Category Archives: Education

Unlocking the Secrets of Childhood and Evolution of Humans : Classes begin for NEEV Vidyalaya, Hurlung

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Even as the construction of new NEEV Vidyalaya at village Hurlung continues, classes have begun at the NEEV Herbals unit with 25 children on board. Thus sails out the ship of NEEV to the scarcely chartered lands of true education. Not only that, NEEV Vidyalaya becomes a center of enrichment in an environment bereft of anything ennobling for the children of Village Hurlung. Given the class distinctions that prevail in our world, for the child are reserved only the material, moral or intellectual resources of the family into which he/she was born. And if in his family there are no such resources, the child has to develop in material, moral and intellectual misery. With NEEV Vidyalaya, a whole new vista opens out for the children of Hurlung.

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The ship of NEEV Vidyalaya sails out – Shibu of LKG with his drawing

Education as it is today

Most of us think education to be a trivial affair – a routine affair of transferring skills like the 3 R’s, passing examinations, getting degrees and becoming subsumed in the vast socio-economic machine of society. Educational institutes are well oiled organizations clanking out mass stereotypes. Our economic system must create men who fit its needs; men who cooperate smoothly; men who want to consume more and more. Our system must create men whose tastes are standardized, men who can be easily influenced, men whose needs can be anticipated, men who will fit into the social machine without friction.

We are concerned to the degree of obsession with what we will make of our children and begin engineering them at an increasingly early age. Not content with school at six years of age, we have continued the logical regression into preschools, early learning, infant education, pre-natal music, ultra sound screening and what not. We are certain that we will create the perfect child through all of this, but would we recognize perfection if we came upon it through all our manipulation.

For those who see the child as born failed and broken, in need of repair and redirection, education will mean a revamping of the child that is, into the child that “should be”. We are all adults who “should be”, and we are never enough with “what is”. We can easily implant this essential dissatisfaction in our children and induct them into the cult of unhappiness that looks to materialism for its solace.

What concerns most parents is that their children should pass the examinations  and learn their lessons as quickly as possible, so as to save time and money. It is not learning in itself, the attainment of a loftier culture that concerns the families, but the response to the summons of society, to the obligations imposed, an obligation which they find burdensome and which cost money nonetheless they consider it important that their children should acquire their passport into the life of the society in the shortest time possible.
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Explaining to Parents the Vision of NEEV Vidyalaya

The Effects of Today’s Education on Individuals and Society – Repression

In all discussion about how best to teach children, we don’t often hear about the purpose of education from the children other than a social obligation and preparation of the child for the adult world of work. We don’t hear much about the child, and almost nothing from the child.

Perhaps all that education aspires to be is the preparation of the young person for their role in the larger society. This is certainly a good idea for society, but in the efficiency of producing citizen workers, are we missing the deeper meaning and higher purpose of learning? Have we forgotten about the spirit of the child, the unique and fragile expression of a passionate and integrated life?

Perhaps we are a little afraid of happiness. We were educated (away) from that state long ago, molded into a set of skills and a catalog of information. Our education was not to fulfil us but to fulfil the needs of productivity in the market place. But children are born knowing the creative life, and fortunately creativity is hereditary – we can easily inherit it from our children.

Psychoanalysis shows that memories evoked from the subconscious are sufferings that occurred in infancy and lie latent in the consciousness, shaping and guiding human behaviour outside of his volition. These sufferings were caused by repression of spontaneous activity of children by adults who wielded authority over them. And the surprise of surprises is that the person who does wiled the maximum authority in early infancy is none but  – the mother. The next wielder of authority is of course the school.

So society as a whole is populated with repressed adults who are driven by extrinsic motivations like money and power, chasing a chimera rather than fulfilled individuals led by intrinsic motivators like love for work, nature and humans.
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Story telling time – A very special activity for the growth of children. The stories told are not from textbooks or history. Rather they are spontaneously made up on the spur by observing intimately the behavior of each child during the day. The story every day centres around a particular child in the class and talks about how that particular child faces some challenging situation. It is an effective way, a psychological tool for catharsis of the child, relieving him of his/her repressions and boosting self- esteem. 

The Only Way for the World to Change is through Education

We look forward to science, technology, politics or economics to change the world. However, it is education that may point the way to the normalization of the adult world. Such a social reform would not come about through theory or the energies of a few organizers, but through a slow constant emergence of a new world in the midst of the old – the world of the child and the adolescent.

From this world the revelations, the natural guidance necessary to the normal life of society, would gradually evolve. It is truly absurd to suppose that theoretical reforms or individual energies could remedy so colossal a void as that made in the world by the repression of the child. No one can remedy the ever growing evils of which the first roots lie in the fact that men are all abnormal because their infancy could not develop along the lines traced by nature, who therefore suffered irremediable deviation. Every good thing comes to a naught with deviated men who seek to possess it for themselves and seek to make of it a means of power. Then every good thing is destroyed before it can be of service, and thus becomes a danger to human life. That is why every good thing, all progress, all discoveries, can increase the evil afflicting the world as we have seen in the case of machines, which represent the most tangible form of social progress for us all. Every discovery that might mean elevation and progress can be used for destruction, for war, or for self enrichment. The progress of physics, chemistry and biology, the perfecting of means of transport , have only magnified the danger of destruction, wretchedness and the appearance of a cruel barbarity. We have therefore nothing to hope from the external world till the normalization of man is recognized as a basic achievement of social life. Only then will all external progress be able to lead to welfare and a higher civilization.

The unknown energy that can help humanity is that which lies in the child.

We need a reorientation of education, a radical and fundamental realignment of the purpose of education. Can education shift from it’s current model of shaping children into components of economic production, into an active experiment in optimizing the creativity of the whole child? We have been so busy educating our children that we have missed the heart of education, the creation of a happy child.
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The Aim of Education – A Happy Child (A very difficult aim )

A happy person, fulfilled in their connection to their friends, family, and community and in the expression of their vocation, is likely to be useful and productive in their life and to help weave the collective fabric of a functional society. What else should a society need from education other than the happiness of its people?

