Bangalore Butterfly Club: A platform for butterfly lovers

 

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The Yellow Pansy

 

 In 2012 a species of butterfly, the Lilac Silverline, which was thought to have gone extinct, was rediscovered, after a gap of 120 years, near Hessaraghatta lake in Bengaluru. The discovery was made by Nitin Ravikanthachari, one of the founding members of the Bangalore Butterfly Club (BBC). Founded in 2012, the burgeoning club can be credited for not only rediscovering many species of butterflies but also creating a stronger awareness about the various kinds of butterflies of Karnataka. The club has come together to advocate for a stronger platform to educate and inform citizens about the importance of these beautiful insects and has also initiated the collection of quantitative information about butterflies in Bengaluru. From a team of four members, BBC today boasts of more than 400 members.

“BBC has 4 founder members – Ashok Sengupta, Haneesh KM, Nitin Ravikanthachari and me,” says Rohit Girotra.

 

Plain Tiger: Lalbagh
The Plain Tiger

 

Though the enthusiasts were in touch and would regularly trade information relating to butterflies, they never considered creating a team. Things took a turn when Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte of National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) moved to Bengaluru from Boston. “He mooted the idea of Citizen Science in the Butterfly domain and the important role it could play in a greater and a better understanding of butterflies in India. I met up with Dr. Kunte in February 2012, and he spoke passionately about butterflies and the importance of quantitative information. He motivated me to start collecting quantitative data whenever I was out in the field photographing butterflies. I started doing that from March 2012 onwards. Soon, Nitin joined me,” explains the 43-year-old.

With all this activity, a need for a cohesive platform to talk about and share information on butterflies of Karnataka was felt. Thus, shortly after this, Ashok started the BBC Facebook group and Nitin started the BBC WhatsApp group.

Activities undertaken:

Along with creating awareness about the butterflies of Karnataka, BBC also conducts field walks to educate members and new comers about butterflies, collect quantitative information about Butterflies in Bengaluru, and collaborate and participate with the forest department in conducting surveys, workshops, tree planting and other conservation related activities.

 

Blue Pansy : JP Nagar RF
The Blue Pansy

 

“BBC has fortnightly walks and counts at Doresanipalya Research Station Campus, Bangalore University, Hennur Forest, and Hessarghatta Lake,” says Rohit.  “The other butterfly hotspots include Camp Gee Dee (in Shivanahalli), Valley School grounds (on Kanakapura road), and Savandurga” he adds.

According to Rohit and the massive research undertaken by BBC, Bengaluru is home to more than 170 species of butterflies. “On a three-hour walk at any of the above-mentioned locations, one can easily see around 40-50 species of butterflies. This number varies depending on the seasons. Post-monsoon is usually a great time to see more number of species,” points out the Bannerghatta resident.

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The Crimson Rose 

“A Typical Butterfly walk starts at 9 am and closes at 12 noon and is attended by on an average, 10-15 people. We encourage people who want to learn more about butterflies to join these walks to interact with the experts and “see” the butterflies in nature. The walks are free of charge and all you need to bring along is your enthusiasm and an interest in observing butterflies. A pencil & notebook, if you like to take notes, and a camera if you are interested in photography,” says Rohit.

Interestingly, in the last four years, the members have added  14 new species Bengaluru’s butterfly repertoire. “The most significant was the rediscovery of the Lilac Silverline – Apharitis lilacinus, which was thought to have gone extinct and was re-discovered in 2012, after a gap of 120 years at Hessarghatta Lake bed by Nitin Ravikanthachari,” says Rohit.

To those who worry that depleting green cover in Bengaluru is affecting the city’s insect and bird population, Rohit has some good news. “On the whole, butterfly numbers in Bengaluru have remained healthy for the last four years. This is primarily due to the presence of green islands such as – Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, Doresanipalya Research station, Bangalore University, Bannerghatta NP, Savandurga etc,” he points out.

Bengaluru has quite a stable population of butterflies throughout the year. However, there is a drop in numbers in the summer months, says Rohit.

