Tag Archives: inspiring personalities

Some people inspire other by their little acts that they do for the betterment of others. And others inspire by their worthy to be imitated lifestyle

Meet Sophia Banks who styled Priyanka’s most googled 2016 Oscar Outfit

Priyanka Chopra’s Oscar outfit, styled by Sophia Banks, was the most Googled Oscar Dress of 2016. Choosing the right kind of dress and accessories takes months of preparation and hard work. Sophia Banks has worked with Celebrities like Amber Heard, Sharon Stone and John Travolta. Here is an interview with Sophia Banks, where she talks about her work with Priyanka Chopra; her professional life and her future projects:

Tell us something about yourself?

I moved to the USA, Launching a fashion boutique was the next step for me, it was called ‘Satine’ and quickly became award-winning Hollywood hotspot. Satine was written up in all the fashion magazines, shopped by celebrities  and because of its fashion forwardness, step me up as a ‘Trend Forecaster’ from which started my career as a fashion consultant. I began to consult to top fashion lines and design for them. One of my favourite projects was for fashion house Rodo where I was flown to Italy to design shows.

As well as styling I have been recently working as a director on fashion Commercials.

Which all celebrities have you worked with?

Of course Priyanka Chopra.

Amber Heard, Sharon Stone, John Travolta, Leighton Meister, Shay Mitchell, Erika Christensen and many more..

Sophia Banks the stylist of Priyanka Chopra
Checking out an Outfit with Priyanka Chopra
As a celebrity stylist, what are your responsibilities?

When I first start working with someone I create a style guide for them which we follow for them as a guide. I also create a trend book for them for the season.

Then I help shop and buy their entire wardrobe. I also search the world for the best dress for ever red carpet event so they make it in press all over the world.

For a lot of my clients, I do all the costume for films, TV and commercials as well.

It is my job to set a goal with them such as be a style icon or get most googled fashion dress of the year and then reach that goal.

How did you choose the famous Oscar dress of Priyanka Chopra that was the most googled outfit of 2016?

It was so amazing working with her, she is such a wonderful, kind, beautiful person who works so incredibly hard. We always had such fun choosing dresses.

For the Oscar look as it was a big deal we were very involved in the selection of the dress. We of course requested many gowns and flew to Montreal where Priyanka was filming to do a fitting with about 40 gowns in tow.

We then did the fitting and the white was a top option along with many others but it needs alterations.

What is your opinion about Priyanka Chopra?

I think she is an amazing, beautiful and incredible woman. She is also such a hard worker, she is always flying somewhere to shoot something between the USA and India. Her success is an example of what happens when you give everything it takes towards your goal.

I also love her attitude to life, she is super fun loving and easy going. We always had fun together.

Sophia Banks who Styled Priyanka Chopra
Sophia Banks in a television interview
Have you been to Priyanka Chopra’s home Country, India?

Yes I have, I am originally Australian, and so I have travelled to India and all over. It is one of my favourite countries, I love it there. It is a spiritual place for me, there is something special once you land.

Do you have future plans to work with in Bollywood or with Bollywood Celebrities?

Yes I am in talks with new clients right now and am excited to work with some amazing Bollywood talent. I am also working on my first script and am possibly looking at filming in India, so I think I have a lot of future there.

Food Stories of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Yesterday during Mother Teresa’s canonisation there were two trending topics – ‘SaintTeresa’ and ‘FraudTeresa’. Many considered here a Saint, other’s viewed her sainthood with doubt “how can this be”.

Two thousand years back a 12 year old girl asked the same question to an angel that appeared to her and told her that she will bear a son. She said to the angel, “How can this be, when I haven’t known a man”. From that moment, Mary the mother of Jesus underwent many pains and sufferings. Now she is the most revered, after Jesus Christ, and the foremost among the Saints of Jesus.

Man is fallible, and so there will always be doubts about how human beings with all their inherent faults can be declared saints. A saint is one who is in heaven with God because of their holiness and virtue.

We only have third party knowledge of saints, mostly through verbal stories passed on from generation to generation, because holy people are declared as saints years after the death of their contemporaries.  I couldn’t meet Mother Teresa, so all the  that I know about mother is third party information –  through books; and the experience of others. Stories about her inspired me all through out my  life. Many prominent people have shared their rendezvous with mother, which changed their life forever; and listening to their experience changed my perception of life.

Saint Teresa took care of the sick people, infected and dying on the street in a way which is unimaginable to replicate for an ordinary human. There was a story, in a newspaper, of a woman who was a strong anti-campaigner for Mother Teresa, but when she saw the missionaries of charity helping a sick man lying on the street, she changed her opinion. Because, the Sisters were doing a service which she couldn’t imagine herself doing.

