A Crappy Affair

World toilet day
The UN has declared Nov.19th as the world Toilet day.
We have lived and grown up with toilets, of course during our younger days when we travelled we never used public toilets since we were worried about hygiene with the advent of pay toilets those are taken care off too.
The impact of open defection never really struck in, after all at school we were thought that one method of seed dispersion was undigested seeds in the faecal matter.
At the medical school the impact of water borne disease and zoonosis kind of seeped in.
Last year when I went with the Banega Swach Bharat drive of NDTV I realized the greater impact of it, there was a man who wanted toilets constructed because he wife died when she slipped as she went out the fields. Gone were the days people looked at costing, the issue that the public presented was know how, they knew they needed toilets, they wanted the toilets too, the issue was how would the sewage handle it self they did not want it let loose into the fields and rivers as it would cause contamination. The knowledge partners organized by NDTV addressed this fundamental issue.
maybe if a year back somebody told me that the international toilet day was linked with equality, dignity and gender violence and sanitation I would have rolled with laughter. But the exposure a year ago and working with the migrant workers have really opened my eyes to something larger.
I heard stories of villagers who want to send their daughters to school but the fact that there were no toilets and the trees had been cut off to widen the roads made them aware of the desperate need for toilets and trees.
On the flip side were elders who were psychologically comfortable doing their daily rituals in the open environment so they had bowel constriction when they had to use the toilets. Interestingly the resource person suggested roofless toilets and planting of trees, or keeping flower pots.
When we are dealing with the migrant labour and informal work force things take a different turn. In a supermarket or a mall there are staff toilets and toilets for the public, but in a village market, or construction site we have neither.
Some village markets have now come up with pay toilets but construction sites are still open. The workers have nowhere to ease themselves through their 10hrs of working. Neither do they have access to potable water unless they are carrying it.
It is easy to say that India as a nation has no sense of hygiene/dignity/whatever, to a certain extent yes, but if we do not provide the toilets where on earth are the people to go, they have to ease themselves so they will go into the shrubs if they are available or go in the open.
An year back I met a company that dealt with portable toilets, when we asked them why were these not used in places where temporary toilets were required, we were told
• Their initial costing is high
• They were western toilets and Indians were not comfortable using it.
By the way the company has come up with an Indian model this year. The waste was dealt with chemically so there was no odour emitted.
The sanitation maintenance people on the Indian railway have another thing to say. Yes, the train toilets are public places. The Indian railway has recently shifted to bio-cleansing toilet units, they put up signage’s to tell people not to throw their diapers, the sanitary towels and tissues down the toilet , yet people do so, particularly in the first class section which is supposed to occupied by the more educated aware citizens as opposed to the plebiscites of the sleeper class.
The international toilet day would be a great point to start an awareness drive, and toilet training—yes I use it deliberately because we need to learn how to use a public toilet, keep it clean and conserve resources.

Accepting an Intern.

workshop on Quantum Hypnosis organized by the interns from MES

Since I am a medical student and had do internship, I never really thought much about it.

About two years ago when I decided I will take my NGO more seriously, we are into community for self employment, I realized I could not handle it alone and I needed help.

Around that time Nandini Sahai from International Centre Goa suggested I take on an intern.

For the life of me I could not understand what an intern would do in an NGO.  I asked a friend’s daughter what do you do in an internship why would you want one. She gave me an interesting reply

“Maasi, it develops intentional learning objective. The program is structured inot an experience, we are supervised by a professional who has done it hands on,. It actually allows me to grow personally and professionally.”

workshop on Crystal Therapy 

Made sense I mean balancing the kids learning goals with my own organizations need. Since we had about two to three projects going on, we decided to allow the kids choose depending on their learning objective.  The kids also received academic credit for it.

Since I my NGO was in offbeat area this entire internship program gave me an opportunity to select and develop talent.  It gave me an opportunity to evaluate and screen potential employees.  The kids came with their creative and innovative ideas from my side I let them experiment the only thing I gave them was the goal they had to achieve.

It gave me an idea of how I should operate when I had employees.

Then came the great hurdle where do I source the right intern? I decided to work with the undergraduates as they needed a place to intern too, and they could actually utilize their classroom lessons hands on.  The paper work required was minimum, I just shared at their college what was my NGO about and what are ongoing projects and what were we looking for.

workshop on HaseKale

We also offered them an option to trying a pilot camp for their own concept.

The duration was for that particular program.

It was challenge for me to figure how the intern works, at one point the kids told me madam we are here to do the work, so it’s okay if we do it. we created this module, where we put the project on paper the student took on the responsibility and made it deliverable on a time line.

