Categories
All stereotypes

Is Chennai the most stereotyped city in India? You will love this video!

I was commissioned by Chargebee to create a video that could help shatter some of the stereotypes about Chennai. The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. Hope you like what we came up with!

Do remember that many of the participants in this video are from Chennai. Also, for the first few minutes, they are just guessing what Google suggests, and not sharing their own opinion.

Visit https://chennaibeyondstereotypes.com/yt3ms to share your views on Chennai as a city to work in.

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The year was 2007. Wow, 11 years already! A semester before graduating from IIT Madras, I got placed in PwC, along with many of my class-mates. PwC had (and still has) offices across India. We were asked to share our city of choice with the HR. Almost nobody opted for Chennai. I don’t remember my options now, but it was probably Mumbai. Others asked for Delhi and Hyderabad and Bangalore. But guess what, I and another friend actually got Chennai. There was nothing much we could do about it.

We easily found a flat in T. Nagar without a broker. We loved T. Nagar because there were lot of party places nearby (and the office in Nungambakkam was not too far). Chennai suddenly felt alright. 😀 I had my friends outside of campus and suddenly there was no need to say good bye to them. I had a theatre scene going on (I was acting and all that) and the office was chill. It was a pleasure to not get my hair cut at the boring IIT salon anymore! 🙂

But then, in like less than 2 months, I got a project that took me for a year to Bhubaneswar and eventually I never got to return to Chennai for work. I never thought much about it. Over the last ten years, I have been visiting the city regularly – my work takes me there quite often, and because of my background with Chennai, I never thought much about these stereotypes. So making this video, was very interesting for me. And I totally understand why someone in Delhi or Mumbai would feel ok to move to Bangalore but think 100 times before moving to Chennai – most of it, is in the head for sure! 🙂 Except the heat! 😀 CHENNAI IS HOT!

Categories
All Education Organization Schools Social

This is how India is moving away from rote learning! Awesome!

FSG India recently commissioned me to make a video-story on one of their amazing programs that is enabling a nation-wide sustainable transformation of affordable private schools (the lower rung schools in cities where low-income households send their children to). I travelled to Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai for this story, where I interviewed school owners and principals, children (who study in such schools) and their parents and several private players in the early childhood education sector, who for some reason or other, had hitherto never considered selling their innovative teaching modules to such schools, but are doing so now!

India truly needs such initiatives. I am excited that I get to witness such efforts first hand. If you liked this one, you should also watch the story that I created for The Education Alliance earlier – about a similar transformation, but applicable for Municipal schools of Delhi.

Categories
All Initiative NGO Rural India Social

Can poverty be solved by giving 1 lakh cash to poor families?

CashRelief.org, a non-profit, hired me recently to help them bring out the story of why they started this crazy program to offer close to 1 lakh rupees to all families in a village, unconditionally. I have tried to show what the typical perception of most urban Indians is, when it comes to using cash to help poor and why the co-founders of CashRelief don’t necessarily agree with the predominant narrative. This video-story would help them in raising funds for expanding this pilot in different parts of India. I also created a behind the scenes video from the few days that I spent in the village in Rajasthan, where the pilot has been rolled out!

This was a pretty stimulating experience for me. When I first heard of the program, I was both excited (because something like this was never done in India before) and skeptical – how will something like this ever work? In fact, it was my idea that I should meet some of the funders of this program to ask them why they agreed to be a part of this? And that day of meetings with many of them, did make it easy for me to understand their thought process and why this experiment deserves a fair chance! That’s pretty much what this story is about. What do you think?