Mother Teresa inspired people to share food, and to give the left over food to the needy. Giving away food is the simplest act of charity which any human can do. The inspiring food stories , share in this post, resonates Saint Teresa’s famous quote; “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Here are some of St. Teresa’s food stories that inspired many to do charity:

The story of the broken biscuits

In Khushwant Singh’s book ‘Unforgettable Women’, he says that once he went with Mother Teresa to a biscuit factory where the Manager was ready with excuses like there was a Union Strike, they were already doing charity, and so on.  She thanked the Manager for all the broken biscuits they had given in the previous years and continued **”You must have lots of problems. Everything is in short supply— flour, butter, sugar.’ It was evident that Mr Mukherjee’s speech had been taken out of his mouth………….** When Mother continued with stories of the hungry destitute, Mukherjee finally delivered forty large boxes of broken biscuits to Mother Teresa.

Picking up waste food at parties

Usha Uthup the popular singer, has 47 years of association with Mother. She says mother had tremendous influence on her and St. Teresa never talked about religion though she was from a different religion. Once Mother told Uthup that when she goes to parties, she should pick up the left over food and give to the needy. Though her assignment was embarrassing Usha Uthup did her job dutifully.

Charity in the air

Jiji Thomson, former Chief Secretary of Kerala, said that once when he boarded a flight there was an announcement that Mother was also on board. Everyone clapped their hands. When the food was being served there was another announcement that if there is any leftover food, the passengers were requested to hand it over to Mother. Every single passenger gave their food packet to Mother.

The flight story shows the universal impact of Mother. Imagine who all might have been on board- atheists, youths enjoying life, Kids waiting for the tasty  meal, etc. All of them forsook their meal to be part of a great service to humanity.

**Excerpts from ‘Unforgettable Women’ by Khushwant Singh

Zinedine Zidane : brand ambassador of Upcoming Paris Inspired Residential Complex in Mumbai

After Messi, now the renowned footballer and coach Zinedine Zidane will be the Brand Ambassador of an Indian company. Real estate development company Kanakia Spaces today confirmed the signing of French football legend and Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane as face for its ‘Paris’ project in the Bandra-Kurla Complex.

Probably this kind of an endorsement is for the first time in Asia, because Zinedine Zidane owns three in one fame – a celebrity, ace-footballer and a Coach. When asked about his new assignment in India Zinedine Zidane said “This is my first involvement in India directly and I am delighted to be a part of it. When Mr. Himanshu Kanakia and Mr. Ashish Kanakia reached out to me for this project, I did not hesitate and was delighted to come on board with them in a consulting capacity for this project.”

Kanakia Paris is a unique project and aims to recreate a Parisian experience for the future residents at the complex. The project will bring to life the essence of Paris, namely art, romance, architecture, monuments, fashion and food, fully immersing residents in the Parisian way of life.

To make the Paris inspired project more authentically indigenous  a renowned architect from Paris, Olivier Vecchierini, will design the landscape and some interiors of the project. He is going to use his vast experience across various countries to ensure Kanakia Paris delivers a unique experience.

There are 7 towers at Kanakia Paris with 463 units in the 2 & 3 bedroom categories which start at Rs. 3.7 crores.

Kanakia Group was formed in the year 1986 and has earned a distinct reputation as one of India’s premium developers. It is rated as one of the top-ten real estate development brands in Mumbai.

The flagship real estate development company, Kanakia Spaces Pvt. Ltd. has delivered over 13 million sq. ft. of commercial, residential, entertainment, education and industrial spaces to date. The company has been honoured with several prestigious awards for its landmark projects, which exemplify the quality Kanakia put in their work.

Remembering Indelible Strokes of Cartoonist Toms

Cartoonist Toms

I do not know Cartoonist Toms well though I like his old cartoons. Thought provoking humour at its best and which would stand the test of time. There are some who makes you think and some who makes you laugh, but very few who could do both…I remember my Professor once pointing my views to the dog in the cartoons; to check the actions and reactions of the tiny dog in each situation.  The finesse in even the smallest of details……. Every frame filled with thoughts but yet with a few strokes. The pen has stopped but the ink will remain indelible and will continue to spread for generations………..

About the Author: ManuManu Varghese Stephen is the CEO of Trade Integre Ltd, UK. He loves to work with people to help them achieve their full potential, be it a graduate student get a dream job in the Big 4 OR a Company with absolutely no history or experience with their new service launch to become the leader among their competitors in less than 6 months. In his motivation talks he often uses Boban and Molly stories by Cartoonist Toms, to inspire the listeners

Hepsiba, the Chennai Girl, won gold at street child games in Rio De Janeiro

Once a hapless little kid, 16 year old, Hepsiba never travelled in an express train in her life though once her home was just a stone throw away from South India’s largest railway station, Chennai Central . But last month this wonder girl made her first flight and travelled more than 14000 km crossing oceans from Chennai to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil to achieve something. And she returned with a few medals: one gold and two bronze won in a Street child games in Rio De Janeiro.

