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A Housewife, A student, an old man, Auto rickshaw men.
All stories are real. How ordinary people do wonderful things.
Shruthi Balakrishna | TNN
Bangalore: Sixteen-year-old Jhansi N bravely fought some battles to secure 96.96% in the SSLC exam this year. This soft-spoken teenager scored a stunning 606 out of 625. What makes the story even more remarkable is that this student of Martin Luther English School faced financial difficulties while preparing for the exam.
Her father Vasu works as a labourer and her mother Dhanalakshmi is a domestic help. Moved by her mother’s plight, this young girl decided to become an acheiver. “When my mother would come home, she’d look so tired. It would hurt me to see her work so hard. If I get a good job, she needn’t struggle like this in future,” she said. Her ambition is to become a cardiologist.
“I was little disturbed with the financial situation at home, but got over it and focused on studies,” she said.
She studied continuously for 8-10 hours a day during holidays. “Sometimes, I took breaks in between. I’d go for a walk but then too, I’d try to recall what I’d studied,” she said. As her parents were working, the quiet atmosphere at home helped her concentrate. Scoring centum in Maths was not easy.
“I found it difficult. I solved a lot of model question papers. I got one mark less for 97%,” she said.
Interestingly, she didn’t go for tuitions but studied on her own. “I won’t go for tuitions even for II PU. I’ll start preparing for the CET from I PU itself,” Jhansi said.
Though she doesn’t come from a strong academic background, she managed to excel in the exam. “I studied in a government school in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh. When I came to Bangalore I studied in a government school for Class 8 and 9 where there were no teachers.”
She loves reading including novels.
“Charles Dickens is my favourite author,” she said. Jhansi would also participate in co-curricular activities like debates and essay competition. She’s inspired by former President Abdul Kalam and read his book ‘Wings of Fire’.
“My mother is also my inspiration,” she said, with tears of joy in her eyes.
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Mumbai: Watching an active Kashinath Ponde prepare his own tea and sing classical Bhavgeet on a harmonium, one can never guess that this former postmaster is 99 years old.
Ponde is perhaps the fittest nonagenarian in the country with a razor-sharp memory. He lives alone at his home in Solapur, and regularly travels to Mumbai and Pune to meet his sons and their families.
On Sunday, Ponde is throwing a bash in Pune to celebrate his 100th birthday. “There will be 200 guests. But there will be no birthday cake or candles, just good wishes and prayers of my loved ones,’’ he smiles. Ponde, who had voted during the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, still has a clear vision, and can even read fine print without using any lenses.
“I remember I was posted in Akluj, district Solapur, in 1952 when the first elections took place. But I don’t remember who I voted for then,’’ he says. Over the last 57 years, Ponde has derived very specific conclusions on Indian politics and politicians.
“Over 90% of politicians today are in it for power, money and prestige; only 5% may be there for desh seva but they’re perhaps not elected,’’ he says.
Remembering the Indian leaders of his time, Ponde says he has seen stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru at Ahmednagar, Pune and other parts of the state before Independence.
“I also remember being very impressed by the oratory of Barrister Savarkar (Veer Savarkar) at public meetings in Pune; he had a terrific voice like that of a tiger,’’ he adds.
Born on May 10, 1910, Ponde completed his matriculation from Society High School in Ahmednagar in 1932. He even worked on farms and looms while schooling and joined the postal department in 1933. For the next 35 years, he was posted in several post offices in various towns and districts in the state. Surprisingly, the grand old man has maintained his weight through a simple yet disciplined vegetarian diet.
He walks ramrod straight, and even washes his own clothes. The only sign of ageing, perhaps, is that he is a little hard of hearing.
So what is the secret of his long life? “I used to walk four hours daily till five years ago. Then I cut down on my walking as my doctor-son advised me not to engage in such vigorous activity. I eat vegetarian meals, and my love for music keeps me happy and healthy,’’ he says.
Ponde’s diet normally consists of a chapati, rice, milk with crushed almonds in it, garlic and a vegetable or two.
“I never have aerated drinks, and never ever touch tobacco,’’ he asserts. His granddaughter Poonam Ponde, a Pune-based lecturer, says: “He keeps himself updated by reading newspapers, and has not forgotten his hard and frugal childhood. Grandpa still scolds us if we shop new clothes, as he remembers how hard it was to make cloth on a loom as a child nearly a century ago.’’