According to the 5 S philosophy of NEEV – Education is no longer about people taking exams and proceeding on that verification from that secondary school to the university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher one by means of their own activity, through their own effort or will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.

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“Precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not – or at least not in the main – through text-books. It is that which primarily constitutes and preserves culture” –  Albert Einstein

Taking an Unknown Journey Along with the Child in Education

If we don’t see children as broken at birth, then what are they if not a mystery. Can we join them in exploring the unknown in their life and have strength to reveal that we live in the unknown too. In that, we are not trying to change them, or ourselves for that matter, but rather we are revealing in the amazing discoveries that life holds for all of us. We cannot teach our children to drink deeply of life because the knowledge of life is not transferred by will. But children can understand so easily if they are not stopped, more so if they see that the adults in their life are continuously learning.

We heartily thank all of you who have supported us so far to create this unique journey of NEEV possible, and who have joined hands to create a transformation in human consciousness through education. The journey is long, relentless, back-breaking but at the same time an adventure of a lifetime. We sincerely look forward to all your support for this journey which is always just beginning…………..

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Jaya of Nur – Beginning her life’s journey with her new partner in NEEV Vidyalaya

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Architects of Future : Children’s Day Celebrations at NEEV

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Collage of some cards lovingly handmade by NEEV School teachers for the children

Dear Friends,

If the world today has to come out of the mess it finds itself in today, it requires new architects who are educated differently. Does education mean training children to develop technical capacity to get a livelihood or does it mean to help them understand the vast significance of life? Is education a means to create docile, imitating minds that fit in society or does education means creating minds that can question and learn? Does education mean creating cogs that service the vast industrial-consumeristic machine of society or does it mean to create sensitive human beings who care and nurture for the earth.

For five thousand years man has not learnt to live without conflict. Wars, environmental catastrophes and social inequalities have been the norm rather than an exception. Instead of developing a life of love, freedom and beauty on earth we have created inequity, strife and destruction. For years we have relied on authorities and experts to solve our problems. We have looked up to kings, priests, sacred books, politicians and scientists to tell us what is life and how to live. The result of abdication of this responsibility has been nothing but a vastly insensitive society where each individual is conditioned to ruthlessly strive and scramble to the top of a heap or else pigeonhole oneself in comfortable social roles that promise security. While the world simmers with wars, reeks with environmental pollution and languishes in poverty and misery, we continue our lives as usual – unconcerned, non-chalant, ignorant and self-seeking.

NEEV Vidyalaya is a place where we learn how not to go to sleep. It is a place of questioning and freedom. It is a place where young minds are not doused by authority and fear to cower down and become meek participants of a society that loves and rewards docility, compliance and imitation. It is a place where children learn to know themselves and discover their conditioning imposed by society. No revolutions in the outer, no system changes by governments can free man of conflict till he himself does not take up the responsibility of knowing himself/herself. Without self-knowledge, there is no transformation, no revolution that can free man from suffering on this earth.

So on Children’s Day, I thank all the friends who have come together to create NEEV Vidyalaya through their sponsorships, a unique and vital space for a work of such tremendous importance because it is only through right education that humanity can be transformed. I am including some pics to help you get the feel of what it is to be a child or a teacher at NEEV.

Love,
Anurag

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Card on Children’s Day created by a NEEV CIL Member using natural colours

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Some of the Cards written by me to Std. 10 students who are going to leave school next year

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Teachers of NEEV singing Kishore Da’s song – Aane Waala Pal Jaane Waala Hain for children

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Anjali and Simi – NEEV CIL Members and NEEV Vidyalaya Teachers singing the song Yeh Jo Des Hai Mera

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 Myself talking to children of NEEV Vidyalaya on what makes our school special

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Shikha wishing the children a Happy Children’s Day

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Our daughter Harshal who has passed NEEV School having a happy reunion with her friends of Std. 9

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Biscuit eating race for children of Kindergarten

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 Balloon blowing race for children of LKG

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Wearing the shoe race for children of Std. 1

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Hopping race by students of Std. 3

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Bursting the Balloon Race for Std. 2

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 50 m dash for Std 4

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Spoon and Marble Race for Std. 5

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 Three legged race for Std. 6 & 7

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 Musical Chairs for Std. 8, 9 & 10

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 Shikha commenting on the state of affairs

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 NEEV CIL Members and teachers giving cards to their students

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 The NEEV Vidyalaya Senior School Students and Teachers – A Happy Community

Silent Diwali Wishes and much more from village Hurlung – NEEV !

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A Diwali House made by the children of village Hurlung where the new NEEV CIL School is being constructed (no school, education or engineering degrees required for this construction J)

I am a tad late for Diwali wishes from NEEV ! Nonetheless, since my mails on all festivals are thinly veiled excuses for speaking something quite beyond festivals, I decided to post this, regardless of the fact that I am a day late. Festivals created by man come and go: what is more important that we humans discover a way of living that makes every moment a festival, an unceasing joy of discovering life.

Far from the ruckus created by the city folk, Diwali in villages is a more serene affair. Unadulterated by the  pompousness of city revelry which adds nothing but a load of toxic gases leading to global warming, Diwali in the villages is still connected to the eternal rhythms of nature. Diwali in the villages is marked by the beginning of harvesting of the rain fed crop of rice.

As we negotiate a meandering village dirt road, we see a field in which some rice plants are cut and lying. Around the same time, the owner of the field, a friend of ours, happens to pass by. We inquire into the reason as to why some rice crops have been harvested. He satiates our curiosity by saying that these have been harvested as an offering for their Diwali puja. Instantly Shikha plucks a few grains of rice, some still green and some already golden brown and tastes them to find out the difference. Women I guess are more cued to taste and smell. As a male I remain largely cued to my visual sense. I watch with piquant interest as Shikha chews the grains. According to her the green grains of rice are sweeter than the golden rice grains which have already ripened. I ruminate on the way senses offer the greatest education. No amount of sitting in classes, in agricultural universities or chemistry labs can offer an insight into the workings of nature than our senses can. Holistic education is not centered only around mind and intellect, not cubbyholed in class rooms. Nature is the laboratory for true education.

