talk on Energy Access in India

I had the opportunity to attend a talk on Energy Access in India organised by Acumen Fund at this really nice place at Kalaghoda, Mumbai last weekend.I was excited to attend this event because I thought it would talk taken to improve the same. about the current situation of energy accessibility in India and what kind of steps can be. This talk began with a video on a village called Jagankote in Karnataka where Orb Energy has been successful with its product called 'Plug and Play Solar Power' which is targeted at communities where there is no electrification. The founder and CEO of Orb Energy is  Damian Miller, a doctorate from Cambridge University in solar technology , has been in India since the mid 1990s working in the field.  Orb energy provides reliable solar energy based power to rural areas helping them shift from kerosene based lighting.

Mr Kartik from Acumen Fund spoke about how the focus of their company was the Bottom of the Pyramid, and to move the customers from up the energy ladder through product based solutions to services and infrastructure based solutions. This would not only be 'cleaner' and more efficient but would also mean less cost to the rural customers. Thus this would mean moving from kerosene, wood to solar energy based  domestic solutions to community off grid systems and finally integrating with the grid connections, access to LPG etc. According to him the key drivers here would be customer education and access to finances in order to achieve a smooth transition.

The talk by Damian was about how Orb has been able to achieve success in providing solar energy based power solutions to the rural poor. He basically was working with Shell when they were working into solar energy solutions in the 1990s. According to him, the need for solar energy and similar power solutions has always been there but there was lack of availability and finance to convert that need into a demand. But the situation is better now when there are lot of such opportunities available. Thus the future of such initiatives is better now. What is required is technology innovations which would help the practical implementation and scaling up of such initiatives and that is where organisation like Acumen Fund help through funding for research and development and more.

This short session was followed by question answer session which I did not find much interesting. I understood this session as more an informative session on the business model of Orb Energy and what makes it successful. Whether solar lighting can be scaled up to community off grid systems which would improve the standard of living in villages is a question I am more interested in. In addition, how sustainable such systems would be in the long run? 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A bit of dirty linen needs to be cleaned

I have a problem with a certain person and I have been contemplating whether it would be appropriate to write about this at all. It has been some time since this incident, but it has been eating me up that someone could get away with bad mouthing and bitching about me in a way that is so disgraceful and lowly. Neither can I still accept that someone can be so vicious and two faced. I need to vent out and do something about it... So here it goes!

I came to this institute with great expectations both from the institution and its people. One of the expectations  was to forge lasting friendship. I did also know that most of the student here would be younger than me and mostly fresh graduates. Never thought that it would be a problem. Also I believed that I could more or less understand a person and his or her character in a span of time.

All of this was proved wrong! Somewhere I made a mistake... I trusted the devil herself. And I expected some other lesser demons to actually be there for me during the hard times.  But anyway, the demons are being ignored right now

The first devil is responsible for a depression lasting for more than a month and had it been not for  few really close friends of mine ...it would have been difficult for me to put myself together. The lady in question made my life hell after becoming close to me. All the sweet talk,  sharing, going out places was replaced with banging doors, heavy silence, seclusion, bitching ( dirty lies) about me to her parents, to others( whom she used to  'hate' before!) in my presence!I wasn't entitled to even human considerations. Initially I thought I have done something really wrong (unintentionally) which is causing this kind of a out-lash, so I tried to talk to her and find out what exactly is the problem. But each time her response was more confusing and bewildering than anything.  The situation was thus that there was no way I could avoid her and this made me lose my cool and also affected my academic performance. It was definitely my fault that I allowed this person to get to me in this way. The  I cringe to think that what would be state when such a person gets into an organisation or a serious relationship! God also kind of let me get hurt, I guess to understand that I have a long way to go before I can actually unravel the twisted intricacies of certain human (devilish?) minds. Finally the ordeal ended for me. 

I never bothered with that person after that, just thankful that I am finally with people are genuine and who really care for me. The kind of damage her loose tongue had done was revealed to me only recently, which is making me furious within but also pity people like her who are shallow, superficial and fake. I also pity people who do not recognize people like this and get carried away by sweet talking frauds. But it is quite understandable that this artificiality cannot be sustained and true colours are revealed finally.

I hope this devil finally finds redemption which would only happen when she realises her folly (which I doubt!) But I feel a lot better after writing this down. Also I hope you would be careful about trusting someone...always safe that sorry.  It always hurts when someone you trust betrays you, no matter how many times it has happened before. So I wish none of you have to go through what I suffered.