Posts Tagged ‘voluntary work’

Children’s Day at Bandipur, 141114

November 17, 2014

As wildlife volunteers, Kumuda, Siddharth and I went to Bandipur to help celebrate Children’s Day with about 150 children from three local schools: Hangala, Mangala, Bheemannabeedu.


I love that old Karnataka logo!

Here are the Forest Dept. officials at the event:


13 of the children spoke about wildlife and conservation, and we were very impressed. One of the Adivasi teachers also spoke with great passion.

Here’s Chandrakala, a versatile girl who both sang and spoke well:


Here are some of the children, who ran up and asked to be photographed…such delights!


Here’s everyone at the end of the event:


Here are all the Eco-Volunteers who attended:


(Deepa, Harsha, Satish, Veena, Ashritha, Kumuda, Sandeep, Siddharth)

Other sights, and thoughts:


Love can be Wild-ly Boaring….


Hanuman Langurs were everywhere:


This beautiful


delighted me:



As did this



The Peacock’s breeding plumage, and That Amazing Tail, is just starting to grow out at this season.


“Horn OK Please” is the slogan at the back of most trucks (meaning, sound your horn to overtake)…but here was a horn, sorry, antler…


This plastic sheet, excreted (probably by a Chital) was a scary reminder that the litter we leave behind could kill animals that ingest it. This animal was lucky to be able to eliminate it.

Bandipur has always been a place of Mother and Child, for me. Here are the species that I clicked this time, quite appropriately, on Children’s Day!









Just look at those two little cuties!

Human beings:

Life at the edges of the forest continues to be hard:


Our old temples fall into ruins:


But instead of maintaining them, we keep on building new ones…


Such beautiful banyan trees, shading the highway. They were planted long ago…can we keep up the practice?


Contemporary Indian architecture certainly seems to celebrate colour!


So do our buses!


(Don’t miss the usual hanging-from-the-footboard mode of travel.)

We also dropped in to see Loki (Lokesh) at JLR Bandipur, and I asked permission for Kumuda and Siddharth to see the beautiful murals in some of the rooms:



I’d written an article on the three artists who did the murals…the project was left unfinished, and the newer cottages don’t have them.

I’ve put up more photos on my FB album,


(the official part)



(the other parts!)

Eco-volunteers’ Meet, ThoughtWorks, Koramangala, Bangalore, 120414

April 12, 2014

The first meeting of Eco-volunteers (those who took the Volunteer Training Program, or VTP), was held at ThoughtWorks, Koramangala, Bangalore, on 120414.

It was as if Ganesha, the Elephant God, had waited in the foyer with a gesture of benison!


Raju KV took up the job of co-ordinating the meet, and conducting it:


Over 40 people turned up, showing their interest in volunteering for wildlife conservation:




Raju welcomed the gathering, and while the two Prasahanths set up their video presentation,


N C Mohan talked about patches of fragmented forest, which needed even more protection than areas designated as National Parks. He showed slides of patches of forest which were deliberately set on fire, patches where he found snares, and tried to take action against these on his own.

This was followed by Prashanth Nageshappa and Prashanth Nayaka talking about the film they made on Bhadra, titled, “Unsung”. They also showed a short about how it was made, and there was a discussion about how this documentary, made entirely by their private funds and effort, could be made into a meaningful tool, while facing possible legal implications about its being a corporate-owned film or a documentary under a creative commons licence.

Raju KV then presented a slide show, called “Guarding the Guardians”. This was about hygiene and health issues amongst the Forest Department personnel, and how the team of doctors tackled them. The plan is to spread this to the rest of the Forest Department, with sustained monitoring of health check-ups. Funds were appealed for, for this initiative. The doctor team talked of how some Forest Guards missed out because of lack of communication.

Nutan then made a presetation, “Saving the Last Wild Tigers of India”. This, rather than the usual feel-good images, gave the audience some striking and disturbing images of the kind of snares that poachers use, and tigers caught in them. A lively discussion ensued, about snares.

Meanwhile, I photographed some coins minted to help in the cause:


Sarath then spoke. He stressed the value of patience and slow and steady learning, in the field of wildlife volunteering. He enumerated the several communications he’d received from various Forest Department officials, regarding volunteering help that they need with various census activities. He stressed that things have to be done with the co-operation of Forest Department personnel…especially the RFO.


He touched on the fact that the VTP members were already 220 strong, and that they need to put their skill sets on record so that these could be utilized when needed. He proposed that various core groups be formed to take care of various areas, such as health of Forest Department personnel, awareness-raising, camera trapping, pilgrim management in forest areas, education, and post-rehabilitation monitoring. Brinda Suresh would be co-ordinating these core groups.

