Monday, April 28, 2014

16 - 04 - 2010 to 16 - 04 - 2014 : FOUR YEARS IN WARDHA - PART FOUR

APRIL 2013 - MARCH 2014

Worries ! Worries ! Worries !

Third year saw debts rising because of not been able to get the TEN BEAUTIFUL ANGELS to support me and a few of them discontinued their help because of their own personal problems. Deep down I knew my Sai Baba will send me the much needed Angel (s) when the right time will come. 2013 was a very tense year of the "Journey of Destiny".

At the end of December 2012, I got the much-needed job as the Editor of a soon-to-be-launched magazine on Architecture & Interiors. 2013 seemed like a good beginning. I was mistaken as barely after three months, I realized I was duped by the CON Publisher EPC World, Belapur. The tension grew multifold as I was not being paid my salaries... I ended up borrowing money from good friends. I quit the job after three months to realize, I was destined to be in Wardha rather than in Bombay.

April, I was back in Wardha and approached angels in disguise to help and support me for a year. Few of my good friends assured once again to help me as one of the Ten Beautiful Angels and I managed to get 7 Beautiful Angels, which means I had to borrow more money to sustain self. Life was tough and the "Journey of Destiny" continued.

Vegetables' Prices escalated to the never before Rs. 100 /- a Kg... Onions (I am a person, who simply cannot live without Onions but from June to December, I could not afford them.) became priceless and with limited budget to manage my life, I struggled and couldn't buy vegetables for months. The Shortage of Onions nationwide was created by the politicians to loot the citizen to gather funds for the coming election, because the Corporate Companies stopped funding as they were not seeing any sign of support from the corrupt governance of the most corrupt Prime Minister India has ever had - Manmohan Singh.

The fact being that since 2010, India has been producing record breaking Agriculture Produce. While Indians were buying Onions in the country at Rs. 100 /- a Kg, the neighbouring Bangladesh was selling Indian Onions in their country at Rs. 40 /- a Kg. It says it all!

I even cut down on my food consumption, eating just one meal-a-day many days of the month, just to sustain. I felt helpless because I was not able to do more. The job hunting was on with no sign of any on the horizon. 

The situation was a blessing in disguise. I requested my Landlord's son Praful if we can start growing vegetables on the terrace. When I got the 'YES', my joys knew no bounds. With Praful's help, I started growing vegetables as an experiment.

The success of growing your own Organic Vegetables is a sweet experience. I learned a great deal by growing multiple varieties of vegetables. 

During one of my visits to Bombay, I interviewed a farmer from UP (Uttar Pradesh), who does farming on the adjacent land along the railway tracks. During our interaction he said,'It would be nice if the Nation at large could benefit from such venture.' I wrote an 'Open Letter' to the Railway Minister with a simple solution, how such a simple project can benefit the Railways, Landless Farmers and Citizen with bountiful Green Produce.

My Trust work took me to Hyderabad and I met a very senior Organic Farmers from Yapral - Mr Maru and his son Ajay, whom I had known from the last two decades when I used to sell vegetables in TARKARI (the first exclusive Vegetables' Super Shop!). I had lovely interaction with them and learned many things about Organic Farming.

Monsoon was very good in Vidarbha Region. 125 % yearly monsoon was a boon for the farmers and the region saw very few farmers succumbing to suicide.

For the first time in four years, I visited Durga Pandals in Wardha because deep down I was thankful to my Sai Baba for HIS blessings for the farmers' community.

I find solace from my depression and miseries by clicking Nature's pictures during Sunrise and Sunsets.

I realized that I can sell Nature's Photographs to raise funds and for self support from the fifth year. As it is I have run out of my contact base to get Ten Beautiful Angels for the fifth year. So I created a 'Page' in Facebook to brand my photography in December. With the blessings of my Sai Baba, I was very fortunate to get many International Fans and Followers of my work.


Meanwhile My Magical Terrace Organic Vegetables' Garden bloomed to provide healthy fresh vegetables and it became popular allover the world, through Facebook.

In Wardha, my Terrace Vegetables' Garden became popular after it was covered in a National Daily and I was known as the Terrace Vegetable Gardener. 

The Good News soon followed with another one, when I read the Railway Minister has included my simple solution of creating Green Belt all along the Railway Tracks. Two Pilot Projects are starting from April 2014 as per the Budget declaration, one in Agra and another one in Jaipur. 