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A farmer’s plot of land where some rice – already turning golden – lies harvested as an offering for Diwali puja

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Another field where a part of the rice crop has been harvested for offering in Diwali Puja

As I continue walking on the meandering village dirt track unlike the straight and linear city roads on which we whiz in our cars and bikes, my thoughts continue their unhurried meandering on education. I remember how the other day I saw a father and son returning from the market with a thermocol Diwali house. What a far cry it is from the way things are at the village. Where city bred brats purchase thermocol Diwali houses, the ‘uneducated’ village kids demonstrate such creativity, enterprise, ingenuity and enthusiasm in making Diwali houses out of natural materials. When education is made into a commodity no wonder, kids learn only commodification as a way of life. And the market is all the more happy. Education, market, business, technology and environmental pollution – all go hand in glove. Have a look at some of the Diwali houses made by the children

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 Diwali House 2 – made by children of village Hurlung

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 Diwali house 3 – made by children of village Hurlung

As I walk along, I wonder what will NEEV CIL school teach the village children. Will it teach them to become purchasers of thermocol Diwali houses or will it teach them to flower in their inherent ingenuity? Some of my friends tell me that education should ‘uplift’ children and make them ‘successful’ in life by uplifting them out of their ‘poverty’. We urban folks have become quite glib in the usage of words. Words like “upliftment”, “success” and “poverty” are laden with assumptions which we never care to explore. What is “poverty”? Is purchasing Diwali house made of thermocol poverty or making houses out of mud poverty? What is success – making Diwali houses or purchasing Diwali houses? What is upliftment – creating consumers or creating producers?

Unfortunately the urban folk are not only glib about words but also proceed with an arrogance of a missionary zeal to promote naked market consumerism as a way of life. Thereby we have created an ugly and fractured society where the work of hands is relegated and debased and the intellect is put on the altar. So while the city folk display their festive zeal by lighting up their houses with Chinese manufactured electric bulbs, the rural folk do what they are best at – decorating their huts and houses with their hands and natural colours. Here are a few pics of the simply decorated houses whose humility, innocence and aesthetics cannot be matched by the harshly glaring electric bulbs.

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A house in village Hurlung decorated for Diwali

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 Same house from a different angle

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The exterior of the same house in village Hurlung

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A woman in village Hurlung painting her house for Diwali

The degree to which we move away from work with our hands and the degree to which we pollute the earth decrees our rise to wealth, status and success. Lavish use of electricity to light up Diwali houses – electricity which comes from making large dams displacing villages or from burning coal which comes from rapacious coal mining after clearing forests – is a sign of affluence and education, in a classic inversion of values. Whereas a villager plastering his/her mud earth causing no pollution and using one’s own hands and ingenuity is considered an ‘uneducated illiterate’ in need of education by our corrupted norms.

 While the uneducated villagers venerate nature without the need of learning environmental science and without getting a noble prize for doing research on global warming, the educated urban folk with all their degrees and all their supercomputers and their vain research on climate change have not yet learnt the simple act of loving and protecting nature. See how the people in Hurlung village love and respect nature

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A mud pedestal around a tusli plant newly plastered for Diwali in Hurlung

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 The pedestal containing Tulsi plant newly painted for Diwali in Village Hurlung

My walk is almost over. After another rejuvenating round of walk in the fields of village Hurlung, we are making our way back to the unit. The familiar sights of a village quietly settling to receive the dark and starry night greet me. The goats are tied in front of the houses, resting blissfully after nibbling the whole day. Smoke quietly and mysteriously billows out of the tiled huts. Out in the city, at the same time, one would witness the angry traffic rush of people gushing of their offices. The fact that tomorrow is Diwali does not make a dent to the life which is set on eternal rhythms. Electric lights adorn one or two houses of people who have become tainted by the urban mentality. The lights look garish, very out of place in a village which is nestled in a pool of darkness. I rue at the fact that the winds of ‘development’ are out to claim their latest victim.

I wonder if we can stop this rout. I wonder if the NEEV CIL school can do anything to preserve and take forward the wisdom that lies buried in Village Hurlung. I wonder if there are other people in a world gone out of limits who can get what I am trying to say and lend a helping hand in this mammoth task of education. We need to create a new world, a world without conflict. It seems to be extraordinarily impossible. But I have already made the choice for myself. It is not about whether one shall succeed or not, whether one can change one or many, whether the world will change. What matters is that one enters the path to create a new world. The road shall be made by walking.

As I just about to reach the NEEV Herbal Cosmetics unit after our walk, I come across a simple rangoli made to celebrate Diwali. The rangoli adorns the threshold of another world. A world waiting to be born.

A very happy Diwali to all of you. To all our friends who have helped us at NEEV to chart this road. May this Diwali lead you from darkness to light.

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 Rangoli decoration in front of a village Hurlung house beckoning a new world

And finally, here is my Diwali gift to all of you. As you know that Diwali also coincides with the blossoming of lotus flowers. So when our NEEV CIL children went for a walk, they collected some lotuses from the village pond. I lovingly offer them to you.

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Lotus flowers that blossom even in the muddiest waters

 

The NEEV-NIOS Revolution in Education : Visit of Prof C.B Sharma (Chairman NIOS Board) to NEEV

Prof C. B Sharma – Chairman NIOS Board, India being shown the Aloe Vera field of NEEV by Shikha

Dear Friends,

Last weekend we had a surprise visitor to NEEV – Prof. C. B Sharma, who happens to be the Chairman of NIOS Board India. He was on a tour to Jamshedpur for his work when one of our NEEV friends Jayashree, an ardent supporter and customer of NEEV Soaps talked to Prof Sharma about our work. Piqued by this, he graciously decided to pay us a visit. Unfortunately or fortunately, it being a Saturday, NEEV Vidyalaya was closed, so he came to visit us at our NEEV Herbal Cosmetics Unit in Hurlung.

For us it was a bolt from the blue but something that could not have delighted us more. Given our penchant love for NIOS, his visit, like so many incidents in NEEV was a godsend – an event that happened at the right place and at the right time, with a precision that can be manufactured only by the cosmic will.

