Tag Archives: ecology

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

 

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The Green People of India–The Emerging New Reality

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Environmentalism  is a hot topic and on World Environment Day, it sure gets hotter. But it’s time to take it beyond the realm of being a “Hot Topic” to being a new reality.

For those who have been reading me regularly, you must be quite aware of the Integral Theory of development of consciousness. Even if you are not, let me tell you that this theory considers the rise of a new kind of business model as the next imperative for evolution at the global level.

The movement has already begun as more and more people wake up from the dream of technology; to the split it has created between man and environment and man and man. Nature has been showing us the limits of progress, in an attempt to coerce man to correct his course of evolutionary ascent.

A few days ago, I was surprised to read some passages from one of Peter F. Drucker’s last series of written books, “The New Realities”. You may be aware that Peter F. Drucker holds the legendary status of being called the father of Modern Business Management. He was the one, who, in his illustrious life spanning almost a century (96 years) as a consultant, educator and author contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation.

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His writings have predicted many of the major developments of the late twentieth century, including privatization and decentralization; the rise of Japan to economic world power; the decisive importance of marketing; and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning.

Now, in “The New Realities”, a work surveying the future of business organizations, he says

“The final new reality in the world economy is the emergence of transnational ecology. Concern for the ecology, the endangered habitat of the human race, will increasingly have to be built into the economic policy. And increasingly concern for the ecology, and policies in respect of it, will transcend national boundaries”

He add later’,

“The model we now need would have to see the economy as “ecology”, “environment”, “configuration” and composed of several interacting spheres : a “micro-economy” of individuals and firms especially transnational ones, a ‘macroeconomy’ of national governments; and a world economy”

Of course this is what I always thought and believed in. This is what the Integral Theory also says. However, what actually struck me about these words was that the fact that they were coming from a person who was steeped and dyed in the wool of Capitalism and Multinational Corporate Culture. And remember we are not talking here of any hanky-panky machinations of some looney individual. We are talking of a person from the seemingly opposite camp of a legendary status; well, actually the person who built that camp.

A movement of this sort actually holds light. I started out on my holy grail to save the world from the excesses of unrestrained capitalism from the opposite camp. I gave up my corporate job, joined the non-profit sector and also had a brush with communism, which actually helped evolve my views of life tremendously. But then I finally figured out that evolution cannot happen by a clash of ideologies. The Integral Theory precisely highlights this point. True evolution happens by transcending a world-view at the first step and then including and embracing the previous world-view in the second step.

So when I started talking business in my camp of non-profits, it jarred in the ears of many of my friends. I faced situations where I was “debased” as a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing. Those were times – the early part of this millennium- when the word social entrepreneurship had not yet become trendy. You were either a businessman or a social worker and the twain could never meet. But all the talk of non-profits; in five star hotels, with people jetting around the world in Armani suits, accepting donations, awards and rewards from business houses did not quite add up for me. While the rhetoric of sustainability and indigenous systems and corporate bashing continued to stream from the pulpits of the non-profits, I could not help seeing the handshakes between corporates and non-profits that were being made under the table .

Much to my relief – and I guess, for many others – the “glamorization” of Social Entrepreneurship came as a whiff of fresh air. For once, the suffocating non-profits could give validity to their very human desire to grow, change and make money. The social sector had the saner ideology for growth but did not have the power. So with social entrepreneurship we saw the marriage two camps of business and social work, the marriage of sense and power. Evolution after all proceeds by marriage of opposites. Thesis – Antithesis and Synthesis.

As we all know that marriage solves one problem and creates many others Smile But this is not what I would particularly like to delve upon in this blog. At this moment, I just wanted to share a small celebration of this marriage. We’ll delve on the marital dynamics in later blogs.

One of the lesser evident points in the quote of Peter Drucker above was that he has talked about the new economy as an “ecology”. In the economy of the jungle, the ants have as much validity as the lions. When Peter Drucker, the man who incubated the rise of huge multinational corporations talks about “micro economy” of individuals and firms, he sets the path right, which so far has skewed unhealthily towards a collective mania for the big. This ubiquitous, misplaced and collective hypnosis shared by humanity, in it’s worship of bigness, prompted E.F Schumacher to write “Small is Beautiful”. Putting aside the philosophy and aesthetics of the idea of “small’” – which is actually profound – the idea of “bigness” itself is a gross misrepresentation of reality. The MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) sector in India employs about 70 million people in India contributing nearly 45 percent manufactured output and 40 percent of the total export (according to 2012 statistics)

A small band of green micro-entrepreneurs have got together for the first time in India, under the umbrella called the Green People of India. Yes, NEEV is also part of this initiative. Being an entrepreneur myself, I know what could have gone beyond the scenes, for all these people to reach where they are today. The mere fact that they exist, rubbing shoulders with the transnational giants in the open market, with absolutely not a shred of support from the policies of the government (favouring big businesses); is a tribute to them.

Gentlemen, we cannot make this movement to the new reality, from a world economy to a transnational economy as Peter Drucker, along with many others have envisioned, if you, the customer does not take an informed choice of products to buy. What you consider a simple act of personal shopping is actually a planetary decision you are taking. For, as Daniel Goleman writes in his book, Ecological Intelligence,

“Our world of material abundance comes with a hidden price tag. We cannot see the extent to which the things we buy and use daily have other kinds of costs – their toll on the planet, on consumer health, and on people whose labour provides us our comfort and our necessities. We go through our daily life awash in a sea of things we buy, use and throw away, waste or save. Each of those things has its own history and its own future, backstories and endings largely hidden from our eyes, a web of impacts left along  the way from the initial extraction or concoction of its ingredients, during its manufacture and transport, through the subtle consequences of its use in our homes and workplaces, to the way we dispose it. And yet these unseen impacts of all that stuff maybe their most important aspect.”

