Spot the difference-Cash vs the rest

Case 1: A skill building organisation is training people in skills. The participants pay nothing. Indian government foots the bills

Case 2: A new non-profit is doing unconditional cash transfers. They will give money directly to the poor and let them decide what is best for them. No strings attached.

When ever I go and speak to someone from the non-profit sector they are very quick to point out that Case 1 is a life change investment where as Case 2 is just a dole ( Implicit  argument  is that somehow Case 1 is superior).

The trouble is that really there is no  difference per se- both are doles or handouts. The only difference is that in Case 1 you have decided on the behalf of the poor that skills training is best for them.

I do  feel that there is merit in skills training and all the other kinds of poverty alleviation programs that NGOs and Governments run in India and across the world. But billions of dollars are spent in these efforts but very little if at all anything is given as cash  to the poor. May be there lies a fundamental distrust that if we give money directly to the poor then they will waste it. I have two big problems with this distrust. One, NGOs and Governments are themselves super inefficient and wasteful and two all the money is spent in the name of the poor.

May be for a change we need to rethink our prejudices and assumptions and trust that poor are as responsible as we are with money. We have tried all other approaches to lift poor out of poverty. May be its time to just give them cash and see what happens.

Still not convinced. Read what happens when you give 1000 USD to ultra poor. 

 

 

The day after

Some human scum threw a dog from a certain height and  captured it on  video. People on Facebook were shocked. The dog fortunately didn’t die and is getting good care now. Everyone is happy. Some might go and eat some mutton kebab’s and tikka’s to celebrate. Thankfully there are no videos being shared of goats being slaughtered and converted to kebabs and tikkas. Its a dog day.

In Dhaka ISIS militants stormed a bakery and killed lots of innocent people. Social media was once again carpet bombed with #terroristhavenoreligion. Its getting all too predictable now. Being politically correct is the new scum level.

A map of Iraq with all the car bombs and IED’s made it to the social media ( Source, the Guardian.  I swear I will never complain about my life in India.

iraq

A cabinet shuffle made people comment that the biggest reform in education has happened. A tele-women is shown her place. Let her weave her sarees and stories.

Kejriwal is still in love with Modi.

Its a ground hog day for all of us

 

I quit therefore I am

Increasingly I’m meeting young people who quit from one thing to another. They never  seem to manage to stay in one job for 2-3 years.They  are forever freelancing. But maybe this how the jobs are now days. With internet and opportunities people can do what they like, when they like and how much they like.

My father retired at 58 from a Govt job. I will probably hang my boots by 50. I guess people younger than me by 10 years will probably stop working full time at 40 or even less. And people younger them will have even fewer full time work years. Call them winds of change or what ever but for sure its refreshing.

According to ” The Economists” the machines are coming to take our jobs in the next 10-20 years. But what if they find no one working : ). Ouch that will hurt.

Three cheers to the young. Free, Freelancing and Fun.

5 reasons why Odd-even failed this time and lessons in Governance

Odd even was supremely successful last time but this time there were usual chaos on the roads. Even pollution went up considerably.  I did a little bit of deep thinking as to why this happened.

  1. There were not enough Odd-Even Kejriwal posters in the city even there was enough of Kejriwal jee.
  2. Last time Delhi Junta was utterly confused whether their car number is Odd or even. Now after 3-4 months of coaching they knew and were confidently out on the road in their Honda Cities.
  3. Some people confused Odd-Even with supply of water in the city.
  4. More women were forced to drive by their in-laws.Some even had to learn how to drive 🙂
  5. BJP in the Centre got more cars from Neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan to make sure that the experiment failed in the city ( Disclaimer-This is yet to be tweeted by Kejriwal jee)

According to my sources Kejriwal jee has dropped all plans for phase 3 of Odd-Even. Odd-Even was too AAM. This is will be replaced by Fibonacci series.  According to new rules your car need to have a fibonacci number to be able to come on the road. (Fibonacci Sequence is the series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, … The next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it)  Since it will take some time for Delhi Junta to get familiar with this pasta sounding name we can be assured that there will be less cars on the road.

As to who will teach Delhi police (who is still un sure about whether number 0 is odd or even)  there were no comments.