Relocated from her dwelling

Few months back Hepsiba and her widowed mother were evicted, by the Chennai corporation, from shanty home along the Sydenhams Road near the Nehru Stadium in chennai where they were living for years. Along with many other dwellers, they were shifted to a shelter home.

An NGO discovered the prodigy

It was Karunalaya, and NGO in Chennai that discovered the talent in her and gave Hepsibah the opportunity that finally took her to Rio. Few weeks ago, Karunalaya organised a sports meet, in Chennai, for the street children, and Hepsiba was one among them. Paul Sunder Singh of Karunalaya says that they found this girl had sheer talent and they decided to take her to big events. But before leaving for Rio she had to jump many hurdles: not in the filed but in many other ways. “Actually, she just about made it; it was a miracle that her passport came through on time,” Mr. Singh says. The team could not win any sponsorship from any corporates or philanthropists but International NGO Street Child United who organised the entire meet has helped a bit and Karunalaya took some loan for the children to make the trip. The London based NGO works to empower marginalised street kids and give them a platform of sports to nurture their talents.

Trained like a Pro

Intensively trained by coach Prabhakar Suresh for about two weeks, Hepsiba and team left for Rio in the second week of March and spent one and half weeks there. Hepsiba won gold in 100 meter sprint and and silver in 400m and bronze in 100m hurdles. Her team mate Ashok won a bronze in boys’ shot put and Sneha stood third in 4x100m relay race and bagged bronze.

24 Carat Friendship with participants of other countries

They interacted with other participants mostly from third world countries like Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Burundi. Hepsiba says that now she has won many friends from these countries and she values the friendships are larger than the medals she won and that makes her ‘very very happy’. Another participant, Usha spoke at the Street Child Games General Assembly  and stressed the need to protect street children from people especially police who find a way to  harass them in a regular basis.  “Everyday we fear the police. Police are supposed to support and safeguard us, but we don’t experience this. To protect children from violence at the hands of the police, street children need to be invited to speak at police training so they (police) can understand and empathise,” she said.
In Hebrew Hepsiba means ‘My delight is in Her’. The Lord’s delight and grace are indeed there upon her. She has to win more medals and has to reach new heights.

Also Read: AT 83, SHE IS PREPARING FOR HER NEXT VETERANS ATHLETICS MEET

 
About the Author:  

SudhirSudhir Athekkattil is a digital creative artist from Kerala and now working in Chennai who has a flair in creative writing too. His interests range from cricket to cooking and movies to music. 

 DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Sad Demise of Malayalam Actor Kalpana

Heartfelt condolence on the sad demise of the veteran malayalam actor Kalpana, 51.

According to sources she was spotted unconscious in her hotel room, in Hyderabad, around 6:00 AM. The versatile actor was rushed to Apollo Hospital where she was declared dead due to a cardiac arrest. Kaplana was in Hyderabad shooting for a Tamil and a Telengu films and for a film award function.

The News shocked the malayalam film industry which was left with a void after her sad Demise. A National Award winning actor, she gave many super hit movies pairing with popular comedy actor Jagathy Sreekumar. Her colleagues remember her as a dedicated and passionate actor who maintained friendly relation with her co workers. Her last film released in malayalam was Charlie. She also did unforgettable roles in new-age malayalam films like Banglore Days.

She was very active outside the film appearing as judge in reality shows on television and anchoring various shows. Her parents were Theatre artists, and both her sisters Kalaranjini and Urvashi and well known actors in Malayalam. Kalpan ventured into the film world as a child actor and both her deceased brothers also acted in movies.

 

Empowering the underprivileged with newspaper cuttings


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When I met him first, he was taking photocopies of Newspaper cuttings and said that he ran an NGO, for helping the underprivileged.  I was just curious to know what kind of support S. Devender Singh Anand, 67, was providing for helping the needy. “I keep all the Newspaper cutting of News that benefit the public, for instance, the Legal News” he said. He uses the Newspaper cuttings to empower the underprivileged.  Suppose someone goes to the hospital for a handicap certificate with Address Proof, Id Cards, and still he is denied the license; then Mr. Anand provides the person with photocopies of Newspaper cuttings supporting his claims.  The applicant can then challenge for his rights with the Newspaper cuttings. If required, he confronts the officials about the provisions that the claimant is entitled to “I have the information, no one can challenge me on the information.”

Mr. Anand, who was into truck transportation business, was injured and bedridden in 1992. And since 1995, after the trauma, with the experience he gained, he decided to help the underprivileged.

