VIDYA Integrated Development for Youth and Adults

VIDYA is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to community development and empowerment of India’s socially disadvantaged children, youth and women. A chance encounter of Mrs. Rashmi Misra (founder chairperson) with a little girl playing near a nullah was the inspiration behind VIDYA. Right in the backyard of IIT Delhi, a world renowned institute of higher learning was this little girl and her friends who did not have a school to go to. She began to teach them in her veranda and very soon she had a large group on her hands. This was in 1985. Soon after she recruited IIT volunteers and began to teach them basic Hindi and Maths and thus VIDYA was founded. In it’s silver jubilee year, VIDYA today is a multi-layered program which benefits lesser privileged women and children in Delhi and Mumbai. These programs are as follows:

  • Remedial and Holistic education at pre-school, primary and secondary level.
  • Open Schooling through NIOS for droupout youth.
  • Adult Literacy and Capacity Building of girls and women through vocational skill training and livelihood programs.
  • Computer Skills Training
  • Income Generation Programs including Micro-Credit Programs.

VIDYA’s Mumbai chapter began in April 2001 on the IIT Mumbai Campus. It runs it’s programs on the campus and in the surrounding slum areas of Powai. It works for the sustainable development of lesser privileged communities of Powai. It runs six indegenously developed programs imparting education and exposure to skills. These programs are run by professionals and volunteers although they are primarily volunteer driven. Here is an overview of their core programs:

NSS Sanganak Vidya Kendra (NSVK): This is the computer literacy center run in collaboration with IIT and offers 3 month courses in BCA (Basic Computer Applications) as well as advanced courses in web designing, java and C++. This program benefits children from lesser privileged communities, housewives, school children and community women. Every 3 months 150 people are getting computer literate and this creates new opportunities for them either at the workplace or at school/college. Orginally started with 4 donated computers and a small group of students, this unit has gained from strength to strength and today has 30 computers, 2 full time teachers and a large group of IIT student volunteers. The curriculum followed has been developed by the Computer Science Department of IIT.

National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS): This is an educational program for the drop out youth and adults from Class VIII to Class XII. Classes are conducted in IIT premises during the evenings to allow people to attend them after their working hours. Response to this program has been phenomenal with 300 students in the batch of 2008-09.

Remedial Education Programs: VIDYA runs three remedial education programs in an around the IIT Campus. These programs help close to 350 primary and secondary municipal school children to perform to the best of their potential in an inclusive environment on the holistic education of a child. The aim is to provide enrichment to fast paced learners and help those who are challenged. Extra curricular and creative activities are an integral part of the program and there is a strong emphasis on value education.

Umang: This is a program for children from Class III to Class IX. Classes take place in IIT’s Campus School in the afternoons. 110 children from different communities enrolled in the year 2008. Over and above the regular program, there is a Spoken English Program, a Nutrition Program and a Saturday Club for recreation.

Community Outreach Program – Phule Nagar: This program has been established in the slum community of Phule Nagar since 2002. Education is enhanced by games and activities, as well as regular field trips.

Pragati Kendra – Gautam Nagar: This program is based in Gautam Nagar, a slum community located behind Hiranandani Hospital. This is a new program which begam in the year 2008 with 60 students and run by an NIOS graduate. There is also a Computer Center set up in association with Syntel in this particular community.

Vidya Margam: Women and girls from the slums of IITB are the main beneficiaries of this program. The program emphasizes on education, capacity building, vocational skill training and income generation opportunities so that they may develop confidence and become financially independent. It has 2 units: Aahar, the food unit and Udyogini, the handicrafts unit.

Aahar: It is a food unit which began with a team of 5 and has now expanded to 30 women working together to provide wholesome home cooked food to schools and offices around IITB during the lunch hours. They operate out of the space provided to them by the Women’s Club on the campus. All the women are the wives of class 3 and class 4 staff of IITB and this gives them the chance to earn and transform their family lives as well as their community.

Udyogini: ‘Udyogini’ literally means woman entrepreneur and that is exactly what this program aims to create. This provides an opportunity to learn new vocational skills such as making books, diaries, diyas, jute bags, lamp shades, paper bags, photo frames etc and supplement their household income by marketing these products. Workshops in traditional art forms like Madhubani and Warli painting are also conducted. In the past 7 years, 300 girls and women have benefitted from this program.