He announced a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) meet on the 30th of April, 2014, at the Marriott, to get the corporates involved in funding wildlife conservation and volunteering activities.

He also announced the next VTP, which will be held at Kudremukh, from the 18th to the 24th of May. All members present were asked to spread the word.

The gathering also resolved to meet once in three months, and the next meet scheduled for June 14th, 2014.

Here’s a short video of the gathering:

Raju then closed the meeting with a vote of thanks, starting with Sumeet Moghe, who had kindly made the ThoughtWorks premises available for the meet, and for providing refreshments, too. (Some of us need a 101 on operating the coffee machine!) The meet was generally felt to have been a very productive one, and many of the members continued their exchange of views for a while after the meet.

Trash Bash, Confluence of the Mississippi/Missouri Rivers, 230313

March 25, 2013

Ruth Hartsell kindly took me along to the Trash Bash at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers…

click here for details about the event

Here’s a map to the area:

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We started at the Old Chain of Rocks bridge:

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It’s a long bridge!

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Here I am with Kenny Hartsell, Ruth’s son…

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The clean-up was organized by RiverRelief, and they had number plates to match!

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It was very hard work (first of all, trying to balance between the dead tree branches and the rocks, with slippery mud and steep banks!), but we found some interesting stuff, like these mussels:

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Others apparently found even more interesting stuff in the trash that they cleared (there was a prize for the most interesting object!)…

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We were given lunch at the end of the clean-up:

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I then walked with Ruth and Kenny down the bridge (which takes a turn halfway down), to the Illinois side, and then back to Missouri, looking at the landmarks of downtown Missouri:

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There was a line of gulls visible under the newer bridge (the bridge we were on is now only for pedestrians and cyclists. Can we imagine, one day, something like this happening in Bangalore?)

gulls rash bash 230313 photo DSC02123.jpg

We spent a little time watching a large group of American Pelicans on the way back:

2 pelicans trash bash 230313 photo DSC02143.jpg

They use some excellent detergent…none of the mud of the Mississippi sticks to them!

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However, they lifted off, and I reluctantly left the spot:

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For more photographs,

click here

Thank you, Ruth, for a very, very enjoyable morning!

Meanwhile, two weekends in St Louis…

October 15, 2012

hlf mrthn 071012 stl

Here she is, with Team Asha:

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Here’s her account:

All of you have supported my running now or in the past, and I wanted to give you an update of my half marathon today. Thank you all so much for your support, running with me, belief, good wishes, contributions to Asha and more. I’ll organize the pictures and post on my page:

click here

In the meanwhile, here’s pictures of the entire team, with the best ones towards the end:

click here

I felt excellent, enjoyed the run and finished super strong. I didn’t really know how I’d evaluate myself, seeing that I was significantly slower and having had no measurement or real target, except to feel good the entire time. My non pregnancy best was under 2:05, and today I did just under 2:19. About a minute per mile slower, adequately appropriate for a non pregnant me carrying 12 lbs of weights.I felt very in touch with my body, in harmony and response, steady, calm and at the optimal fitness for the work my body and soul are doing.

During my training runs I hadn’t targeted pace and was vaguely aware of being anywhere between 11 min miles to just under 13 min miles, supporting the team (who all did great, and finished strong). I didn’t really have a time in mind, except for believing I was comfortably capable of something under 2.5hrs (11:45 or better), but perfectly willing to walk the whole thing or even stop and quit if I felt the need.

hlf mrthn 071012 stl

Bottomline is that I feel very prepared for the rigours of labor and delivery, as well as the demands on my body from having to sometimes carry K.

Looking at my splits, I found that it was technically an excellent run. I had 4 split timings recorded during the run – at 5k, 10k, 15k and the finish (20.08k). I stayed so consistent that my pacing varied less than 4 seconds during the entire event. My first 5k was at 10:41/mile, I steadied at 10:43, and in the latter half picked it up to 10:40, and sped up just enough during the last quarter that I finished with a pace of 10:37. I would have wanted exactly this kind of pacing with a x10 variance (ie 4second x10 = 40s +/-) non pregnant. This isn’t something I really trained for, because I talked to my body rather than a watch, both during training as well as today, but as it turns out, the conversations with my body were represented by the rational record of it.

2 hlf mrthn 071012 stl

All in all an achievement I feel blessed to have the luxury of focusing on. And a manifestation of an overall life balance. My amazing husband has enabled it, all the while training for his own century (100 mile) ride next weekend.

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is an account of her commitment and work for Asha For Education.