What followed after he came was a freewheeling discussion on issues relating to education, the aims and objectives of NIOS as well as the unique vision of NEEV’s education. There was also an interesting discussion on how NIOS faces the daunting challenge of providing education at such a low cost of Rs. 1500/student for registration and Rs. 1800 as exam fees when the operating costs per student is much higher.

Our daughter Harshal who is due to appear for her NIOS Board exams in October 2016 as well as our five teachers – Anjali, Babu, Simi, Sourin and Suraj who just passed NIOS Secondary examinations and due to appear for NIOS Senior Secondary exams in 2018 were also present in the meeting. They got the rare opportunity to raise questions and discuss issues about NIOS first hand with Prof Sharma, who answered all their questions with remarkable patience and concern.

It is rare to come across a man of such humility. Not only was he a proactive and eloquent speaker but also a great listener. The NIOS website gives a brief of the amount of work he has done in education. I am just culling a certain portion from it.

“Dr. Chandra B. Sharma the Chairman is Professor of Education on deputation from the School of Education, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. He has recently been on a three member committee constituted by the Government of India to draft the Distance Education Council of India Bill 2015, likely to be placed before the Parliament . This Act will set the future of distance education in India. He has been the Director of the Distance Education Programme of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (DEP-SSA) an MHRD-IGNOU project. DEP-SSA was a national project of the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) Government of India. The project assisted all Indian states in preparing master trainers for quality improvement of Elementary education. He has served the open distance learning (ODL) system for nearly two and half decades. Before joining the ODL he taught at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) New Delhi. He has been on various statutory bodies (Academic Council, Board of Management/Board of Governors etc. and also the Visitor’s (President of India) nominee on selection committee) of various ODL as well as traditional institutions. He has been nominated by IGNOU as well as invited to national committees on various areas like 11th Plan, Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan (SSA), Rastriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyaan (RMSA), National Mission on Education – Information and Communication Technologies (NME-ICT), UGC Visiting Committees, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) teams, National Council for Teacher Education planning as well as visiting teams, DEC-UGC-AICTE inspection committees etc. He has written as well as taken part in many national as well as state level educational planning discussion and brainstorming. He has also been invited to be Visiting Professor at various universities, besides been invited by international agencies like the World Bank for research studies.

Prof. Sharma was invited by the Linnaeus University (Sweden) to deliver the key note address on Entrepreneurship and Education in India, and half a dozen other Nordic Universities to lecture on educational collaboration with Indian universities during March-April 2014.”

There were three more short paragraphs describing the work he has done, but I stopped short of quoting them because I guess this is more than enough to give an idea of the breadth and depth of work Prof Sharma has done in education. But despite this, I could see how keenly he listened to my views on education.

After our discussion, we took Prof Sharma around to show around the NEEV Herbal Cosmetics Unit and the land site where the new NEEV CIL School is being constructed.


                                          Above:  Prof Sharma being shown the Herbal Fields around NEEV Herbal Cosmetics Unit, Hurlung by Shikha

            Below: Prof Sharma visiting the land site where the NEEV CIL School is being constructed


The trip of Prof Bhushan ended with a cementing of relationship between NEEV and NIOS because there is a great communion between the vision of these two organizations. Both of them are concerned about a revolution in education. The communion of visions was manifested into a concrete reality when Prof Sharma suggested that we become an accredited centre for NIOS Board’s OBE (Open Basic Education) course. This would provide NEEV with accredition to teach, conduct exams and certify children as well as adult neo-literates at three levels – upto Class 3, upto Class 6 and upto Class 8.

This morning we received a letter of invitation from the Regional Director of NIOS Ranchi, to become an accredited institution for NIOS OBE Program. We see this as a step in a direction to cause a revolution in education. Below is a write-up on why we require a revolution in education and how the communion of NEEV and NIOS can cause such a revolution.

REVOLUTION IN EDUCATION – NEEV + NIOS

Education and revolution are perhaps two words that do not seem to share much in common at first sight. While education springs up images of children with their heads buried in books, revolution conjures images of flags, protests and angry mobs charging at barricades. We hear of social revolutions, political revolutions, religious revolutions and cultural revolutions but we have yet to hear of something that the world today needs the most – an education revolution.While the word education evokes the goodwill and empathy of most thinking people and there is scarce a soul that does not nod his head in agreement for the need of educating children, very few are willing to find what education is all about. What seems to be an innocuous activity of mere transfer of knowledge, actually holds the key to the transformation of man and world. This is because education mirrors the state of society – it’s priorities, it’s politics, it’s economics, it’s culture and it’s religion.

Is education today a mere appendage of an industrial, capitalistic regime churning out selfish individuals interested in mere self advancement and serving the system or education retains the right to create minds that can question and lead a life of freedom and self reliance?

Looking at the four roomed enclosures we call classrooms, stuffed with benches and desks in neat rows, one cannot miss seeing how it resembles the production line of a factory where products go through various stages of finishing by applying standardized procedures. Not a grain of autonomy is afforded to the ‘products’ of the classroom. Everything is predetermined, standardized, assessed, measured and waste products discarded as in a factory. The skills and capacities of children are attended to like the wrapping and packaging of products, intended to lure people by looks and outward gloss while the real thing inside, the soul, the heart, the love remains slumbering. Image result for education
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And then what about the politics of education? Is it mere transformation of knowledge and information to all or is it mired in consideration of class and wealth? Is there universal access to education or on the contrary, education has become the machine for engineering class distinctions, where the rich can buy degrees and rise up the socio-economic ladder. Image
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So what we need today is education which is democratic, flexible, holistic and all inclusive. We need an education that cuts across barriers of age, class, that is sensitive to the needs of an individual, that nurtures and cares for him rather than make him cower with fear under the cane of a teacher. We need an education that can happen anytime anywhere at any pace, without mounds of investment. We need an education that teaches self reliance as a way of living rather than giving the message that it is your class, status and money that determines the life you are going to lead. And last of all we need an education that confers equal respect to the work of hands, head and heart so that we can bring about a world without inequality.

And we get all of this in NIOS.

Considered to be the largest open schooling system in the world, the NIOS Board conducts exams for about 5 lakhs students every year.

