Thursday 14 September 2006

My experience in villages of nizamabad

I had a pleasure of touring nizamabad and surrounding areas on two days trip with Joseph Curiale(Joe) and also along with Asha for education volunteers from asha-honors chapter, Chennai, Raj Jebadurai(Jeba) and Dhana Lakshmi. People who doesn't know about Joe can read more about him at his website and also know about his passion to save and rebuild lives of families of the farmers, who had committed suicide because of their debts. There are some people who does help others due to their abrupt emotional spur for that moment or for ones own gratification and never bother to do follow up on the conditions of the people who they have helped or sustaining their efforts with the initial zeal for long, Unlike them, Joe wanted to meet the families who he had helped in the previous visit and know their condition. This is his 3rd visit, including this trip he is able to help 18 widows in form of either paying their debts completely or making fixed deposits in their names, so they get some form of relief from quarterly interest being paid or in some special cases he cleared both debts and also made fixed deposits. Other than this he gave Rs 5000 each to 25 widows and Rs 1000 to person who got paralyzed. With such visible monetary support and being Hollywood music composer many assume that he is rich but the fact is, he sold his belongings for supporting his passion to build other's lives and endured lot of hardship to raise funds. Moreover what makes important to note is, even being himself immersed in huge debt, he has worked 16 hrs each day for others, than helping himself.

Initially when Joe came to know about the farmers suicides through anjamma's video on CNN website, even though he decided to help, he didn't had any local contacts and at that moment CNN India's correspondent satish bindra introduced Madhu Yaskhi, who is the Member of Parliament from nizamabad constituency. Madhu's office is instrumental in providing Joe with local information, arranging meetings with widows, helping with opening of bank accounts and with fixed deposits but all Joe's good work is facilitated through madhu yaskhi's foundation. Therefore whenever there is occasion of meeting with widows or payment of debts or handing over of bank passbooks, these are mostly held in pompous ceremonies under madhu yaskhi's foundation in the MP's office or in local elected representative's offices or in other places in the presence of politicians and their associates. Sometimes it does give impression that these activities have to do more with the MP's foundation or with MP's party than with Joe. Sadly, event which Joe comprehends as a private event between himself and the family members is made into public event and robbing him of the joy of being with the families of the farmers, who he considers as his own and all to be part of one big family. More than this, In many cases Joe couldn't spend time or interact freely with the widows or their family members due to prevailing official atmosphere with the presence of party leaders and lots of people eager to get close to Joe and in circumstances like these which hinders widows to speak free of their mind. Despite all this, Joe has managed to spend some time in sharadha's house on her invitation and also in anjamma's house without any politicians or their associates presence.

When we arrived at Madhu's office in Nizamabad, Joe was very keen to know about the condition of widows who he helped previously, also wanted to know if anyone is bothered by money lenders and to make sure that everyone got their bank passbooks but after numerous conflicting explanations from madhu's PA in this regard, we were finally informed that none got their passbooks and to know the reason and status they scheduled our meeting with the bank manager. We were shocked to know that the interest on the principal will be released only at the time of maturity, that is after 5 years, instead of quarterly (as Joe intended in his previous visit) therefore they did not issue passbooks. On our request, manager had immediately changed necessary information in the documents and issued passbooks within 10 mins, perhaps one of the advantage of having MP on our side and charm of foreigner is to get the work done even after the bank hours(in the late night) i suppose :). We planned to handover these passbooks to widows personally by going to their villages next day. Local elected representatives of Madhu's party members doesn't want to miss this opportunity to put forth their political agenda ahead than this noble cause. Elected representatives of respective mandals were there in villages along with the madhu yaskhi foundation, when Joe was handing over passbooks. While i was explaining to family members in native tongue about fixed deposit and how and where they can get the interest for every three months, these leaders interrupted me and said same thing and in the end added that they should contact them, if they have any problem but the fact is, they didn't come to poor widows rescue in last 2 months, when they needed it most for getting their passbooks from the bank. Instead, person in madhu's office shouted on a widow and thrown her out of office for asking about the passbook in the past. All this political opportunism confuses people to understand Joe and his passion for the cause, for instance, at one such ceremony which was organized by brother of Andhra Pradesh State Minister, shabir ali (who was infact was very humble and down to earth. He also hosted lunch for us at the minister's residence) and MP's associates, there was this confused lady in parishad office with fixed deposit certificate issued by government and came to complain to Joe that she did not receive any amount.

Politician's attitude towards poor farmer's families clearly shows that we as a society haven't learned to respect people irrespective of their wealth or stature in the society, at times it is pathetic to see these leaders to order these poor people to touch Joe's feet and say namastay, as if they don't have their own brain to think regarding how they should express their gratitude, nevertheless these people would have expressed their appreciation in similar way but at their desire, than specifically for the photo op of MP's foundation. In Isaipeta village, people with different problems assumed that he is rich and pounced on him for assistance and employed all means to show that they are in more pitiful state than rest. I think people need to be explained that he is just one person with limited resources and he is just like them in debts but difference is, that he is enduring all hardships to assist others and see them happy. We need to show this compassion for the people who are in much more difficulties than themselves and help each other in time of need, Otherwise people will take it for granted about the help they are receiving and take it as their privilege. Anyway, Joe has big plans for Isaipeta and he wants to transform this village into model village and to begin with he is in consultations with Center for Sustainable Agriculture(CSA).

Joe had very good time in the orphanage and distributed gifts which he brought for them and also those gifts which were sent by the individuals from USA. Initially, i kept myself busy in taking pictures and talking to reporters but later when i observed the children they all are such well behaved and always smiling. They are so wonderful that everyone of us wanted to spend more time with them but sadly we had to go. In future, I wish to visit this orphanage with my kid sister and take something for those adorable kids.

Joe is very much aware of implications of being associated with politicians for such a cause and even though he considers Madhu and his wife suchi his good friends, he wants to do these activities not in the glare of politicians and at the same time he does want to maintain good relationship with his friends. When i spoke to sharadha & renuka and explained about things about Joe and what he likes most, they expressed their desire to interact with him and also invited him to their homes. Hopefully next time, Joe will get what he is looking from this extended family!

I have taken tons of pictures in this trip but i posted only few in my photo blog and i will post all of them once i update my service at flickr. Mean time when jeba uploads his pictures to website, i will provide that url here.