He says only four out of hundred physically challenged are utilizing the benefits entitled for the physically challenged, and that too mostly from the educated section of the society.  Most of the physically challenged are unaware of their privileges. He says in Delhi there is the Handicapped Finance Corporation, which is underutilized by the physically challenged. And there two special commissions appointed for the physically challenged– National level Commissioner at 6, Baghwan Das Road and State level commissioner at Mata Gujri College. Suppose the specially-abled people are not getting the justice they can approach the commission and register a complaint against the authority who is denying them their right. At both the Commissioner offices, you get booklets about the facilities entitled for the physically challenged. Those who are knowledgeable about the content of the booklets avail the facilities.

empowering the underprivileged

Helping everyone in need

Other than the physically challenged, Mr. Anand has been empowering the underprivileged like the poor, the senior citizens, the uneducated and so on.  He tries to help everyone and guides people with Newspaper Cuttings. Whenever he meets people, he tells the deserving people to approach the authorities to get their benefits and in case, they are challenged they can show a photocopy copy of the Newspaper cuttings.

An interesting piece of information that Mr. Anand shared was, there is a provision for a free legal attorney, in every Court, for those having income less than Rs 1 lakh.  “You can go to a Court, and get a free lawyer immediately when you show documents of your earning,” says Mr. Anand.

In addition to providing information, if the situation requires he physically approaches the authorities and speaks for the underprivileged.  Once he educated his housemaid about the benefits of opening a Bank Account, but when she approached the Bank, she faced many hurdles. So Mr. Anand himself went to the Bank, talked to the officials and successfully opened a Bank Account for her. She was excited because she could now save her earnings and she also got free medical insurance coverage.  Encouraged by her, her relatives also opened bank accounts.

After helping the underprivileged for nearly two decades, he registered an NGO ‘Happy Living’ to help the cause of the physically challenged.  Happy Living accepts old clothes from donors and distributes them among the needy.

Mr. Anands strong support comes from his wife, Harpreet Anand, a Criminal Lawyer, who teaches the Children of Watchmen, maids and construction workers of the locality.

With the passage of time, Mr. Anand has advanced his methods to garner information.  He now uses the new-age tool of RTI (Right to Information) to “provide Justice for those who are denied Justice”. He is an inspiration to the youth of today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amartya Sen’s reflection on contemporary issues

The auditorium was jam packed during Amartya Sen’s reflection on contemporary issues at the India International Centre, in Delhi where he had come to discuss his new book, “The Country of First Boys“.  “This book is a celebration of the mind which sees, judges but does not necessarily pass a verdict on,” says Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who was the moderator at the meeting.  Hiranya Mukherjee is described by him in the book as one of his heroes and Hiranya Mukherjee has said famously in his speech that what is true and what is unpleasant has few speakers and few listeners.  What is true and what is unpleasant is spoken by few people in our recent century and Amartya Sen is one of them.  This book contains Amartya Sen’s reflection on matters which are beyond what is regarded as his main preoccupation coming from his discipline. His knowledge of Sanskrit is that of a person who has authority over Sanskrit.

According to Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Amartya Sen uses lots of ’em-dash’ in the book. ‘Em-dash’ is the long dash, with the width of capital ‘M’ and the ‘en-dash’, the width of the capital N.  The hyphen is smaller than the capital ‘N’. So between the hyphen, the ’em dash’ and the ‘en dash’ we have a gradation of pauses in which lie a great deal of Amartya Sen’s reflections. He has given through various ’em-dashes’ qualification to what he says in the main.  He says for instance that ‘The central question is not – indeed cannot be – whether or not to use the market economy’.  “So, in the clause of this book, in the subordinate clause of this book, lies some of the valuable thoughts of the thinker,” He says very importantly in this book that today in India it has become very easy to hate.  And he quotes Ogden Nash to say that “Every kiddie in School can love like a fool but by God to hate is an art.” Now that Art, by artist and instigators has been raised to a fine art in our times.  And the weapon of choice is identity.  The identity of each one of us becomes more important.

One of the most extraordinary essays in the books is about the system of calendars. The calendars in India may mean ‘The Gregorian Calendar’, the official calendar – we have a plethora of calendars. And one of the calendars, the ‘Bengali calendar’ is followed by the Bengalis for all significant ceremonies in Bengal.  In the essay, Amartya Sen says that Bengali calendar follows modifications made by Akbar, know as ‘Tarikh-e-Ilahi’ when he brought it in line with the  ‘Islamic Hijri Calendar’ in which the first year was the year when Prophet Mohammed went from Mecca to Medina. So highly ritualised observances in Bengal are following a Hijri Protocol.   But going beyond that, Amartya Sen talks during the interaction about the tumult of dates and definitions of date mean for us in India. 

What does Calendar mean to the culture of India?