The Skoda Yeti affair

No one wants to get it wrong. No one one to admit that they made a mistake. No one wants to get cheated.

I was wrong, I made a mistake and I got cheated . Hey I’m getting old man and losing the touch.

Part one of the story started with an advert of Skoda Yeti in Dehradoon. I went to check the car. Interestingly Dehradun Audi showroom was selling this car. They got it from one of their customer in exchange offer. The customer was one Mr Jamyang Kalsang who owns a famous Chinese  restaurant  in Dehradoon and Mussorie called ” Kalsang Friends corner”. He was buying a Audi Q5 ( avg cost upward 50 lacs). He got a nice exchange offer for his Yeti.

The car looked okay. There was some rattling in suspension which Audi guy told me was nothing but some minor bush work. I called Mr Kalsang personally to find out and he told me that the car is fine. It only needs a service and it has done 60,000 kms. I was at ease after hearing from Mr Kalsang himself

All good. I can handle minor bush work. Deal done. Money paid. Yeti is now mine.

Part two of the story started with going to the Skoda Service station in Delhi after I purchased the car. A quick look into the computer told me that the car had done 64000 kms in May 2014. So by now it must have done over 1 lac kms. Mr Kalsang who can afford to buy a Q5 has actually managed to turn the meter backwards.

Well done Mr Kalsang!

The “bush” work meant you have change the whole suspension. You can’t just repair the bushes. And this means about Rs 80,000

Well done Audi Dehradoon !

And to add cherry on the cake. At 1 lac kms you need to replace timing belt too. The water pump was bust too so that needed replacement as well. Total bill north of Rs 1 lac.

They say you get what you pay for. But I paid honest rupee for Yeti. I also trusted both the parties in the transaction. I’m now left wondering why someone like Mr Kalsang who is super rich and drives a Q5 will actually do such a cheap thing like tempering the meter. May be he got an extra Rs 50,000 from me. Really for 50,000 rupees.

And why would brand like Audi won’t check car before they sell it to a customer even though it is not Audi. My faith in Audi dealership is zero at the moment. Next they can sell a brand new lemon to you as well. Even if they had no mollified intention their ability to value car is a big ZERO. I wonder how will they fix cars in the workshop.

Normally I trust people with small things like these. You want to cheat, cheat big. Have some standard man.

Both Kalsang Chinese restaurant and Audi Dehradoon are off limits now.

Learned my lesson. I’m never going to trust big people again.They are the ones who will take you for a ride ( a bumpy one)

 

 

JNU vs the rest of ( Ordinary)us

JNU is a fine a institution. Some of the most amazing talker, thinker, activists and intellectuals that I have  met came from JNU. But barring a few none of them ever listens to other’s opinions. See, they are always right. You are with them or against them. In a discussion with them you always concede and change the topic so as not to risk the evening and wine.

To be honest ” India Ki Barbadi tak.. Jung rahegi” is just a slogan. In any large university like JNU there are fringe elements who would like to create trouble. And universities are places for students to  discuss, disagree and do such things. In a few years some of them will become IAS and for the next 40 years or so they will be too worried about their annual CR report-” Aakhir secretary bhee to ban na hai”

In my opinion the Government should have just ignored what ever happened at JNU instead picking up Kanhaiya Kumar and using sedition against him. Trying to find terror links is too heavy handed. Listen to his speech here. He is a fine patriot in my humble opinion.

 

However ordinary Indian like me feels very bad when I hear “India Ki Barbadi”. But my response is limited to Facebook. I know that slogans don’t make you a traitor. You have to take very large loans and run a airline to become one .

On the other  hand some Indians will be deeply disturbed by anti India slogans. They will call those who are shouting slogans ” Desh drohi” and brand the whole bunch of JNUers as traitors. And to be honest that’s freedom of speech and expression too. And the JNU wallah’s should be respectful of that. But they are not. And that is my problem with the whole JNU crowd. They never listen and they are always right. Their idea of freedom of speech  is only their freedom of speech. The rest of “ordinary us” can just shut up.

But I fully stand with Kanhaiya Kumar and he should be released. And if you want to catch a real true blue “desh drohee” may be you can start with Vijay Mallya.

