Parul’s Diary: A Week Without NEEV

Parul's Diary

I admit to the fact that there were several times in our journey in NEEV when I threw my arms in despair, and my lips issued a complain to God, for the unrelenting problems we faced.

But strange are the ways of God, and strange is the ignorance of man. Things we consider a boon, turn out be enslaving us in the end, and things we curse, turn out to be roads to liberation. Modern man is trapped in this strange paradox of living. We have got comfort, technology and dazzling entertainment but we have become bored, stressed and empty.

At NEEV we have little of the modern conveniences – less technology, less money and no forms of zanny entertainment. What we do have instead, is a community where people laugh and share the little that they have.

It was through the eyes of the interns I realized, all that I used to despair about, were actually God’s ways for not allowing one day to pass without a challenge. He was actually showering NEEV with youth, zest and vitality by constantly giving it puzzles to solve. Who needs a greater entertainment than this (provided one learns to ultimately see it as a puzzle and not as a sack of potatoes to haul like a mule)

Parul’s diary is an account of a girl who breathed, tasted and saw life with a simple exterior but a vital and complex interior. It goes in Parul’s credit that she could unearth the part that lies beneath the simple appearances of our school and write about it with a refreshing candour. I am sure, after NEEV, she has learnt the architecture of creating a world within, because that is perhaps one thing that no one can ever take from her. And this is what, we at NEEV would like to gift her with.

Read Ahead.

A Week without NEEV

So, it finally got over. Exactly a month of thinking, challenging, evolving, introspection, adjustment, creativity, learning, city- sickness, wandering, laughing and adventure just flew in front of my eyes. I feel that we partially value things when we are experiencing them and the beauty of such moments increases manifold times when they are over and all you are left with memories and unfulfilled desires which you secretly hold close to your heart to live them again, if possible. While your cravings are being nurtured, you tend to lose a count of what you are sacrificing “happily”.

In my case, it was my sleep. During my 24 hour journey, I woke up exclusively for the sake of eating and a sleep very relaxing as if I had worked and exhausted myself to the core. It is somewhat unusual that I miss Delhi more than my home for some unknown reasons. The sense of coming back to Delhi gave me an ecstatic high. Same roads, same hustle bustle, familiar landmarks, traffic jams – a certain sense of belonging. My first two days slipped away dancing to my own ways – getting comfortable within my boundaries, acquaintances, ideas and torturing everyone with what I had experienced in Jamshedpur. Perhaps acting like a window to a culture they were unaware and ignorant about.

Within two days the heightened ecstasy began to fade away and I was longing for the same set of challenges as they gave me an offbeat insight into existence and continuously added new dimensions to my personality robbing me of old habits.

I recalled NEEV in my conversations, lunch sharing sessions, teasing remarks, imagining I would be taking classes at this time, feeling hungry during recess timing. Life has become boring with the baggage of being sophisticated, civilised and planned – how simple life becomes when you unmask yourself exhibiting vibrancy, earthiness, non judgemental attitude and spontaneity.

For me it could not become natural – it did but unfortunately for a short while. I envy those who are left behind because I know that their existence may be full of hardships but certainly joyous than me. Perhaps they have mastered the art of stealing happiness from moments which I overlooked and it’s a long journey before I am able to muster the courage of excavating my roots and laying myself bare but I am sure one day I will.

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Abhishek’s Diary: Experience of Shifting to the New Unit

Abhishek's Diary

For once, I didn’t have the need to write a report about an event myself because I must acknowledge that our intern Abhishek did quite a good job of it.

I am moreover more glad about it because had I written it, it would read more like a war journal or an entry from the battle lines. It would perhaps have read something like this

12th Nov. 2011 – Fight with the neighbouring land owners after sustained talks fail to decide on the land boundary

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28th March, 2011 – We get the land mutation done after a sustained fight with the Circle Officer. Ultimately Shikha had to threaten the Circle Officer with an indefinite “sit-in” in his office till he does our work because all our papers were in order. We did not pay any bribe.