My agenda in writing this blog is to make all of us aware of the potent force we have as buyers and consumers – our collective will – to protect the planet and  its people from the unintended harms by making correct decisions of buying: buying products which are green. By making green decisions, let us tip the balance of power – for once – from those who sell to those who buy. And as Daniel Goleman says, “We become the shapers of our destiny rather than passive victims. Just by going to the store, we will vote with our dollars.”

Presented below is an introduction of Green People of India, in their own words Smile followed by a snapshot of NEEV Herbal Handmade Soaps

The Green People of India

The Green People of India comprise of 28 eco, ethical, sustainable, fair trade enterprises from 11 different cities across India.  In the past few years there has been a growing awareness among our fellow Indians about climate change, pollution, the need for an organic, ‘green-conscious’ lifestyle. These green enterprises, have been working in their own little nooks and workshops creating green & sustainable products and services. We have all the energy, enthusiasm and passion to make a difference, but the resources we have are always used up to further our cause, concept & work! So we decided to come together and form a friendly group, of like minded people. We collectively decided to call ourselves The Green People of India. And we even came up with a self explanatory tagline.

“Promoting Eco-enterprises and Sustainable Development in India”

Please view Slideshow for Profiles of Various Green Enterprises

And now, Kalki Koechlin supports The Green People of India enthusiastically! A passionate advocate of all things that are reusable, Kalki has joined in and become a fellow Green People. She has a very strong opinion about disposable products that aggravate the landfill terror & choked drainage horror we have been witnessing across India! We were all so thrilled to have Star power added to The Green People of India in such a short span of time that everyone sent ‘green goodies’ from different corners of India and we put it all together in a mango peti (which we re-used), and gained even more brownie points from out Star supporter!

The FESTIVAL: Meanwhile, in Mumbai, we have decided to launch ourselves with a bash – The Green People Festival @ The Vintage Garden, 7-8-9 June, Patkar Bungalow, Turner Road, Bandra (W), Mumbai. We are thrilled that Green People from 8 states across India will be participating in the festival, including Shikha & Anurag’s organic creations- NEEV Soaps.

The list of participants goes as follows

1. Earth Craft (www.earthcraft.in) -Uttarakhand

2. Red Bug Store (www.redbugstore.com) – Bangalore

3. Indigreen (www.indigreen.co.in) – Mumbai

4. Clean Planet (www.cleanplanet.in) – Mumbai

5. Moral Fibre (www.moralfibre-fabrics.com) – Ahmadabad

6. Do You Speak Green (www.douspeakgreen.in) – Mumbai

7. Neev (www.neevsoaps.weebly.com) – Jamshedpur

8. Aura (www.auraherbalwear.com) – Ahmadabad

9. Forty Red Bangles (www.fortyredbangles.com) – Mumbai

10. Eco Corner (www.ecocornerindia.com) – Mumbai

11. Omved (www.omved.com) – Mumbai

12. Ruby’s Herbal (www.rubysherbal.com) – Pondicherry

13. Haathi Chaap (www.elephantpoopaper.com) – New Delhi

14. Eco Femme + Shecup (Pondicherry + Mumbai)

15. BIOTEC Bags (www.biotecbags.com) – Chennai

16. Mother Earth (http://motherearth.co.in/)

17. Paruthi (www.upasana.in) – Pondicherry

18. Green N Good (www.GreenNGood.com) – Jaipur

19. Uttara & Adwait Furniture- Nasik

Oganizations:

Farmer’s Market

Refreshments:

1. Sushma – La Devi Farmers Initiative

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The Story: Engineering organic dreams.. NEEV Herbal Handmade Soaps produces a variety of premium-quality, all-natural cosmetic products including everything from hair oils to shampoos to bath soaps. In 2007, engineer couple Anurag and Shikha Jain pioneered the enterprise, located in the Village Hurlung of Jharkhand, India, NEEV which provides a dignified source of employment for women living within the village community. These women hand craft each product using a variety of organic materials, from the aloe vera, tulsi, and rose grown in NEEV’s very own backyard to the natural plant oils purchased largely from local producers. One such oil includes mahua oil—extracted from an indigenous tree of Jharkland—traditionally used by the tribals for skincare.  Neev Herbal Handmade Cosmetics are scented using pure essential oils without using any chemicals or artificial colors. Mild and nourishing to the skin they do not rub the skin off its natural oil. All products are made in small batches using cold process which best preserves the beneficial qualities of the ingredients. Neev Herbal Handmade Soaps is a green enterprise which does not cause water, air or soil pollution since the products contain no harsh ingredients or chemical preservatives. There is no wastage, fuel consumption or pollution during the manufacturing process. A part of the profit of NEEV Herbal Handmade Soaps goes to support the English Medium Education of the local rural children.

So, to recap: When you buy a NEEV product, you are not only gaining an eco-friendly, all-natural cosmetic good, you are also supporting the cause of sustainable rural development and women empowerment!

Honesty is NEEV’s policy! ‘Most of the herbal/organic/natural/ayurvedic cosmetic products still put in a host of chemicals which are not stated on the labels. We impose a limitation on the shelf life of our products but do not put chemical preservatives or fixatives unless unavoidable. We genuinely state on the label “all” the ingredients of the product rather than writing just the “key ingredients”. So that the customers know exactly what they are using’ says Shikha, Co founder and CEO of the enterprise.

Contact details:

Website: www.neevsoaps.weebly.com, Shikha Jain (Founder and CEO), Anurag Jain (Founder and CFO)

E mail: neevsoaps@gmail.com   Ph: +919234833856