Making things happen
Gita Dendukuri is an educationist cum social activist who combines her experience and expertise to help improve urban colonies.
CAUSE CELEBRE: Gita Dendukuri
I HAD the good fortune of being the middle child in a large family. We were brought up in an atmosphere of positive thinking and converting ideas into action, within a framework of strong moral and spiritual values. Our parents worked hard to provide us six children with a sprawling house and garden at Chennai, well equipped with books, music and play equipment. Education and learning were central to our growing up, with optimism and confidence as the key words.
Moving into adulthood, marriage and completely alien and difficult environments, put my upbringing to test. Across the years, I realised that good things do not always come easily. We have to make them happen. The more difficult the circumstances, the greater the challenge will be. As the saying goes, "If you do not have the best, make the best of what you have." And sometimes, difficult situations bring out the best in us.
My first work experience was as a teacher of Nutrition and Home Management in a Higher Secondary School at Calcutta. Interacting with enthusiastic adolescents and imparting knowledge proved to be a rewarding experience, especially when the first batch of students secured top State ranks in the West Bengal Board examinations.
In contrast, raising two children through crucial childhood years proved to be a learning experience. From my own experiences as well as from watching other young mothers, I was convinced that time spent by parents with growing infants and very young children is indeed an investment that money cannot buy. Its dividends become apparent as years go by and we watch our children growing up to be useful citizens.
Moving to Hyderabad in the late Seventies, I once again had the opportunity to put my "learning-teaching" abilities to test. This time my role was that of a University Researcher involved in field extension work in a terrain that was new and unknown to me - the Indian Village. Ten years of implementing the objectives of a Rural Energy Project of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in different agro-climatic regions of Andhra Pradesh, took me into several villages. I had the opportunity of working closely with women and men in rural households to assess their patterns of energy use. Once again, I realised that I could make things happen in the process of conducting research for data collection. Fortunately, both theCentral and State Governments had on-going schemes for introducing energy and labour saving devices in the form of fuel-efficient stoves, smokeless choolahs and biogas plants. Involving local people in each village, I had the privilege of introducing these devices in the surveyed villages, and watching the women experience benefits of fuel saving and reduced drudgery. Living in a clean environment was an added bonus to their families. During this decade, I gradually acquired a multitude of experiences that cannot be got in a city - an appreciation for nature and open space, changing seasons and fields laden with crops, women with head-loads of fuel and pots of drinking water, curious and cautious village children, folk songs after sunset, thought-provoking conversations with village artisans, farmers, school teachers and landless labourers. This invaluable kaleidoscope of events and happenings has since become a part of me. I knew I was a different person from then on. My family realised it too and provided full support in helping me balance a tough career with managing the home front.
Making technical presentations with slide shows of ground realities became annual events of the project work. The response of an all-India audience was always overwhelming.
GOING GREEN: Showing the way.
It was satisfying that these forums served as eye-openers for policy makers and planners overseeing our project from far away Delhi and Ludhiana, to encourage need-based and location specific solutions to rural energy problems in all India coordinated research work.
Carrying forth the theme of `development' back to the city, I strongly felt urban colonies / neighbourhoods were greatly in need of being better environments for their occupants. During the 1990s, I found myself drawn towards implementing Resident Welfare Schemes in the neighbourhood where I live.
An increasingly pro-active Government facilitated implementation of different collaborative schemes to make our area more pleasing to live in despite several impediments. Today we take for granted avenue trees, clean roads and pavements, water-harvesting structures, well-illuminated roads and landscaped parks. Clean and green surroundings are not merely pleasing to the eye.
They are conducive to positive thinking and productive working toward making the world a better place. The responsibility of bringing about positive changes in society is not restricted to persons who hold posts and portfolios. It can be undertaken by anyone with a sense of purpose and the will to make things happen. And making things happen is an art as well as a science. Everyone can implement it in his/her own environment - at home and at work. In the ultimate analysis it is more than worth the effort.
(The writer is former Assistant Professor, AP Agricultural University, and currently secretary, Methodist Colony Welfare Association, and actively associated with implementation of Government aided schemes for city improvement since 1994.)
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