The certification given by NIOS is at par with two National Level Boards – CBSE and ICSE

Now lets consider the vision and mission of NIOS. I have highlighted in bold the key points which match with NEEV’s philosphy of Integral Living

Vision

  • Sustainable inclusive learning with universal and flexible access to quality school education and skill development.”

Mission

  • Providing relevant, continuing and holistic education up to pre-degree level through Open and Distance Learning System.
  • Contributing to the Universalisation of School Education.
  • Catering to the educational needs of the prioritized target groups for equity and social justice.

Let’s take a look at the NIOS song

To fill our lives with light
And illuminate our path
Let’s be our own light
And choose the road to tread upon

The school free from constraints of time, resources and coffers
Offers to read anytime anywhere
With plethora of choices at any age
Friends let us arise and awake
And discern the destination

The door is always open at NIOS
With the options of learning and getting assessed
Not once but again and again
Of the many centres on the globe
Let’s opt for one of them

The song abounds with a sense of generosity, an inclusiveness and care. Rather than being a system of elimination, one can see the spirit of invitation and great patience. The thrust here is not to fail you as an individual but to provide you with every opportunity to empower yourself. The song talks about being self reliant, about helping oneself rather than relying on on infrastructure, money and teachers.

Textbooks that raise fundamental questions – Snippets from NIOS Text Books

Not only does NIOS have a grand and noble vision, it also has absolutely amazing course content. Unlike text books of other boards which a blind worshipers of human progress, unquestioningly hailing advancements in science and technology as the ascent of man, the NIOS text books raise fundamental questions for children to think about the direction man has taken. The NIOS books

In fact I read some paragraphs to Prof. Bhushan to show the subtlety and nuanced nature of questioning that NIOS brings about. Here I am providing two examples of questioning done in their social science textbook of secondary level.


Look at the respect accorded to the life of Paleolithic people. Look at how progress is not just blindly assumed. Look at the respect that has been accorded to nature. And all this has been done in the form of an open ended question. To me this is revolution !

And here there is another example

Look at how progress has not been hailed unanimously and pompously. Look at how the luxuries of the few have been contrasted with not even basic amenities lacking for many. Look at how the text makes us realize that we cannot be resting on our laurels of science and technology. There are many, many problems to be addressed in the world and these problems are about things as fundamental as water, health and education.

And the next snippet I am providing is the clincher. It is enough fuel for a true educator to engage children with for the whole of their life. A school like NEEV which wants to develop leaders, social entrepreneurs and change agents who shall help the world towards Integral Living cannot find a better check list of tasks they need to undertake. Those who feel that there is nothing that needs to do in the world and everything is hunky-dory can dip into this list and try solving at least one of these problems. I haven’t seen anything like this in the text books of ICSE Borad which I used to teach earlier.

There is a line which almost entirely states Integral Living philosophy – “The relationship of humans with self, society, and nature should inspire us to create a society in which all of us rather than only a few could lead a gainful life” Just this one sentence is enough for me to be a die-hard NIOS fan.

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I do have a different view on Nationalism and love for country. I believe we can substitute it with Global Family and love for the whole earth. Leaving this, I think the list is brilliant.

I could go on and on with one brilliant snippet after another from the Social Science as well as Science, English and Hindi Textbooks of NIOS pointing to the Integral Living philosophy of NEEV. But I guess, I shall reserve this for future posts hoping that I have sufficiently made my point of the unique nature of NIOS Textbooks to spark questioning and self inquiry in students. For me it was pure joy teaching Social Science to my kids and for Shikha, teaching Social Science became a life changing experience. Hopefully she can write about it someday.

Not only Social Science but also Science, English and Hindi books have gem like material to develop an Integrated, sensitive human being with leadership qualities. For example take a look at this exercise. This is a kind of situation that I have seen actually developing in our school.

Other student friendly features of NIOS

  • From classroom to anywhere
  • Freedom from the tyranny of schools who hold the power of certification
  • From teacher centric to learner centric
  • Students can pace their learning and appear for selected subjects in their board exams
  • From teacher as an instructor to teacher as a facilitator
  • From fixed time to anytime learning
  • From “you learn what we offer” to“we offer what you want to learn”.
  • From education as one time activity to education as life long activity
  • Equal stress on vocational education
  • Free access to learning material from website. No buying of expensive books from different publishers

To sum it up : in NIOS we have a board which is inclusive, inexpensive, universal, flexible, generous , responsive and with an amazing course content. I consider it a matter of great ignorance that parents and children are stuck with the notion that good education comes by paying money and getting children admitted in schools with glossy buildings. I consider it a matter of great shame that parents who consider themselves ‘educated’ are not able to discern the enormous intelligence and opportunity for learning that is embedded in NIOS.

Despite my having written this article, I know that the trenchant class divisions shall still rule, that parents will still bother about status quo rather than true education in choosing for their children. When I decided to switch from ICSE to NIOS Board, I faced difficulties from all quarters – teachers, students and parents; several teachers left school, 40 children were pulled out by their parents. But I remain wedded or perhaps welded to the democratic vision of NIOS Board. What is at stake is a movement, a revolution to make this world a better place through education.

At least I shall depart with the sense that I left no stone unturned to do my bit in this great cosmic drama.

Love,

Anurag

The Tricolour Unfolds in NEEV Vidyalaya: 70th Independence Day Celebrations

Dear Friends,

The 70th Independence Day was celebrated at NEEV Vidyalaya under a blue sky and warm sunshine. For yet another year, the rain gods spared their downpour on August 15th; unleashing their waters a week before and a week after this day.

Amidst parents, ex teachers, ex students and well wishers from NEEV the programs unrolled with characteristic simplicity and charm; the greenery of NEEV Vidyalaya providing a backdrop for melodious notes, frolicking dances and solemn speeches.

Just to give you all a real feel of how the program of that day, this time I am intertwining the photos with the anchor’s speech. The text of the anchor along with the pictures captures the collage of humble school celebrating a great day, not forgetting the solemness of the occasion. It also brings about the philosophy of NEEV Vidyalaya.

