Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Interview: "Capacity Building for youth can rejuvenate Organic Farming in Tamilnadu" - Mrs.Subhashini Sridhar, CIKS

27th september 2016, SLI. An interview with Subhasini Sridhar, Programme Director, Centre for Indian Knowledge System, Sirkazhi, Nagapattinam district.

Tell us about your work and current priorities at CIKS...

Currently we focus mainly on strengthening of farmer groups through Farmer Producer Organisation. We have been working with 9 districts in Tamil Nadu with more than 25,000 farmers and basically our focus is on strengthening of organic farming. The centre is also working on revival of traditional Paddy varieties and validation of tradition knowledge systems in India.

What is the current status of organic farming in Tamil Nadu?

At present people are more aware about organic farming and there seems to be increase in adoption of organic farming methods by the farmers.  Many farmers are now aware about the hazards of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and they want to switch over to organic farming. The only constraint is the marketing of the organic products. There is lack of availability of platforms to market the products and the market is full of products which are adulterated- ‘the so called organic products’, but it contains pesticides residuals. In order to promote organic farming in Tamil Nadu it’s marketing needs to be taken care of.

You mentioned that there are many so called organic products which are not really organic, how do we differentiate between the adulterated organic products with the real products?

Many of the farmers by default practice organic farming and some have switched to organic farming but in spite of that, they do use small amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides though they are selling it as organic products. So in the market there is a competition between the genuine organic as well as the so called organic products.  The onus shifts to the consumers, who need to figure out what is the real organic product. For that consumers need to be aware of the details about the products they are consuming.

Towards this end, we are educating the consumers on how to identify the products as organic, we are also making effort to establish link between the consumers and the farmers, so that the consumers are aware about the producers and the technique adopted by them.

According to you what is the role of youth in Organic farming?

As far as youth are concerned their role is very important but at present there is increase in  migration of rural youth to the urban and semi-urban cities which is very alarming. Presently, mostly people above 40 are engaged in agriculture and the youth are more or less uninterested. But in some pockets we can see that the youth are leaving their corporate jobs and coming back to farming but unfortunately most of the youth are switching off to other occupation.

How do you plan to tackle this issue?

Our centre in collaboration with organisations such as Sustainable Livelihoods Institute wants to retain the village youth in agriculture. Therefore, our major focus for the next two years is to encourage the youth in organic farming by giving them capacity building training focusing on enterprise formation and better agriculture with profitable income.

Memorial for Nick

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Discussion on "GM Mustard and our Food Safety" with Mr Arachalur Selvam and Pamayan

Invitation to a talk on Local Self Governance: Panchayat Election in India by Mr. Laksminarayanan

Interviews: Yoga for Rural Women and Livelihoods - Mrs. Lakshmi Ranganathan

Date: 22nd Sept 2016, SLI

Laksmi Ranganathan has been a student of Sri. TKV Desikachar and was one of the first teachers in Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram where she worked till 1986. She has been a yoga teacher for more than 40 years and has conducted multiple workshops on Pranayama and Meditation. She is adept at the therapeutic use of yoga as a treatment and has led several seminars on Yoga for Women, Breath & Yoga Therapy and Philosophy. She also trains teachers on the use of yoga as a means for therapy and practice. She is the co-founder of Sanjeevani Ayurveda and Yoga Centre in Chennai. She is also an honorary Yoga instructor at “The School” run by the Krishnamurthi Foundation of India (Breath & Ayurveda in Yoga Therapy with Lakshmi Ranganathan and Dr. Padmini Ranganathan, 2013). 

1.      How would you explain the essence of yoga to an amateur like me?

It is a very simple yet the hardest question one can ask. To be honest in the beginning like you, even I did not know anything about Yoga. It took a long time for me to understand it. My teacher did not explain it to me but just made me practice for a purpose - for treatment: as I was injured from an accident. In the beginning I did not even understood the philosophy of Yoga but as I practiced I knew that something was happening to my body. It was not like any other exercise; the pain I had reduced with simple movement accompanied by breathing- Pranayama. I realised that something was happening inside- that was my first insight on Yoga. And I would say what the definition says from Yogasutra- “Yogash chitta vrutti nirodhah- it means the ability to concentrate on object you require, contemplation and sustain this concentration for a length of time without any disturbances. But to really explain what this is will take more time. To put it simply, I would say Yoga is to be positive inside; yoga helps you to have quietness within.

2.      How old were you when you came in contact with Yoga?

I started Yoga in 1969, in my early 20s. I had a very long hair and it got caught in the vehicle because of which I met with an accident, because of the accident I was in a lot of pain (neck) and was under severe medication and then I met my teacher -he said we will try and throw away your collar and I did it with faith. One thing about Yoga is that you need faith. I was in pain for few months and then it disappeared then I continued with my practice along with my other work and in one point I left my work and learnt Yoga and then became a Yoga teacher and started teaching by 1975.

3.      According to you what is the importance of yoga in this contemporary society, especially with regards to women’s wellness?