Rajasthan, India. 2018. It was a struggle to get this picture right. I am glad I got it right. Ambalal and family are trying to finish their house. There is a flash hidden on the left side (of the photograph) and there is natural light coming from the right. Let me explain why it was challenging to make this photograph. It was a hot day today. This is a small village in Rajasthan. It was so hot that my flash (Godox AD360ii) started acting absurdly and would fire only once in a while. Now I pretty much knew I wanted a picture of the family right here, but without flash this picture wouldn’t look as good as it looks right now. When the flash would fire, the expressions wouldn’t come great and when the expressions were great, the flash wouldn’t fire. But I kept at it, and kept the family smiling to the extent that I could (kids lost interest in my jokes pretty soon). Finally, I got this. And I showed it to them the moment I got it, because I knew I had gotten my shot. Why was I so keen on having the family smile? Because I know they are genuinely happy for the fact that they very recently received a gift of INR 96,000/- from CashRelief.org – a first of its kind initiative in India that selects a poor Indian village and grants this much money to each family in the village with no strings attached / no conditions imposed. The money has been pooled together from various rich donors. This village is the first pilot and I am documenting the story as a film-maker. The whole photography thing, is just a side thing. I do have something interesting in mind, for some of these pictures though! 🙂 Ambalal and his family put most of the money they were gifted to finish this house that had been under construction for over two years now. It is very difficult for the poor to save / raise enough money to build a ‘pakka’ house. From what I have observed in this village of 34 people so far is, those who have started building a house, are using the money to finish it. Those who have a house, but no animals, buy cattle. Those who have cattle, buy other stuff from a motorcycle (to ease their commute) to a fridge in a small shop.

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This is Hiralal, and his wife. They are blushing because I asked them to imagine themselves as newlywed. 34 families live in the village where Hiralal lives. Most of them own farming land but are able to produce only enough to consume themselves. There is little money to be made / saved. When there is no farming work to do, all the villagers go for daily wage which fetches them between 200 to 300 rupees per day. On an average, the monetary wealth they can create in a year is about 50,000 rupees. But how does it matter? Every villager wants to have a safer, better house that doesn’t collapse in rain. And a house like that costs anywhere between 1 to 2 lakh if not higher. So it takes villagers like Hiralal five to six years to build a decent house, that could have been built in six months. The house you see behind them is that house, btw. Eventually everyone takes loan from somewhere or other, mostly at absurdly high interest rates (upto 10% per month) and live a poor life, all their lives. As part of new program initiated by a private entity (cashrelief dot org), close to 1 lakh rupees was given to Hiralal and each family in the village – all the 34 of them – to see what they do with that money if there are no strings attached and no conditions imposed. Hiralal already had a decent house, so he bought a buffalo. He still has 70k left. He says, the first priority now is to make a shed for the animal. And then the two of them will figure out what next to do with the money. He really wants to figure out how to double the amount that he has received. Many others used significant portion of the money to pay off their extremely costly debts. Others put that in finishing their house (thus freeing up productive man-years for the family). It’s been less than a month that this money was transferred to the families. #documentary #story #stories #rajasthan #ruralindia #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #3ms #3minutestories #couple #strobe #ruralcouple #bharat #cashforrelief #ruralstories

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Categories
Africa Green energy Organization Personal life

Grannies of Kenya

I was commissioned by Greenlight Planet to travel to Kenya and shoot some stories on how their solar lamps (Sun King) have been transforming lives in rural Africa. This is one of the stories that I created. I have kept it more about the subjects and less about the ‘product’. Hope you like it! The video shows you a glimpse of the life of grannies living in coastal parts of rural Kenya. They travel long distances to buy fish every day, then prepare cooked fish and sell it in the evening for some money. Their problem (among many others)? No light during the evening to conduct business. But with access to solar energy, that has now been taken care of, and things are gradually changing for the rural populace!

Categories
All Education Initiative Startups Woman-power

Watch these mothers change India’s reading culture! Brilliant!

Getting children to love reading books (not talking about textbooks here) in this digital age is difficult. But it’s important. Devaki started solving this problem for her own children few years ago, and today manages a network of 60 mothers, spread across the country, who have been trained (by her) to use the power of storytelling and other activities to lure children to get hooked to reading books! And it’s working! This is that story. This is LRN‘s story.

PS: I was commissioned to shoot this story!

PS: Here’s a link to others stories that I have done, around education.

Categories
All Education Schools Startups

How to choose the right career for you?

This is the story of how a 7 year old startup is changing the way students decide to choose their careers. Although I was commissioned to make this story, believe me when I say this – had I access to something like this when I was growing up, I would have made better career choices in life! 🙂 Share it with especially those in class IX to XII.

Categories
All Disability Education Innovation Schools Startups

Speech impairment doesn’t mean they’ve nothing to say!

Millions of children in India suffer from speech impairment, resulting from various conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome etc. But there are only a handful of speech therapists in India that can help these children (unlike say USA). A bunch of Indian geeks are finally using technology to address the problem and it’s beautiful to see the impact – how when you give the tools to communicate to these children, they can express a lot!