All the programs from Std. 6 to 10 were entirely conceived, practiced and presented on stage by the children themselves with absolutely no teacher supervision and guidance.

Love,
Anurag

Introduction, Welcome, Hoisting of National Flag and March Past

Good morning everyone: Our esteemed Principal Sir, parents, guests, teachers and our lovely students. We have assembled here, in NEEV Vidyalaya, on this solemn occasion to celebrate the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence Day.

How different is this morning? You shall discover this yourselves as the events of the day unfold just like the tricolours of our national flag.

I now request our school’s Head Girl, Harshal to escort our Principal Sir Mr. Anurag Jain to hoist the National Flag. I request all of you to please stand up for the national anthem.


1. Aazadi ke Rakhwaale – Poem by NUR, LKG and UKG

Highlighting the duty of every Indian to protect and preserve the hard earned freedom of our country, let’s begin our day’s program with an innocent yet patriotic performance by the tiny tots of Nur, Lkg and Ukg, who shall sing – Aazadi ke Rakhwaale

Thank you children. I hope we have taken the message given by these young children and let’s take a resolve to never take freedom for granted but to protect it with all our energy.

2. English Speech – Tannupriya Std. 9

Now I would like to invite Tannupriya of Std. 9 on stage to deliver a speech in English

Thank you Tannupriya for such a wonderful and inspiring speech about the sacrifice made by our noble leaders of the past. Do we have such noble men in our society today who are willing to devote their lives for the development of our country? I would like to leave you with a question, “Freedom comes with a responsibility of preserving it. Who shall take this responsibility?

3. Mera Desh Mahan – Song by Std. 1 and 2

Carrying on, our next program brings out the great spiritual and cultural heritage of our country. We must be proud to be a citizen of such a great and ancient nation. To honor this pride, the students of Std. 1 and 2 are going to present the song Mera Desh Mahan


Thank you children for giving us the message of being proud about our country. How many of us actually feel fortunate to have taken birth in a nation of such greatness, today?

 

4. Woh Kisna Hai – Dance by Std. 4 and 5 Girls

Now I would like to call upon stage the Radhas of Std. 4 and 5 expressing their love for Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna was not only the prince charming but also a great teacher who showed the path to real freedom from ignorance through the immortal words uttered by him in the Bhagavad Gita.

Thank you girls. What a lovely and graceful dance that was. When the spirit of freedom throbs in the minds of the citizens of the country then it find expression through the myriad forms of arts and dances. Like Krishna, I hope the youth of today develop the seriousness to defend freedom and at the same time develop the grace to rejoice in it, the way Lord Krishna did.

5. Hindi Speech – Riya of Std.7

Now I would like to welcome Riya, a student of Std. 7 on stage to deliver a speech in Hindi

Thank you Riya for your thoughtful words. Truly education forms the backbone of freedom and independence. Young minds and bodies twisted and tortured by a thoughtless and inhuman education system can hardly be the fore bearers of freedom. We need to bring a radical change in our education system so that children can flower in freedom and self responsibility.

6. Andher Nagri – Drama by Std.6 to 10

And now lets come to the theatre of life. Actually life is a drama when led in ignorance. Our next program is a skit which depicts how an ignorant leader creates darkness in the life of all. Please gear yourself up to watch a tragic yet humorous masterpiece of Drama – Andher Nagri

Thank you boys for an admirable performance. I hope all of us have taken the crucial message that when we blindly follow our leaders, there is chaos, darkness and ignorance. Unfortunately most of us are scared to question those in power. Therefore we have to develop the capacity to question and not merely follow authority. In a democracy, it is the people and not the government that rules. It is in our hands to create an Andher Nagri in India or an India that shows light to the world.

7. Yeh to Sach Hai ki Bhagwan Hai – Song by boys of Std. 2,3 and 4

Indian culture is steeped in God and religion and this can be seen in it’s 33 crore Gods. We have built grand temples since ancient times to worship statues of God, bestowing our faith in his infinite wisdom. But, Where is God? Who has seen him? In what form does he exist? To answer these mysterious questions we have students of Std. 2, 3 & 4 singing the song “Yeh to Sach Hai ki Bhagwan Hai”

Thank you boys for a truly appreciable performance

8. Dance on Sau Dard Hai by Std. 4 and 5 boys

Next we have a power packed dance performance by Std. 4 and 5 boys on the song Sau Dard Hai

Thank you boys for a truly thrilling performance

9. Hai Preet Jahan ki Reet Sada – Song by Std. 6 to 9

After receiving an education in the western model, the youth and children of today are blinded by the developments of science and technology of the west. They look down upon Indian culture and fail to recognize it’s profound wisdom as well as the enormous contributions it has made in the development of mankind.

So, to bring back the pride in the achievements of our country by understanding it’s glorious past, the students of Std. 6 to 9 are going to present a heart-warming song – Hai Preet Jahan ki Reet Sada

Thank you boys and girls. I hope after listening to this none of us shall remain ignorant about the immense contributions of our country. It was our country which realized that more than machines, gadgets and bombs what humanity requires is love. The greatest gift India has given to the world is the possibility of living on this earth with Truth, Freedom and Love.

10. Chak Dhoom Dhoom – Dance by Std. 2 & 3

Next we have on stage the students of Std. 2 & 3 to delight us with an energetic dance performance of getting soaked in the rains, now that we are in the midst of a rainy season.

Thank you students for entertaining us with your light hearted dance on a truly melodious song.

11. Mohe Rang do Laal – Dance by Girls of Std. 6 to 9

India is a land of numerous dance forms. One of them being the classical dance form called Kathak. Classical dance and performance arts, states this ancient Hindu text Natyashastra, are a form of expression of spiritual ideas, virtues and the essence of scriptures. Our next performance by girls of Std. 6 to 9 brings alive the delicate nuance of Kathak dance on the song Mohe Rang do Laal.

Thank you girls for a really graceful performance.

12. Tribal Dance by Std. 6 to 10

Continuing our exploration of various dance forms, we have a totally refreshing Tribal dance of Saanthalis of Jharkhand. Characterized by delicate, graceful and extremely co-ordinated steps of a group of dancers, tribal dances celebrate communion with each other and nature. The tribals have been custodians of nature since ancient times. They have protected the trees, rivers and forests for centuries. But with the onslaught of modern science and technology, the tribals are losing their culture and wisdom. This dance is a way of honoring their great culture and contribution to mankind.