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The Team

“Just before the monsoon starts, we have a huge migration of butterflies from the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats; an amazing event that Bengaluru often witnesses. The best time for observing more number of species though, are the post-monsoon months of September, October, and November” explains Rohit.

Most of the members of this group contribute their photographs to the Butterflies of India (BOI a.k.a. IFB) initiative. This initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte and is a massive collaborative effort by butterfly enthusiasts from all over India, of creating a nation-wide, peer-reviewed database of butterfly images.

“The field of butterflies in India is going through nothing short of a revolution. This is being driven by Dr. Kunte, Dr. Kalesh and several other leading personalities. If you are interested in Butterflies, you couldn’t have chosen a better time,” says Rohit.

He adds, “What we need is more active participation from Bangalore citizens. With more number of people willing to take up more responsibilities, we can expand the scope of work being done. Please be a part of BBC, the fortnightly walks, and the associated activities.”

The article was first published in ichangemycity.com

Yoddhas: Coming together to fight against Cancer

IMAG0006“I clearly remember the time, it was 4 pm on August 23,” says Rahul Yadav. It would be hard for Rahul to forget the date. That day, the otherwise healthy IT professional was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare kind of blood cancer. The knowledge of the disease pushed him into depression, but then the 30-year-old is made of sterner stuff. He not only managed to pull himself out of the dark but also started Yoddhas, one of the first online support group for people suffering from Cancer. Two bone marrow transplants, and 15 Chemotherapies later, Rahul continues his fight against the disease, setting up an example for others to follow.

“I had a typical IT professional existence. I moved to Bengaluru from Delhi after marriage and joined HCL. I cycled almost five kilometres to work and also played Badminton in the evenings. I don’t smoke, was a social drinker, and tried to keep myself as fit as possible,” says Rahul. But all this changed in August of 2013.

Why me? :

“Suddenly I started having stomach aches. After suffering the pain for some days, I went to a local doctor who diagnosed the pain as an infection and gave me some medicines. In spite of the medicines, the pain refused to subside,” adds Rahul. Perturbed, he and his wife decided to opt for a second opinion. “We went to a hospital and were advised a blood test, the results of which revealed very low platelet count. The doctors said I have Dengue and was put on Dengue medications,” he adds.

Again, the diagnosis didn’t work. “In spite of numerous tests, and dengue medications, my health didn’t improve. Finally, a doctor suggested Cancer Biopsy test. Though skeptical, I agreed,” he says. The results showed Rahul had Multiple Myeloma.

“It felt like I was hit by a train,” says Rahul. “I was stunned and didn’t know what to do. I had no knowledge about the disease. My only reference points were cigarette packs with cancer signs on them or movies that showed people suffering from cancer eventually dying,” he adds. The fact that so many panic inducing articles were available on the net only compounded Rahul’s misery.

From depression to fighting back: 

Initial four months after diagnosis were extremely hard for Rahul. Along with being depressed and emotionally worn out, the chemotherapies started taking a toll on him. “It drained me completely. I had severe body pain and persistent hair loss. The situation constantly forced me to ask ‘Why me?”

But, he adds, “I realized there are two ways of looking at cancer. One is to understand that it is a chronic illness, and can be tackled at various stages of medicines and treatment. The second way is to give up at the first stage itself. I knew I didn’t want to do that,” says Rahul.

Rahul channelized all the anger he felt towards his disease into creating an online support group for people who were in a similar situation. “Information about my disease was hard to come by. Also, people in our country tend to shy away from talking about illnesses and this leads to the creation of misinformation that is quickly swallowed by vulnerable patients,” he adds.

edited_IMAG0414_20151028223021451To counter this problem, Rahul undertook intensive research and found that there existed many support groups abroad. “Through the internet I took part in these groups, actively sought out information, made friends with other patients, and exchanged experience and stories,” he says.

This experience, Rahul realized, helped him immensely. “I wanted to create a similar support structure in India as well and started Yoddhas.”