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1st May, 2012 – We fire our civil contractor for inordinate delays in the construction. Shikha shifts in the new unit in the dead summer heat, with no fan and electricity. Richa joins her and they sweat it out. Shikha’s portfolio of work changes from Marketing Soaps to managing construction workers, plumbers, electricians, welders painters and a whole lot of other sundry workers

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2nd June, 2012 – The project is reaching it’s final phase of completion. With barely some days left we come to know that our whole team of construction workers have evacuated the site overnight.

19th June, 2012 – The previous, “estranged” contractor barges into the unit with four men. Shikha is alone in the office, with Abhishek. An altercation happens. I rush from the school to the unit. Fortunately Shikha manages to daunt all the contractor and his men. The issue is amicably resolved.

21st June, 2012 – Shikha manages to create another, entirely new team to finish the construction work and we finish the construction just in time to make our unit ready for filming by the Khadi Village Industry Commission.

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26th June, 2012 – I have a scuffle with one of the male working members in the unit who has been increasingly haughty and flouting all codes of conduct. Ultimately he is fired.

As it is said, “with God’s grace”, we did manage to finish the journey of building the unit. Abhishek was privy to most of the drama and melodrama that unfolded before his eyes in real time, unlike his computer games. He stood beside us like a loyal soldier with unstinted courage and support. His account, thankfully, documents the “sunnier” side of things, which I feel are as true as the dark clouds that enveloped our project from time to time.

I think by the end, Abhishek can brag to his mates about the “helluva experience he had with NEEV”

Please read ahead for his Diary entry.

Jolly family

The construction of the new unit is almost complete. The best thing that I noticed about the construction was the efficient reuse of materials. All the table tops and work benches were made with used plywood and the frames were made with the extra iron rods used in pillars. The smell of the paints and varnishes has become faint and the unit looks bright in the sunlight save some wet patches on the walls due to seepage of the water accumulated on the roof.

Shikha ma’am is a woman of great valour which she showed when the dishonest contractor came with a group of men and demanded payment, which he did not deserve. I learnt that even if you cannot control a situation with might, you can do so with confidence, wit and presence of mind. Also I liked the way sir tackled the situation. One should always go for peaceful ways and violence should be our choice only when nothing else works. And perhaps the most important lesson that I learnt from this internship is that anything that you do, do it with perfection.

Another amazing thing about NEEV is the Saturday school. Ma’am teaches the children of the village poems, counting, alphabets, to write their names and many other things through various methods like dance, songs and games in the new soap unit. This shows the real love and affection ma’am has for the children, who are the future of the society.

A puja has been done and with God’s blessings we all started shifting everything from the old unit to the new unit. And we had very less time as people from Khadi were coming in a few days to shoot a film on NEEV HERBAL SOAPS. Shifting a shop or house is one thing, but shifting an entire factory is a huge task. But the women of NEEV with all their hard work and dedication made it look quite less difficult. Though all the women were working their sweat off, but everyone had smiles on their face and there was a joyful atmosphere around. With everyone giving their 100% we could complete the shifting by evening. Wao, the spirit of the women, was unbelievable. All were working so selflessly as if all this was theirs. Perhaps this is what Anurag sir meant when he said that we all are a part of a family called NEEV, and a family which sticks together, overcomes every hardship.

Next day some shelves were purchased from another factory which did not required them anymore. The shelves were very heavy, around 200 to 300 kilograms each and transporting them to the new unit and keeping them in their proper place in the rooms was a big challenge. After much hard work and spending muscle power for five to six hours we finally overcame that challenge and then came another challenge of arranging the items in the proper shelves. It took another two days for arranging everything and setting up the unit. After days of extreme physical and mental exhaustion finally all were a bit relaxed and I remember sir said me,”Abhishek we have done it”.

And as expected one fine day people from Khadi came and we did not have any problem as we were well prepared. That was our first production day in the new unit and the cameraman shot all the processes associated in the manufacture and packing of a soap, all the products and interviewed ma’am. For the first time I saw the big cameras for shooting movies and a film being shot for real.

One more important thing that I came to know in these past few days was the importance of education. Education does not only gives us qualifications for getting jobs, it also teaches us many values, morals and ethics, it makes our conscience purer and stronger and it transforms us from just human beings to good human beings. I don’t say that all educated people are good but the evil that dwells in them has many other sources, the major one being human nature itself. But yes, I believe that proper education helps us combat many evils and helps us to be respectful, progressive, selfless, kind and humble. It is unfortunate that many of these villagers are not at all educated, and so sometimes some tussles do occur between some villagers and the management. But again that’s very rare.

