Friday, 13 March 2015

Struck By Learning!

Deriya - The heaven descended

Little did I realize that Henry Ford’s quote “ Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize” would have so deep and thoughtful implication, when I had my set of experience through Project Deriya, a community sanitation initiative. It is wonderful to note how inherent in our species the ability to learn is. Just about a year back, when I was a two and half year old quality engineering professional engrained with project management jargons, with idealistic & systemic thought process, I felt everything in the world was too easy to live but people made it hard for themselves. When my competencies hit the road, when my mind started empathizing, I was no longer the same person I was. I would like to share my experiences over the last one year with Project Deriya which has certainly made me pragmatic if not bigger.

CCD- Nagendra block: The first meeting

My first experience or learning so as to say was when I sat with my friend Shashikanth to jot down the list of activities that we need to take-up in order to kick-off the sanitation project. Interestingly we planned our activities sitting in CCD Nagendra block while we as Industrial Engineers were always told to visit the Gemba (the workplace where the action was executed or performed) before planning something. I had made a neat Gantt chart with timeline, resources typical of any schedule. My friend used to give that constipated look which could neither deny my willingness to be very strong on paper nor explain me how ridiculous it was to plan in detail very early in the project. During my first visit, I was humbled by the wide array of activities that we had to accomplish. My intentions to put a simplistic view over these set of activities just summarized my feelings. I am sure Shashikanth would have seen me progressing over these months on my ability to assess situations. However, this was a major breakthrough for me in terms of understanding the applicability of the tools that I learnt.

Of course, my learning was not only from the project but also from the people of Deriya. During our first visit to Deriya, we trekked around the farmland with Yogesh to survey the land as well as understand the demography of that place. While Shashikanth and Aravind were busy conversing with Yogesh, I was observing Yogesh’s movements. While he was keeping us comfortable by calmly narrating about Deriya, its history, its people and wildlife, he had a routine glimpse of the things around, keenly listening to the sound of the forest. I do remember what I was going through. It was a deep silence out of fear and short cycles of breathing. Yogesh’s comfortable yet alert behavior probably came out of his constraint to survive in such a dangerous environment. But aren’t we all designed to endure this kind of an atmosphere? Perhaps it’s different herein the cities, with less uncertainties, safe environment and a relatively longer stay in the cradle. One may see positives in city life, which encourages us to do big things by not worrying about safe environment. But, I am somehow not convinced with the contrast in Deriya’s people and their enhanced survival skill, trying to improve their life everyday while the city dons its safety crown with increasing suicide rates.

Yogesh taking us around farmland

When I spell out Project Deriya, I think it should certainly echo the emotions, efforts and aspirations of the people of Deriya. I was really astonished by the way the village worked together in making Deriya a better place. Being together in life’s uncertainties is much more important than just being together as we are in cities.  I am staying at a rented house in Bangalore and frankly do not know the names of my neighbors, number of persons in their family and their occupation. Although I am not proud of this fact, I can easily attribute this ignorance to my six-to-six job, my introvert behavior and my focus on studies. This may superficially satisfy my argument however my experience at Deriya taught me that my lifestyle was never really the issue. The issue was “my perception” about development. Although it may sound as a gross generalization, we all think developing ourselves is development. However, give a thought on developing as a community. Think about shortage in water in the next road as your problem. Think about an emotional crisis at a neighbors or friend’s house as your problem. Now, click on the development button and see how things progress. The way in which the entire community of Deriya came about supporting in construction of this sanitation facility is the best example of this thinking. This sanitation facility should be seen as a breakthrough improvement and a moral victory for the attitude of the people of Deriya.

Anganwadi at Deriya

Another crucial experience that I would want to carry for the rest of my life from Project Deriya is the importance of awareness and competency. Being in a corporate setup, I understand how much undermined is competency and knowledge. But if you change lenses and look at competency as a crucial element in your progress towards development instead of making dollars as an employee, you would experience this existence crisis with all the knowledge that you have and nothing accomplished. I saw competency in action at couple places. One was in our architect Pratiksha who put theory onto the paper and Deepak who made Pratiksha’s drawing into a reality. Pratiksha stands as an example to counter-argue all those highly talented people who lament on the nature of their work. There are so many solutions to be provided, engineering structures to be built, patients to be cured, and areas to be studied about. This may not give you money but can definitely improve your competency, practical knowledge and the crucial element of life called self-confidence. These form the ingredients for a larger success in the future which can’t be quantified but can only be assured. At Deriya, the overall awareness level among the people about their leaders, government schemes, and the implementation steps was simply excellent. Most of them whom I spoke to at Deriya were aware about Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the details of the scheme along with their implementation method. The reason behind this awareness was not to show that they are aware but to make a real change in their lives by applying what they know. I wish everyone attended a class, read a book or sat in a seminar to gain knowledge and go out there and implement it. That is when the true essence of learning is realized.

One of the many discussions with Jayanand

All these experience came to me as a coincidence and not something that I went after. As I mentioned earlier it is inherent for us to learn when we experience something. This was my first exposure out of my gated comfort zone. With all the travelling that Shashikanth does I am sure that guy has a lot of things going in his mind. Although certain things are very much evident in life, someone has to make it clear for you. In my case it was Shashikanth who put me through these experiences and in a way mocking my rather primitive thought process and dream of a secure life. Project Deriya has took me through a lot of experiences and has more certainly made me pragmatic. The attitude of understanding and welcoming the uncertainties of life with good spirit and facing it together as a community is probably something that I will take throughout my life. Mahatma Gandhi’s words “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever” is the summary of my experience with Project Deriya. Thanks to people of Deriya and Kaleido for this opportunity.

- Gnanaskandan Velu

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