Saransh - Able Villagers

I've been working with Saransh - able villagers, a Bangalore based charitable trust that works in the villages of India, for people with disabilities. They provide the disabled/handicapped with training and required raw material. Once they make the products, they buy the whole produce at market price to sell it, mostly to corporates. Their current product list includes handicraft made of ceramics, coconut fibre, leather, soft marble, terracotta candles and wood. They also have a variety of candles, hammocks, handmade paper products and lamp shades.

And why am I writing about Saransh? Because I've been working with them for the past month. I've tried to help the group in my own little way, by creating and hosting their new website http://saransh.org.in/. It's not my best production, but this is something that I will work on continuously. Even though it's up and running, I would say that the website is only in its nascent stage today. It will be a communication portal for Saransh, and will also display their complete product range.

We are already looking at the next steps. The main feature that is up on the production line is the integration with an online payment gateway, so that corporates and individuals will be able to purchase products online, and make donations. And for facilities like these, Saransh needs lots of help from individuals with similar technical backgrounds. If you or your friends would like to volunteer for website backend administration (Joomla), and for internet payment gateway solutions, please visit the website and fill out the volunteer form.

Drive carefully and slowly

This is a real life incident, and a long narration, but there’s plenty to learn.

It’s 8.45am on Sunday, 11th of Feb 2007, and I’m all geared up, this time with lots of sun screen and a cap, to ride back to Aero India, this time specifically to get a look at the exhibition. My teenage nephew rode along for the thrills. We were hardly out of home, when the wind took his cap away. I stopped the bike, he ran back and picked up his cap, and we were riding again. Barely half a kilometer down, at the Domlur (Shanti Sagar) intersection on Airport Road, a woman throws herself and her 7 year old kid right in front of my bike, with only 20 feet between us. Even with my reasonably OK reflexes, it was impossible to stop in that distance at a speed of 45+ KMPH. Despite my efforts at braking as hard as I could, I hit the kid. The boy was bleeding. My nephew and I were not injured. We know how our public is, they want to get involved at first chance, and punish the guilty. This time, several people and a traffic constable had witnessed the accident, and they immediately absolved me, and scolded the woman for her action. We immediately put them in a rickshaw and sent them to Manipal Hospital. I sent my nephew back home.

While I dragged my bike to the side, the constable had radioed in and an inspector on wheels had arrived. He got a quick and dirty lowdown on the situation, inspected my bike (which was now inoperable because the clutch was broken due to sudden stopping while in gear), and agreed to give me a ride to Manipal Hospital. From Manipal, we went to Hosmat Hospital, the most reputed accident injury hospital in Bangalore. The doctors there said that besides minor scratches, there were two injuries on the back of the head, one was a superficial cut and they stitched it up. The other was a blunt force injury and they would have to do some scans to detect any internal injury. Since the boy had not lost consciousness and was responding well, they decided to release him, advised his parents to keep watch, and bring him back for the scans if they noticed any abnormal behavior. This was such a relief, because any internal injury would have meant disaster.

Back to the accident site to retrieve my bike, I was told to first visit the police station. At the police station, I met another inspector, who told me that the parents had the first choice of filing a complaint against me. The police had the second choice of filing a case of driving with negligence. And he was raring to file the case. The only choice I had was to get the parents of the boy to write a letter to the police stating that they had no complaint against me. If I did not get the letter, and even if the parents did not file a complaint, the police would file their own case, and would confiscate my bike and drivers license till the case was closed. The inspector did not care about what actually happened at the scene or that there were witnesses. He was completely unwilling to hear me out. All he wanted to do was to charge me. He was all ready to prosecute me.

If a complaint or case was filed, and even if I won, it would take years and years, I would end up spending thousands on legal expenses, and the bike would become thrash in the police impound. I had to find the parents and get that letter. The hunt for the parents was not so difficult. They came to the police station with the boy. The boy's father was also illiterate and a construction worker. He didn’t want to file a complaint. He only demanded that I pay him five thousand rupees towards treatment costs and then he would give me the letter. Even though I knew I was not responsible for the accident and could walk away, in my heart I felt that I had to take care of the boy. I could see that these people were poor and had nobody else to look up to. I told him that in case they later discovered it was an internal injury, five thousand rupees would be peanuts and would not take care of the medical expenses. I offered to undertake all future medical expenses related to the injury, whatever it may cost, including costs of any surgery. That made more sense to me. But he was stuck to his demand for cash upfront. This had now turned into blackmail.