Thank you students for such an adorable performance. I am sure we can all feel the beats of the drum still vibrating in our hearts and our feet just waiting to dance to the tribal tunes.

13. Gaaye Ja – Song by Nisha of Std. 9

The last program of the day is a truly amazing song sung by Nisha – Gaaye Ja. The song starts out with a sad note, about difficult times that lie ahead in a person’s life. There are times in all our lives where we face a sea of difficulties. The world we live in today is not an easy one. Numerous challenges lie ahead, especially for people who want to live their dreams.

Thank you Nisha for a deeply emotional and heart stirring performance. I hope we all receive the positive message at the end of this song which begins with a sad note. We do not have to stop dreaming. We have to dream as well as develop an unbreakable spirit that can withstand all challenges that lie in the way of completion of our dreams. To get up after getting knocked down by every challenge of life and to move again in the direction of our dreams is the path of the brave.

14. Speech by Principal Sir

The freedom fighters who gave up their lives for their country had seen a dream of a free and independent India. They did not give up till India got free. What dreams do we have for our country and the world? To talk about this I invite upon stage our Principal Sir to end today’s Independence Day celebration by his speech.

14. Thanksgiving

Thank you sir for your thoughtful words. With this we come to the end of today’s Independence Day Celebration in NEEV Vidyalaya. I would like to thank our guests and parents who took out their valuable time to watch the program. Your presence does a lot to motivate us. I would like to thank all the teachers who trained the students for the various performances. Last but not the least I would like to thank all the students who worked hard to put up a delightful performance today and made the 70th Independence a memorable day for all of us.

Teachers of NEEV Vidyalaya

Our Chinese Intern – Lin, trying Tribal Dance with the Children after the Program

Shikha with our Friend Manjeet from Bangalore enjoying the programs (Lin – Chinese Intern and our friend Monica in background)

The Youngest Spectator and and a Proud Indian at NEEV Vidyalaya Independence Day Celebrations – Akshat (Son of our friend Ashish)

A Man Is As Good As His Word – T G Sathish and the Dream of NEEV CIL School (A Temple of Learning)

T G Sathish
T G Sathish – My Friend Who Is Helping in Building NEEV CIL School through his financial contribution

 

Construction
Construction activity being carried out for NEEV CIL School

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” That is what I think freedom really is.

This is what Henry David Thoreau wrote in the concluding chapter of his classic Walden.

He concludes the paragraph by writing

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

When I began envisioning a different kind of education system a year ago, I was building my castle in the air. I say so because there was nothing in my visible world that indicated towards any materialization of this vision that was unfolding in me.

But as Thoreau says, when a man advances “confidently” in the direction of his dreams and “endeavours to live the life which he has imagined”, he will meet with a success in “uncommon hours”. Again and again this maxim has been validated for me in the journey of NEEV.

In our normal lives we barter our dreams for the corroded shell of security. We never “pass the invisible boundary” that Thoreau talks about because we do not want to put old things behind, even though we know that we have outlived their significance. We do not dare to dream for a new world.

When I started seeing the limitations of the present system of education, it became an imperative for us to create a new school where the vision can be lived. But the “uncommon hour” had to come. It finally came one day when I received a call from a place as uncommon as one could expect – from my college friend T. G Sathish.

T. G Sathish, myself and Shikha were batch mates in college – REC Kurukshetra. At the time Sathish called me up, I could have added just another line to this pithy introduction; Sathish had recently become a sponsor in NEEV’s Rural Kid Sponsorship Program. Though he was on NEEV’s mailing list for the past ten years, his sponsorship had started quite silently and mysteriously a year before in 2015.

While in college, I can’t recollect having not more than two conversations with him, so I could safely describe our relationship as nothing more than an acquaintance. But of late, towards the end of 2015, I started observing an increasing frequency of donations by him. In 2015 he became the largest donor to NEEV by donating Rs. 3 lakhs in a single year. I felt that some boundary was being pushed, the relationship was shaping up to be something more than an acquaintance. Sensing this, I went beyond my customary thanksgiving for the donation to share the vision of new NEEV CIL School.

A few rapid fire mail exchanges took place between us as Sathish tried to understand my new vision. Then finally the invisible boundary was surpassed. A new, universal, and more liberal law began to establish itself around and within. The confirmation of it came to me when I got a mail from Sathish with the following lines

I believe in destiny and God has his mysterious ways in telling me what to do. Many years back an astrologer predicted that I will help build a temple in my 40’s. Now based on your mail, I realize that there is no greater temple than the temple of learning”

Within a few days of this mail, Sathish booked his flight tickets to Jamshedpur to visit NEEV.

At Jamshedpur, Sathish stayed at the NEEV Soaps Unit, spending time with the NEEV CIL members (Anjali, Babu, Simi, Sourin and Suraj) having dialogues with them, visiting the land site that I was proposing for the new school and also visiting NEEV Vidyalaya.

We all were struck by Sathish’s sense of candour, humility and genuineness. In one of the many conversation we had, Sathish asked me, “Tell me Anurag. What assurance do you require from my side that I shall help you in every possible way to bring up the new school?”.

“Nothing”, I replied.

In my two score years of life on earth, I have met and interacted with thousands of people, from the poorest to the richest. So I know when I am in the presence of something pure and genuine. But the financial sum involved here was no joke. We were talking about Rs. 30 Lakhs of donation for the land and the construction.

Seeing and interacting with Sathish, I put my trust in him the way a baby puts in it’s mother. But I must admit that having received so many knocks from the world, there was still an iota of doubt remaining. And this iota of doubt too got obliterated when we got the first transfer from Sathish for the land purchase. On 2nd June, 2016 Sathish made the first transfer of Rs. 16.25 Lakhs for the land purchase. A dream of a lifetime (something which I had held for 20 years) became a reality in a single second.