This Sunday (the 14th of October) DS was off for his Century ride (100 mile ride) which he’d been preparing for. Here’s her account of that:

During inspection last weekend, D found that his bike had a worn ball bearing wheel. He went to the bike shop three times, twice it was closed, and the third time they didn’t have the part. So he finally borrowed Vikas’s bike. Vikas had just bought a brand new $900 Canondale that Derek had advised him on about a month ago. D worked nearly 5 hours yesterday (Sat) to fix up Vikas’s bike for his 100 mile ride today.

After the hard work, and mechanical engineering to get his phone waterproofed, but available to see his route on and charged up with a battery powered juicer, he was finally satisfied. The day was supposed to begin rainy and we decided that he should start a little late to avoid the rain. After he slept, I looked up the website and saw that this year the cutoff for the start time was 7:30am. Not wanting to disturb his sleep, I only told him that in the morning when he woke, and he rushed to get to the start line in time.

Fortunately, the rains had stopped, but the roads were still wet. D got to the registration desk in the nick of time. But had forgotten his phone at home. He had his office phone and the first 20 miles of the ride led him by the History Museum, where I was preparing to go deliver his regular phone that he had engineered his hookup for.

Within 15 mins of his coordination call regarding his phone, I got another call. The slick roads and the thin tires of Vikas’s brand new road bike had claimed him as a victim. He was by the side of the road, bruised knee, even more badly bruised bike, waiting for the injury van to come and get him. He hadn’t even gone 10 miles, and was just miserable.

He returned home, with a bloody leg and a pool of blood soaked up by his sock. The bike wasn’t as mangled as he made it sound on the phone. He first declared that he was going to try to get through the remaining 80 miles (from home) on his mountain bike. But it was too late, it was an extremely windy day, and for him to make the deadlines for lunch and the ferries meant pushing the limits on an injured and bruised knee.

All the race day energy pent up, with no where to spend it, he was in a daze. He took the bike to the shop after washing off the blood and the mud. Big Shark helped repair the back lock, the side and back wheel for free. A very nice gesture. It fortunately has turned out that we probably don’t have to buy Vikas another $900 bike. That was a huge relief because Derek was thinking that even if we bought Vikas another bike, he wouldn’t want to keep this one because the frame was too small for him. Vikas was of course gracious as could be and was not in the least interested in the fixes required for his bike. Derek has decided that it would be fair to spend $150 to $200 in getting him a custom fitted seat to replace the original one that had now been completely scraped up.

He is still feeling so miserable from the day, the incomplete ride and the tiny little accident that derailed a lot of preparation, training and anticipated excitement. Fortunately, I was able to find another century ride in 2 weeks time about 3 hours away. It is late in Oct and nearly the last one in the country, except for California, so it’s great that it exists and relatively inexpensive.

So for his $60 registration today, he got a pair of socks and an ignoble ride back some 10 miles to the start line in the support vehicle. Very sad indeed. He is glad to have ended the day and is asleep now. On the upside, we had a wonderful family trip to the zoo and enjoyed some freebies thanx to Sigma Aldrich – carousel ride, train ride and children’s zoo. K really had a marvelous time with us both, and hopefully made some good memories.

Roundabouts and swings…and they seem to deal with both equally well. I love my daughter and son in law so much!

Kenneth Anderson Nature Society (KANS) and Tamil Nadu Forest Dept, 281211

January 5, 2012

The official report on the trip we conducted for the children of various Government schools of the Hosur/Denkanikotta area is on the Kenneth Anderson Nature Society blog,


and the more personal account is


Am going to help out with some children at JLR Bannerghatta on Sunday. I do enjoy their curiosity and questions…I learn a lot!

Carrying death on its back….

December 27, 2011

I was delighted to take 15 children of Sindhi School, Malleswaram, to my favourite zoo area in the Bannerghatta National Park. Subbalakshmi, a teacher in the school, enthuses the children and organizes nature trails for them entirely on her own initiative…the school does not take any responsibility. Even the van was hired by her! More power to her and may her tribe increase!

Here are the children, posing with the Kids For Tigers poster:

sindhi schol 241211 bgz

For the photographs from the outing,on my Facebook album,

click here

One of the very interesting things the children spotted on the outing was this caterpillar:

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I asked my nature Guru,


whether the caterpillar was carrying some eggs…and he, and

Saptarshi, a wildlife friend on Facebook, had a very interesting story to tell.

This caterpillar, apparently, is carrying the Load of Death!

Braconid Wasps

(click on the name to find out more about these wasps)

apparently select caterpillars, and lay their eggs on them; the larvae, when they hatch, feed on the caterpillar, and form small cocoons on the body of the caterpillar…that’s what we saw, above!

