Thursday, 26 July 2018

A Day at Bawana

It all started with simple monthly English conversational classes with a laptop screen between me and “my students” that turned into a deeper relationship that I have trouble defining.  I didn’t realize that these six girls sitting in a room in Bawana, Delhi looking at me sitting in my room in Hong Kong through a laptop screen would make me feel so grateful and blessed at being given this opportunity. Our bond grew stronger as we conversed, laughed, muddled through the bad internet connection and my poor Hindi.

My once or at times twice a month sessions began on my return from Delhi in 2017 summers, I had met Ms. Monica at the India Vision Foundation(IVF) office when we went to donate some stationary items collected in Hong Kong for distribution among the children that the foundation worked with. After some discussions in person, and from Hong Kong, it was suggested that I do English conversational classes on Skype. 

My classes with the girls started off tentatively as we really didn’t have a common language between us.  My Hindi was non-existent and their English was insufficient. Adding to that was my “foreign” accent and the poor internet connection, things were not smooth initially.  However, in a couple of sessions, and with my mother by my side translations became a little easy and we established a fair rhythm and good understanding of each other. 

As my sessions progressed I realized that my classes were more fun than actual studies. I showed them videos of the latest K-pop music I was into and they told me about Bollywood. We even had a session when they had to teach me Hindi and that was so much fun! 

So, when plans were made for me to visit Bawana this summer, I was really excited.  I was actually going to see “my girls” face to face, finally! 

I was told I could spend an hour or two teaching or playing games with them.  So I prepared my activities and materials accordingly.  But honestly, nothing could have prepared me for the experience and the emotions I felt at the end of that lovely day in Bawana, the 7th of July 2018. 

I was so excited with the idea of meeting my girls: Mazia, Noori, Shivani, Deepika, Kavita, and Rashida.  When I reached at the community centre, I saw a beautiful Rangoli that was specially made for welcoming me at the entrance of the room. And then Noori appeared with a thali in her hand with Kavita just behind her.  I wanted to reach out and give them a hug but first I had to go through the formal welcome of having a tikka put on my forehead.  I was so touched by this traditional gesture! 

I think the first 10 minutes of meeting everyone was spent squealing and chattering non-stop as I couldn’t contain my excitement. The girls were very shy initially but later they all were chit chatting with me at ease. We talked about whether we looked different than what we appeared on screen across all those miles.  To me they were smaller than what I imagined them to be and to them I was a lot taller in real life than what they saw of me on the screen.

Apart from decorating the room with balloons and streamers, they had made a card and Shivani had written a poem for me.  She read it out and the others translated it into English line by line and I was overwhelmed with gratitude, love and warmth they had for me.  

After a round of hugs and more giggling, we moved on to some activities that I had prepared. We made friendship bands and tied them on each other’s wrists.  At this point, Imran, the only boy in the group, joined us.  By the time we went through the activities and games, we became close friends, and laughed like toddlers in kindergarten.

The fun continued when we moved to the larger hall where more than 30 children were waiting for me to conduct games and activities with them. It was a great afternoon of laughter, play and bonding. 

Adding to this I would like to mention the role that S&P Global played in this whole experience. We had learnt a few days earlier that employees of S&P Global would be there to participate in our exercise.  It was such a coincidence that exactly a year ago they had donated the laptop that was used for my English conversational classes.  And that day, they were donating three more.

I thanked them profusely for this act as without it I couldn’t have connected and made these special bonds with “my girls”.  Also, they were great volunteers helping me run my activities with over 30 people. It was so special that we were there to witness the impact of our joint efforts. 

My learning from my visit was “Sometimes we don’t realize the impact of our small actions. I had certainly not realized the impact of my efforts that I had on these girls.  To them it meant a lot more and held much more value than I had realized. The gratitude they felt towards me seemed undeserved. I felt that my time with them has created a bit of enthusiasm for learning English and perhaps as an extension to that, break barriers that hold them back. This experience has given meaning to my life especially as I go through a particularly challenging time, I realise that I can make a huge difference. Lastly, I would like to thank IVF from the bottom of my heart for this life-changing opportunity. I promise our association will be long and fruitful. 

Ananya Vishwanath
Hong Kong

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Water day, action oriented.

Today on Water Day RajNivas has organised a collaborative sharing on Water issues a presentation by CE, PWD on Water issues.

The event shall be conducted in the form of a Panel Discussion to ensure due interaction with audiences comprising a cross-section of society of experts, stake holders and concerned citizens. 

The members of Panel are two Honble Ministers, Agriculture and LAD, besides senior officers of Govt, namely, CS, DC, CE, Sec to LG, CE and Director LAD. 

I will personally moderate the panel discussion and declare the summation recvd from the Rapporteur. 
We hope to arrive at an action plan of individual as collective responsibility to provide for Water Rich Puducherry...

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Music Therapy inside Prison

At Bhondsi prison in Gurugram, with the guidance and support of India Vision Foundation, a few of the male inmates have formed a music group in which they compose and perform songs and religious tunes. A few of the inmates believe that joining this group helps them get released earlier since it connects them closer to god. This may be true but what is true for certain is the positive correlation between music and positive effects on the inmates' emotion and behavior. The inmates tend to experience anxiety, depression and poor social relationships. Music therapy has been proven to help with the treatment and feeling of all of those sensations and situations.