That, in esence is what VIDYA is all about. It is a people’s movement – people giving back to people. Volunteers are a critical asset and the core source of motivation and energy at VIDYA. Currently the VIDYA team is engaged in the preparation for their annual Summer Camp which is open to children across all programs as well as outsiders.

For more information about VIDYA log onto http://www.vidya-india.org

Share a Smile…

Yesterday, I saw a beautiful sight. In an auto rickshaw stuck in the endless Bombay traffic, a woman travelling with three little children was having a hard time keeping them still, so she decided to buy peace with a packet of chips. She handed the packet to one of the little boys and doubtless told him to share it with everyone. The little boy having offered the packet to his siblings and his mother, promptly turned to the rickshaw driver and offered him some as well. The rickshaw driver, though at first stunned took a couple of chips from the proffered packet and then turned back to pay attention to the road. The child by now was too engrossed with something he had found in the packet that promised to be a toy when assembled and had no idea the joy he had caused and the smile that he had brought to the faces of three people, his mother, the rickshaw driver and me.

Children are the most innocent beings and they have none of the devious and cunning instincts so common among grown ups so that we have come to expect nothing but the worst from the world, while hoping for the best is a long forgotten fairy tale. Children have the ability to remind us of that tale, to show us that ‘only goodness’ unhampered by any ulterior motives does truly exist.

Power of The Pen…

What do you do when you are feeling blue? What is the one guaranteed method to get you out of the dumps? For me, it’s writing. Writing what, you might ask. Anything I’d say, as long as it involves the stringing together of words to create something meaningful. Words have a beautiful way of soothing my very soul for you see words are the only things that last. They can paint a thousand pictures of things long gone just so that we may know about them. They can build before our eyes the birth and death of civilizations as well as propel us forward into the realms of the unknown. Ironically, words are just as capable of dispelling great things into nothingness just as they can exalt the smallest of things to the heavens. Words are also capable of confusing us human beings no end. Just like right now, there are too many words swimming aroug in my head, each one trying to push itself forward so that it may be seen…

Mumbai – “City of DreamZ” say some; “City of CrowdZ” is more appropriate. Took a bus ride today after a long time. Had quite forgotten how crowded it could get.

Pune – Lovely place, lovely weather. Can’t wait to get back there, the humidity in Bombay is killing me!

Goa – Gonna be there soon…with nothing to do except enjoy the sun ‘n’ sand (and the sleep!)

Kolkata – At the back of my mind but never forgotten, this is home now and forever. Can never be away from it in spirit…

Gurgaon – This is a city that will always remain frozen in time for me. I’ll never get used to the endless malls and huge buildings everywhere.

So now that they (the words ofcourse!) are all out, I feel much better and I guess this is the power of the pen…

The Greeness Of Leaves…

The greeness of leaves…have you ever wondered what that is all about? I mean why are leaves green anyway? No, the answer I am looking for is NOT chlorophyll (although it is doubtless the correct one!). I just think that green is an amazing colour which is why it is the colour of the thing that sustains life on earth. Simple, isn’t it? There are just so many other things in life that are just as simple, but we human beings would love nothing better than to complicate them. Take feelings for instance, there are a million times in our lives when we absolutely and certainly feel a certain way but since we are stuck with the notion that things can’t be as simple as that, we COMPLICATE matters. Thats right, we analyze the situation from 20 different angles, wondering if we have missed something, however minute in an attempt to convince ourselves that our feelings are flawed or incorrect only to later realize that they were bang on target. I often wonder what would happen if we simply accepted the fact that life is very simple, so why not go with the flow?