I came up with a check list for myself.

  • The onset and finish of the internship.
  • What would be the remuneration…. one project had and another didn’t.
  • The number of hours I expected from them, which I didn’t specify but I had a timeline for the project.
  • We had weekly meetings where I would assess the work goals met until the date. There were times when the interns taking on the responsibilities of a project manager would delegate work to me and I was fine with it.

Eventually six students interned with me, and I learnt a lot from them. It also gave me an insight to the thinking of the younger generation, and their strengths and short comings as a generation.

As I was preparing to take on interns I found an interesting read about interns and internship by Sweitzer,H.F. AND King M.A. (1999) through a successful internation, transformation and empowerment occurs, this process seem to occur in a predictable order and each stage comes with its own challenges and opportunities. There concerns that the intern will face at each stage, and to some extent those concerns must be resolved for them to move forward and continue learning and growing, to an extent resolving those concerns are part of  the learning experience and growing.

Internship is a monitored meaningful learning experience in which an individual has intentional professional goals and reflects activity on what he or she is accomplishing throughout the experience. It is a great place to discover future colleagues and leaders.

A open house discussion on Blogging.


pictures courtesy Rta Sadhanalaya, clicked by individual intern in charge.

“I’m sharing my first internship experience for the #MyInternTheory activity at BlogAdda in association with Intern Theory.”

Internship — A Rite Of passage.

manipalWhen we joined medical college there was this standard joke, we called it the evolution of the medical student.

The swagger and I am on top of the world kind of attitude. The kid would walk into the movie hall with bunch of other equally boisterous and ill-behaved kid and brag, ”pre-med man” of course he would look disdainfully at the old frumpy guy next to him in the movie hall with the same empathy as one gave an albino cockroach.

Then pre-med hero lands on terra-firm at the anatomy hall, and initiation into the charmed world of medicine we realize is guarded zealously by the keepers called the anatomy teachers. The swagger seems to slow and the voice drops an octave.

The first day with stethoscope is another high, when we enter the clinics, one really wants to flaunt it by throwing the stethoscope round the neck like a medallion, until the nurse signals, take it off, that is the privilege of qualified doctors. So quietly one slips the stethoscope into the pocket, the apron or the white coat is now less shiny,

This is the first day of rounds with boss, the reporting time is 7.30 because the PG will brief the intern, who in turn will brief you, and you have to present the case, the rounds begins at 8 am and hey presto remember the frumpy old man you were rude at the movie hall, he turns out to be the proffie… tralalala… where’s the drown hole in the rink tralalala…so that I can sink. (to be sung along the lines of brown girl in the ring) the professor moreover turns out to be the one who is in everyone’s nightmare.

Finally, finally the stethoscope goes round the neck and our name gets the prefix doctor and we turn interns. Here is where the fun begins.

Our day’s dental students didn’t do internship, so most of us joined in as clinical assistance. The distinction between the assistant and intern is very simple, the assistant gets paid and has defined duties while the interns don’t paid and are general dogsbody. But of course interns are paid in experience. We scored over the MBBS guys because we got our experience and got paid for it.

For my own internship I left the comfort zone of Manipal and went to Dharwad which was back of backwaters for me.  the first shock was no one wore skirts, which was the accepted dress code at Manipal, and the lady staff wore salwar kameez which was a not accepted dress code at Manipal. I remember walking down the corridor and a senior faculty tells me,

“Doctor you have nice legs,” well I do not know if it was his way of telling me not wear skirts, or if he was just sexually harassing me, of course this area was a bit not acknowledged those days. And with that particular doctor it was a no no because his daughter Ketaki was my classmate at school. Anyway I rushed out and brought salwar kameez.

The entire year was that of learning, it was like an initiation into the big bad world of corporate medical education. I was the hostel warden so I could see money being manipulated, and people being manipulated. That was scary.

The nice parts were there too, the experience of having dental chairs and seeing ninety patients in a day, we did something like 48 extractions in a day, inject the patient on chair one, inject patient on chair 2, inject patient on chair 3, inject patient on chair four. Extraction, patient on chair one, clean up and inject the next patient and move on to extraction on chair two the cycle just went on.

It was amazing how the entire system worked.

When it came to conservative, it was like a marathon, we did not move from our chairs, one particular day I remember a patient who came in to pick a fight with me, because he had an 10’clock appointment with me, I did not attend to him till 12noon, of course that day three of the five doctors in the department had called sick and the 4th one was attending to a major surgery.