While the Year started on a disappointment when I was conned, the ending was an icing on the cake with many more miles to walk ahead.

The "Journey of Destiny" enters the Fifth Year and continues... with more to do for the farmers' community.

I wish to thank each one of all those who have come forward to encourage, help and support my one-man-crusade since the last four years. And my gratitude to all the BEAUTIFUL ANGELS of all the Four Years is from the bottom of my heart... and the special mention of some of my greatest friends from all around the world, who have never asked me to quit, instead, they have been standing with solid strong backing whenever I am in crisis. SAI BABA I am truly grateful to you for everything!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

16 - 04 - 2010 to 16 - 04 - 2014 : FOUR YEARS IN WARDHA - PART THREE


The year started on a very happy note when my school friend from New York informed me that he is coming to India for his niece's marriage. I was ecstatic to meet him after so many years.! This was a perfect occasion for the much-needed break. For two long years, I have worked incessantly to do research, interact with affected farmers' families, do all the legwork to get the Trust registered, going into several bouts of depression, connect with leading activists from all over the world, collect information about farmers' plight and crisis. The "Journey of Destiny" is not an easy journey to walk all alone!

I went to meet my dear friend Satpal and family and reliving all those beautiful memories was an experience that is hard to describe in words. I was showered with love of the families of my friend and my Parjai ji. It was a blessed journey I took all the way to Punjab. I was part of the family and the lavish wedding made me cry for hours because of an emotional breakdown... I just could not see all the wastage around me because I knew now how the farmers toil hard to live in miseries to feed the nation. How, affected farmers' families are working hard to feed their children. That night is still afresh in my mind... crying inconsolably, all I was uttering to my friend was, "I want to go back (to Wardha), I want to go back." 

To have a friend like Satpal in my destiny is the blessing that I cannot ask for more from my Sai Baba. He said, "Okay. You leave tomorrow." I came back to Wardha to recuperate from my depression. After a month, I realized because of the marriage in the family, I could not spend quality time with my dear friend. So I called him and said, "I am coming." He said, "You are always welcome." I again went back to Punjab and spend some lovely time catching up. We visited many villages and it was interesting to interact with progressive farmers of Punjab. I learned a great deal about the success of Punjab farmers as compared to all the other States of India.

Quenching my thirst in a field in Punjab

Interaction with farmers during lunch in the field : On my return journey, I stopped by at Tundla to meet one of the Ten Beautiful Angels, Palak Jha & family. His doctor husband Pavan Patrick took me to his village PHC (Primary Health Centre) and I chanced upon to interact with few farmers from UP (Uttar Pradesh). 

The First Drop of Contentment: I wish to thank each one of the nameless and faceless individuals and all the "Beautiful Angels" for extending their kind help and support to me to do the least for the first affected farmer's families. As promised during my first visit in 2010, I assured Widow Aruna Ramji Barade of Salod Village that I shall help one of her child with Future Educational Fund. In June 2012, with the blessings of my Sai Baba, my Trust opened a 7 - Years -  R/D for her daughter Sheetal. It certainly was a great relief and deep down knowing I was able to do what I had set out for. Here I wish to have a special mention of IDBI Bank Wardha Manager Mr. Vikram Gokhale a very special thanks for extending all his help and support.

The "Journey of Destiny" continues slowly and steadily...

Grateful for the Special Gift from the Beautiful Angel Palak Jha, Tundla. A must read book for everyone to understand the magnitude of the real crisis behind the "FARMERS & AGRICULTURAL CRISIS" and how each COUNTRY HEAD - be it the Prime Ministers or Presidents or Kings or Military Rulers... every single one of them is selling their own country's fertile land and river water and jungles to greedy opportunists... and YES! It is happening all over the world - from evergreen forests of Indonesia to River Nile to the darkest parts of the Dark Continent... the author Fred Pearce also exposes the WWF and how the 1001 Anonymous RICH of the World owns the WILD FORESTS of Africa. This book surely gave me great insight to understand the real ground issues.

Big Joys come in Small Packages: The children in a Tribal village were so happy to have a football when I visited them after a year's gap. And YES, they all insisted that I click their pictures.

Girls were happy to have Skipping Rope...

Bend it Like Beckham: This lovely girl just wanted to play football and nothing else... Finally, I had to cajole the boys to give her the ball... Look how ecstatic she was to have the ball all by herself!

