Thursday, October 25, 2007

10 days to 100 miles.

So, here it is - the culmination of a long tiring season. We have been training through the summer and fall for this one - Our first 100 mile run.

Preparations are under way. This will be a self supported run with no AID station volunteers. Which means we will prepare our own 'drop-bags' at different locations to keep stuff we would need in the run.

Bandera is a nice little texan town. Its got quite a bunch of hills in the Hill country state park. Thats where our run will be at. It will be four 25 mile loops. The cut-off is 36 hours. We would be running through the night to get within the cut-off for the course.

The longest we have run - by time : 24 hours at grand canyon, by distance : 50 miles.

So, this is going to be a first in many ways. But, we will have friends and family to support us. We have reserved a Cabin and are planning stoves, tents etc. at the campsite. Thanks to wonderful friends we are even having pacers. Well, its our chance to get pampered and we plan on making full use of it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Irulas, Bharathi Trust and Siddamma.

I have been fortunate to learn about this effort over the last few years. Every day I am amazed with the efforts and the work Bharathi trust undertakes. The unflinching determination and commitment inspires me to contribute whatever I can.

Siddamma is a grassroots volunteer with whom I have interacted a lot and been in constant touch over the last year. She was also in the US recently. Amongst other recognitions, she has received the Outlook award from Sonia gandhi and US state dept recognition as one of the 'Heroes in ending modern day slavery' for her work in releasing bonded irula laborers in Red hills, Tamilnadu.

Here is her story

Here is a talk given by her in Seattle.

BBC article on her work.

Bharathi Trust is the organization started by Siddamma and has been supported by Asha for long. The many aspects of Asha's work with Bharathi Trust and Siddamma are captured at
Fellowship and Resource Center


This is a residential school started by an association of Leprosy affected people. The motivation of the school is to provide opportunities to the Leprosy affected and their families. The integrated school also has children from underpriviliged backgrounds. The school while providing opportunities for the families of the leprosy affected, fights the stigma and misconceptions associated with the disease. Asha supports some of the running expenses of the school.

Leprosy - Facts

Leprosy in India -

Mrs.Padma Venkatraman is an ardent social worker. She has been volunteering to help and sustain colonies for the lerosy affected from 1989. She had worked with colonies in Delhi. She is the contact person for this project and has been working with the St. John's Leprosy Patients Rehablitation Association for a while now.

Here is a BBC Article

Asha's Gnanodaya project page

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The role of education in the struggle for rights.

This weekend we had a wonderful event 'Show of Hope' in Austin. The idea of the event was to get the community of Austin to come out and express the different talents they have. We have videos that we played at the event. They give a general idea about Asha and the event.

As part of the 'Writing' category I had submitted an entry. The judge did not award me a prize, But I did have fun participating in it! Here is my entry that most folks were asking me about -

The Role of Education in the Struggle for Rights

I sat down to write on this topic and realized that I actually have a lot of questions. I might not be able to go far without getting those answered. The first step was to understand what education meant in a universal sense.
Webster defines education as the process of educating or teaching. Further, educate is defined as “to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of”. If we try to further define the words ‘knowledge’, ‘skill’ or ‘character’, the meaning of education gets more debatable. In fact, the meaning of education is probably one of the most controversial and time old problem we have had. Socrates believed that education was about drawing out what was already within a student. Based on this definition, one would call learning to use a spoon to have soup the last thing that would count as education. But, what is education might depend on who chooses to define it, in what context its imparted, the teacher and the student. Lets just change one variable in our example - the student. If the student were autistic and aged 28, learning the basic skill of having soup with a spoon could actually build confidence and promote a cascading effect on cognitive development. So, isn’t the exercise bringing out what the student already had within? Universal education might be a goal for many nations, but are we really sure if the meaning of education is universal? Is education actually defined by the complex beliefs arising out of values and experiences of the person defining it? What are the chances that a professor in IIT Kanpur, a high school teacher in a government school in Kanpur and an old farmer in a nearby village in India give the same answer for their perception on education?

Thankfully, history has been a wonderful teacher and I didn’t have much problem understanding what struggle for ‘rights’ meant. Almost every day, many souls of the human race have made it pretty clear that not all humans are really human after all. They call it ‘culture’, ‘way of life’ or just ‘law of nature’ – some in the human race deserve what they get because they were just born that way or born in the ‘wrong’ place or family. For every form of inhuman discrimination that exists, history has shown that a call for emancipation of the suppressed follows. My next hurdle was in understanding what role education plays in emancipation. The best way I could understand this was to actually work through some real life issues related to discrimination.