 

 

 

This is a snapshot of my 15 years of work

This was a long due blog. I’m glad that I was able to write it. This gives me a snapshot of what I have been doing for the last 15 years and think about what I’m going to do for the next 15.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”-Lila Watson.

In the summer of 2002 I took a 20 something volunteer on my Bajaj Chetak scooter to Delhi Cantt railway station to work in a school for children from nearby slums. She liked the project, committed to work from next day and then disappeared without a trace.

This was my first volunteer placement and it turned out to be a disaster. This made me think if formal volunteering is going to work in India or not, at least not the way we visualized when we started iVolunteer. For once I thought may be we made a mistake. People don’t want to volunteer. They would rather just give money.

When we ( Shalabh, Rahul B, Rahul N) started iVolunteer in 2001, our idea was simple. How can we get more and more Indians to share their skills and time with organizations who need it the most? In early 2000s volunteering with a non-profit was a strange concept. Our conversations used to start with “why I should volunteer “, “what is the benefit to me” rather than “ I want to volunteer” or “ I want to help”. One of our potential volunteer had put it in plain words “ Volunteering is for those who have nothing else to do”. It became clear to us that we have to sell the idea of volunteering before we do anything else.

Even those who wanted to volunteer had very little knowledge or access to volunteering opportunities. There was very little information on the Internet so our idea of setting up a volunteering matchmaking portal made lots of sense.

A lot of volunteers did come through iVolunteer.in but they would disappear after the first meeting with the NGO. For a lot of them it was just too much to handle. We learned quickly, added a bit of structure and orientation, screened volunteer properly and our numbers started improving.

Many things have changed since then thanks to advent of Internet and social media there is a greater awareness of volunteering. Our days of selling volunteering are over. More and more people want to volunteer. They want to teach in school, help in fundraising, do events, help organization sell, read to the blind, mentor a young adult. Working with children still is the number one cause that people want to volunteer for. However increasingly a lot of young professionals also want to share their skills. For instance through iVolunteer’s GYAN a lot of professionals impart trainings in subject areas like Excel, PowerPoint, Public relation, social media etc to non-profits. Many go ahead and help non-profit in advisory capacities. A few volunteers have taken the jump and started working full time with non-profits.

Companies have also started encouraging their employees to volunteers. We get a lot of requests to design and manage employee-volunteering programs from companies in India. We currently have employee volunteering programs running with Tata Chemical, Amex, Synopsis, VISA to name a few.

Another growing trend is volunteering full time immersion through Fellowship programs like India Fellow, Teach for India, Gandhi Fellow etc. A program like India Fellow takes young people through a 13 month journey where 12 months are spend volunteering full time with a local non-profit. Currently there are close to 1500 opportunities available every year for anyone who is interested. Most of these opportunities also offer a stipend so that people are not out of pocket.

A welcoming trend in volunteering is that potential volunteer are clear about what they want from the engagement. They have done their research. They know what they can contribute and what they want in return. This does put a little bit of pressure on host organizations as sometimes they struggle to meet volunteer expectations.

Like money volunteers are a resource for an organization. Even though volunteers don’t get paid a salary that doesn’t mean that they come for free. Organizations spend lot resources in managing volunteers. There is an increasing focus on building capacity of non-profits to manage volunteers and create a win-win situation for everyone involved.

In my opinion giving both money and time to the social sector is really important. But it is by giving time that one is truly invested in the causes and communities that are closer to our hearts. This time is so precious because it comes from the time people can spend on their hobbies, with their families and 100 other things that they could be doing. Does volunteering help making world a better place. May be . Does volunteering bring about change? Almost certainly and that change starts with us.

2016 Mumbai marathon and Indian style loo

2015 Mumbai marathon: 4hrs 16 minutes. 2016 Mumbai Marathon 4hrs 16 minutes.  Can you spot the difference.

No you cannot. But I can.

I took a train back to Delhi. I was able to use the Indian style potty. And man that is the difference.

For those who know me and how I train for runs will know that my strategy to train for races is very simple. Train as little as possible. Rest a lot between runs. And whenever possible avoid a potentially long run. For half marathon this works perfectly.  But for longer runs like full marathons this means disaster.

Last year after the Mumbai Marathon I limped for a week. I was in excruciating pain. This year it was completely different. Other than couple of blisters I had nothing to complain about. I ran the whole course barring few meters of the dreadful Peddar road incline. I was fine after the race. And I’m fine now. I feel like I can do another full marathon in a weeks time.