The Look of the Litle Angel says it all... YES, when you have nothing, your confidence goes to a toss. A moment later... see the change...

I collect Baby Clothes (0 to 6 years only) from my friends from cities to distribute it among the village children during my village visits. 

With Tribal village children... It was time to say 'Till we meet again... soon'

The "Journey of Destiny" continues as the year ends with great satisfaction...

... to be continued...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

16 - 04 - 2010 to 16 - 04 - 2014 : FOUR YEARS IN WARDHA - PART TWO


The Stark Reality of Indian Villages: My research work took me to Rajasthan and Gujarat to interact with farmers of the region. The stark reality of Indian Villages is still hard to believe, in spite of all the tall claims by the Ruling Government and Politicians from all the parties. Fetching Drinking Water is still the most daunting task for every village woman and their children. Women have to walk miles to fetch drinking water every single day for their family. These two Rajasthani Children walk near about 1.5 kms to fetch water in hot Sun from the nearby Village School.

In the interiors villages, women have to walk more than 5 to 6 kms (minimum) to fetch Drinking Water balancing pitchers on their head. This is the start reality of Indian villages after 64 years of freedom. India is progressing, claims the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Is this what he means by "PROGRESS"? Why are "We as the Nation" so callous towards our villagers, who feed the nation while living lives full of hardships?

After almost 4 years, Rajasthani Farmers were able to get two crop cycles in the year 2010 - 2011. Farmers harvesting their crops.

An Old Happy Farmer with his grandson pose with their Chana (Pulse) crops to thank the Rain God for His Blessings.

Interaction with Rajasthani Farmers over a cup of tea... I learned a great deal about the hard labour they put when there is scanty rainfall. The men migrate to cities to work in Marble Quaries and return after six months to grow the winter crops. Majority of Rajasthani Farmers have a good Cattle Bank and they love them more than self. During the severe drought in the State, the farmers sold all their gold to fetch Cattle Feed from Punjab and Haryana to save their Cattle. Unlike Vidarbha Farmers... hardly 5 to 10 per cent of the farmers possess Cattle.

Premji Bhai Patel and his wife of UPLETA, Gujarat: The only Indian to have been awarded President Award twice by President Abdul Kalam Azad for "Effective Rain Water Harvesting in Rajkot District" and "The Indian who planted more than 1 Crore Plants". I was fortunate to spend two and a half days with the amazing man. He treated me with stern admonishes and love and care like a grandfather would treat his grandson. Learned a great deal about Rain Water Harvesting. I have never seen my own grandparents, so they became one. I have lost grandma and the love for trees has made 87 plus year old Premji Bhai to dig his own grave in his 4-Acre Farm by writing in his 'Will' his last wish is to be buried, as no trees should be cut for the last rites, and that no Mazhaar should be built over his grave, instead regular farming should be done over his dead body. I was truly amazed by his agile undying spirit and stamina, even at his age. 

Exploring Melghat in Amravati district: Melghat Region in Vidarbha is Korku Tribal Belt. The remote villages have not seen ELECTRICITY in their life time. The indomitable spirit of Korku Farmers made me to see how these farmers with bare minimum work force (Maximum 3 members) and bare minimum tools dig wells with bare hands in a period of 30 days. Indian Politicians may have Tall Claims of Economic Development, I ask them: Is this the REAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT? Do they even know such a thing happens in this 21st Century of our Modern Civilization?

Worked very hard during the Monsoon in 4 Tribal Villages in Melghat with other volunteers to provide Medical Assistance to children and adults alike.

Clicked a Korku Child, the best shot I have ever captured during the Medical Camp in Melghat.

I was their friend, book binder and the subject of amusement and fun. The moment they see me, the whole lot would start 'Johnny Johnny Yes Papa' poem in their high pitch and laugh out aloud. The love of the Village School Children is totally priceless! They loved to pose for my camera and proudly go around showing their photograph to the whole village with great delight. I always click pictures and give the individual a copy of photograph in my next visit. 

The Trust Registration finally came through on the 1st of December 2011. There were lots of learning and unlearning while interacting with farmers from Rajasthan and Gujarat to understand better the Agricultural Crisis. The Blog was making steady progress all across the World and I connected with many 'Leading Activists' from various countries exchanging notes on farm practices and farmers' suicide. Farmers' Suicide is a "Global Problem" and it is happening more in the "Developed Nation" due to various Faulty Government Policies. Through the Blog I wrote about simple solutions to tackle major farmers' crisis for respective authorities to take a serious note. Rainfall was good for the Second consecutive year in Vidarbha and the number of farmers' suicide declined considerably. The Second Year saw great grasping of the real grounds' crisis and problems.