The online portal encourages people to come together and speak about their experiences and treatments. This not only enables dissemination of correct information but also alerts patients against wrong information. “When proper information is not available, patients tend to hold on to whatever is thrown their way. They are extremely vulnerable, and would believe anything that promises to alleviate their misery. Yoddhas makes sure misinformation is sieved out,” he adds.

Rahul and his team make sure all information is vetted by them. “Some months back there was a rumour doing the rounds that a hospital in Chennai has managed to create a treatment that will cure cancer completely. We did our investigation and found out that this was a hoax. Similarly, a lot of people point out those homemade remedies can go a long way in curing cancer. We analyse these remedies, consult with doctors and only then publish them on FB page,” he says.

“We have close to 8300 people on our Facebook page, and support more than 4,000 people. We have our users speak about their tryst with chemotherapies, and how some manage to successful fight Cancer. Stories like these give confidence and strength to others who are yet to win the battle,” he adds.

“It is important for people to come out and speak about their experiences, and know that they are not alone,” says this Changemaker.

Let’s Feed Bengaluru: Preparing an extra meal for those in need

11998955_10154071413125909_6035573032773362501_nUnflattering scenes that symbolize the deep chasm between the haves and have-nots in a society are often found lining the streets in the form of the homeless and hungry. More often than not, the sights invoke no response from anyone. Then there are those groups of active citizens who just refuse to turn a blind eye. ‘Let’s Feed Bengaluru’ was formed by a similar group of concerned citizens who wanted to make a difference. The city-based initiative encourages residents to cook an extra meal and distribute the same among those in need.

“LFB is a group of ‘food buddies’ who love to share the joy by helping the underprivileged kids and elderly citizens with homemade food. We are regular people living normal lives, making a living, there is nothing special about us but there is something very special about this medium that is helping the underprivileged in the little ways. Our tagline, in a way, represents our initiative the best: ‘Homemade. With Love’.  There’s more to this initiative than just “food”. It’s also about providing a platform to the citizens of Bangalore to embrace humanity, share the love and spread smiles,” says Harshil Mittal, the founder of LFB. He adds, “The motivating principle behind this concept is: one doesn’t need money to help people. The idea is to make more people believe that humanity can never die. Someone in someplace at some time is making something special possible!”

So how does the initiative work? “Anyone interested simply needs to fill the volunteer form or join our Facebook group for event updates. On the day of the event, they just need to cook extra meals and pack them for the team who will collect it from their doorsteps. The packaging material is provided by eatfresh.in and is available to the donors for free. The idea is to collect freshly prepared food from houses and distribute it to the less privileged kids and aged people who are homeless or residing in slums/orphanages/old age homes etc. The volunteers bring the food to a common point and the food is then taken to the distribution area for serving the people,” explains the Bannerghatta resident.

The team has conducted drives in the slum areas of Kundanahalli and Jayanagar and wishes to expand to as many places as possible.  “We have managed to reach out to approximately 2,700 people over the last four drives. Going forward, we want to serve 10,000 people in the next few months. We are completely focused on this target and plan to go even beyond,” says Harshil.

12376752_1084810424896971_2207153955191418736_nThe group has 350 registered volunteers, with more joining in occasionally. “On Valentine’s Day, we had more than 60 volunteers chipping in. With their help, we distributed 500 balloons, 700 meal packets, 700 chocolates and around 100 cakes to the kids and elderly people in slums of Tilaknagar and Kundanahalli,” he says.  The biggest reward, he points out, is the endless string of smiles the team gets from thousands of faces.

“Our next event is on March 20, where we will be serving food to more than 1,000 needy kids and elderly people,” adds the 23-year-old.

Challenges and reception: 

Harshil points out that the reception he got after pitching the idea to the members of his housing society was motivating. “They were extremely moved with this simple yet effective method of reaching out to the needy. We have a zero-money policy and don’t take or give money. Simple, because whenever money is involved people doubt the intention. Instead, if a person simply gives a portion of what is being cooked for the family, it takes out that element of doubt from their mind,” he adds.