“I got involved because I was struck by the multiplicity of calendars in India.  One or two of them are very much based on Imagination about Kalyug of the calendar. But most of them are based on Astronomical observation.  And some of our great Mathematicians like, Aryabhata comments on Shakha Calendar in 499, and he talks about the nature of these calendars. Aryabhata was a person who believed already that Sun did not go around the Earth. And it was the motion of the Earth that made Sun go round.  In Arabic literature, Aryabhata was translated three or four times; Brahmagupta 7 or 8 times. Al Biruni, who came to India at the turn of the millennium, he discusses Aryabhata and his views about gravity. If it is the case of the earth churning how come things are not being thrown out and Al Biruni said – Aryabhata claims that every object attracts another object and Earth being a rather large object compared to us, we don’t get thrown out because we are pulled back to the Earth.  So this was one of the early discussions of gravitational forces. But one of the issue he raised is about Prejudice and Open Mindedness. Aryabhata was the great originator of the School of thought.  But Al Biruni had many reasons to believe that Brahmagupta was probably a bigger mathematician eventually because many of the problems that are still regarded very more prominent had come later than Aryabhata.

But then Brahmagupta followed Aryabhata in mathematical thinking and developed it. Brahmagupta does not want to break from Hindu Orthodoxy. He claims that Aryabhata should be denounced on grounds he did not believe in the Hindu Orthodoxy.  However, he follows Aryabhatta in Mathematics. He draws extensively on that. Al Biruni tells Brahmagupta that he recognizes that he has made a bigger contribution to mathematics than his teacher, Aryabhata. But why is it you denounce Aryabhata for being Agnostic because you don’t give any argument? And when it comes to calculation the eclipses why is it that you follow Aryabhata method rather than those you think it is important for you to admire and defend.  Which means why don’t you calculate eclipses by Rahu and Ketu and so on, rather than the mathematical calculation. I think that is a kind of reprimand, which comes from someone outside.  And it is a kind of brilliantly delivered question.  The great scientist and mathematician Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace, makes a brilliant point saying that one thing that becomes evident in the Indian Calendar is that this is a civilization, which is much more concerned with analytical thinking and mathematics and not with observational science. He gives the other cultures, the Greek and the Chinese, higher marks for observation-inference; and a higher score for Indian mathematics for that period for Analytical Excellence.

The ‘Kaliyuga Calendar’, sounds like it began 4 million years ago.  It is a possible world from the analytical point of view but then, of course, it is not the world in which we live.  But then some people believe that it is the world in which we live and keep on denouncing others who try to talk about the world that we live.  As the debate, we have today.

The oldest probably is the ‘Nirvana Calendar’.  But the Hijri Muslim Calendar is a Lunar Calendar, and it happens to be ahead of Bengali Calendar.  Akbar thought, for the sake of integration that he was wanting, he wanted calendrical unity.  He took the Hijra counting up to the date and converted from that point onwards into the solar system.  Akbar converted the date from the date that he ascended the throne.   The lunar calendar was going ahead while the Bengali calendar was going slowly. The calculation is very simple. You can easily do the calculation by comparing a Hijri calendar with a Bengali calendar. A calendar has many things to offer. The Bengali calendar, the important thing is, no Hindu ceremony in Bengal completes without invoking the time when Prophet Mohammed went from Mecca to Medina.

India’s Fascination for hero worship?

There were the Dynasty like the Mauryas, the Guptas and so on. The Hindu period, the Muslim period, The Hindu period is a period of 5000 years, which is the bulk of the written history. The kings were Buddhist, and the country was Buddhist. It wasn’t a Hindu period in fact. You can call it ancient period. It was never separated from religion.  Nalanda was established in 420 A.D., and it has a Buddhist foundation.  The mixture of culture was tremendous then.  When Nalanda was started, the Buddhist powers were declining, and the Hindu powers were re-establishing. They happily continued to support Nalanda. That show a degree of magnanimity that would be good to see today.

There was a kind of absorption of world culture.  And there is no dishonour to note that there are riddles in Atharvaveda but no maths.  The maths came much later through Aryabhata and Brahmagupta.  Aryabhata and Brahmagupta were inspired by the Babylonian region and that influence matured India into a Trigonometric Invention.  The transmission of scientific knowledge and mathematical knowledge have crossed the world by some of the texts. For example, if you take the Trigonometric term like ‘Sine’ – Aryabhata called it ‘Jya’ which means a ‘bow string’. When the Arabs translated it Centuries later, they translated ‘Jya’ as ‘jiba’. But ‘jiba’ did not have any meaning in Arabic, so the later translators in Arabic did change ‘jiba’ to ‘jaib’. Now ‘jaib’ means a ‘bosom’ so in 12th-century, Latin translator, Gerard of Cremona, used the Latin equivalent for “bosom”, sinus; thus, jyā became ‘sinu’.