Internship period is a beautiful one, like a passage of rite to indicate the transition from one stage to the another, from adolescence to adulthood, this is the phase were many relationships begin to take on their own path and identities while the old ones mute and fade.

“I’m sharing my first internship experience for the #MyInternTheory activity at BlogAdda in association with Intern Theory.”

Walking Through An Open Plan House.

kunjur house 1
Traditional coastal house

Our friend Jairam Acharya, who is an astrologer at Parkala; (he is also the in-house astrologer for ETV and runs a shows with them.) Built a house at Percale, his nephew from Bombay had been every upset that Mamaji did have a big house, with lot of rooms but no bathrooms. Now we were a little amused because each room had an attached bath. For the little kid who came Bombay and was used to cloister spaces the large bathroom appeared like a room with an open bathing/toilet area.

Coming to think of it, before architects and architecture became a fad, the houses on the coast were built with lot of consideration, like the low slant roofing, with  a wooden false roof, that would have a particular leaf laid on it, I forgotten which one this kept the rooms cool.

Flooring was red, slate again it kept the floor cool.

kunjur house 2
inner courtyard

Plan of the house was also very interesting usually a square  and one entered the house through the Heggilu, , on one side of the hebbaligu would be the Bhavikatte or the well where one could wash the feet before entering the house.

The other areas were

Jagali – or open corridor, but it would be roofed usual pattern was open central courtyard that had medicinal plants, the tulasi, the space for the kids to play, to dry the food it was open and unroofed. Then was level one walking space of course roofed but it  was usually treated like a corridor to walk through it was not a personal space, then came the jagali with pillars and that would be the living space.

open plan house 1
My dream house

The Jagali near the Hebbagilu usually served as the official space where outsiders , officials  would interact.   Any food or drink to be served there would be impersonal and served by the service staff.

Rest of the jagali’s were open and people walked in and out, this is  lack of being cloistered is probably what makes the woman from southern India more social and less oppressed than her northern counterpart.  The farm hands, the domestic help came to this courtyard so did the younger women seeking the wisdom of the older ladies, young men who had to be advised  it was a more personal space,

Most houses had an easy-chair, and an arm chair not to mention a desk. In this space.

open house 1
GoodEarth Pattern Malhar

Parallel to this was the padsale (the nomenclature could be wrong it is ages since I used these) which was enclosed a place of privacy where people changed, after a bath the cupboards would be kept here; it was the place where newlyweds slept.

Then there was the bananthikone or a nearly dark room where someone who had just give birth would be housed. The Kottige, the Hatti these were various spaces.

The feel was we were part of nature, and the vast universe the feeling is amazing. Unfortunately we never appreciated it then.

Somewhere in 1950-60 I think compartmentalized home became a common theme, I remember some traditional homes  redesigning stuff, the standard, central hall, dinning bed room one and two to the left, kitchen and master bedroom to the right became the staple. 1980 brought the concept of rooms flowing into one another.

goodearth malar
pattern Malhar

Suddenly I see the re-emergence of the multi-utility spaces, https://housing.com  in a newsletter from only they call it open-plan homes now. Incidentally Goodearth (: www.goodearth.org.in ) is introducing Malhar patterns an eco-village with open-plan housing, if I were to evaluate those homes, to the compartmentalized flat I live in today,

  • On one hand I can visually connect living spaces in decor and aesthetics a great thing for a visual artist like me, but it is a war zone, since my family leaves a trail of destruction in every room they touch.
  • There are areas to hang art work, particularly the appliqué screen work I do, put plants to create spaces, but having to decide how much to keep and what to keep is a challenge.
  • When we grew up we would be left in the central courtyard a great place for us to play, it was open and lot of people keeping an eye, without mothers having to micro manage. Open plan houses replicate this space. A safe play area for kids within the parent’s vision without intruding.
  • Since the spaces were open we had lot of natural light, and breeze, we did not really bother with lighting the lamps or turning on the lights until late in the evening. At Malhar Patterns they have brought out this effect by doing away with non-load bearing walls.
  • The nicest part of those old homes was the kitchen view and the eating area, since the kitchen opened into the Jamal we sat at the jagli to eat and grandma would be cooking and conversing with us those who finished eating would throw away the banana leaf to the cows and clean up the eating space but they would continue sitting there to do whatever work they had do, albeit even homework. In contemporary time, a kitchen overlooking the dining and living spaces would mean more space when we entertain, otherwise less family time hogged by the television.

goodearth malar-2It is not that this great open courtyard life was all honky dory, I hated the lack of privacy, the  loud conversations between Grandma and Bhaggi used to the irritating, when the television arrived, I had no place to hide, and now with the mobiles it is a din!!