In every aspect of life and work, there passes hardly a day without the bias for gender. So ingrained is this bias that it has seeped into the very essence of how 'man' communicates. But, to address our goals, I would like to take a more straightforward example of 'dowry' in India - a practice of giving money and gifts to a bridegroom for accepting a bride. This basically reinforces the prejudice that being a woman is a liability and the 'owner' needs an incentive. As the practice grew stronger and prejudices thrived through the years, the sex of the child being born started determining whether the child would live or not. When the practice of female infanticide driven by pressures of dowry came to light, mainstream media was quick in pointing out the 'backwardness' and 'lack of education' in the rural masses. Very true indeed. But, do we proclaim that doctors, engineers and many professionals from various walks of life are as uneducated and backward when they claim dowry from their brides ? Does holding a doctoral degree necessarily mean education, leave alone 'higher education' ? Female infanticide is a thriving business for a multitude of doctors in the cities. Selective abortion by scanning for girl children is after all a more 'educated' approach!

Martin Luther King Jr. on the 'Purpose of Education' mentioned "We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction". Rosa Parks' education played a critical role in her decision to not give up her seat on December 1, 1955. Makes me think if it was education for the world through this simple act of defiance. Well, at least to some of the world. Racism and bias based on color still runs through the very fabric of society. For instance, consider the much touted 'Fair and Lovely' cream or the more recent 'Fair and Handsome' product made in the state of the art 'scientifically advanced' labs. If we were to ask the superstars in the advertisement of these products about their views on racism, I am sure we would have such a passionate response on how unfair and backward the entire notion is. They would further stress on how important it is to 'educate' the masses on these inhuman biases. Then, it would be time for their photo shoot and time to get back to displaying the million dollar 'fair' faces to proclaim that being light skinned is the way to be successful and attractive.

One can spot a woman or a person's skin color in a crowd and discriminate against them blatantly. But, just looking 'normal' or being 'normal' doesn't always save one from prejudices. Its amazing how sometimes discrimination can occur in such fine granularity that even the thought that we all might look, eat and live alike doesn't matter. One can be condemned to a life of subhuman existence just by virtue of her or his birth. Welcome to caste based discrimination in India. Caste is described by Oxford Dictionary as "each of the hereditary classes of Hindu society, distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status" and as "any exclusive social class". So, rigid and ingrained is this system of calculated discrimination that changing religions does not save you from being spotted as an inferior being. Over centuries, generations of dalits and lower caste communities have been systemically sidelined. Even touching someone from the lowest caste or coming in close contact was considered highly 'impure'. Horror stories abound - not just in the hundreds of years of history but, every day till date. Again, the idea that such a systemic discrimination occurs is very easily ignored or refuted in present day India. We are oblivious to its endearing presence in every aspect of our life. Marriages happen only within one's own caste in the garb of 'preserving one's culture' or 'compatibility'. The judiciary system, the administrative system or the 'creamy' strata of society seldom sees a deluge of the suppressed castes. Yet, our young 'educated' minds striving to make a world of their own contend that 'merit' and not affirmative action should decide opportunities for the oppressed. So called 'struggles' occur to reclaim respect for 'merit'. What is 'merit' ? Do we believe that people who are born in a higher caste are 'meritorious' by birth ? Can enjoying the unspoken privileges of being in the 'upper caste' and higher echelons of society give one the right to talk about merit? Stereotyping and generalizing people from a particular caste comes rather naturally to many folks in society. Isn't attributing lower 'merit' to the underprivileged caste implicitly espousing stereotypes ?

The concept of discrimination probably is more universal than the meaning of education. While I only started with a few examples, there is much more to discrimination. The disabled seldom get the rights they deserve. A curable and controllable mental ailment might still disenfranchise an individual. The rights of indigenous tribes and local inhabitants are gone with the dust when huge projects displace them. Is it surprising that these projects almost always make communities which own the least sacrifice all that they have for the greater common good? Who then is further in the process of education ? The indigenous tribes who learned to live in tandem with nature over centuries in a sustainable way or the intellectuals who wanted to meddle with nature to only fail every time.