The interesting thing is when you think about this you have Arab mathematics, Indian Mathematics, European Mathematics. And Indian mathematics inspired by Babylon. As you can see, there is a kind of secularity of movement. And it is that we have to give a regard and not allow ourselves to be localised.

Regarding Sanskrit as a language coming from a particular religious era

Sanskrit is a vehicle also of Textual Buddhism, Jainism apart from Hinduism.  There are different types of Sanskrit – Classical Sanskrit, Vedic is different Sanskrit.

Originally Buddhist texts were in Sanskrit, but Buddha was egalitarian. But he said that the text should be in colloquial, which was then practised and that people could not follow in sophisticated Sanskrit anymore.  So ‘Dharma’ became ‘Dhama’. So they had to do Pali and Sanskrit. There was a Sanskritisation that took place in Buddhism. When the great philosophical works were done, they were using proper classical Sanskrit.  Buddhism went from a written Sanskrit to a colloquial Sanskrit and back to a very classical Sanskrit. When I was visiting Thailand, I talked to some of the Buddhist scholars. They were very well versed in Sanskrit.

The great mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, whose book ‘Al-kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-ğabr wa’l-muqābala’ (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing) was the source of Algebra, was also a Sanskrit teacher.  So there is a kind of a whole movement of ideas.  I think we have to give the languages the life and the dynamism that they have. And recognize what they are rather than freezing them.

Supreme Court order that debars persons without requisite education, no toilet, more than two children, leprosy, from contesting Panchayat elections. 

We have to distinguish between what our objectives are and what the state of the country is.  If you say that everyone should be literate, and everyone should have toilets in their houses, that does not mean that until that happens these people are not people; and not citizens.  Those who don’t have these facilities are the strongest influences in fighting for that and to eliminate them from contesting. And to say those who already are privileged will decide. That is what happens in India in general, the privileged take decision and they do not worry about the lack of privileges of others. These people do not have an education. They do not have a toilet they are already suffering.  And to add something more, on top of that you won’t even have political rights.

Climate Change

“Climate change could be addressed at different levels. One level of addressing could be – what can be done to reduce global warming.”

Favourite Book

“I have no favourite books; favourite books are like favoured books.  And it is one book that some societies have favoured – Books that are in favour. I want my Milton, I want  my Tagore, I want my Shakespeare, I want all of them.”

Dr bindeshwar pathak: fulfilling the dream of Gandhi

“My name is Usha Chaumar, I am from Alwar, Rajasthan………….” Usha speaks confidently in English to a jam packed audience at Constitution Club, Delhi, on World Toilet Day. This is a transformed Usha! A decade back she used to clean septic tank from a very young age.  Belonging to the scavenger community,things were no different when she was married off at the age of 10…………. until she met Baba in 2003. Baba had adopted Alwar to help the scavengers restore their dignity and human values. One day Baba asked Usha if she would like to take up a better job, ‘who doesn’t like to get a better job opportunity’ she says. She was not only brought out of the de humanising activity of scavenging, but she was also taught skills for livelihood like beautician training, making noodles, pickles etc. Along with her many other scavenger women were also emancipated from their misery. She says she did not know how to speak politely. Whatever she is today is because of Baba.

The Baba who saved Usha’s life is Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the Founder of Sulabh International, who takes forward the dream of Gandhiji to uplift the Scavenger community to the mainstream of the society. Dr Bindeshwar created a two-pit, maintenance free, toilet which  which can be easily customised and set up in any geographical environment. His innovation liberates the Scavengers and changed their life forever. The work of a human scavenger is to remove human waste, using a brush, into a bamboo basket and carry it  on the head to be thrown at a secluded place.  Dr Pathak’s toilets meant that the toilets no longer required to be maintained, leaving  the Scavengers free to take up other occupations.

Dr Pathak was born in a Brahmin family in Bihar. When he was 14 his  family’s fortune incurred huge financial loss after his uncle was murdered. As a young English Graduate he tried many jobs. His destiny to help scavengers was set when he participated in Gandhi Centenary Celebration where he was assigned the task to find a solution for open defecation and to find an alternative to end human scavenging. He went and stayed with the scavenger community to get a first hand knowledge of their life. There he saw a young bride cry because she was asked to clean her in-laws toilet and he saw a scavenger boy die on the road because no one came forward to help him. Dr Pathak created the toilet because he wanted to free the scavenger from their misery. His invention is now a world recognized model.

two pit pour flush ecological compost toilet designed by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak
two pit pour flush ecological compost toilet designed by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak

Initially Dr Pathak tried for a long to promote his creation to Government organisations, but no one was ready to give him a n opportunity. Finally a Municipal Officer gave him an opportunity to build two public toilets for Rs 500. And as the toilets became popular, people starting paying to use public toilets.  The usefulness of Sulabh toilets spread far and wide and outside India. Now Dr Pathak is the Founder of Sulabh International which has over 50,000 associates working with him.