• Never touch tobacco
• Be a vegetarian and have meals on time
• Walk, whenever you can
• Work honestly
• Make music a part of your life
Waste management in the city, like anywhere else in the world, is a critical issue and needs immediate attention of not just the authorities but every responsible citizen. “Brazen neglect has resulted in dumping of tonnes of unsegregated waste at Urali and subsequent rise in pollution followed by falling health standards in the affected villages,” says Lalita Bhave, a banker, who has been creating awareness about waste segregation and decomposition of biodegradable discard for the last 14 years.
Bhave was always fascinated by greenery. So, she could never assimilate the fact that people need to be told about environment and its conservation. “I grew up in a surrounding where the need for nature and its preservation were imbibed in our psyche. And since my daughters have grown up the same way, I know, they will never feel the need for tutoring. It’s a civic sense,” she says.
Bhave’s affair with nature continued after marriage as she did a gardening course and started a plants library. Her interest in landscaping took her to a relative’s place where she saw a roof-top garden made by converting household waste into useful manure. “I decided that my terrace would also look the same. It was exactly a year’s effort. Hundreds of people have visited my garden since then.”
But she’s not the one to bask in self-glory. “The inspiration behind my effort was the desire to minimise the plight of rag-pickers, especially women, who spend most part of the day scurrying through garbage heaps in search of scrap that earns them as little as Rs 50 a day,” says Bhave.
For the last 20 years, the Bhave family has not let any trash go out of the house. Ask her an estimate of waste she has utilised at her roof-top terrace so far and she calculates it to over 10,000 kg. The city generates an estimated 1,000 tonnes of garbage a day. Imagine how much waste an estimated 6 lakh households of the city can decompose if they follow this simple methodology.
“Of course, those living in apartments do not have the luxury of maintaining a terrace garden. But the same decomposable waste can be put in flower pots in smaller quantities and leave left-over food for birds. The least one can do is just to segregate the waste. This will do a world of good not just for the municipal corporation but to the thousands of villagers in Urali-Phursungi who have been plagued by this unethical and inhuman dumping since last two decades,” she says. Bhave, who obtained a diploma in conservation of natural resources, has delivered over 150 lectures.
Recently, she suggested the PMC to formulate a plan so that the biodegradable waste can be dumped on barren land around the city to make it cultivable again.
Indeed, the ideas sound very simple and reasonable. However, the major stumbling block has been the lack of awareness, and compulsions on part of the civic body. “Segregating waste and recycling it to the extent possible should become a way of life so that we do not have to teach them to the coming generations,” she concludes.
When you think of autorickshaw drivers, what automatically comes to mind is reckless driving and the endless arguments you have over fares and definitely not green crusaders. But this bunch of auto drivers have been working to green the city for the last one-and-a-half years.
It is common to find them hard at work on the patch of green on the dull grey pavement outside the Kilpauk Medical Hospital. This group of 25 began planting saplings on the pavement as the area which served as their auto stand became very unhygienic.
“Some of us have been here for at least 20 years and it was disheartening to see how dirty the place was, especially outside a hospital,” says K Mathivanan, secretary of the auto stand who took the first step in adding greenery to the pavement. S Jagan adds that it was very unpleasant as they were forced them to remain in such surroundings all day.
A year and half ago, they decided to do something about it. The pavement, which at that time didn’t have concrete but mud, was swept. “We drew out a patch of the pavement and replaced the mud with soil. We then brought in some saplings,” says M Hamsa. Initially, they were planting crotons and spinach but eventually moved on to jasmine, guava and karpuravalli (belonging to the mint family).
“We also nurtured a banana plant and some creepers that grow along the hospital’s wall,” Mathivanan says, pointing to the green vines scaling the compound.
They source their plants on their daily journeys as and when they see them. “We buy around two plants a month and try to have a variety,” says Ravi Kumar. The group has planted over 50 plants and take it in turns to water the patch. “Maintaining it can be quite difficult as people pluck leaves and even spit in the area.
It is very frustrating because after all the effort we have taken we want the place to look nice,” says T Sekar. They hope to erect a plastic fence shortly but are yet to raise funds. “As autorickshaw drivers we don’t earn much, so we try to put in whatever we can, be it Rs 10 or more,” says Mathivanan.
Since they started planting saplings, things at the auto stand have never looked better. In fact, an actual pavement has also been built around the green patch. “It feels good when the doctors compliment our work,” says Hamsa. W Santosh adds that these comments encourage them to nurture their patch of green.
“We plan to do this as long as we are here and will try to work on other dry patches in the area as well. After all, Kilpauk has given us so much. We would like to do our bit for the society by keeping the area clean and green,” says Mathivanan.