As I tried understanding what 'struggle for rights' meant, I couldn't help but notice that almost always any change in the socio-economic situation of a deprived community is in fact a 'struggle'. Almost always, it boils down to basic necessities that most of us reading this piece are privileged to have. So, in essence bringing about a socio-economic change is a struggle for rights. Even so called benign acts of providing basic schooling for underprivileged children is a struggle. Whatever happened to the 'Right to Education' in India ? So, I still ponder at the end of this piece on what education means and more specifically how it influences emancipation.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Grand Canyon

Its been a while since I have written a report on a run. But, this one was special. Like my coach Joe says "There is something about these ultra distances. People think differently and even appreciate things they usually don't". Here is my appreciation for the world around me. I have made an attempt to give you not one but two stories. There is no comparison between the two and thus this write up in no way is intended to trivialize the amazing effort thats NOT about Grand Canyon.

What lies beneath
Starting in the dark
The Sun rises
Going back home
Memories and more

What lies beneath

The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona and stretches to Colorado. Its 18 miles wide (By accessible trails its between 20-24 miles). At average the Canyon is 5,000 ft deep. The Grand Canyon is 227 miles long. The Canyon takes up 1,218,376 acres of land. The Canyon is on a tilt the north rim is 1200 ft higher than the south rim. At the deepest part of the canyon is 6,000 vertical feet. The Canyon’s walls are made up of rocks, cliffs, hills, and valleys. The Grand Canyon rocks were formed millions of years ago. Three thousand to four thousand years ago desert archaic people lived in the Grand Canyon. The Pueblo Indians built adobe house around the canyon and made animal figures out of one twig. The Hopi Indians believe that when they die, their spirits emerge here and rest here. There are 75 different species of mammal, 50 species of reptiles, 25 species of fish, and 300 species of bird living in the Canyon.The south rim of the Grand Canyon is a grayish green forest. Inside the Grand Canyon is 30 degrees higher then on rim. Rain comes suddenly in violent storms (usually in late summer).

Chennai is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. Its one of the four metropolitan cities in India. What lies beneath the urban sprawl, the vibrant economy, the cultural potpourri and the long history of the city is something thats invisible. Battered, bruised, brutally abused, both physically and sexually, ignored by everybody, eating out of garbage bins and with no place to call home. This is the situation of homeless women with mental illness. World Health Organisation [WHO] estimates that 1% of citizens of all countries are mentally ill. National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences [NIMHANS], Bangalore says that one woman in six and one man in nine will be in need of help. While men in India tend to be cared for better, women are set adrift. Many of them drift away from as far as northernmost India to a land that doesn't speak their language. They get on a bus or a train and being ignored by the sea of people, they arrive wherever the train takes them. In Chennai they are invariably found within a two kilometer radius of the Central station. They could be brushed away as pan handlers, demented drug addicts or just ridiculed for their appearance and behavior. In most cases they just blend into the background. Thousands walk by to home, to work or to do groceries every day and yet the underprivileged don't exist. This is as much a story in chennai as the story of many of the mentally ill destitute who are neglected and abused in many cities around the world.

Back to Grand Canyon

Starting in the dark

I had arrived at Williams, a quaint little town 1 hour from the Grand Canyon on Friday. My parents are visiting the US and this gave me time to take them around. It was a lot of fun with an 'old west' set up, the famous 'Route 66', The Grand Canyon Railway and other such interesting places. Around the evening was when the rest of the gang (Arun, Padma, Ganesh, Gaurav and Vinod) arrived. On their way to Williams they came to this 'brilliant' conclusion that instead of getting a few hours sleep in the night, we should start right away after dinner. I kind of reluctantly agreed even as my clueless parents were wondering what happened to the son they once knew! After some wonderful pasta, rice, fruits and a hearty dinner we left for the Grand Canyon. It was windy and cold at the top. We were all wrapped up. By the time we found the restrooms, the trail head and finally started it was 1:00 AM on Saturday morning. We ran down the bright angel trail through Indian gardens. Within less than a mile into the run we started feeling warm and the coat, full sleeves, gloves etc. became a burden. We were quite chatty through the run. We even got reprimanded by an old lady near a campsite for being way too loud. But we were quite slow through all this. We reached the Colorado river only after 4 odd hours (for about 9.6 miles). The roar of the river under a bright full moon night was surreal! The moonlight shined on the walls of the canyon waking me up to the wonders of this creation. I ran for a while without the lamps and it almost felt like I was a passive observer, letting the world be without disturbing a thing. Then we came to the bridge. We had to cross the Colorado to get to 'Phantom Ranch' on the other side. Heights are not my thing and I felt the bridge was swaying for a long time. I just held on to the sides and walked slowly.