Not only this, as the school construction work starts, there are requirements of funds at a weekly basis. I just have to ask once for my requirement and the funds are transferred by Sathish at the speed of light. With every transfer I receive, I see the dream shaping up into a reality; the borewell digging, the handpump installation, the boundary wall construction…..forms dancing, whirling and coming into existence from empty space.

There are times when my eyes become moist with gratitude and I try to express my heartfelt thanks to the one whom God sent and this is what Sathish has to say

Whatsapp Message

But despite the tremendous contribution of this one man, we still need to raise Rs. 15 Lakhs more to finish construction of our unique school.

If one man can do this much, I wonder what we all can do together to bring forth a new kind of school – a temple of learning. I am sure that all friends of NEEV have the capacity to raise half the amount of what one man has committed to this vision. And I know Sathish is not a multi millionaire 🙂

Help us build the temple of NEEV CIL School. These kids are waiting for it……………………………………………..

Kids
Children of Hurlung Village – Eagerly waiting for the new school to come up

NEEV Interns Finding the Space in the Open Sky !

Interning at NEEV has been a life transforming moment for many of the interns. Their experience with us is not something that just leaves them with a certificate of internship to be used for getting jobs, but something much more deeper and vaster. It leaves them with a profound dissatisfaction with the current world, based on technology and consumerism. Once they go back, the dissatisfaction is not quelled. In some cases it seethes and even grows, finding expression in their communications with me.

NEEV is about creating a psychological revolution in the brain of man so that he sees the monstrous falsities of current world that are perpetuating conflict at global, social and environmental levels. And such a revolution does not come about by “adjusting” to society, but questioning all its values. The process of questioning requires enormous hard work. All the forces of society exert an immense gravitational pull to give in to to its prevailing values of ambition, competition, power seeking and consumerism. Questioning this enormous whirlpool of ideas that construct society requires one to stand completely alone psychologically. There are no gurus, no experts, no texts, no guides, no scriptures to lead you. One has to walk this path alone, in immense solitude. All comfort from every form of authority has to be put aside and one has to meet life afresh with one’s own intelligence and questioning. Whole life long we have been ‘schooled’ by our parents, schools, temples, science and governments to not think but follow. To throw aside this enormous burden requires unceasing intelligence.

In the midst of our busy lives, locked in the gridlock of job, family and entertainment, where does one find space for such questioning? Or have we become so docile that all questions have died down (read dumbed down)? An unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates had said this at a time when the world was still not caught in the vice like grip of techno-economic forces. How true would this maxim be today? A mind that ceases to question, ceases to learn. It becomes mechanical – a mechanical race for acquiring power and pleasure. Can we find and create spaces for questioning life?

I would like to share with you some beautiful pieces of communications with two of NEEV Interns – Abhishek and Lisa. Both interned with NEEV in 2012, that is four years ago. They still carry the perfume of questioning in their lives, a questioning that disturbs but nonetheless makes them alive.

Abhishek 1

Abhishek studied engineering at Manipal Institute of Technology. A few days ago, in response to one of my postings on facebook, he shared with me this :

“I think most of the people have become slaves of the machine. They think what it wants them to think, see what it wants them to see, teach what it wants them to teach, like what it wants them to like and may be the most dangerous knows and learns what it want them to know and learn. Our media, economy, even cultural and social values are being dictated by the machine. And gradually as time is flying by, I am realizing that I have also become one of the slaves. But the good thing thing is I still find out the time to watch the open sky at night and for that small span of time I leave this world and go to a place which give me my daily quota of peace. And I think travelling to that place is very simple and everyone should find a way by which they could travel to that world and muster the strength to return and live in this world for one more day.”

– Abhishek

Lisa, was another intern from Belgium who studied economics from Gent University Belgium and then later went on to become President of AIESEC Belgium. Some time ago, responding to one of my articles she wrote

“Thank you for sharing this with us. (Water Woes and the Rich, Educated Sin-gineers (Engineers)) I’m going through similar frustrations at the moment. Last night I couldn’t sleep, I haven’t been fully able to concentrate the last couple of days actually, and I was thinking about the world we are living in. I really hope with all my heart that we will start evolving into a more aware and thoughtful society, where real things start mattering more, like water, air and earth instead of TV, cellphones and other technology.
 
A couple of weeks ago I was still in South Africa (and in Namibia), and even though you also have educated sin-gineers and other rich people living there and not caring enough about the scarcity of natural resources, I somehow have the feeling people, or at least my friends, are still more in touch with nature there. In Belgium we mostly live in and around bricks and concrete. A friend of mine recently posted a research outcome of the % of the country which was concrete and I don’t remember the exact amount but I remember it was a lot. And it makes me a bit confused because my heart is yearning for that touch with nature but I can’t seem to escape the bricks here. Of course there is a lot of nature still present, and every small flower and bush can bring me joy too. I just need to still adjust from my trip to South Africa and appreciate nature in a different way here (or appreciate the different type of nature we have here).”

– Lisa

Lisa also sent me a couple of photographs from her trip in Namibia. I am sharing one of them (I am sure Lisa, you would not mind this). This is the one in which Lisa is sitting on the rocks with a star shining brightly in the background of open sky. She seems to be finding that space in the open sky which Abhishek talked about : a space for contemplation on the immeasurable that rises beyond the world. Co-incidentally Abhishek and Lisa were able to meet each other at the time when they were interning in NEEV.

Lisa 1

I finally end with sharing a few pics of Lisa in the NEEV Soaps unit. Lisa had a special love of all the children living in the village in which NEEV’s Herbal Unit is located. They used to all crown around her like bees hovering near a hive 🙂

Lisa 2

Of all the kids, Lisa had a special love for one of them called Kishan, who was the son of a very dedicated lady Jasomati who works in the NEEV Herbal Unit in Hurlung Village. At the time Lisa met Kishan he was not going to any school as his parents could not afford to send him.
Lisa 3

Lisa’s love for Kishan finally manifested in the form of sponsoring Kishan to NEEV Vidyalaya, a commitment she has preserved through all challenges for the past four years…..till today !

Kishan

Today Kishan is a happy, confident and proud student of NEEV Vidyalaya 🙂