When it comes to entertaining I rather my guests did not see my dirty sink, and messy kitchen table all of which I can hide if there was a door.

Home floor plans have come a long way, and open floor plans I guess again depends on our lifestyle and priority, or maybe children growing up with open floor plans will turn out intrinsically learn to keep their space tidy and organized.

What is interesting is mobile technology and Knowledge work is allowing for the emergence of open plan-offices. There mixes of cubicles, workstations, private offices and co-workspaces and god knows what, our familiar jargon of Jagli and pasale is replaced by terms like Hoteling , alternate officing and Hotdesking.

images courtesy Google images.



Getting Technical

xammi thought
courtesy internet

I have been requested by a group of young doctors, who are into public health to help them communicate better in the health education sector,

Both my areas of work that is dentistry and theatre fortunately are hands on subjects. So there is no dictate the notes happening.

What I realized is that people tend to get intimidated by the boogie of technical talk. And most of us who technically trained are also insecure about coming out of that space. The way I tackled it was I treat the audience as one single patient, in my clinic space where I am in control and I make my presentation. This automatically simplifies the language and makes it less intimidating.

Hypnotheray as a Therapeutic Model  at the Aarogya conference organized by Ayush

Sharing technical input with an audience that is not exposed to that technology or is partially exposed is quite a challenge. This audience would include students, inter-disciplinary practioners, migrants to the area, and some of course natives. When I say migrants I am talking about maybe someone from speech and hearing taking attending a session on theatre arts to learn the pedagogy of speech and voice. Or someone from theatre arts attending a session on vocal hygiene.

What’s most important is to find the connect, everyone is usually there for a purpose, so we define the purpose. What works for me is, I announce the topic of the day, and give my audience 2 minutes to pull together and share what they know of the topic. This breaks ice and also gives me a hands on assessment of my audience.

Working on building a communication bridge between the audience and the facilitator brings about great learning, that would mean allowing for question and answers during the session, I can entertain the question depending on time available and relevance of the question.

Presenting science in stories at the BarCamp

Then would come to structuring my session. This is very very important, again given my thinking pattern which is cross wired I realized I go haywire so I tend to use visual aids to keep me stream lined.  Visual aids are double edged swords they can take the attention off the speaker.

What came as breakthrough for me, was the realization that as a student  I would use the class transcripts and relate it to the visual then the subject did not scare me, I decided to use the same transition here. The structure of the session would then be,

  • Grab the attention, by getting them to assess their own level and understanding of the topic.
  • Jargons had to avoided, yet jargons brought a certain amount of bonding. So what I did do was I would introduce the jargon through the session, so somewhere the immigrants would settle into the technical space.

    At Flame Institute, translating RasaBrahma for therapeutic use
  • An understanding can be built by probably using words that the audience are familiar with, but this is a space I do not go into simply because it can boomrang. What I do is probably ask for inputs in between from the audience volunteers or give them a Hobson’s choice. Of course allowing for questions as the session is on is another great way to keep the connect.
  • The acceptance of the audience comes with them accepting your credibility, and that has to be a third person presentation, so I have learnt over the years to give an honest crisp about me to the person who introduces me, if that is not possible then I share experiences that connect to the topic.

    yourstory (1)
    SHeroes- recovering from trauma sharing my story
  • Good illustrations and graphics go a long way in people remembering your presentation.
  • Simulating action is another very important thing to do. Depending on the topic that I am sharing I create a worksheet, and have just a minute and half to two minute activity.

Teaching, or sharing technical knowledge is a challenge. Visual aids go a great way to facilitate this. over years I have figured that certain things ensure a good presentation.

  • Use of precise and apt visuals.
  • The visual has to be prominent and visual to the last person in the hall with clarity so pixeled images don’t work.
  • The images have to be simple and well labelled. The ideal format is the same the one used for scientific drawing.
  • The illustration should be colourful, but not overwhelming with colours.
  • Each visual should be allowed adequate visual time, it should be long enough to register but short enough so that it is not boring.
  • The visuals should transit smoothly along with the narration.
  • The visual should not compete with narration.

Ideally one should check the functionality of the PowerPoint, pen drive etc. but I also make it a habit to take a back up flipchart. Actually if the audience is very small and around the study table then flipchart is more effective. It can be large enough to mount on a easel.

It is a great idea to get illustrations done professionally (http://themedicalillustrationcompany.com/ is a good source) and use animation along with narration.

I have to thank Toastmasters International as it helped me structure myself.


