Mela (Fair): Stories from Sambhaavnaa-1
देखिये हम ज्यादा इकोनॉमिक्स नहीं समझते। बस इतना जानते हैं कि अगर घर में एक बच्चा भूखा होगा, एक की स्कूल की फीस भरनी होगी और एक को मेला देखना होगा, तो हम पहले क्या करेंगे।
[Translation: Look, I do not understand a lot of economics. But I know, if I had three children, one of them hungry, the other illiterate and the third wanting to go to a fair, then what my first priority would be.]
This is how Kulbhushan Upmanyu, a veteran environment activist summed up his views on development at Sambhaavnaa Institute in the Winter School on Rethinking Development, at Kandbari, near Palampur, Himachal Pradesh.
When I had first told my friends about my intended visit to the place, they were all sceptical about its value addition and they even had a gig about how I was wasting my winter vacations. I had my own share of doubts. Somehow, I felt that such workshops tend to get preachy, tend to become emotional and move away from analytical thought, that I believed was so often required. Luckily, none of these doubts proved right. Over a span of 7 days, working from 8am to 10pm, we met academics, activists and others; and none of them preached. Nor were they a group of people who could endlessly attribute all ills of the nation to corruption or people who were frustrated with the system because they failed the system.
Instead, they were a bunch of people who had ‘won’ the system (an IITD-IIMA alumnus who had given up his career to settle down in a village near Bhopal to propose an alternative development model, a Rhodes scholar who was rethinking development, a couple who held PhD in Engineering and who left a well settled life in US to come to Himachal, another couple who had decided that they won’t let their child grow up away from nature) and still found that the system had something missing. They never preached. They presented the situation, as it is. And they were analytical. It becomes easy to be emotional when you had seen so much around you, it becomes easy to be proud of having left such lavish lives, but what struck me down was their humility and their zeal to learn more and create social change (as opposed to doing ‘social work’). They were so analytical, that when one of us pointed out that she had feared that they may try to brainwash her before the workshop and had found all her fears wrong; they were quick to accept that it might be the case that she had been brain washed perfectly by them .
We, among ourselves, were a group of 30 people. We had this desire to change things around, but never understood where to start, and if change was possible at all. We had come with questions, lots of them. Sambhaavnaa never promised any answers, rather motivated us to ask more. All the workshop did, was to provide a language to frame those questions.
There is much to be said about those 7 days, about the place, about the group(a bright-eyed cheerful Punjaban, a witty Afghan, the girl with the 1000-watt smile, a person who had ‘friends’, and many others) about our hangouts at night, our discussions during the day, about our visit to a local hydro power plant, about our morning walks, about the optional meditation sessions, about the dinner dates, about the sweet kids we met and lot more. But that will come up in subsequent parts (if I write them, that is).
For now, let me leave you with this from the Afghanistan guy: No person should be able to buy anyone and no one should be forced to sell himself.
[Edit] P.P.S: Sambhaavnaa has come up with an opportunity for all of you to experience this. Here is a link for the Facebook event page of the summer schools on similar lines.
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Hi! I am a student IIT Delhi. I have been trying to study Computer Science and Engineering here for the last two years. I am a lazy guy, and have been blogging infrequently.
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I am a student IIT Delhi. I have been trying to study Computer Science and Engineering here for the last two years. I am a lazy guy, and have been blogging infrequently.
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