Friday, December 4, 2009

The trip of a lifetime....

IRMA's fieldwork segment is one of the most challenging for its participants. And while I left Anand with several apprenhensions I not only survived but enjoyed the entire two month stay.
The district we went to is one of the most feared places in IRMA as the previous batch had its participants being beaten out of the villages and some were hospitalised for various illnesses.
My village was an enchanting place. Though it was the second highest hill station in the state it was not as popular as some other hill stations.
On reaching the village, we were shown our house. A modest accommodation by any stretch of imagination. One cot, a small chulha, and a couple of chairs were provided by our host family. For the first couple of days, we had a small diya for illumination purpose. Later we were given a solar powered CFL light which was a boon for my partner and me.
The first week was a testing period for me. It was cold, the house had its share of visitors in the form of snakes, rats and the like. There was no toilet and I had to climb a small hill to answer nature's call. At one point in time I was frustated and wanted to pack my bags and leave. The unseasonal rains added to the misery.
But as time passed, I realised the inherent capacity of humans to adapt themselves to any situation. Suddenly I started feeling comfortable. So much so that when my fellow colleague ran away home, I preferred to stay back and enjoy the tough village life.
I realised that this would be the first and the last time I would get an opportunity to live such a kind of life which was devoid of electricity, sanitation, mobile coverage and the usual stress levels associated with IRMA and life.
Since I was living in a tribal village, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the most honest and simple people in this world. People who had not gone out of their small village, people who were content with what they had and people who lovingly shared their space, time and food with strangers like me.
I was also fortunate to participate in some of their rituals which were held deep in the forest at night. It was an unique experience as I had never been exposed to the tribal culture.
The village stay made me realize how lucky I was to have all the comforts which was not available to the villagers. These two months have made me humble and more tolerant towards non-availability of luxuries like electricity, internet if and when there is a problem.
I have also started questioning the efficacy of high GDP growth in alleviating poverty. None of the villages I visited in Nandurbar had been touched by this high growth rate. Also most problems afflicting the villages like addiction to tobacco, polygamy, child marriages, etc were social evils which required solutions outside the narrow domain of GDP growth.
While this visit has left deep impressions on me and my life, more importantly it has raised several questions like the one stated above. I will, in the course of my stay in IRMA and beyond pursue them to satisfy the curiosity.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

From Mangalore to Sagara in a week

My first family trip came to an end today. It was one of the most memorable trips ever.
We landed in Mangalore airport on Sunday. A very small airport, it is located on a hill and the rains had ensured that the airport was green as it could get. From Mangalore we went to Mulki and then to Karkala to pay obesiance to family deities. Karkala is known for its Jain temples and is most famous for the Gomateshwara statue. The tranquility of the place was unbelievable. From Karkala we went to Sagara which is my mother's hometown. The place is changing rapidly with commercial complexes replacing old houses. These complexes are multi storeyed and even have elevators in them. These are places which are going to experience exponential growth rates and will be engines of India's growth.
I also happened to visit my ancestoral farm. Ten acres of the farm was lush green with paddy. Only one crop is grown in a year. There is no rabi crop. The most surprising aspect was that there was no need for electricity as the entire farm was rain fed through canals. There was no need of pump sets. Also no pesticides or fertilisers were used. Only cow dung was used as manure. The only problem was the high labour wages prevailing in that area. Agricultural labour cost Rs 100 plus food for one day. Women were paid Rs 80 and food per day.
I also happened to visit a farm where the farmer generated his own electricity by installing his own hydro electric system. His monthly bill by using the state electricity board's electricity was a mere Rs 30. All his agricultural produce was organic and was sold to ISKCON. He never bought vegetables as he grew them in his farm. I had lunch at his home and realised what "fresh" meant in the real sense of the term.
His backyard had two streams whose water he harnessed for hydro electricity and for consumption purpose. A sight to marvel for city dwellers like us who install artificial water streams in our houses for tranquility.
Some other trips were to Jog falls, gudvi bird sanctuary and Harnemallu which is known for its adventure sports like kayaking, camping, trekking etc.
This trip made me realise that India has the potential to be a global tourist hub as it caters to every need and taste. If only the authorities act on the abysmal state of infrastructure and involve the local community in managing these places, we will earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange from foreign tourists.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Out of my comfort zone

IRMA's strength lies in its demanding curriculum. The fieldwork segment is one of the most demanding of the components of PRM course. This component requires participants to spend two months in a village which is usually devoid of electricity, proper sanitation facilities, physical infrastructure and is situated in remote locations and accessibility to the near towns is difficult.
I will be heading to Toranmal village in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra this year. Toranmal is the second highest hill station in the state. We will be living in a hut which does not have any electricity. We have been asked to be careful of mosquitoes and tigers. Since it is a forest area tigers are sighted in that village.
Tiger repellant anyone?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Globalisation or Localisation???