In 1993, one woman was dashing into the traffic on Haddows Road Chennai. She was obviously mentally ill, half-naked with matted hair. She was an eye-opener to India's nowhere people. The nobodies that no one wanted to acknowledge existed. It started as a kneejerk response to a responsibility that no one was willing to take up. As people either gawked or walked on, two young women hugged her and took her to their college nearby. They cleaned her, clothed her and calmed her down. When they tried to find an organisation in the city that would take the woman in, they realised how hard it was to find one. It was a defining moment. A moment when Vaishnavi and Vandana decided they can't wait any longer. The two close friends were both 22 years old then -- they had made a pact with each other while still in their teens, that they would qualify as professional social workers and dedicate themselves to service. They now knew they had to act right away. 'The Banyan' --their vehicle of expression-- was soon registered as a Trust. When the girls went around looking for a home to house mentally deranged women people nervously closed their doors. Finally a serving officer in the armed forces let out his house. And the two young ladies moved in full time. At 'Adaikalam' ('Refuge') Vaishnavi and Vandana soon had 9 inmates --and growing-- but little money. There is a moving picture of the two young girls in the Indian Express of Aug 15, 1994. They had 'Gruff' their Doberman plus hope that help would come in. But life was hard.

Back to Grand Canyon

The Sun rises

After an extended break at Phantom ranch where we dropped off some stuff to reduce the load we were carrying, we headed out to 'Cottonwood' on the North Kaibab Trail. We were carrying a lot of food - fruits, pulihara (tamarind mixed rice), sandwhiches, energy bars, trail mix etc. We also had emergency stuff and gear with us. So, the camelback was quite heavy. Padma was having some trouble holding food and some of us were tiring out from sleep deprivation. We took some time to recoup and sufficiently woken up from sleep we headed out at around 6 AM from Phantom ranch. This was a slow incline that was supposed to take long. We kind of ran any flat or downhill sections we chanced upon. Then the most wonderful thing happened. Vinod, Gaurav and I had pulled on in front and there seemed to be more light as we were running through the belly of the Canyon. We had switched off our lights. Thats when we saw the tips or peaks (if you could call them that) were being dipped in gold! The sun was coming out in all its glory and the canyon basked in it. We started observing the surroundings more. The layers of rocks on our side were millions and millions of years old! This was when the cameras were working overtime. We also went through some scenic waterfalls. We reached Cottonwood. A ranger out there started chatting with us as we waited for the rest of the gang. He seemed to question what these crazy folks were doing. It was more of an interrogation to see if were stupid or insane. After taking a few more photos we left for the North Rim. This was the toughest stretch of them all! 7 grueling miles of crazy elevation. It was a long slow walk as the majestic sun turned into a ruthless dictator. The fall colors and more amazing sights followed. Notable among these was the roaring springs waterfalls. But, we were out of breath for a different reason! We wanted to keep a steady pace as we ambled along in front. Meanwhile, Arun decided that the elevation was getting worse and it was not a good decision to try it out without enough training. So, he went back to cottonwood. We watched the amazing pine trees on top of the north rim as we got closer to it. But, the closer we got the further it seemed on the trails! At every short break I was zoning out. I didn't want to stop anymore. I trudged along with just the immediate goal of reaching the top.

Once they had Rs.3.50 (1$ = Rs. 40) to feed 13 people that day. Sandhya Rao reported in 'Frontline' two year later: "Eighty women in five rooms is not easy in the best of circumstance. The matter is worse when a majority of the residents come with a history of all manners of sexual abuse, physical abuse, disease, no hygiene, no socialisation and of course lice." She adds:"one of the women had fever and was crying like a child and another begged and begged to be taken to the bus stop, but which one or where she could not say. A third begged to be excused if she had asked too many questions and a fourth demanded all my attention." It is with such wards that Vaishnavi and Vandana have spent their lives --24/7, to use that expressive number-- for many years since they began in 1993. Vaishnavi answers a question: "Yes, it was grim at times. We would have washed them, fed them, cleaned the floors, the latrines and finally settled them. It'd be close to midnight when we shut the door of our little room. And the banging would begin!" But quitting never occurred to them. That was what they had chosen --and were happy-- to do. Soon Ashok Kumar, a young man came on board to help. And material help began to arrive too. Banyan does not just accept women who arrive; they publicize everywhere their willingness to accept. Most women are manic depressives or schizophrenics. Many have lost their sense of dignity or ability to care any more. They are ridden with lice and maggots. One was found eating dog shit. Banyan races to gather them and bring them over. They are given first aid, a make-over wash and if necessary a trip to the hospital. Luckily most cases can be treated with medication-- reinforced with add-ons like a sense of belonging, security and feeling wanted. In about six months they are normal again and begin to ask to go home. Hope is forever resurgent.