It is common knowledge around here that these poor and illiterate men care little about their kith and kin, and any spare money they can garner goes into fulfilling their alcoholic needs. I understood that if I gave any cash upfront to him, he would party all night, and leave the kids future to fate. Then it wouldn’t matter If I gave him five thousand, double or even ten times of that. A lot of people tried to convince the father to accept my offer, but he didn’t budge. Even the cops suggested that I give him something, get the letter, and forget about the whole thing. It was a difficult decision. By this time, although I had taken it upon myself to take care of the boy's medical expenses, I had started to lose my energy due to the attitude of his father. Under pressure from the cops and my cousin, I agreed to pay him cash, get the letter, have the bike released, and forget about the boy. When the father agreed to two thousand five hundred, it was crystal clear that this was his booze money. No father would otherwise compromise to such an extent for his son's future.

At the end of the day, I had spent eight hundred in the hospitals, given two thousand five hundred to the father, and five hundred to the cops. Yes, the cops get their share too. And five hundred was only from me, I don’t know how much they took from the father. The cop's angle is hidden in the beginning, but it becomes so clear at the end. They played us all through.

Mind you, this was despite several witnesses to the accident including a policeman. If the same incident had happened in a deserted area or in the absence of a policeman or in darkness, you can’t even imagine the ordeal one would have had to go through. If this doesn’t wake you up, here’s news that will. I was told by the cops and others around that there have been several incidents where accidents have been staged by people, even if it entailed real injury to them, only to grab as much money as possible from the innocent driver.

My sincere request to everyone is: please drive slowly and carefully. Even if you are the safest driver around, you have to tackle rude and obnoxious drivers and illiterate pedestrians. You know better.

I’ve become extremely irritable after this incident. I’m shouting and screaming at every other person. My overall emotional state is in turmoil. For the first time, I don’t feel like saying cheers.

Aero India 2007 Rehearsal

I managed to get entry into the full dress rehearsal of Aero India 2007 today. Thanks to my cousin Anshu for arranging it. She has a friend in the IAF. I couldn't help but upload all the pictures as soon as I got back home, and write a report. The show was absolutely stunning. There's a link to the pictures at the end of this article.

At the IAF Yelahanka main gates, security personnel were swarming all over. Particularly eye-catching were the fully geared commandos - looked like a scene out of a recent western action movie - I've never seen anything like that anywhere in India or even in any Indian movie. The actual show had some speeches by the Defense Minister, CM of Karnataka, Defense Secretary. We were spared these today, but had to sit through the allotted time anyway.

The sequence of display:

  • Para drop by Akash Ganga skydiving team
  • Fly by formation of 3 helicopters flying flags of India, Indian Air Force, and Aero India
  • Fly by formation of 1 ALH flying at it's top speed, 2 Kirans flying at medium speed, and 2 Sukhoi 35 flying at their lowest speed - but all them flying in formation at the same speed.
  • Fly by formation of 1 AN-32 and 2 Dornier 228
  • Russian FFF 142 - the fastest and highest flying turboprop. It is a long range, anti-submarine aircraft, and can do 3 round trips of Kashmir to Kanyakumari without refuelling.
  • Display by IJT (Intermediate Jet Trainer)
  • Fly by of IL78 Tanker with 2 Mirage2000 in its tow - simulated mid air refuelling
  • Fly by formation of 5 Jaguars
  • Fly by formation of 3 LCA (Light Combat Aircraft)
  • Fly by of IL38 - long range recon and anti-submarine
  • Aerobatic maneuvers display by Gripen
  • Aerobatic maneuvers display by Mig-35
  • Aerobatic maneuvers display by F18 Super Hornet
  • Aerobatic maneuvers display by IJT
  • Aerobatic maneuvers display by Mig-29
  • Aerobatic maneuvers display by F16 Falcon
  • Aerobatic maneuvers display by C17 Loadmaster3

The C17 Loadmaster was an impressive end to the show. It's a 200 ton cargo aircraft with 4 amazingly quiet fully reversible turbofans spewing 40 thousand pounds of thrust each - these are the same engines used in Boing-757. This one performed some stunning slow flight and steep turns - can you imagine an aircraft the size of a football field doing steep turns at slow speeds! And then it landed and stopped in about 1500 feet, and you'd have to see it to believe it - it taxied 1500 feet in reverse!

The sky looked scattered at less then 10000 feet - that's a guess - based on the fact that the F16 went straight up 5Km, but disappeared into the clouds for quiet some time before it came diving out of the clouds and straight down towards the earth. Later in the afternoon, the sun was scorching overhead. My cousin went home with a throbbing headache - she claimed that the Sukhoi had gone into her head.

At the static display, I got close enough to touch all those aircraft. A few of them were barricaded, a few were not. When I had passed the non-barricaded ones, the security came in and drove away everybody. Lucky me.

This was my first Aero India visit, and the first time inside any air base. Something cheeky that I couldn't help thinking about: Can there be anything more tantalizing than a pretty woman in air force uniform?

Yes. A pretty woman in air force overalls, sporting aviator goggles, and reflecting a confidence to take on the world.

Click here to see the pictures from Aero India 2007 Rehearsal.