Utter Nonsense…

Sometimes life is just one big mess, everywhere you look there is nothing but misery and pain. No hint of a silver lining, just dark clouds all over the horizon…

But then again there are days when the sun comes streaming through the window and the world is a beautiful and happy place and everything about your life is just perfect…

Ever wondered why when looking back we don’t think of the days that lie in between; days which are neither the best nor the worst but just come and go as a matter of course? Thats because we, as human beings have this amazing capacity to forget anything that hasn’t had a lasting impact on us. But of course that makes sense, I hear you cry out. How else would we hope to survive?! How else indeed…sometimes I write a lot of nonsense. I mean of course we have to throw out all the banal and useless stuff, what use are they? Why clutter your mind? But let us just for a minute consider the hypothesis that we could impartially record every minute of our lives in our memory, I mean they’re always saying that the brain is more powerful than any supercomputer so why not it’s storage device? Wouldn’t it be exciting? Imagine never forgetting anything, ever! Imagine sitting in an exam and recalling every little detail that you heard and read in class (ok, for that you have to attend class first and yes I just realised that people with photographic memory can do that anyway). Ok, next scenario, never forgetting a birthday or a telephone number (oh but thats what mobile phones and planners are for). Ok, since I just seem to be contradicting myself here I’ll just quit shall I? I think I’ll wind up by saying that modern gadgets while making our lives easier have made our brains incredibly lazy and no one can contradict that, so there!

PS # On re-reading the post, it sounds like I’ve lost it and maybe I have but this one was exactly what I was thinking and I just felt like sharing it…

A Day in The Life of A Book…

Just imagine for a minute what it would be like to be a book, sitting on a dusty shelf most of your life, taken down once in a while and pages flipped, maybe if you’re lucky, someone will pick you to be the one to be read but mostly you’ll be pretty much sitting on your ass all day doing nothing. Sounds interesting? Well let me assure you that it is anything but that. For one thing, you can never really rest in peace, there are too many words in your head (more like your belly!) and if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of people will spend a lot of time talking about you. Either they will praise you to the skies or just plain criticize you. That is not all you have to endure. If there is a natural calamity your owners will like as not run for their lives and leave you to the mercies of the elements. On a bad day you may even be flung across the room to make a point. So all in all, prospects look bleak, huh? But you know what at the end of the day, it’s worth going through all of that to know that if and when someone does take the time to read you, you will spread some warmth…the warmth of knowledge.

Ishita-isms!

These are just a few examples of the genius of Ishita Sharma. Her wit and humour have brought us all respite during the dark days of the exams. Here’s hoping that she has plenty more up her sleeve to light our way through the years to come. Good work and keep it up!

What is punctuality? It is the art of waiting for those who are not punctual!

Statistics ne tadpane ka kiya vaada hai,
Ab kalam me syaahi kam, gum zyaada hai.
Haaye mar jayenge, hum toh lut jayenge,
Aise exam liya naa karo! Khudaya khair.
First line meri apni hai, aur baki gaano ke subtitles hai.
Hehehe meri stats mein buri halat hai.
What about you buddy?

The cost of studying cost accounting is loss of peace of mind, loss of patience, loss of confidence, loss of few grams of body weight, loss of precious time…ahh costing is costing me too much!

E – Extreme
C – Child
O – Oppression
Yes, that is the new definition of this totally weeaaoonn…type of subject. To add to the agony it has a f***ingly big syllabus. Ek do teen chaar band karo yeh atyachaar! Vaise maine abhi hi padhna shuru kiya hai, ur zyada bored nahi hoon, par yun hi kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aate hain. (Yeah the previous dilogue has been churaofied from the old song). Happy Studying!

A sweet relationship is pillow…
When tired you sleep on it,
When sad you drop tears on it,
When angry you punch it,
And when happy you hug it!!
So come on, now next time you take break from PPM, say thanks to it for being your best companion. And yeah don’t be too loud varna bedsheet bura maan jayega!