The Community Garden at Taleigao

devancha bhaat (1)
Community Garden at Taleigao

It is such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth to feel at one’s finger tips the possibilities of the new seasons. Growing up in rural west coast, between fields and kitchen gardens we pottered around, it helped us connect and the single greatest lesson that we learnt was that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that  as the sun shines and people can still plan and plant, think and do, we can, if bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

With  habitat growing aerially, and earth being entombed in cement, we seem to create quite a havoc.

But sometimes there are small hopes that pops up like this patch of garden field at Taleigao, it is marooned by aerially rising buildings, but yet holds like hope. I am not talking of the fields that the farmers own, there is a patch of field where there is a community garden.devancha bhaat (3)

This is an movement spear headed by the late dada Panduranga Athale of swadhyaya, where people come and work with the earth, they grow and tend to the garden. The proceeds can be taken by the people who contribute or they are sold and the money goes to the movement.

There are couples who want to re-bond, who take to working in these patches together.  They are not allowed to get their kids along on these time schedules, the band of swadhyayees are so committed that they walk or cycle around to villages creating these community gardens.devancha bhaat (4)

There can be no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden if he/she is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.

I was thinking of my grandmother Kitta-doddamma, who used to tell us that garden, “hitla-thota” as she called it, called for a lot of dedication, sacrifice, which why the agrarian India worshiped Bali, the spirit of sacrifice. She used to tell us that being with plants one learnt patience and the power of sacrifice, the seed in sacrificing its skin, the soil in sacrificing its nutrition, the nematodes of the earth they contributed too, the rain with the water to the soil,  finally when the plant came up it was moment of celebration the bringing in of abundance in every way.

devancha bhaat (5)
sweet potato

international Jugglers day.

In the 1950s at least less was expected of women. Now we’re supposed to build a career, build a home, be the supermum that every child deserves, the perfect wife, meet the demands of elderly parents, and still stay sane.”
― Sara Sheridan

my theatre world

 Breakfast, wash load, kids off to school, hubby off to work, now you dash. On the way back pick grocery, not to mention PTA, school day and office meetings aren’t we juggling things.

Well april 18th is also the international juggler’s day so we can pat ourselves on the back. This was established in 1980. All superwomen can laud themselves.

16th April is international juggling day.

20th June is the world juggling day.

References to jugglers is seen during the vaudeville era nothing is mentioned prior to it. Though some Egyptian paintings do show jugglers. It was associated with jesters, clowns, fools. Objects that are juggled are called properties and the act is called pattern.

The princess with the golden ball is a fairy tale that was inspired by the jugglers.

A juggler is a person who performs juggling feats .when two or more…

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Out bound camp at Kolad

camp empower (2)
Welcoming us.

EKAA announced its outbound camp I was hesitant simply because it been ages since I did anything outbound. It is almost as if I had entered a Zanana. The purpose of the camp was to ensure that we were grounded, and we could face our own body’s message to us.

Since the decision to go was last minute the rush of bookings were all done. And I packed, like I said before , I over packed and packed it all wrong. To be on the safe side I am sharing a helpful link which can help you create your own ideal list. http://www.outboundfamily.com/content/how-pack-camping-trip

four hours from Mumbai on the Mumbai Goa highway.  The camp is run by retired Col.Naval Kohli and his cousin is about 10yrs.

camp empower (1)
Morning Stretches.

The camp nestles between the mountain and the sea, and is totally created along army training grounds.

It was twenty women in a dorm, with very basic facilities but convenient and clean, though the bed sheets could do with a little less starch powder. The toilets were clean and hot water was available on request. It was back to the hostel environment twenty of us in a dormitory.

The morning began with tea under the banyan tree, instead of the usual tea at the balcony.

camp empower (3)
Simulated Rustic decor

The morning stretches followed that it was quite amusing at that moment we were self conscious at the childishness of it all, interestingly the whole day we were chanting the rhyme and in the pretext of miming the action we were stretching and exercising there was something so spontaneous and energizing about the whole thing.

Then came the key punch where we tested out our power of observations and coordination. We had to face our inability to come out of our comfort zone. the next activity was aimed at just that breaking our comfort zone.

We built a raft, and crossed the river picked up the flag and came right back. It was quite an experience. It helped us strategize, work as a team and risk management to a certain extent. We were given about 150 – 220 minutes to achieve it all.  we were of course supervised by experts.

camp empower (4)
our Dorm.

I am actually planning a family retreat out there if they do take in families the hall of participants only displayed corporate campers.

Col.Kohli spoke of kid’s camp where kids connected with the earth doing gardening rafting, swimming and other outbound activities. Collages made of artefacts collected on the terrain.