Back to Grand Canyon


As soon as we reached the North Rim we were craving calories! I didn't speak a word. It was real cold. But, even before I got the coat out, I got the pulihara (mixed rice) and started hogging! A banana later I was still hungry. But, I was not moving anywhere. It was cold and I felt unusually lazy or just tired. Thankfully Gaurav and Vinod were still in their senses and planned to get to a restaurant or canteen to get more food. We were desperate and had to hitch a ride. Thanks to a couple of caring girls we got a ride to the Restaurant. I had some pizza and hot chocolate. As Gaurav and Vinod got sandwhiches and packed more pizza for Padma and Ganesh, I stole a nap for few minutes. That really helped! We got a ride back to the North Rim and this time I chatted with the couple who gave us the ride. We explained how crazy we were and kind of scared them. Nevertheless they were nice people who gave us a ride as soon as we asked! We met Padma and Ganesh just in time. We didn't give them much time to rest and as they ate the pizza we started moving down. Within a mile down from the North rim, I seemed to have got some energy from somewhere! The calories probably started kicking in! All of us picked up pace and I kind of started going fast. The downhills were the steepest we would be doing and I let myself loose. This was a nice fast stretch as I passed folks who were coming up while giving me weird looks! Soon, I was running by myself and at one point I took a rather difficult turn. I stopped for breath and peeped over the edge. I realized that it was a steep fall right to the bottom of the canyon! Inspired, I started going at a steady pace and reached Cottonwood at around 2:15 PM. Arun was waiting there. He had a nice break, dipped in the creek and was chatting with our favorite ranger. The ranger was very helpful and gave food, tips and entertainment! The rest of the folks joined. We kind of had a long break here. Padma was struggling a bit and it was not her day. But, you can't expect the first Indian woman 100 miler to give up! She was smiling through all of this and I felt inspired. We left for Phantom ranch. Again, this was a downhill stretch. In my mind I knew there was just a long walk back home left. So, I wanted to fly on this one. Most of this stretch was in the shade of the Canyons and it felt very good to run. A bunch of hikers even cheered me as I mowed along to Phantom Ranch. Gaurav and Vinod were not too far away and joined me in a few minutes.

Slowly help started flowing for the Banyan. The state government recognized their effort and gave them a piece of land. The Banyan struggled to make a permanent home to guarantee the survival of its residents and the organization itself. Today the building bustles with activity. A cheerful staff handle the various tasks. There is nothing melancholy about the place. Their cheer is infectious. Communication, documentation, fund raising, house keeping, public and staff relations are all up to date arts. The brisk efficiency marks it out as a new generation service organisation. They passionately defended the system of sending medicines by post to all the rehabilitated former residents of The Banyan across the country. Deep down however, they realised that The Banyan after care system was flawed in scalability and viability. That valuable realisation matured The Banyan overnight from a service provider to a solution finder. The Community Mental Health wing of The Banyan took root. Till date they have found it impossible to say 'no' at The Banyan to people who have no other options. With The Banyan's population explosion came the realisation that growth didn't mean seeding more Banyans.The bigger picture that took shape with the various Outreach Programmes was missing the vital jigsaw bit - more people. More involvement. More responsibility. The Dial 100 Helpline - became the branch of The Banyan that showed the way ahead. The Banyan promises long term financial sustainability with a CafĂ©, Organic Spa, Crafts & Clothes Boutique and village tourism. The Spice Route is backed by Socially conscious organisational supporters of The Banyan mission and run by spunky members of Vizhuthugal - The Banyan self-help group of recovered residents. “The Zero Inventors” - eco products made from recycled waste are going to be added to the vocational products unit. Research is finally coming into its own at The Banyan Resource Centre. Physicians and therapists are on call. Banyan uses an eclectic bouquet of treatments to bring their wards --they call them 'residents'-- back to this world. They use occupational activities, performing arts, picnics, pranic healing and whatever else that shows promise. And of course loads of love and patience. Beyond all that of course looms drug therapy. Drugs may be required life long and it is Banyan's policy to reach supplies to wherever, forever. In about six months, most residents are well and raring to go home. They beseech Banyan that they be taken at the earliest.

