Hari’s Boat School in Varanasi

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

Illiteracy is a major problem that impedes the development of a country.

At 287 million, India has the highest population of illiterate adults.

According to a report by UNESCO, India is one of the ten countries with more than 10 million illiterate adults.

Due to poverty, marginalization, and inadequate facilities many children in India do not have access to primary education, which impacts a child’s overall development.

Varanasi Boat School2

Expanding access to education, through formal or informal programs, is therefore vital for improving children’s development, increasing the efficiency of the education system, and for reducing inequity in the broader society.

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The Great Indian Litterbug

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 By Somali K Chakrabarti

Litterbug is the name; to litter is his game.

He is one you will adore, for his qualities galore.

This is the story of the 7 year old little Litterbug

Cute little Litterbug is just back from school. Hungry as hell, he throws around his bag and yells for food. His doting mother hands over an apple and some bananas to him. The little Litterbug eats the half apple and throws the other half right out of the window.

My son will grow up to be a great cricketer one day. See how he strives to perfect his aim!’ Mother Litterbug utters aloud drooling over the antics of her lil one.

The banana peel follows the half eaten apple out of the window as she lovingly looks on. He tears open a packet of chips, takes out his notebook, and starts scribbling vigorously to finish his homework before he goes out to play.

Little Litterbug
Little Litterbug

 

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Celebrate diversity and break cultural stereotypes

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 By Somali K Chakrabarti

 “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combination of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.

There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted.”

― Sun Tzu

India being a large country, the culture and tradition of a part at one end of the country are distinctly different from another part at the other end. The vast multitude of art, music, dance, food and traditions add to the cultural diversity and enliven the country with shades and hues of different colors, but not without presenting their own set of challenges.

Cultural diversity

We are, often, so oriented to our customs and traditions that most of us tend to judge others solely by the values and standards of our own culture. We don’t desist from complaining about how foreigners perceive us, but then we Indians have our own yardsticks for judging people from other states. Deeply ingrained in our psyche are the cultural prejudices that we have grown up with.

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NDTV Cleanathon – Resolve for a Swachch India

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NDTV Cleanathon – Resolve for a Swachch India

By Somali K Chakrabarti

When you are surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible. 

With a purpose as imperative as cleanliness and sanitation, which affects every single individual in the country in some way or the other and is driven by none other than the PM of the country, it is but natural that a movement to support the cause will gain traction. The 12 hr long LIVE televised CLEANATHON on 14th December, 2014, a part of “Banega Swachh India” campaign launched by RB India and NDTV was such a unique event that brought together people from all walks and streams of life to create awareness for the need of sanitation and to support the cause. Amitabh Bachchan Swachh India

If my face and voice can become a reason for people to follow the Swachh India campaign, I’m happy to be a part of it. ~ Amitabh Bachchan, Campaign Ambassador

My biggest perk from blogging came in the form of winning Banega Swachh India blogging contest that gave me the opportunity to witness the NDTV Cleanathon event held on the 14th Dec and to contribute to the cause.

NDTV CLEANATHON Event

Mr Amitabh Bachchan, the brand ambassador for the Swachh India campaign, opened the event explaining why sanitation is of such immense importance to all of us. Mr Bachchan, along with co-anchor, Mr Vikram Chandra, executive director and CEO of NDTV looked into the challenges with respect to sanitation that exist in India today and urged people to join hands in the cleanliness drive.

Dia Mirza at NDTV Cleanathon
Cleanliness Initiatives on screen

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Clean India – Sanitation and hygiene starts with You and Me

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

*** This post won the Grand Prize for Indibloggers ‘Banega Swachh India‘ #SwachhIndia contest sponsored by Dettol -NDTV ***.  An account of the event is given on the post NDTV Cleanathon

 

There are more cell phones than toilets in India.

It is a well-known fact by now that whereas nearly 45 percent of India’s population uses cell phones, only 31 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation.

Poor and inadequate sanitation has been a major cause of diarrhoea and infections among young children. The other fallouts are malnutrition, stunting, premature deaths, wasted time and productivity, and tourism losses.

This is likely to change with PM Modi’s emphasis on cleanliness and proper sanitation facilities, and the launch of ambitious ‘Swachch Bharat Abhiyan’, to make India clean by 2019. No longer it is undignified to talk about the existing sanitation problems and the need to build toilets to end open defecation in India.