Life Lessons In Traffic…

I came home to Mumbai for the holidays on Friday and my first thought on entering the city limits was about the endless traffic that would plague us for atleast the next 3 hours (it is ironical really, that it takes only 3 hours to get from Pune to Mumbai but yet another 3 hours to cover the length of the city to reach home!). I was proved right as very soon we were engulfed in the famous sea of traffic so typical of Bombay but what I hadn’t realised was that my memory was extremely faulty. Having lived in Bombay for 5 years before moving to Pune last year, I would have thought that I would be used to all the noise, heat, pollution and endless wait by now but surprise, surprise nothing was quite the same as what I remembered. Now there could be 2 reasons for this, one being that indeed things had changed, maybe the traffic situation had worsened, there were certainly many new routes that I didn’t recognize but then again there was nothing drastic to explain the feeling I had, of complete alienness even when looking at familiar landmarks. The other reason which is definitely more interesting is that the human mind always frames the things that it wants to remember in the brightest of hues and hence I could only recall in isolation the demerits of road travel in Bombay without actually connecting it to the present situation. Since this thought hit me about halfway through the journey, I thought (pun intended) that I should carry it forward to see where it goes. It occured to me that things in the past have a way of seeming larger than life. We always feel that the good times were better than they actually were and the bad times worse than they really were. It’s only human to do so, to paint memories in whatever shade we see fit because we are biased either towards or against the situation. There is a lesson to be learnt from this: we should never consciously try to recreate a situation where we have been happy for we will inevitably feel betrayed by the fact that it doesn’t match the memories that we have of that place and time. And since we wouldn’t ever want to recreate a disheartening situation, let me assure you that it only seems worse because we are potrayed as the victim and that automatically awakens the dramatist in us all. So the point is that times will change as surely as the seasons, just let life take it’s course and don’t try to go back for if we do then we will only end up disappointed. Let go of anything that pulls you back and take the first step forward, it may be painful at first but it is worth it. Life goes on and you can’t possibly stand still, you can try of course but the likelihood of you falling flat on your face is very, very high. Think about it…Till then I bid adieu.

To Choose OR Not To Choose?

Today I learnt an important life lesson, it’s called CHOICES, we are faced with them every day of our lives, practically from the minute we wake up (Should I get up right now or snooze for another 10 minutes?) till the time we go to sleep (Should I sleep right now or stay up and watch a movie?). I’ve often heard people say that there are no right and wrong choices just good and bad choices; I wish to amend that: there are JUST choices. You cannot possibly classify each one of the millions of choices we make in a day as good or bad! You might argue that we should atleast ensure quality in our most important choices but then again how do you define ‘importance’; what is important to one person may be completely irrelevant to the next. The argument as you see could go on forever (literally!). Hence I would like to lay this subject to a rest forever by saying that there are JUST choices, and for whatever it’s worth they are what define us. We live each day as a consequence of our choices (now thats something in which there is no choice!) no matter what they might be. I truly salute the people who have realised that their life is their own creation and accepted responsibility for the choices they have made. The so called life changing or ‘important’ choices that we make are neither easy to make nor easy to live with (in case they affect our lives adversely) but the fact still remains that they were our own choices and we may as well be cheered at the thought that atleast we are animals of intellect capable of making choices of such nature. So we have a choice to make: Do we wallow in the past regretting decisions we’ve made just because people labelled them ‘bad choices’?! or do we take a firm step forward and choose to make the best of the time we have? Think about it. There’s always a choice, be it good or bad, right or wrong, easy or difficult, straight or crooked, worthwhile or worthless, the list of labels could go on forever! My advice: Leave the labels in the closet where they belong (ok, that wasn’t me, it was Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and The City)

Till then dear reader I bid you adieu and here’s wishing you Happy Choosing!

Year’s End…

The time has come for fond farewells and a few tears (in some cases a lot!). Yes, thats right it’s the end of a year and although it feels like it began just yesterday, it really did start off in the June of 2008 when each of us unknown to the others (except Appu and Madhu, they went to the same school) came to be a part of Symbiosis BBA. Coincidence? I would rather call it a fortunate accident or serendipity, doesn’t the word have a beautiful ring to it? And now as each of us parts ways for the summer it feels like we are leaving a part of ourselves behind, undefinable and unrecognizable but a part nevertheless. The past year has been a rollercoaster ride of fun and frolic that I do wonder if it was a dream and then I realise that no dream could ever match the very real feelings that we’ve all come to associate with this group of ours called (I have no idea why!) ‘The Geeks’. Mihir and Tarang have actually composed poetry about us so I figure that it has been quite something. It is really amazing how fast time flies and more importantly how different things are now from what they were…

Here is my message to ‘The Geeks’ for the summer:

Enjoy every day that you get,
For these days shall go by
Never to return again

Enjoy every hour that you find,
For these hours shall pass
Never to return again

Enjoy every minute that you see,
For these minutes shall fly
Never to return again

Enjoy every second that you live
For these seconds pass mighty quickly
Never to return again

Enjoy all the time that you have
For time once gone
Never returns again

Anyway have an amazing summer you guys and see you all in June 2009 for a fresh new year which stretches out like a blank canvas to be painted upon by none other than US!