However, in spite of the noble idea, the team had to face its fair deal of challenges.  One of the challenges was to strike a balance between their grueling work schedules while maintaining the initiative. “We decided to make time for this once, and the experience was enough to motivate us to make this into a habit.  It’s almost an inexpressible feeling to see little kids wait for a packet of food with so much heart. This opportunity enabled us to understand and appreciate the value of food that we all get so easily on our plates every day. This initiative has not only helped underprivileged people but also bought a huge transformation in our lives,” he points out.

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Another challenge involved timely intervention to ensure things get done. “Since we run on a ‘more efforts, no money’ concept, it becomes challenging to get all the things in place within the stipulated amount of time. To our rescue is the always active WhatsApp group which is our primary mode of communication for exchanging ideas and thoughts among all the members of the group,” he explains.

LFB’s future plans include increasing the number of people in the team, and reaching out to more people. “Through this medium, we also get to look into the lives of the needy a little more closely than we normally would. That helps us expand our activities of creating more awareness. We would also like to move into the field of education to help those in need,” says the changemaker.

The story was first published on IChangeMyCity by the author. 

After losing daughter to road accident, couple fights for safer roads

11392896_1444296119205778_7908328958299619233_nGrief typically unfolds through five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance but for Dr Shubhangi Tambwekar and Sanjay Tambwekar, there is a sixth stage; resilience. The Bangalore-based couple lost their daughter in a tragic accident on September 9, 2014. Amidst the grief and pain, the couple made a decision to try and keep the memory of their daughter alive by creating the Arundhati Foundation. The Foundation creates awareness around the importance of road safety and also aspires to influence policies that will make roads safer for every Indian.

The Tambwekars lost their daughter, Arundhati, when the bike she was riding pillion on, encountered a pothole. In spite of wearing a helmet, Arundhati fell victim to terrible roads. “She was a bright and meritorious student and was pursuing Post Graduate Diploma in Pathology in Christian Medical College, Vellore when the accident happened,” says Shubhangi. The 23- year-old’s death led to the creation of the foundation that among other things, tries to spread awareness about road safety.

“Through this programme, Vikram, we are trying to initiate better road safety practices and influence policies that will make roads safer for all,” says this Cambridge road resident.

12239637_1495216104113779_6260811364548740461_nThe Foundation visits various schools, with age-sensitive material to instill in the young minds the importance of road safety and the repercussions of lax attitudes. “Our lectures and reading materials are age appropriate. From first to the fourth standard, our talks comprise cartoons and pictures that appeal to our younger audience. On another hand, from the fifth standard to 10th standard, we introduce statistics to the students. This helps them understand how grim the picture really is,” Shubhangi points out.

The sessions are also held in offices and corporates. “The target audience in these sessions is usually the young professionals aged between 23 and 27. Their first vehicle, more often than not, ends up being a motorcycle, and through our sessions we encourage them to be responsible riders and to follow safety rules,” she adds.

Shubhangi points out that more than the kids, adults need to be responsible. “I see young teenagers who have not yet reached legal age for driving any two-wheeler, riding scooters, with their parents sitting behind them. How can they even allow that? What are we teaching our kids about safety? And, then there are those who see nothing wrong in drinking and driving or doing wheelies on a busy road. This careless attitude hurts me. I do not want anyone else to go through what we are going through,” adds the 51-year-old. “I see well-educated people in cars talking on their cell phones while driving. Aren’t they aware of the dangers involved? Are we too optimistic that we think nothing will harm us, or are we simply foolish?” she asks. 

The couple also joined forces with other non-profit organisations, like Save Life Foundation. “We help them with support, getting signatures for campaigns, making suggestions to incorporate changes to traffic rules, among others. We also work with the Bangalore Traffic Police by suggesting some changes, like initiating signaling during peak hours at KR Puram, etc,” she adds.   

When not preparing for lectures or safety sessions, the couple undertakes other voluntary work that ensures that roads are safe for the residents in their neighbourhood. “We have almost adopted Cambridge Road. The road had huge potholes, and garbage was dumped on the road, leaving very little place for commuters and pedestrians to maneuver their way out. We installed  ‘Tere bins ‘ and encourage residents and shopkeepers to use the bins. We also purchased a cold mix material and used it to fill the potholes, so that mishaps can be avoided,” she says.