So what was different this year. I did even less training than last year. I avoided all the long runs barring one 28kms in Jahapanah and that too very close to the race. But there was one important difference.

I ran without a watch.

I didn’t wanted to but circumstances so happened that it was a question of either spending money on the watch or running without it. A friend suggested that why don’t I try running without the watch. With a lot of hesitation I decided to go with his advise.

And Man what a run. I didn’t let anyone push me including myself. I ran at a pace that felt natural and easy. Till the finish point I had no idea if I was running slow or fast. Everyone that I know in the runners world overtook me but I was not concerned. I really enjoyed the run and may be that has made the difference.

I had a goal of running a full marathon under 4 hrs this year. I always have goals like these. But these goals can wait. For now let me chuck the watch and enjoy the run.

 

 

Why I stopped eating meat

I was born in vegetarian home and was told that we should not eat other animal’s flesh and when  we kill others it is bad Karma. When I turned 18 and went to NIT Rourkela my first meal was mutton curry. Since then I never looked back. I ate lots of meat and chicken and fish and all of that. I did this for about 20 years and then one fine day after a stomach full of pot chicken in Shimla I decided to become vegetarian and never took to meat since then.

Interestingly even though I embraced meat in my diet I could never order beef. My Hindu upbringing would come and stop me.The only time I ate beef was when I mistakenly ordered a bacon burger and realised ( after eating) that there was a beef patty in it. Since it was in France I consoled myself and finished the burger thinking  French cows are not holy anyways.

And then one day when I left meat it was not for religion.

The only reason I left meat to start with was a chance conversation with my friend Deepa who somehow managed to convince me that in the old days when food was not amply available it was probably okay to kill and eat. We had no choice. But since now we can buy pretty much anything there is no “survival” reason to eat meat. So every time you eat meat you are making a choice to be part of a food chain which is based on taking a animal’s life. This reasoning stuck to me like magic glue and I made the jump.

A lot of friends and family laugh at my decision of turning vegetarian. For them it’s like-Sau chuhee khaa ke billi Haj ko chaali But for me once the realisation of my action had set in it was very difficult to go on the same path.

I feel there are several good reasons to be a vegetarian. You can live to be more healthy and save the environment ( cattle grazing is a huge global warming reason). On the other hand if you don’t give a flying F****K to your health and environment you can go ahead and order your mutton stew. And if I may recommend the best mutton stew you can get in is at Al_-awahar, Near Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

Whatever you choose the state or others should have no business in poking their nose into your plate. And whenever the desire to preach others to become Vegetarian comes in please find solace in these immortal words of Kabir.

कबीरा तेरी झोपडी, गल कटीयन के पास | जैसी करनी वैसे भरनी, तू क्यों भया उदास ||

If nothing is impossible then so is drinking tea without sugar!

I have a confession to make – I am not diabetic but I drink tea/coffee without sugar!

It all started when my Dad was diagnosed with Type II diabetes a few years back. Mom and Dad started having tea/coffee without sugar. So sugar was bought in the house owing to my tea drinking habit with sugar.

tea

Don’t know how I got the idea of trying out the hot beverages sugar free. The first trial felt like the worst thing to have ever been tasted. So was the second, third and fourth round of trials. My Mom wanted me to give up these trial rounds suggesting why should I even attempt these at such a young age! That I must enjoy drinking them like everyone else.

Dad however drew a contrasting picture suggesting that tea/coffee taste best without the sweet touch. That one would get the real taste and flavour of the beverage. This made me more headstrong about the fifth trial. After all, why should Mom and Dad have all the fun of tasting the real flavour!

The fifth trial was successful as I got accustomed to the taste. This has now turned into a successful habit. Yes, I still drink tea/coffee without sugar! It has been more than 2 years now. From friends to relatives marvel at the site of me having these beverages sugar free and not even sugar less! At that time it really makes me wonder if nothing is impossible then why can’t be drinking tea/coffee without sugar.

As I am winding up my blog now my cup of tea is resting next to my laptop. The aroma of hot ginger tea! Of course it has no sugar! Not even a few grains of it…

Image Courtesy: Google search