The "Journey of Destiny" continues...

... to be continued...


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

16 - 04 - 2010 to 16 - 04 - 2014 : FOUR YEARS IN WARDHA - PART ONE

Om Shri Sai: I feel blessed to be destined by My Sai Baba to walk the "Journey of Destiny". 12th of March 2010, I dedicated my life to serve the suicide affected farmers' families in Vidarbha Region of Maharashtra, India to start the one-man-crusade - "Support 4 Suicide Farmers Families" from the Streets of Bombay.


Covering Rati Agnihotri's Beautiful Home for Society Interiors: I was a Film Journalist in Bollywood and later graduated to be the Editor of CW INTERIORS magazine. This is the life I was destined to give away to serve the affected farmers' families in Vidarbha. I have no regrets whatsoever! I feel blessed!

This is how the one-man-crusade began.

Swapnil's younger brother Sagar helped me with the Logo of the one-man-crusade. Color Codes reflect - Green = Agriculture; Red = Farmers' Life; Yellow = A New Ray of Hope; White = Indifference of the World.

With Swapnil Barai and his Parents on 16th April 2010: It was day one in Vidarbha. Swapnil and his family welcomed me with open arms. I knew him because he was following my blog from day one and we exchanged mails and later talked over phone. He assured of all his help over phone. I thanked My Sai Baba to send Swapnil Barai in my destiny as My Second Sai Baba. His undying support and help of his loving family made it possible to settle down in Wardha.

In the balcony of my new home in Wardha.

First trip to Yavatmal to interact with farmers to understand the real crisis on real grounds.

Research work on Irrigation Scam in Vidarbha Region. This Irrigation Canal has taken 28 Long Years and it is still incomplete in spite of billions of rupees have been sanctioned. Congress Chief Ministers have come and gone but the results are right on your face.

This Canal looks ready but there is no sign of Water from Gosikhurd Dams. In the Congress - NCP ruled State of Maharashtra, it is the BJP Contractors (as stated by Newspapers' Reports) who have looted the nation. It is so simple to conclude that more than 70,000 Crores have been siphoned by all the three major Political Parties to give birth to VIDARBHA IRRIGATION SCAM. Yes! Everyone is passing the bucks and there is no sign of any reprieve for the Vidarbha farmers. The REAL REASON is: All the water for irrigation has been diverted for Big Corporate Houses to build Power Plants. In spite of more than 200 odd Power Plants (near about 90 odd new Power Plants were sanctioned last year by the CM), there are many villages in Vidarbha Region, which has not seen ELECTRICITY even today.

During my research work to understand the real crisis, I interacted with many suicide affected farmers' families in various villages. 

The Brave Heart of Salod Village: Farmer Widow Aruna Jivan Barade and her children. I promised her that I will help one of her child with Future Education Funds as soon as the Trust is registered. After I wrote about her state in my Blog, she was fortunate enough to get many help from many organizations and help from her own village. 

I made a new friend in Vidarbha - the Little Angel.

My First Diwali in Vidarbha was at Naigoan Village in Yavatmal. Dining with Organic Farmer Shri Naigaonkar, his son and farm labourers and the Little Friend Saurabh (sitting next to me). It was the most Peaceful Diwali celebration I have ever had in my life. Naigaon is an amazing village, which celebrates Diwali (the festival of crackers) since many-many years  without bursting any crackers in the whole village. The farmers are reasonably well to do and has very high percentage of Education. I was also made to be part of the family of the Naigaonkars.

Cattle of the Organic Farmer at Naigaon.

Creating awareness about the dangers of GMOs on my Facebook Page and through my Blog.

Unlearning is the greatest learning in one's life. The "Journey of Destiny" has seen many obstacles and challenges on its way. However, My Sai Baba has always send me "Beautiful Angels" to support and help me to keep walking one step at a time. It is a long lone journey ahead and I feel blessed for being the destined to walk the "Journey of Destiny" for having experienced many miracles ever since I started.

The "Journey of Destiny" continues...

... to be continued in PART TWO...