“After every session, we cite the example of our tragedy. It is painful, but it gives tragedy a face and makes it more relatable for our audience. We  sincerely hope that no other parents have to undergo the pain of losing a child to a largely preventable catastrophe, like we did. And, we also hope to make a discernible difference,” adds the changemaker.

The story was first published here

The breakdown

Introvert speaks

How do people handle breakdowns? Is there a normal way to handle it? Is it different for different people?

I don’t know how to handle a breakdown and yes I have had breakdowns, till date some 4-5 of them. The recent one was a little too much, and it drains you out. I felt incredibly lonely at some point in time in my life. The times where you want to scream and yell and call for help. I do not know what any help could have done to me. I cried for more than 3 hours. The more you stop, the more it comes out.

The worst part is when your mind starts throwing even more images of all the times when you were down when you were all alone when you said I can handle it. Memories that you had deleted cause it caused a lot of pain. Everything…

View original post 410 more words

Feed Your Neighbour: Changing lives with five extra meals

12003167_10153706757312755_8361606000741181493_n“Do you want a politically correct answer or a brutally honest one,” laughs 34-year-old Mahita Fernandez when asked about why she started Feed Your Neighbour (FYN). Mahita’s unique initiative aims to feed close to 10 lakh underprivileged citizens for ten days during the period of Dusshera starting from October 12 to 22. The initiative encourages people to cook five extra meals and drop them off at 18 distribution points selected by Mahita and her team. These packets are then picked by volunteers who will deliver them to various slums, the homeless, and in homes for the destitute.

10931324_10153084015942755_5428488024769704589_n“One early morning, at about 3 am, I woke up feeling famished. My stomach was grumbling, and I had absolutely nothing to eat at home. I started cribbing, and then I realized how insensitive and ungrateful I was being. There are people who don’t have a roof over their heads or go to bed hungry every night! And, here I was complaining about not having something to eat for a night,” says Mahita. That thought prompted Mahita to initiate a project that would make the lives of many brighter for at least ten festive days.

12106703_10207105771777966_1976057300087332483_n “Feed My Neighbour is a very simple initiative. It entails citizens cooking five extra meals like Pulav, Bisibele Bath, Lemon rice, and other unfussy dishes of rice, and dropping them off at various distribution points that are spread across the city,” explains Mahita who runs a children’s gaming centre. Mahita and her team of volunteers have identified 18 such centres that are at a reasonable distance of three kilometres from most neighbourhoods. “The packages should be dropped off by 7 pm at the centres, and they are then distributed by our volunteers to various slums and homes,” she adds.

Since going live, the initiative has garnered the support of almost 1,000 volunteers. On October 12, the first day of the project, FYN fed more than 4,500 people.

There are four ways to help, points out Mahita. “The first and the most preferred method is cooking five extra meals. We want to encourage the idea that cooking extra meals is not that difficult and also enhances the idea of community building,” she says.

12106790_10152997977637504_1007471870244701774_nThe second method includes contributing with provisions to Mahita who runs a centralized kitchen from her Langford Road residence. “We send out almost 2,000 food packets every day from this kitchen. Provisions in terms of rice, vegetables, oil, and the like can also be contributed,” she adds. “Those unable to cook or volunteer can also contribute to the project by donating money. We have opened a bank account for this purpose. The money will be used to foot transportation costs. Finally, the fourth way to help out is by volunteering from 6:30 till 8 pm. Volunteers are the backbone of this project,” Mahita points out.

She added that this project has seen volunteers coming from all walks of life. “My youngest volunteer is only four years old! She helps me put provisions in order, and also with packing the food. When some maids heard about this project in Shanthinagar, they promptly volunteered to cook extra food for us. The project has been backed and encouraged by many prominent Bengalureans. We have also had college students and teenagers helping us out with the distribution of food packs. This outpouring of support is extremely humbling and moving,” she adds.