Categories
All Health & Wellness Inspiring NGO Organization Rural India Social

It’s fascinating what it takes to save lives of the poorest!

Over 150 of 1,000 infants and over 300 of 1,000 under five children were dying in the remote tribal villages of Kalahandi district in Orissa (India) when Dr. Aquinas started Swasthya Swaraj in 2013. To put the above numbers in context, the infant mortality rate is in single digit for most developed countries and the average for India is around 30 deaths per 1000 children. Four years of work by Swasthya Swaraj has brought down the rate to around 100 in the villages (where it serves). This is the story of how that happened – what does it take to save lives of the poorest?

Categories
Education Initiative Inspiring NGO Organization Social Woman-power

And you thought free schools for slum kids was enough!


Many slum children who manage to go to schools, don’t enjoy their school life. The environment outside school does not encourage them to do anything productive and most just waste away their time. Some pick up bad habits, other pick up fights. Kamya solves this problem. This is her story.

My Perch is a space that I run in the Barola slum in Noida. Children come over, generally after school hours and spend as much time as they feel like, just being themselves and doing whatever they feel like doing, without the fear of being judged”, Kamya had said.

I was on my way to the place, expecting to find a dilapidated space in the middle of a filthy slum surrounded by broken houses next to unpaved roads.

The location was none of that. ‘My Perch’ was essentially the basement of a typical NCR building, right on a main road. I would discover soon that the slum from where most kids came over to this space, was not far behind the main road.

 

Let me tell you what typically does not happen in most schools and definitely not in the types where most underprivileged children manage to go.

Nobody asks them “so what would you like to learn”? Few months ago, when the children were asked this question at ‘My Perch’ – some said they wanted to know how to cook healthy food. Just reading about the dangers of the kind of food that they ate outside was not enough for them. So, cooking materials were put together and soon, with the help of Youtube, the children started learning and cooking, teaching each other in the process, and even selling the ‘healthy’ cooked food for nominal prices to those who wished to eat it.

 

I was commissioned by India Fellow to make this 3MS on Kamya and other fellows, who are bringing in a change in society in their own ways. India Fellow is a 13 month long social leadership program where young Indians can apply, and if chosen, get to experience what working on ground for various non-profits and social enterprises across India is. Visit their website to know more about the fellowship and to apply.

Categories
All Initiative Organization Rural India Social

What two brothers in Punjab are doing for farmers is way better than charity!

Charity can never solve the huge issues that farmers of our country face. So what are the some of the better ways to improve their lives? This is what this video-story is about. By the way, this is the first 3MS that I shot but did not edit. 🙂 It was edited by a different team sitting in Amsterdam – a team at Zoomin.TV. I stumbled upon a story on the brothers online and pitched the idea to Zoomin – a dutch media house curating stories from across the globe on various topics; “local heroes” being one of them. The story got a go ahead, I contacted the brothers and soon travelled to Kapurthala to meet them.

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#ffffff” text=”#52548d” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”Although most farmers in India operate in a high risk setup, the return is not high enough.” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

Pawiter and Harjap are cousin brothers and belong to well-to-do farming families. They don’t have money issues themselves but they have seen first hand how smaller farmers don’t have it easy. Although most farmers in India operate in a high risk setup, the return is not high enough. Small farmers have a poor negotiating advantage when it comes to selling their produce; the mandi guys dictate the price and the farmer doesn’t have much option (can’t store, can’t take back the produce and has very little knowledge of where else he can sell). The middlemen at the mandi easily sell the same stuff for 75% to 100% higher rates to the end buyers. And the brothers see this as an issue.

Harjap did farming himself for a while and hated this lack of control that farmers had (on deciding the price). Farmerfriend, their website and app addresses this problem. They have been putting together buyers and farmers on one platform (for free) so that farmers don’t have to depend totally on the middlemen – and can directly strike deals with bulk or retails buyers in nearby urban areas. Using this site, they can now sell for higher price and at the same time, for the buyer, the overall cost is lesser (compared to procuring from middlemen). The journey for these brothers has just begun. They will have to raise a lot of money if they want to spread this across India (a lot of groundwork is required to go meet and convince the farmers). But they are confident they will figure out a way to scale this up. Farmers across India, need such platforms. Like, right away!