The amazing things that happen in Nature are infinite….

Voluntary Work

October 28, 2008

Some of us feel that we can contribute to the world we live in by doing voluntary work. And as long as we are able to contribute well, and regularly, this is very satisfying and is a win-win situation…some good work gets done, and we feel happy at having done something that is not just self-oriented.

But often, one cannot always combine one’s regular work and the voluntary work. Meetings happen when professional or personal commitments clash; one is out of town sometimes; and there are occasions when, on a fairly regular basis, one is not able to attend or contribute.

This often gives rise to what I call “Volunteer Guilt”. “Oh, I promised to take this issue to heart, and work for it, but here I am, unable to devote time or effort to it.” This guilt is sometimes assuaged by what is popularly called “throwing money at the problem”…instead of contributing in terms of effort and time, one contributes money instead. But the guilt never does go away, because one knows that it is the effort one wants to put in.

Sometimes, indeed, a piquant situation happens when one is volunteering one’s effort for one cause and so cannot attend some event or do something important to another one! If I have a cycling rally (advocating cycling instead of taking the car) and a meeting regarding tree-felling, I must take a decision about which to attend..and then, if a friend falls ill that morning, everything gets shelved because I am going to be with the friends through the day! So priorities are often difficult to establish, and maintain steadily.

I think it is important that we do not fall prey to Volunteer Guilt. I have to accept that there are times when my family, or my writing, or whatever, *does* take priority over the volunatary work I want to do. This is, after all, work that I have undertaken to do in my *spare* time, so, even though I try my level best, there will be times when it is not possible.

Volunteering is NOT an easy task. Very often, the time taken is NOT in one’s control. A meeting with government officials may start more than an hour after the stipulated time, and go on interminably. Initiatives may fizzle out. Scheduled meetings may not happen. In just the same way as I am unable to devote time that day, other volunteers may also have insuperable difficulties.

So those of you who feel this Volunteer Guilt…as long as you know that you ARE doing what you can, when you can, over and above the call of duty…don’t let the occasional inability get you down. On every volunteer group, there will be members whose intentions are good, but who are, for various reasons, prevented from contributing as much as they can.

But, on the other hand, do not underestimate the help which just your mere presence can make. If it is a public rally, it is easy to think, “Oh, I haven’t been going for the meetings, how will my being there help?” Most certainly your presence WILL help. So…even if just means adding your mental and physical presence to a protest, a meeting, or an initiative….that’s a great help, too.

This post was brought about by one guilt-ridden post from someone…..I think we should all learn to be a little easy on ourselves!


What did I do over the weekend? Not much in the way of festive celebrations, but we were with the only family KM and I have now, and with dear friends…that was happiness enough.

A post without pictures….!



May 7, 2008

I have always done some form or the other of voluntary work, but have been careful to let it occupy only my “spare” time and not let it encroach upon time that is devoted to the spouse and the household. But that is changing now….

For the past few years, I have been shaken out of my comfortable existence to not just do voluntary work, but take up the cause of a city that is rapidly degrading. I realize that I have the time and the energy to devote to this challenging and often frustrating task.

I have always written about things, and it came as a pleasant surprise to me that many people were interested in what *I* found interesting, and wrote about. So my writing on my own blog started, and satisfied me much more than writing articles for the newspaper, which never brought the kind of feedback and interaction that my blog does. Then I started writing the Bangalore-specific stuff for Metblogs, too, and that was nice. Then Citizen Matters happened, and the writing became a little bit more serious.

I concentrate on things that are of interest to the causes dear to my heart. trying to save the trees, improve the roads, introduce more cycling, and preserve the lakes…and reporting about all of it…it’s beginning to take HUGE chunks out of my time, and not just my free time, which is what I wanted to do as a voluntary worker…

It has not helped that KM’s off day has been …er..involuntarily (!) changed to Thursdays, because of the power staggering at the industrial complex where his unit is. Very often I find that thanks to meetings being scheduled at odd times, or watching plays, I am sitting and writing articles and reviews at times when I was never at the computer earlier.

I am NOT interested in writing/reporting as a career, but at the same time, do enjoy writing, and really like the experience of gathering information and views and writing about it all. This, alas, does not happen to be a 9 to 5 kind of activity…

At what point should I draw the line and say, no more? I find that when I am committed to write something, I do have a compulsion to finish it within the deadline. If there is no power through the day (as happened today) I have to sit and write in the evenings. The words “have to” have appeared here…and those are not words that I want.