The last day of Term 1 was signed off by a seminar on Localisation by Dr. Helena Norberg-Hodge.
A Swedish environmentalist, Hodge has worked with communities in Ladakh and Leh for more than three decades. She believes that localisation and not globalisation is the way forward. Local products for local people.
As part of the interaction she showed us a movie titled "Paradise with side effects" where two Ladhaki women travel to UK and see the lifestyle in London. The crux was that the west is not paradise. And we (developing countries) should not follow their lifestyle. We need to have our own lifestyles that is community centric.
Also her post film discussions were centred around how globalisation was only big business, big economies etc etc. The usual ranting that one would expect at the World Social Forum.
To quote from her institution's website,, "
A consistent theme in ISEC's educational work is the need to shift direction - away from dependence on a global economy dominated by huge corporations and supranational institutions, towards economic structures that are more decentralised, diversified, and ecological. One way we disseminate this message is through lectures, seminars, and interviews with ISEC Director Helena Norberg-Hodge. We also organize workshops and conferences on global-to-local initiatives."

In these recessionary times one would have to be careful while talking about virtues of globalisation, but I believe that globalisation is no longer a 'either-or' phenomena. Globalisation is a movement which is here to stay. What matters is how to use this movement for larger good.
Localisation is an utopian concept. If local produce is used only for local community, it leads to higher costs and the overall community suffers as a result. What is local? Is it at the village level, district level, regional level or at the national level?
Coming to globalisation, is it only about big business? Do only big companies, MNCs win in globalisation? We in India followed "import substitution" for many decades post independence. What ensued was cheap quality products in short supply and at high prices. When the economy opened up in 1991, the domestic manufacturers suddenly found themselves competing with MNCs who flooded the market with better quality products and at lower prices. Did all domestic manufacturers close shop? Some did but India now boasts of companies like Infosys and Bharthi which were post 1991 companies.
There are ills about globalisation. If left to developed economies, it will become a highway where less developed economies are like cycles competing with the big trucks. We need to fine tune globalisation to make sure that everyone has access to opportunities to make a decent living.
Localisation is not something that will succeed.Good to hear and nice to dream about but something that is not workable at all...atleast not at the level to challenge globalisation.

Friday, September 4, 2009

And the pressure cooker has been switched off

The first term at IRMA got over today. Three months of pressure. Apart from sundays, we were only allowed two days of holidays.
It is surprising the wide range of experiences that I had in these three months. Right from the one week in Moti Koral as part of induction work to the unsolvable Economics paper in the end term, it was a roller coaster ride.
From being thrown in mud water during janmashatami to submitting an assignment at 11:57 when the deadline was 12:00, it was a memorable ride. I no longer care about how bad a test went. Cause you know that the feeling would be shared among the entire batch.
From being praised for a presentation to being thrashed on another presentation, I have seen it all.
One more week of fieldwork preparation and I head home to do what I do best...sleep!!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Getting Professionals for Development Action.

What would a person with a Masters in Engineering from MIT and a Management Degree from MIT's Sloan School of Management be doing in the field of rural development? But then Deep Joshi is different and has made a difference. He is currently in the news for being awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award which is considered as Asia's equivalent to the Noble Peace Prize.
Founder of PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action), he was recognised for "his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, by effectively combining 'head' and 'heart' in the transformative development of rural communities," the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said in a press statement from its headquarters in Manila.
I first came across Deep Joshi's name in the list of directors' of IRMA. There was no organisation mentioned along with his name. The name came back when he won the Magsaysay award last week. And it has stuck with me now.
His mantra for achieving success among rural communities is ""Civil society needs to have both head and heart. If all you have is bleeding hearts, it wouldn't work. If you only have heads, then you are going to dictate solutions which do not touch the human chord."
His organisation has been able to convince IIM graduates to work for rural development and achieve high levels of satisfaction that no pay packet would have been able to give to young Management graduates. As Kurien said "Go where you are highly needed and not highly paid"
An inspiration to many of us who at some point in time would engage with rural development,Deep Joshi certainly deserves the Magsaysay award.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Obscene....or creative freedom