Back to Grand Canyon

Going back home

It was evening by the time we reached Phantom Ranch. We were hoping to get some food from the small restaurant there at the bottom. But, they were strict and followed rules of serving only those who reserved. So, we had no choice but to plead for some coffee from the girl at the window. The coffee was too good though! We emptied all the food (fruits, sandwhiches etc.) we had and ate our full. While we waited and recuperated, Vinod and I made calls back home to let everyone know that we will be back later than expected. Yes, somehow we thought we could do it in 17-18 hours. The Canyon whipped us bad and made us respect it! We had a nice conversation with a girl who had come down from cottonwood to see the river. She seemed to suggest that she needed company back to cottonwood. On any other day I might have relented :) But, I had folks running with me and my parents waiting for me at the hotel. As the sun came down, it seemed like someone pulled the batteries out of us. We all were kind of lazy and started drearily on the way back home. The drop bag was not where we had left it. So, Vinod and I went back to get it. After some explanation to the ranger and pleading ignorance on the fact that we were not supposed to leave it in the campsite boxes, we got the stuff loaded our camel backs and soon joined the rest of the gang. This time the bright angel trail was pretty dark and the moon was not too bright. It was a long haul especially after more than a day without sleep. Padma and Arun were struggling a bit. Soon each one of us were going through cycles and I was hoping to pep things up. I wanted to get back home soon because I was not sure if the message went to my parents. I started kind of tagging the group by running ahead. Soon I realized that I was not helping out much with this. So, after Indian gardens I decided to stick with the team. Meanwhile, Gaurav went up ahead. Each time we took a break to sit down I wanted folks to be fast and moving. Its a dangerous trap. Once you sit down, your eyes close and the tiredness in your body and mind takes over. So, though all of them hated me for doing this it did help in moving forwards finally. After 23.5 hours of run/walk/hike across the depths of the Canyon we were finally back at the top of the south rim at 12:30 AM on Sunday. This was the longest all of us have been on our feet (except of course for the limca book of records holder, Padma). This was quite an experience and nothing could beat getting back to the hotel (thanks to Vinod's driving) and having awesome fried rice cooked by mom!

The ultimate goals of the organization being rehabilitation and empowerment, The Banyan is an effort to reunite the women with their families and to help them reintegrate back into the mainstream society to be able to lead normal lives again.The rehabilitation aspect of The Banyan’s work has raised attention and controversy in the public for quite some time. Traditional communities in Indian society do not generally accept the unexplained absence of their female members for any length of time, the place of the woman being either behind the veils of the purdah or in the confines of her parents’ or husband’s house. Thus reintegration is an important aspect of Banyan's work. Typically two or three residents along with about four volunteers form the rehab party. With just that they set out for the rural maze of India's vastness. Here's a typical report: "the happy rehab team pressed on to Lucknow to try and locate Sapna's family. Once again they contacted the helpful Railway Police, but this time were in for a shock. The police discovered that Sapna was actually from Bihar, not UP. So the team moved on to Muzaffarpur and from there to Sugauli. The police accompanied them to what they hoped was Sapna's village, Basra. But no, there was nobody who knew Sapna. By then, the police were on the job, led by their helpful officer in charge, Mr. Singh. They discovered Sapna was actually from Lal Basra -- a village that was in the opposite direction to Basra! The team --now with an armed escort-- made its way to Lal Basra and began the arduous task of finding Sapna's family... the family had given her up as dead as she had wandered away over a year ago. Once more, happy reunion scenes and the satisfied rehab team left Lal Basra. After much palaver, the team decided to press on, and move to West Bengal, where they would leave Prabha Saha. A 12 hour trip to Jhargram, and the team was pleasantly surprised to find that Prabha remembered the place. She took the team straight to her brother's home. But unlike the other case, Prabha's family was not too sure about taking her back. After much consultation and debate, they agreed. Prabha too did her bit by announcing that she had every right to live in her family house. What made them take hope was a meeting with Das and his friends, who were so impressed with the Banyan's contribution that they planned to set up a social welfare organisation for that community.
(Note : names changed for privacy)

Back to Grand Canyon

Memories and more.

The trip to Grand Canyon and the run across and back was a memorable experience. You can see pictures from the run here. More than the pictures its the memories in my mind that I will carry for a lifetime.

The Banyan is a project supported by Asha Austin. We supported the vocational training unit which empowers the women with skills to lead economically independent lives. You can read more about the Banyan and our support. A video on the Banyan.

Here was my attempt to give you two stories. There is no end to these stories. They are really in parallel now. But, you sure can make them meet. As I train for the 100 miler in November, I look up to you. You can make the difference and support me in the endeavor to raise $10K to reach out to efforts like 'The Banyan'.

Back to Grand Canyon