12118960_10153736040066719_2082667743965451738_nThe research behind the idea started on September 24. “We identified slums, homes for destitute, orphanages, and the like. Some orphanages had a strict policy with regard to accepting outside food, so we thought of helping them out with provisions, so they could cook adhering to their dietary guidelines.”

Though the initiative is only ten days long, Mahita is hoping that it leads to something more sustainable. “We are thankful to everyone who has helped out. But mostly I am grateful to those to whom we deliver these packets, for giving me an opportunity to help them out in whatever way possible,” says this changemaker.

Mapping the Ashwath Katte: Reviving ‘community spaces’ in the city

Trees, especially Banyan and Peepal, were important cultural spaces that used to act as a glue for a community. In a bid to revive the cultural significance of these trees, Bangalore tree festival, Neralu’s second edition saw the initiation of a project that tries to blend trees and public places into a cohesive unit which will enable stronger community building and participation. The project, Mapping of Ashwath Katte (Peepal trees) encourages citizens to take pictures of Peepal trees in their neighbourhoods and upload it with a description on their site.
Woman doing the Pradakshina around the Peepul tree at Mariamma shrine in Dodda MavalliSpeaking about the project Kiran Keswani, volunteer with Neralu and one of the founders of the project says,“The focus at Neralu this year was on Trees & Public spaces – including Ashwath Kattes, neighbourhood parks and streets. Alongside that, MapUnity developed an online platform – Mapping the Ashwath Katte. In several neighbourhoods in the city, the Peepal tree (Ashvattha in Sanskrit literature) has a stone or brick platform, locally called a Katte built around it for pradakshina or circumambulation. Through this citizen mapping platform, people can upload the location of their neighbourhood Kattes, with photographs and a story.”
Asserting the need for such an initiative, the Bannerghatta resident adds, “We realised that while the administrators imagine a city that meets global standards of urban form and infrastructure, at the neighbourhood level, people continue to pray at these local tree shrines making the spaces around them into places of memory and cultural value. This mapping platform is a way to uncover yet another layer of the city – that tells us about its trees, its culture and its public spaces.“

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On the other hand, Anush Shetty, a volunteer with Neralu, points out that building a narrative around trees like this enables citizens to have a better understanding of the city’s flora and fauna. “We are hoping that as people come together to share their memories of their neighbourhood kattes, we can find answers to questions such as: Can anyone start/build a katte? What comes first – a temple or a Katte? Was the Katte always a religious space or sometimes also a social space? Were Ashwath Kattes supported by formal public institutions such as temple trusts or were they initiated by informal social groups in the neighbourhood? How did Kattes and their usage change over time? What was the kind of social control that ensured the continuity of the Katte?” he adds.

The project was ideated during Neralu 2015, in January this year. “It was a collaborative effort between the Neralu team members and MapUnity. We interacted with Sapana Rawat and Surekha Sastry at MapUnity who developed the mapping platform with great enthusiasm wanting this to be their contribution to Neralu this year,” says Kiran.

Making it work:

The Peepal tree was chosen for this project, keeping the cultural significance of the tree in mind. Kiran explains, “In the Matsya Purana, it is said about the Peepal tree that ‘planting just one tree, people can obtain all their desires, liberate their ancestors and achieve heaven’. People do the pradakshina around this tree because it is believed that its roots are Brahma, its trunk is Vishnu and the upper part of the tree is Shiva. They also worship the tree to dispel the negative effects of the planets.”

On Ashwath Katte road at VV puramKiran in Nov 2014, had also presented a paper on ‘The Practice of Tree worship and the Territorial Production of Urban space in an Indian neighbourhood’ at the Asia Research Institute, NUS, Singapore that looked at how the Ashwath Katte becomes an anchor for community spaces in the city.

So how does the initiative work?  Log onto the website (http://neralu.in/kattemap/), fill in the necessary personal details, and then attach a picture of the tree along with its story. “For example, you can name a Katte based on the temple it is attached to or based on the neighbourhood it is situated in e.g. Mariamma temple Katte or Bannerghatta road Katte. The About/Story can just be a visual description of the Katte or a conversation with a resident of the neighbourhood or the history of the Katte,” explains Kiran, a Bannerghatta Road resident.