The inmates' music groups at Bhondsi Prison rehearse at the vocational training center inside the prison, which is facilitated by India Vision volunteers and trainers. They are provided also with instruments necessary to practice and perform their songs at various prisons. The inmates are also encouraged to partake in the friendly performing arts 'competition' that takes place at Tihar prison in Delhi. Inmates from different prisons and states come together to perform the songs they have been practicing in front of each other as a form of motivation and inspiration for each other.

In my opinion, music therapy affirms positive thoughts in the inmates' minds and gives them something worthwhile and encouraging to concentrate and spend their time on. It is a beneficial practice started by the India Vision Foundation at the prisons they have their jurisdiction in. 


Author of the Blog - Ms. Smera Bhatia, Student, MilBurn High School, New Jersey, USA

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and does not reflect the opinion of the foundation. 

My Prison Visit Experience

I didn't know what prison would be like- I'd never been to one. I expected it to be a dull and gloomy place. Instead, once I stepped out of my car to Bhondsi prison in Gurugram, I could see colors, flags, and paintings which the inmates had made. After entering in, I was lead to the male vocational training center through a pathway next to a large region filled with greenery. This center is where a lot of the male inmates learn stitching, art and crafts, dancing, and music. I received an extremely warm welcome from all the inmates and trainers present there. I visited each of the training and practice rooms to understand the benefits the inmates received from these activities. The activities provided them with a goal, hope, motivation, and skill which they could use post release. It was refreshing to see the brave and happy front they put in the face of hardships. I also saw some of the inmates get certified in a beautician course from VLCC- since it is a skill they can use to start a business post their release.

The female vocational training center was smaller due to the population yet had similar activities as the male center such as stitching. They were creating beautiful jute bags and cotton clothes- it is a real and beneficial skill for them to learn for future job opportunities. India Vision Foundation regulates and encourages skills, such as chocolate making, being taught to the inmates. It was wonderful to see the inmates sit in adult literacy classes and sing religious songs to keep them busy and give them goals to achieve. My overall experience at the prison was delightful as I saw the high spirits the inmates held in the face of adversity. 

Author of the Blog - Ms. Smera Bhatia, Student, MilBurn High School, New Jersey, USA

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and does not reflect the opinion of the foundation. 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Tihar Kala Abhiyaan 2017 : An innovative approach towards sensitizing society & reformation!

Tihar Kala Abhiyaan 2017 :  An innovative approach towards sensitizing society & reformation!

Why do we need those in power or in the business of affecting and impacting other people’s lives to divert their attention to the condition of the prison inmates?

Because slowly but surely the prison inmates, who hitherto remain shut and shunned, by the community they have lived in, are being recognized. A burning question is why do we really need to focus on this neglected and redundant section of the society?

It is because ultimately these very people whom we have relegated to the background from the face of the land on which we so-called pious citizens live, will ultimately, return to this very society that we all love very much.

They are criminals and they deserve to be kept away from the law abiding citizens for the good of the society was our argument. But wait how many of us really believed that? Because, one is only guilty till he is proven to be so (after a court pronounces him/her to be so).

So, many of us are very lucky that we escaped the powerful law; we managed to manipulate the system as per our convenience and those unlucky ones caught trapped in the vicious circle of “Guilty till proven to be otherwise”. How many times we have all broken the rules, found means and ways to escape the net of law and found allies who helped us to get respite from the very system about which we have lamented always.

Still, it is a new start, an auspicious beginning that someone at the higher authority has thought to give another view of those who are behind bars and give these men and women a chance to showcase their talent to the society and ask for another chance at re-living their lives. They are repentant and ready to reform themselves and asking their fellow beings to help them in the process of changing themselves. Most of them are very young and have been a victim of the circumstances in which they found themselves and one weak decision and moment of desperation led them to the prison. But now they are ready to redeem themselves. What they want is an opportunity to prove themselves.

They are now reformed and ready!

They feel that their moment of reckoning has come and what more than TIHAR Kala Abhiyaan 2017 - A chance for all of those who have been engaged in the process of changing themselves with the active support of the prison authorities and the NGO’s, who have been striving relentlessly for all these years to help these inmates adopt and learn new behaviour and skills for a new life after their release from jail.

So, it is the responsibility of all the society members and those in power to make attempts of supporting these fellow beings, who were led astray by wrong conscience and choice that landed them behind the imposing walls of the prison. But now, they are ready to break their shackles and want to cross over and make new beginnings in their lives. They are not asking for alms or any sympathy.

They are asking to be accepted, to be recognized for their talent and their willingness to seek a new living. Can we not move ahead from our bias and prejudices and help them seek a life, a chance at seeing them in new light. For this they need the support and empathy of the entire society. They will need love, acceptance, respect and trust from all of us. They will seek another chance of redemption to reclaim their life that they had once wasted for a reason that affected not only their but entire family’s very being.

The prominent society members, policy makers, civil society members, police/prison officials and judiciary members along with common citizens will have to make concerted efforts in this mission of re humanizing and restoring life. The thinking has to change and we have to move beyond the mental bars that we have constructed in our mind set about the prison inmates and come together to reshape the lives that were blemished with poor retrospection.

*Submitted by Ms. Renu Nag, who works with India Vision Foundation (IVF) as a Head Research & Training, IVF is a 23 years old not-for-profit organization engaged in the reformation, reintegration and rehabilitation of the prison inmates and welfare of their children/families of Delhi, Haryana (Gurugram/Faridabad) and Uttar Pradesh (Dasna) Prisons.

A Day at Bawana

It all started with simple monthly English conversational classes with a laptop screen between me and “my students” that turned into a d...