To date Sulabh International has built 1.3 billion toilets, liberating more than 1,20,000 scavengers from scavenging. The scavenger have been rehabilitated. 640 towns have been made scavenging free till date. When Dr Pathak was told that steps should be taken to maintain the toilets because after one year many toilets become unusable, Dr Pathak replied that if people treat the toilets as their own child and keep them clean and hygiene, then no one else has to take care of the maintenance. The success of his model created a huge behavioural change when people started paying for the use of public toilets. Then, it brought in a cultural shift too when people started socially accepting those who once were meant for carrying the human waste. In places like Alwar the scavenging community has been rehabilitated and the upper class invite them to their homes. Usha says that during her scavenging days no one offered her water and even if someone did, they gave the water from a distance.

Dr Bindeshwar Pathak’s work is popular among the scavengers and the poor. His work has been recognized by the UN, which uses his two-pit toilet as a model for building toilets globally. Recently the BBC Horizons has declared the Sulabh technologies as one of five unique inventions of the world.

Dr Pathak is known for the high level of professionalism in achieving his targets. He has a systematic way of surveying the place,estimating the cost and building the toilets. According to Dr Pathak an estimated Rs 25000 to Rs 30000 is required to built a toilet. Due to the high quality of work, Corporates are willing to fulfill their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) by associating with Dr Pathak.

There are two types of people in the world, the one who use toilets and one who are deprived of using toilets. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is a Messiah of the one who do not have toilets. Imagine a situation when you do not have a toilet in your house, and you have to defecat in the open. In such a situation you will have to wake up either before day break or wait for sunset so as to answer the call of nature.  In such a situation you will be unable to concentrate on you work and because of stopping yourself from defecating will cause many health diseases. 100 million Indians defecate in the open leaving them behind in the strive for development.  They defecate in the open leading to many social, health and environmental issue.

Says Amritya Sen in an interview to the Guardian, “Half of all Indians have no toilet. In Delhi when you build a new condominium there are lots of planning requirements but none relating to the servants having toilets. It’s a combination of class, caste and gender discrimination. It’s absolutely shocking. Poor people have to use their ingenuity and for women that can mean only being able to relieve themselves after dark with all the safety issues that entails,”

Dr Bindeshwar Pathak is a strong advocate of one the biggest issues that Gandhiji was fighting for. He continues work to accomplish the dream of Gandhi. The two pit toilet has created a social revolution with the twin benefit of the people getting a toilet to defecate and the human scavengers being liberated  of their penury.  In addition Dr Pathak also provides shelters for the widows of Varanasi.  Sulabh International celebrates important festivals like Diwali, Holi and Christmas, giving the widows a news sense of being. There are a number of works of Dr Pathak that benefits the entire humanity. He has perfected the Biogass system, by which the gas emitted from the human waste is a alternative source of energy which is used to generate heat, electricity and cooking gas.  The water discharge from the waste is treated and can be used as fertilizer or discharged into the river.

The erstwhile women scavengers (untouchables) walked the ramp with the models who showcased their handiwork at the United Nations in New York
The erstwhile women scavengers  (untouchables) walked the ramp with the models who showcased their handiwork at the United Nations in New York

Award and Achievements of Dr Bindeshwar Pathak

  • In 1991, Dr. Pathak was awarded Padma Bhushan
  • Conferred St. Francis Prize Canticle of All Creatures in Assissi, Italy.
  • Stockholm Water Prize by Stockholm International Water Institute at Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Selected among 50 global personalities, including The US President, Barack Obama, “who have used their position in public life to make an impact on diversity”.
  • BBC Horizons declared the Sulabh technologies as one of five unique inventions of the world.
  • 1.3 million housing toilet built so far.
  • More than 1,20,000 scavengers have been liberated from scavenging.
  • 8000 public toilets in 25 states and 4 Union Territories in 1599 towns and cities which are used by 15 million people daily. 
  • In Kabul, Sulabh is maintaining five public toilets with biogas plants, which are quite popular with the local people, and Sulabh’s inventions, innovations and experiments have been accepted in China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • Entering a temple – a dream fulfilled on December, 21, 2008 of scavengers (untouchables) whose entrywas banned for centuries due to the practice of untouchability. 
  • 2003, adopted two towns of Rajasthan, Alwar and Tonk, for restoring the human
    rights and dignity of the local untouchables. Now the two towns are free from the
    problem of untouchability. There is no social discrimination, as Brahmins and other
    upper castes now freely mix and share food and hospitality with the ex-untouchables
    who have acquired skills in various trades, and are engaged in gainful employment. They
    have started a new life and are now part of the social mainstream.
  • Set up Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi, the first of its kind
    in the world. The museum, through replicas of various toilets, artefacts, pictures, posters
    and other materials, tells the story of the development of toilets through the ages.