I have been working in this area for a long time, we have even conducted many workshops with this regard, but unfortunately Yoga has travelled outside India and has been sold back to us. We are realising the value now after losing lot of our own background, but there are lot of references- my teacher Shri. T. Krishnamacharya, he had talked a lot about women and yoga.
Now- a-days women work both within and outside home, they have lot of stress and lot of anger: all these things slowly have a very negative impact on their body and their mind is full of fear. For example today in the session a caterpillar fell on a young woman and she screamed as if something very terrible had happened, so what I mean is fear complex has increased, and fear, anger all these aversions have negative impacts on the women of the present generation and Yoga is something which can help in this area specifically on menstrual complaints, difficulties in pregnancy, post-natal and menopause etc but the most important thing for women is not just to get treatment but the maintenance of their health which can be attained through Yoga.

Yoga is not just a physical exercise, Asanas lead you to a higher level of Pranayama, Gyana; something to understand and reflect on yourself. The yogis did this a long time ago to define and understand what it is and to understand themselves (aatmadharshana), they did it with great devotion but now everything is done with some expectation, expectation itself is kind of a negative component. The most important quotation in Yoga is “Do your activity to your best and the result will come by itself”.

4.      Do you think that the present lifestyle of women provides her the space and time to practice yoga daily? How can this be facilitated, particularly with rural women?

Of course, everyone can commit their time to do what they want to do. If you can find time to go to the beauty parlour, you can find time to talk on the mobile phones for hours, you can also keep aside just half an hour for Yoga. If you want something, even if it is not easy, you make effort to get it with faith-abhiyasam. Abhiyasam is long-term practice with devotion; it is a continuous process without break and with positive attitude. If you continue Abhiyasam then whatever you practice becomes part of you. But the time one takes to attain it depends on person to person. Some people are very intense and some are not so much, I have seen many young people who are not very motivated in the beginning but come out of requirement/desperation but later they become the best example as once they realise that they are getting something positive out of it, they really get attached to this. Once you start doing Yoga regularly, you won’t stop it. And I believe that if you really want to do something, help comes to you in some way or the other.

5.      In the urban area there are many centres where people can learn Yoga which is not present in rural areas. According to you what are the sources where the rural population can learn Yoga?

Actually if you ask me, now-a-days whatever is available in the cities slowly trickles down to villages.  But one thing that rural women have is-connection with the nature, they work along with them. Infact if you look at them they have a certain body co-ordination, body language and they are relaxed in their mind. The ability to be with the object is Yoga and they have that ability. Yoga is not just Asanas but to be with the object; concentration without stress which they have or at least had.

To be truthful the teachers generally don’t want to go to the rural areas and teach Yoga anymore, unfortunately such commercials aspects have crept in Yoga, the temptations is very high for teachers. But rural women so far are fine as they are comfortable with their surrounding, and they are content (have quietness in the mind). We are not comfortable with our surroundings.

6.      Is there a difference in teaching Yoga to the urban and the rural people?

For me where they come from is not important but the person matters. The way I was taught was very different, very traditional- only one student, as it is not just teaching but also observation- what is good and bad for the student and little bit of counselling. Traditionally it was not a group method, group is actually a western idea. Yoga was not grouped learning but an individual learning, teacher to student, a guru-sishya parampara. But unfortunately now we have to package it differently and sadly in India there is no follow up of anything, things come and go. For example whatever I spoke today, the women might not have registered; I mean they will go back to their home tomorrow and follow their usual schedule. But maybe if I leave a drop and make them think about it then maybe they will learn Yoga someday.

Now Yoga has become more like a gimmick, it went outside and came back in beautiful package; the material does not seem to be important but the packaging seems to be more important and people are attracted to these packages. We think what we know are all that exist, but still there are many sincere teachers who practice Yoga and teach but they are not known as unfortunately people are more attracted towards the commercial aspect of Yoga.

7.      You have been involved with Ayurveda and a practitioner of yoga for a long time, how would you explain the connection between Ayurveda and Yoga?

The way we talk about the state of mind in Yoga and state of body (Vata, Pitha, Kapha) is similar. Ayurveda explains diet for different climate, diet for normal health, diet for diseases etc and through Yoga I use my own interpretation of Asanas and practice, I find the combination of both these comfortable and effective. 

We tell the people do’s and don’ts for their diet because people have started consuming unhealthy food –these are the unknown causes of many illness as we don’t know what is in our food, these food can reflect or change the nature of your body and mind. So looking into it, we explain the diet and slowly try to convert their diet into healthy diet. In the beginning it is difficult as you can’t change the diet of the people easily but once they practice and get use to it, the body starts rejecting things that are unhealthy. We also suggest them other small things like eat when you are hungry and don’t force yourself when you are not hungry.

8.      SLI is involved in promoting sustainable livelihoods to rural women. Do you think they have lost contact with the traditional knowledge of yoga? How can SLI help revive to these?

Rural women earlier were very much in sync with nature but now they seem to have lost their contact. Unlike the olden days, now if they have some pain they go to the hospital and get shot, their lifestyle has changed, they are not aware of it but slowly it’s changing.

For a livelihood program I think Yoga needs to be an integral part as the women needs to be free from stress to be healthy. For that the institute could conduct Yoga program and select few women who are really interested and good in it and train and certify them so that they can go back and teach Yoga in their home town.