When “want to” starts turning into “have to”, I have to pause and reflect…but I do enjoy looking around and photographing things and writing about them, and the fit is so good…

Can you hear that honking noise? That comes from the horns…of my dilemma. (And that does not Emma’s Hindi heart, either.)

And’s an absolutely delightful scene that I caught…

This was on my way home from the eternal war against the way things are done here (the alleged Uninterrupted Power Supply, the lack of power the whole day at home, the bank, the BSNL internet connection…) I remember a tagline from some insurance ad that said, “Daddy to dolly, everyone jolly”. Here, it’s Mom, the daughters (twins? I couldn’t catch up with them to find out) and their dollies….it lifted my heart after a long and frustrating day.

Volunteering and Guilt

August 23, 2007

I have been mulling over this whole concept of volunteering to do something, especially for a social cause. Every person has a regular life, and beyond that, sometimes volunteers time, or money, or effort, or all three, to something which is of deep interest.

Most social organizations are strapped for funds and they benefit from voluntary work; it is a win-win situation both ways.

Having said that, I find some drawbacks to the situation.

Volunteering, by its very nature,cannot equal the deep commitment that one gives to the primary job, and so the core group of the social organization has to contend with a contribution that can be very erratic in both quality and quantity. Added to that is the difficulty that some people do voluntary work as nominally as possible and try to garner publicity that way! The regular people, who take care of the slog work, are forgotten, and the celebrity who comes to spend one day at the organization gets the limelight. Even the non-celebrity volunteers sometimes feel that their efforts are not appreciated equally.

And then there is this whole process of “guilt-tripping” everyone to be a contributor or a volunteer. Look at the ads of any social organization. Far more than positive messages are the negative ones that lay the guilt on with spades. “Turn this page and you are committing this child to a life of penury”, it says…and you have to turn the page, but you feel sad and guilty while doing so.

Then there is the guilt-tripping about participating in social initiatives. “We had a protest against xyz,” an email recently said. “Where were you? It is so easy for you to sit at home saying how good our cause is.” I found that SO negative. I may not be able to join in the protest for various, very valid reasons. During one protest that took place on two Saturdays…the first time I was out of town, the second time, my neighbour’s father died and I was in the hospital. Why must people assume that your reasons for not participating must be somehow ignoble? Why not give someone the benefit of the doubt?

I do agree that it is very difficult to get people to participate in such activities, but surely there should be a better way of getting them to do so rather than piling guilt and shame on their heads. And the irony is that the only ones who will feel the guilt is the ones who do want to volunteer; the others will quite blithely “turn the page”.

And I feel another thing which core workers for one social initiative forget, is that the average individual has many facets and gets approached for many different activities. And yes, a good-hearted person whose social conscience is active, would like to contribute to many things.

Just in the past few days, for example, I met someone who is working to integrate puppetry as a form of communication; someone who is helping tribals who are being expelled from their ancestral land; got an appeal for volunteers for blind students preparing for their exams and also from people who are trying to bring theatre into schools; talked to someone who runs a centre for autistic children, spoke to people who are worried about the environment in my city, tried to do something about documenting the threat to wildlife; chatted with someone about the hardships faced by women prisoners in our jails, and read about people who try and make slum children’s lives better.

All these causes are equally worthy; and I would like to contribute not just to one of these…but there is only so much time available to me. And I must live my own life too…and I have a right to NOT do volunteer work if I don’t want to. People tend to forget that voluntary work IS at the person’s time and convenience, and often pull a face when the volunteer says, sorry, I can’t make it tomorrow. When I cannot make it for a protest, I am made to feel extremely guilty about having a life apart from the protest. This sometimes has the unfortunate effect of alienating the volunteer from the cause altogether. Volunteering cannot be the same as a full-time job for the cause.

And what I also find irritating is that if I donate money, sometimes, instead of thanks, all I get is “it’s so easy to give money but there is nobody to do the actual work.” And if I donate my time and effort, I am also expected to donate money as well. Every time I spend time on a project, I am asked to buy things I will never use, and am ridden with guilt if I don’t.

It is also difficult if the volunteer’s strengths are not utilized; a disorganized voluntary effort is really a waste. I recently went to help with some rescued birds; I have handled birds, and wanted to help with dosing them and treating them. But what I was doing was… nailing mesh to cage frames, which I certainly cannot do well at all.

But having volunteered, I do realize just how tough some of these social initiatives are, and really can’t blame the people involved with them for using all the methods they can, to get people to come in and help! So I guess it is six of the one and half a dozen of the other…it is I who must choose how and what I will volunteer…and prevent myself from being loaded with guilt about the rest.