Lessons I learnt from my psychologist Uncle

On the world mental health day I would like to dedicate this post to a  Psychologist, about whom  I know more than I know about mental diseases and mental patients. The Doctor is my uncle, my grand uncle’s son. I call him ‘Appachan’. I don’t have enough material to write an autobiography about him, as I meet him only during some family functions or while paying a flying visit to his home. I know more about his father (my grandfathers brother) who died few months before I was born.

Appachan, the only child of his parent, left home at the at age of 18 to carve a niche for himself. He is 14 years older than my father (Papa). Grand Uncle, my father and siblings affectionately call him ‘Papa-Appachan’, now only had his younger brothers kids to shower his love and nurturing. The cumulative effect of the nurturing is that my father and his siblings quote papa-appachan’s jokes and sayings in every conversation. His jokes and saying shaped their thinking even in their grown up days. I grew up listening to Papa-appachan jokes and in my grown up days I find that those jokes can be applied to solve everyday problem.

Appachan is a celebrity in Kerala. In fact he is the most famous person in our family, so every relative likes to use his popularity to earn a higher standing in the social circuit.  There is one person in our family who introduces himself as “myself, cousin of Dr…………..”. Family relations are like that. No wonder the proverb goes ‘Blood is stronger than water’.

Since my fathers and mother have many siblings, when I used to go to Kerala for vacations I only had time to catch up with my immediate cousins. So I never knew about this uncle. One day, when I was in my teens, papa excitedly spread that days newspaper before me. The page had the pictures of all the contestants for assembly election. He asked me to spot a familiar face. I couldn’t. Then he pointed at Appachan’s picture and proudly said that he was his cousin. I think that was the day our big extended family unofficially anointed him as the family icon.

There are many doctors who give up their profession to become celebrities in music, film and sports. Appachan is unique – though he donned many hats, he remained true to his calling. In movies he acted as Psychologist; he wrote columns in magazines,as a psychologist, answering queries of readers.I can hardly think of any other doctor whom even the children consider as role model. Malayalees above 35+ know him as a famous Psychologist, Columnist, Cartoonist, Humorist, Author, Political aspirant, Actor, etc.  It is very simple to describe his physical appearance – with his tall figure and goatee beard he resembles the former Prime Minister of India, I. K. Gujral.

He was much ahead of his time. A self-learned man, as a youngster he applied on himself many of the tips that we learn today during leadership training.  We are told in career counselling classes to write down our short term and long term goals. Appachan says that in his younger days, he wrote in a diary, ‘Dr……….., Psychologist’. After five decades he discovered the diary in his ancestral home.

He is a wonderful writer, he was the first to write about Sex related issues in Kerala. He says as a novice when he met an editor of a famous magazine, the editor asked to write an instant essay. When the editor saw the essay, he was amazed, he asked Appachan “where from did you get this amazing writing skill”.  Using his amazing writing skills, and psychological expertise he answered the complicated queries of reader in simple words. He became a household name for providing answers to complicated relationship issues, at a time when discussing such issues were a taboo. A story goes that he was called to give a message at a gathering but as his talks were seen as too explicit for the audience he was interrupted in the middle. Nowadays speaking about human relations in no more a taboo.

When someone grows in stature – fame and money, the relatives and friends usually complain about their arrogance. Not in the case of Appachan. All his relatives are aware of the unwritten rules and etiquette that we are to follow at his home. Appachan will be always busy with consultation in the upper floor of his house. When we call on hims, after sharing pleasantries with the other member of the house, we patiently wait for him. After finishing the consultation he comes and spends a few minute with us and ends the conversation with an invitation: if we are ready to wait for the lunch to be prepared we can have, or if we are in a hurry we can leave.

He is down to earth and lives is a simple house. When we visited Appachan’s house for the first time after our marriage,  my husband told me that being a celebrity he expected appachan to be staying is a palatial bungalow. A normal two storied home cum counseling centre also serves as space to unleash his creativity. Before meeting him, I heard a lot about the wash basin in his house where the tap was shaped like an Elephant Trunk. So on my first visit to his house I eagerly awaited to see  two thing- a celebrity uncle and his famous wash basin.

He is not taken aback by false propaganda as is proven by a review about him in a consumer forum. When you google his name, one of the first result that shows is “Dr…………….The worst psychologist”. More than the review, the responses made to the post are more convincing. One person commented “Dr …….. is a good person and lives a simple life. Where others would have made money, his life is still very simple. You can check it out for yourself, just visit his home.”

Now he is 80+ and age has taken toll on his health. Psychically he is weak but his mental power is still as vigorous as few decades back. He still continues his work through counselling sections; and by setting an example through his simple lifestyle.