Aiding eco-conservation:

The team strongly feels that initiatives similar to these play an important role in eco-conservation. “Conservation is only possible when people are aware of their city and its surroundings, of which ecology is an important aspect. Unravelling historical and cultural importance of spaces like Ashwath Kattes will let people understand how these practices are of ecological significance as well,” says Anush.

He points out that when people who worship Kattes and others who reside in the city come together and make an effort to understand them, it will bring in a sense of ownership of these community spaces and their value within a neighbourhood unit.

The project also urges citizens to go local and operates on the thought that localised initiatives are important for the furthering of the cause of better cities. “We need more people to come forward and engage with their own localities. Most of us think that urban issues of conservation can be handled at town/city level by the administrative authorities. But what we really need are self-sustaining ward and locality level initiatives which can mobilize the residents towards meaningful action,” points out Kiran, who is pursuing her PhD in Urban design at the School of Architecture & Planning, CEPT University, Ahmedabad.

Anush adds, “Whether it is trees or garbage, we need to get as local as possible with our actions. As regards trees, one could begin with taking regular walks in one’s locality and see if the avenue trees are in good health. Today, old trees are being cut for reasons such as convenience of parking, visibility for a shop or even leaf litter. There is a dire need for direct engagement on the ground.”

Mission 5: Making a difference with only Rs 5

Why are they roaming around like this, shouldn’t they be in school? This seemingly innocuous question about children living in a nearby slum led trio, Vijaya Chandrakant Nagpure, Shailesh Kumar and Ashok Saha to start Mission 5. This unique project was started in 2007 to stem the lack of education among slum children in TC Palya. The team successfully managed to achieve that ambition and went on to ably support two orphanages, and one elderly home, with a simple donation of Rs 5.

‘3 help 1’ project:

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Mission 5’s first project started with a modest desire; educating slum children. “In 2007 we were studying in Garden City College, there was a Government school in the neighbourhood, but it was so badly managed that children rarely went there,” says Vijaya who originally hails from Pune.

Vijaya and her friends decided to help the children out. “There were two other schools nearby, we approached them and requested them to admit the children in their schools. Though helpful they were not in a condition to provide free education. However, they promised to enroll them for discounted fees, and also provided them with free books,” adds Vijaya.

To make sure funds were arranged; Vijaya and her friends spread the word in their college, urging other students to help out with sponsorships. “We wanted our college mates, and students from other colleges as well to pool in with money. But we had to make sure our project did not eat into their meagre financial reserves. We then decided to ask three students to come together to sponsor the education of one child,” explains the 27-year-old. Thus, ‘3 Help 1’ project was born.

College students were requested to pay Rs 50 per month. “For one kid, Rs 150 was collected from three college students, and that helped pay their fees for 10 months of Rs 1,500,” says Vijaya.

Today, with the help of ‘3 help 1’ Mission 5 is sponsoring the education of 32 children.

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The success of this project, and the willingness of other college students to help out prompted the team to begin other similar activities like supporting orphanages and old age homes by providing them food, medicines and other basic needs. To raise awareness on ecological issues, they also conduct various environmental conservation programmes like tree plantation, making and circulation paper bags, and screening documentaries.

The organization is five years old now. The initiative was started in Garden City College, but later on inspired students of SFS College, Central College, Kristu Jyanti College, among others.  Interestingly, to ensure that these activities do not become a victim of lack of funds, they collect Rs 5 from willing students in colleges for five days, which in turn helps them fund their activities.

Project Gharonda:

After five years of actively participating in educating children from slums, Mission 5 recently completed their most ambitious project; renovating an old, dilapidated orphanage. “The orphanage, located in Parvathinagar village off Old Madras Road, didn’t have proper shelter or toilet facilities. Imagine the condition of the kids staying there,” says Vijaya.