After a long time I got this song on my ipod. Was and still is a terrific song.
But after hearing it I checked the lyrics online to reaffirm what I had heard.
And this is what the female in the song says
"coldboy dekhe mujhe
playboy chayre mujhe
sex mere tan mein haye
lips mere mun mein haye"

This was in 1995.....Pretty liberal eh...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ishaan Awasthis in IRMA

Just in case you do not know who Ishaan Awasthi is, he is the cute little dyslexic kid in TZP. Yeah the same kid who saw space shuttles animals coming out of his question papers.
I empathise with him. I felt exactly like him during the last three days. So did many other IRMANs of the 30th batch.
But I have learnt my lesson. I have been chastised. I will now try to study more. The key word being try.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Of tests, tests and tests

Exams were a once- evey- six month affair. Here it is a daily affair. While some Professors are kind enough to hold announced quizzes, some prefer to have surprise ones. It does not matter actually as my grades are showing a decline irrespective of the quizzes being surprise ones or not. Not that they were high but then they were above the class average and then are hovering dangerously close to D levels.
I am still waiting for the F to come along. As say they say "Life without an F is a Lie"

Friday, July 10, 2009

WSJ unvelis a new initiative

Looks like Investment Banking is passe......
WSJ in collaboration with Knowledge@Wharton has launched a new web page dedicated only to Rural India.

Time Management-How not to do it!!!

Monday, 6th July:KMB announces an assignment. Creation of company and one month transactions in TALLY. Plan to do it on saturday. Submission is on 13th.
Wednesday, 8th July: RS announces an economics quiz on Friday. I postpone the studies to Friday afternoon.
Thursday, 9th July:MK announces a quiz on Monday on Rural Society. Plan to study on Sunday.
Friday, 10th July:KMB announces two cases to be done on Saturday. Plan to do it after the quiz.
MK hands out a case for discussion.Plan to do it after the quiz
SB hands out a case for discussion.Plan to do it after the quiz
SB hints at a surprise quiz. So 20 pages of studying.Plan to do it after the quiz
In all of this I realise a presentation on Farmers movements in India, an essay on Society and Culture is due on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not to mention the Quant assignment and the back log to be cleared in order to solve the assignment.
Something tells me that the days ahead are going to be uncomfortable.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


This blog and post is long overdue. Its been more than a month since I have made IRMA my home and have already experienced new highs and new lows.
There is Anand and there is IRMA. Anand is a district known as the milk capital of India, a fact that I came to know when I was asked this question in a quiz on 26th January 2001.The same day that Gujarat was hit by a massive earthquake. Little I did know that I would be heading to Anand to spend two years in an institution which is one of the many started by the father of White Revolution in India.
Anand has a population of around 1,oo,ooo. Its an educational hub with Anand Agricultural University, IRMA and and several colleges dotting the district. It also presents itself as a interesting case of a town being invaded with coffee shops, malls, foreign brands etc etc. The weather is anything but pleasant. Temperature touches 45 degrees in summer and goes down to 5 degrees during winters.
IRMA is one of those institutes which has a beautiful campus. Spread over 60 acres, it has landscaped lawns, wonderfully designed buildings and of course the Amul Chimes which when seen in its full splendour at night is a sight to behold. None of the buildings here have the usual four walled structure. The campus can be a bit puzzling for new comers as all the buildings look the same and when you walk on the pathway, it gets more confusing as you have several offshoots going in different ways.
I still am trying to make sense of directions here.
The life here is hectic. Its been three weeks since regular classes have started and I have never felt so compelled to study as I have been now. Its something I am getting used to. From profit maximisation to Marx, I have been studying everything possible.
As I look at the clock, I realise that I need to get back to isocost and isoquant functions which will determine whether I will get a D or a F in tomorrow's quiz.
For those interested or curious in knowing why the name "barefoot manager" here is a video which will satisfy the curiosity.