The last ten days seemed to pass very fast as the work pressure on everyone was very heavy. But I am glad that I got to learn so many things in this time period, had lots of experience of how an organization works, of people with various nature and many morals and lessons which are important for the social growth of a human being. But the best experience was work with the members of NEEV, who in spite of so many hardships worked and helped each other happily with a smile on their face. Truly it is a great experience working with such a jolly family, NEEV.

Parul: NEEV Intern’s Diary

Parul's Diary 1

 

Bubbling, vivacious and with an incessant banter, please let me introduce to you Ms. Parul Behl and the encounter of “NEEV vs Parul Behl”. Hailing from Delhi, educated in History Honours from Ramjas college, her introduction would be incomplete if I did not mention her undying passion for Punjabi food which she had to painfully curtail with Bihari “Patal- Aloo” But this still does not completely describe the other “culture shocks” Parul received from the “humble” East of India. By the end of her stay Parul definitely managed to add to her repertoire of experience, some entirely new ones like, how to sit on bikes and slurping rice with her hands. I guess it was Rudyard Kipling who had remarked, “East is East and West is West “in his famous ballad. By the end of her internship, I am sure Parul can write a new poem, “East is East and North is North”

But all that is one half of Parul. For those who care to penetrate beyond her appearances, there is another person – serious, seeking and a thirst for wisdom in life. In many of those numerous occasions, whether in the bike or at the production unit or in the school, when our discussion would spontaneously veer into the various dimensions of life, Parul would squeeze me out until I was a dry sponge, with her innumerable questions which assail all of us as human beings. She also possesses the capacity, much like a history student, to see the various layers of complexity that are compressed together to give shape and solidity to an experience.

Parul had the unprecedented distinction in NEEV to spend the entire time with the School. Naturally, she formed a nuanced and intricate picture of a living and breathing organization and which she successfully manages to portray in her Diary. Always probing and excavating, Parul displayed a remarkable quality to adjust to situations she found herself in without extinguishing her smile. Perhaps, this also accounts for the fact that she could truly appreciate the multitude and uniqueness of challenges faced by NEEV, which, I am sure would have easily escaped a dilettante.

Through her internship Parul worked on the Rural Kids Sponsorship Program for NEEV and she has volunteered to further the program even after she finishes the internship. Due to a curious spate of incidents that enveloped me in the past few weeks, I had been unable to publish Parul’s earlier diaries and many other events. So, the timeline of my reports would be rather “screwed up” as far as chronological sequence is concerned. It shall adhere more to a dream sequence where linear time is shattered, making terms like past, present and future irrelevant, leaving things to my imagination – for once. So, I am publishing Parul’s last diary first.

Parul, if you permit me, I shall share with our friends, the secret behind why you are not grinning beyond the point you did, for the photo J (perhaps, with another photo)

Parul’s Diary

Every passing day introduces a new dimension of NEEV. Perhaps this is the richness of this place that my journey till now has been challenging and rewarding. My involvement with my very existence had made me forgot that I had been living in a different place for some 20 days. There are always new dynamics to understand, re examine earlier thoughts, making thoughtful judgements and much more.

I can associate myself with NEEV much more closely as it follows an identical pattern of gradually revealing deeper layers depicting enormous complexity. For having spent some amazing moments with staff and students I began to observe the intervention of human behaviour from a different perspective. No doubt, NEEV is largely a “One Man Show” but still there is something which emerges every now and then in varying degree. May be one of them is the lack of making people understand and appreciate what we do. Another could be the erosion of virtues in contemporary scenario. It is interesting to witness an organisation apart from its website, annual reports, audits and brick & mortar structure. It is the people which form the basis of any organisation. I made a blunder by ignoring the importance and more importantly incorporation of this aspect. And people should not be dealt with a “One Size Fits All” approach. The real achievement is to nurture differences while maintaining harmony. I strived hard to make students understand concepts of a holistic approach by incorporating multiple thoughts but I myself failed. I failed in understanding what we call in History “different sides of a story”. The simplicity is superficial yet it keeps alive the spirit and culture of NEEV but deep down there is a giant puzzle with some pieces missing, some organized, some distorted and some yet to be aligned. The urge and desire to complete this puzzle is the motivational factor which keeps NEEV running and aiming for perfection.