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Mission 5 volunteers decided to redo the orphanage from the scratch. “We appealed to Bengalureans to come forward and help us, and we were so touched with the overwhelming response. Many contributed financially while others contributed with building materials like sand, cement, concrete, iron rods, paint, and window panes,” says Vijaya.

The volunteers, mainly youth from various colleges, worked with labourers in the field. “They lifted bricks, constructed walls, painted them. They, along with workers, completely rebuild the orphanage,” says a beaming Vijaya.

The group also supports an old age home, Sree Shiridi Sari Vrudhashram, and Home for Mentally Retarded at Kithigannur. “We donate 200 kg rice every month with other essentials. We also spend time with them and make them realize that they are not alone,” says Vijaya.

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“We believe that the youth is a great force in bringing about a change in society and that they could inspire others to help the disabled and the deprived,” she adds. There are around 40 active members in the Mission 5.

Vijaya strongly believes that “Poverty exists because we let it exist. A suffering child is a blot on our conscience. Let us pledge to give the little that we can to return their childhood to these poor children. Let us help them become dignified human beings they deserve to be.”

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Meet the Iron Man of Bengaluru

The distance between Banashankari and Ecospace, Bellandur is roughly about 18 kilometres. An average motorist would take about 45 minutes to cover the distance, but not Benedict Jebakumar. This 41-year-old takes close to an hour, sometimes more, not because he tackles the distance on a cycle, but his journey is sprinkled with frequent intervals that involve collecting nails strewn across the stretch, and making the road safer for fellow motorists.

1491543_498236000329325_1430877631423124819_oMeet the Iron Man of Bengaluru. Every morning and evening, this Banashankari resident painstakingly picks nails he finds on the road, documents his collection and posts it on his Facebook page, My Road My Responsibility, in a bid to make both commuters and authorities aware of the consistent nail menace on that route.

“I shifted to Bengaluru in November 2011, and started using this stretch to commute to work from 2012. Initially I would notice nails on the street, but I wouldn’t pay much attention to them. Slowly I began to observe that the number of nails and the frequency with which it appeared on the road had increased. I decided to start removing them. Initially I would discard them away after posting some pictures on Facebook,” says Jebakumar, a Systems Engineer with an IT firm.

Since 2014, Jebakumar started documenting the collection. Till date, he has collected about six kilograms of nails. “It is not the number that is the worrying factor but the damages that these nails can cause,” says Jebakumar who hails from a small town in Tamil Nadu.

The changemaker realised that just posting pics in various forums is not enough, and more needs to be done. “I decided to document the nails I collect. I attached a small magnet to the end of a fishing road, and this helped me collect a number of nails at one go,” he explains.

To increase awareness about the menace he created a Facebook page, My Road My Responsibility. “Every day I would put pictures of the nails collected. My constant posting of pics caught authorities’ attention and soon couple of people were arrested,” he points out. Interrogation by the police revealed that the two culprits were employed in the nearby puncture shops, and they deliberately threw the nails in a bid to increase their business.

11222204_497541547065437_8090930547161195117_oIn spite of his hard work, Jebakumar finds the lack of concrete results demotivating. “The arrests were made more than a year ago, the menace, albeit reduced, still haunts that stretch. I wonder when the authorities will clear it completely,” says the aggrieved citizen.

However, he adds that he is extremely grateful to his friend, J Srinivasan, who keeps motivating him. “He encourages me to continue with my work. He tells me that I should stop only when the miscreants stop. His constant support and the various messages I get on my Facebook page push me to continue,” he says.

Jebakumar is clear on the delineation of duty. He is not going to investigate the reason behind the presence of these nails. “That is not for me to do. Investigation is the work of the authorities. I am cleaning the route so that other citizens don’t fall prey to them,” says Jebakaumar who jokingly pointed out that his hobby has been cause of great anxiety to his wife.

He is happy with the response he is getting from other commuters. “Many people have started similar collection drives in their areas, and many Bengalureans inform me about similar incidents occurring in other areas as well. The awareness about these incidents is increasing. That is a very good sign,” he adds.

“Now, let us hope the authorities take note,” says this active citizen.