Interview By: Tendel Zangmu Thongon

Monday, 26 September 2016

Nick passes away...


Nick Klotz has been part of SLI for over a year now.  A British - Australian by origin and  an Aurovillian of recent times, he has been closely associated with several initiatives in Auroville that are centered around social enterprises, be it the Bamboo Centre, Wellpaper, EcoFemme or Komali MediClown Academy.  He had been part of the SEDAB project and continued a mentoring relationship with the project manager of SEDAB, Mr. Parthasharathy. Nick was invited to be part of the Executive Committee of SLI in June this year by the Executives and Executive Committee.

His passion was in social enterprises and he provided his skills, knowledge, networks and vast experience to the young entrepreneurs in Auroville to promote new ideas and persons. So, when SLI came into the new campus and he started to come for some of the programmes, he quickly realized the advantage of the Institute as an idea and started to spend more time at the Institute, interacting, working with and guiding the participants. Slowly he developed an independent relationship with each one of the members in the SLI team and was a mentor for many of them individually. He cared for each one of them in an unique manner and would always talk about their potential and the capacity that needs to be manifested. Even during his hospitalization, he would talk about the hidden talents within the team that needs to be encouraged and manifested.

Though he called himself a "Socialist" often, he believed in markets having to become level playing fields and the capacity of the villagers to be able to compete and provide products and services of high quality in the global market space. So, almost all his programmes were in helping the small village community products in the market. He was a faculty for the programmes on Marketing, Branding, Packaging and Labeling apart from being a resource person for the monthly Clinic for Community Enterprises. 

He was extremely generous in his praise for people and initiatives he  promoted. "This is the best!", "That is brilliant!", "Fantastic idea!", "Great, that is the way to go!", he would exclaim often surprising the recipient with the  enthusiasm of his response as much as his positiveness towards the responses. He recognized that there was much encouragement required between having a good idea and putting effort behind it and executing it. He would celebrate the simplest of ideas from the ordinary people that gave them confidence to move forward. 

He often clearly differentiated between Marketing and Sales and maintained though he did plan and strategies, he was essentially a sales person. He would often talk about sales techniques and was quite proud of any efforts that boosted the sales of the village community products. "those girls, they know how to sell!, they are good!!", he would compliment the sales girls at the Kamalam SEDAB outlet whom he had trained at one time into sales techniques. When he was asked to pen his note on SLI for the first year  anniversary issue, he decided he would write about Chandra Amma, the elderly lady who made tea for everyone in the office. He had high regard for almost everyone who articulated less and who performed their work with commitment.

A stickler to punctuality, he often would be the early to SLI, being at the office sharp at 9 and thereby inspiring younger colleagues to come at that hour when the office started. He always researched people before hand meeting them thereby ensuring that he knew more about them and prepare accordingly. When he learnt that the new Auroville Secretary was a good scrabble player, for almost 4 months, Nick started to practice scrabble on his phone just in case the Secretary were to start a scrabble club. Irony, this habit came in handy while he was hospitalized as he had to spend many hours in the hospital bed, he continued playing scrabble in his phone.

A warm and doting host, he would fuss about and ensure that individual tastes and needs are catered to when he hosted anything, be it just a dinner or a week long trip - which he hosted for the SLI team at his farm in Wayanad. He loved to cook at dinners and came up with exotic dishes sometimes and would always prepare well in advance and buy all the materials for cooking the same and ensure that he served it with warmth and flair. 

He would always ensure that the small honorarium that was given to him went to support some other cause that he felt was worthwhile. He often said that he was fortunate to not need the money and if other worthy ideas can be supported, then, all the much better. Just a month before his accident he sponsored an upcoming artiste to draw portraits of all the SLI staff as a possible exhibition material for the 50th year celebration of Auroville.  

It is a sad day for SLI that Nick developed several complications and died yesterday. He was 63 and not at the age to go. He had met with an accident on the 31st of July and was in the hospital most of August and September. He was recovering from the surgery on his knee when other complications were identified in his body that eventually proved to be fatal. We are SLI are at a shock and it will take awhile for us to recover from this loss. We are happy that we could be of some little assistance to him during his health struggle over the last couple of months. 

We will miss you Nick and there will be always a place for you in all our hearts and a space in the SLI institution for you.  

- Team SLI | 26th Sept 2016

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Connecting the Dot..Women's Wellness and Happiness

The idea behind this information dissemination and discussion session was to bring together the experts from various field of medicine to start a dialogue on women health and wellness which probably would help in joint action on the concerned subject. Previously during an interaction with Dr. Vijaylakshmi, she shared many details which were more or less very scary to say the least, so it striked to us to give the experts from different traditional practices of health care which are unfortunately deemed as alternatives, a platform where they can discuss about the women health. It is a deliberate effort on behalf of SLI to disseminate information on women issues from the understanding and personal experiences of the experts so that a meaningful and comprehensive women’s wellbeing index can emerge, which can act as a guiding principle for women’s wellbeing programme in SLI and elsewhere.

For more details click here:  Report