Personally, I am happier than I have been never before. I cherish that people around me never miss out a single moment to laugh, I feel proud of the spirit with which I see women attaining confidence levels and commanding their dignity, I feel elated with which rural parents are concerned about the career of their children and most importantly I have learnt to adapt and change .I relish my acceptance which I could have got nowhere. Never before this I was enthusiastic to change my stubborn ways but NEEV taught me .I hope that this impact leaves a permanent impression on me.

Abhishek, NEEV Intern’s Diary : The Call of Duty

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Coming close at heels after our first intern, Abhishek came in to fill the void. Currently pursuing his Engineering in Manipal University, Abhishek was pretty much spending his vacations playing cricket with his friends.

It was then that “The Call of Duty” struck him and he enlisted himself for battle as a NEEV intern. Tall and lanky, his physical frame exudes an interest in sports and outdoor activities. An introductory gossip (my way of interviewing interns) with him made me realize that this guy needs something physical and vigorous.  The timing could not have proved more perfect. We were just shifting to the new unit and Abhsihek was entrusted with the task of preparing the layout plan for all the rooms of the new unit along with doing the shifting. Abhishek did this work with gusto and aplomb. Making of herbal cosmetics does not strike one with the imagery of shifting racks, each weighing about 2 Quintals and transporting scores of oil tin cans. Well, Abhishek did this all while I sidled to a corner, wisely deciding to leave “heavy” matters to experts and decided to do what I am best at; taking snaps for reporting. (Well, that’s being ultra-modest, I did move a dozen tin cans. I remember, I almost swooned after I lifted the first one)

But all this tough exterior does not betray the emotional aspect of Abhishek which is, on all counts diametrically opposite to it. For, Abhishek is a soft, vulnerable and extremely caring person who services every command with a smile. A pampered darling of his parents, an internship at NEEV became a rites of passage for him to enter into adulthood. The title of his diary reflects this transition. But let me divulge a secret. Abhishek is a fanatic computer games player. I just googled “The Call of Duty” and I found that it is a name of a famous computer game. So Abhishek, our heartiest congratulations for graduating from the virtual world to the real world of “duty”

Call of duty

 My excitement knew no bounds when Anurag sir offered me this internship. I had become bored of the same monotonous routine of each passing holiday and was looking for a way to utilize the time, learn something new. Lucky me, I got this internship. I had gone through the website of NEEV and the fact that NEEV gives employment to rural women and although being a small enterprise had won a national award made me much more interested in this internship.

On the very first meeting, Anurag sir amazed me by studying me very accurately just by asking a few simple questions. Sir took me to the new production unit of NEEV soaps where I met Shikha ma’am, the lady with an ever smiling face. The design of the whole unit was perfect and everything had its proper place.  My task was to help another intern in making the layout of the unit and carrying out the same after she leaves.

The old unit had a very lively atmosphere unlike the new unit. The unit was quiet small, having only two rooms, but even in that small space everything was very neatly arranged which provided ample of space to work. All the women were working in a jolly mood and very efficiently. And the fragrances of all the flowers and herbs lingered around creating an aura which energized the workers.

When I got the opportunity of manufacturing soaps, I was surprised to see that all the ingredients were purely herbal and the whole process was carried out in cold process, retaining the useful properties of the herbs and oils. And more amazingly there was no sign of any adulteration anywhere.

Suddenly one day sir took me to NEEV PUBLIC SCHOOL and luckily I got the opportunity to teach the students. I was really impressed by the catching power of the students and the standard of discipline and English of the students. All the students were from the rural areas and the fees of many students were mostly paid by sponsors. I saw Harshal, sir’s daughter, who studies in the same school, studying, eating and playing with the other rural kids.

Seeing the smile on the face on the women working in NEEV and the students studying in NEEV school I realized the dream of an educated man, who could have earned a lot by doing a corporate job but chose the path to do something for the people, for the planet, and I can see the dream coming true.

After spending twelve days in NEEV I have got the feeling that like Anurag sir and Shikha ma’am all people should hear the call of duty and do as much as we can for this planet of ours