To make the mission a success, many corporate houses, NGOs, media and other agencies have joined in to address the rising need for hygiene and sanitation in India. Many initiatives have been taken up for constructing toilets in rural areas, promoting the use of toilets by running sanitation and hygiene campaigns and developing proper waste disposal and management systems.

RB India and NDTV have partnered to launch “Dettol – Banega Swachh India” and are organising a 12 hour LIVE televised CLEANATHON on 14th December 2014, which will bring together the entire nation towards better sanitation & hygiene.

See http://swachhindia.ndtv.com/

While there are systemic or behavioral issues to be tackled at the broader level, You and I as individuals, can also do our bit to make India clean and hygienic.

Sanitation starts with You and Me

Much like charity begins at home, sanitation and hygiene starts with you and me.  

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Frugal Innovation – bringing Grassroot creativity to the Global stage

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Frugal innovation is about creating advantage out of constraint.

~ Kirsten Bound, Head International Innovation Research, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta).

 

The ‘Grassroot to Global’ (G2G) approach for innovation, propagated by National Innovation Foundation (NIF) of India, is set to change the way the world looks at the creativity and innovations at grassroots.

It subscribes to the concept of ‘frugal innovation, which involves use of local resources to come up with affordable, functional products that provide value for money and good user experience. The G2G model is developed to take creativity and knowledge that exists at the grassroots level and transform it into valuable innovation for the global marketplace.

Connecting Grassroot to Global
Connecting Grassroot to Global

 

The origin of the term ‘frugal engineering is credited to Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance in 2006, who coined the term after he was impressed by the ability of Indian engineers’ to innovate cost-effectively and quickly under severe resource constraints.

With businesses wanting to “do more with less resources”, firms such as Renault-Nissan, Siemens, and Unilever have embraced the concept of frugal innovation.

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Busting the myth of Manliness in Indian society

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Mard ko dard nahin hota.

Amitabh Bachchan had declared in his characteristic style in ‘Mard’, one of the memorable Bollywood blockbusters from the 1980s. Translated in English it means ‘A real man does not feel pain’.

This stereotypical projection of men in India, has time and again been exemplified by the society, perpetrated through the movies, and reinforced by many parents while raising their children.

In a thought provoking show ‘When Masculinity Harms Men’ in Satyamev Jayate’, Aamir Khan took a step towards busting the myth of manliness that exists in the Indian society.

Here is what Mr Bachchan said on the show.

Gender sensitivity

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To forcefully instill values in the male child to constantly act like a man or to behave violently is wrong.  ~Amitabh Bachchan

A far cry from his iconic dialogue!

Power, aggression, control are classified as ‘masculine’ traits, while caring, sharing, expressing emotions or crying are the typically seen as ‘feminine’ traits.

These notions are instilled in the mind of male children right from their childhood. Any small boy, who cries, is consoled saying he shouldn’t cry like a girl, since he is physically stronger. Mothers urge their sons to beat up other children rather than get bullied or beaten up. The image of a ‘Macho‘ man endowed with enormous physical strength, gets so  imprinted in the mind of male children that it often leads them to believe that “masculinity“ is about demonstration of power rather than about human consideration or sensitivity. As such, they value aggression more than reason, and at times they tend to believe that they will be more admired and can get away with whatever they do if they are more aggressive or violent.

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Why society should accept Alternative Sexuality

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Alan Turing, whose pioneering work laid the mathematical foundations of computer, was convicted for homosexuality and subjected to chemical castration that drove him to suicide. His suicide prompted the British government to amend laws concerning homosexuality.

~ Aamir Khan on ‘Accepting Alternative Sexuality’ episode of his show Stayamev Jayate that touched upon the sensitive issue of the rights of LGBT community to live freely and openly.

Alan Turing was the British mathematical genius, logician and cryptanalyst who had invented the Turing machine, which laid the foundation for creation of modern computers. By cracking the German military’s secret code, Turing had helped the British Navy defeat Hitler’s U-boats and win the Battle of the Atlantic, in the World War II. He was a marathon runner too, with world class time, and was named as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, by TIME magazine in 1999.

 

Alan Turing
Alan Turing

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