Inspirational India!!!

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Daredevil, Nov 17, 2010.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    This thread to be used to post articles and discussions about the inspirational stories of India and Indians around the world. Let us celebrate our heroes/institutes/organizations and inspirational stories behind their rise and their positive contribution to the Indian society.

     
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  3. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    In India, the World's Largest School Lunch Program

    Narasimha Das is on his way to feed 169,379 hungry children. A devotee of Lord Krishna, Das oversees operations in an industrial-size kitchen in the Hindu religious town of Vrindaban, about a three-hour drive from New Delhi. As he reaches work, the pebbles on the facility's driveway crunch softly in the semidarkness of a nippy October morning.

    It's only 3 a.m., but the kitchen, run by the Akshaya Patra Foundation, already exudes the warm fragrance of freshly baked chapati. Thirty men in overalls and mouth and hair guards silently labor over tons of wheat flour and dough. They have less than five hours to make tens of thousands of rounds of Indian flatbread that will be loaded onto heat-insulated, dust-free delivery vans and transported to 1,516 schools in and around Vrindaban. (See pictures of India's changing visual landscape.)

    As the world's cameras focus on India this week, with U.S. President Barack Obama making his first visit to New Delhi, scenes like this one — and the problems it underscores — are not likely to capture much of the international spotlight. Despite its optimistic economy and growing geopolitical clout, India continues to be home to more undernourished children than any other country; 42% of the world's underweight children under age 5 live here. A global hunger index released this month by the International Food Policy Research Institute ranked India 67th out of 84 countries on indicators like child malnourishment, child mortality and calorie deficiency.

    It's hardly a new problem. To address the enduring and intertwined problems of hunger, child malnutrition and illiteracy, India launched the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the largest school-lunch program in the world, back in the 1960s. Today the program feeds 120 million students every day across the nation. Akshaya Patra, a Bangalore-based nonprofit, is its largest nongovernmental partner, running 17 kitchens across eight states and providing hot meals to more than 1.26 million children every day at their schools. The program aspires to feed 5 million children by 2020; described by Obama as a "powerful demonstration of what's possible when people work together," it today runs on a public-private partnership model, with 65% of its funds provided by the government.

    Das, president of the Vrindaban operation, tells TIME the Vrindaban kitchen now makes 250,000 flatbreads, four tons of rice, more than two tons of lentils and between five and six tons of vegetables each morning. The menu, developed with the needs of growing children and local food habits in mind, consists of rice or chapatis and a different kind of Indian soup, like daal or kadhi (a soup made from yogurt and flour), with vegetables and, once a week, dessert.

    The subject of a 2007 Harvard study about time management, Akshaya Patra began providing cooked, nutritious meals on its own initiative for 1,500 schoolchildren in Bangalore in 2000, a year before India's highest court made it mandatory for the government to provide cooked meals to children in all government and government-assisted primary schools each day. "It was shocking how much a meal, which we take for granted, meant to these children," says Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation. In 2006 the NGO hooked up with the federal Mid-Day Meal Scheme, which has been a huge success and is seen as key to helping India meet its Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and achieving universal primary education. That program's funds increased from approximately $670 million in 2005-06 to slightly more than $1 billion in 2006-07. (See pictures from Obama's Asia trip.)

    Despite its success, Akshaya Patra's guiding principle has remained the same: that no children in India will miss out on education because they are too hungry to attend. For more than 13 million children in India, attending school is not a priority because if they don't work they will go hungry. Despite repeated requests from other parts of the developing world, Akshaya Patra wants to remain focused on India. "We have enough hungry children to feed in India," Dasa says.

    Later in the morning, the Akshaya Patra delivery van arrives at the Gopalgarh Primary School, a little more than a mile away from the kitchen. The children look out expectantly as the familiar thud of the food containers being unloaded from the truck reach their ears. Laxmi Binodini, the headmistress, says attendance has increased from 120 to 200 students since the program started in her school four years ago. The number of girls has doubled. "Parents now have an incentive to send the girls to school. Previously they would be taken off after [age 9] to stay at home and do the cooking and other chores," Binodini says. A survey by Akshaya Patra showed that since its kitchen started in Vrindaban in 2006, attendance in the town's schools rose from 80.6% to 92.4% and the proportion of underweight children dropped from 38% to 26%.

    When the gong sounds for lunch break at noon, the children tumble out of the classrooms. They wait while the teachers dole out the soft chapatis and steaming lentils and vegetables. Laxman, a 12-year-old boy, returns for seconds. In keeping with its name, which means an inexhaustible bowl of food, Akshaya Patra allows as many helpings as the children want — as long as they finish what's on their plate.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2029625,00.html#ixzz15Ty0nrYw
     
  4. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    From studying under the streetlights to CEO of a US firm!

    [​IMG]

    Here is the rags-to-riches story of an extremely talented boy from a small village in Tamil Nadu who has risen to be the chief executive officer of a company in Seattle, USA.

    It is also the story of how Kalyana Raman Srinivasan, who was so indigent that he had to study under a streetlight, but then managed to score excellent marks, rose in life and became today's Kal Raman.

    At every turn in his life, he took the difficult path and it turned out to be the right one and in the right direction. His rise to the top is more dramatic than a thriller. Today, he is a very successful entrepreneur and the founder-CEO of GlobalScholar.

    Difficult childhood

    Kal Raman was born and brought up in a small village called Mannarakoil in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. It was a comfortable normal middle class life for him and his siblings as his father was a Tahasildar there.

    But the sudden death of his father at the age of 45 changed everything overnight.

    Kal was 15 then. "My mother got a pension of Rs 420 a month and you can imagine how tough it is to educate four children and feed five mouths with Rs 420?"

    Hi life changed dramatically after his father's death. The family moved from the rented house to a hut that had no proper water supply or electricity. Kal Raman remembers, "All of us used to study under the streetlight and, thank god, the streetlights used to work those days! MGR (M G Ramachandran) was the chief minister then. We had to sell the plates to buy rice to eat and my mother used to give us rice in our hands. That bad was our situation."

    But his mother, who had studied till the 8th standard, was very particular that her children studied. "All our relatives wanted my elder brother to stop studying and take up the small job offered by the government but my mother wanted him to continue studying."

    "Then they wanted me to learn typewriting and shorthand so that I could get some job after the 10th standard. But mother said, 'My children are going to get the best education I can offer. Education is our salvation.' She was my hero for her vision and she still is my hero."

    What kept the family going? "We were sad but because we accepted our fate, we were at peace with whatever that happened to us. We knew our father would not come back to lift us up from poverty. We also knew our salvation was a long way away."

    He didn't know why he used to tell his mother, "One day I will give you so much money that you will not know what to do with it!" Years later, he did exactly that!

    First turning point in life

    Kal Raman believes that God played a hand in all the major turning points in his life. The first turning point in life was after his 12th standard. He got good marks in both the engineering and medicine entrance exams, and for engineering, he got admission at the Anna University in Chennai while for medicine, it was in the Tirunelveli Medical College.

    "While going in the bus with my mother to join the medical college, I told her, "If I join for medicine here, the high probability is that my life may begin and end in Tirunelveli. I really want to see the world.' She agreed with my decision to go to Chennai and join Anna University and study Electrical Engineering and Electronics."

    So, he stepped into a new world outside Tirunelveli, and that was Chennai. Though he had got merit scholarship and a lot of good people helped him pay the initial fee, the scholarship amount never used to reach him regularly or on time.

    "The mess fee was Rs 250 a month and I used to be a defaulter in the mess at least six months in a year. Till you pay the mess fee, you cannot eat in the mess. So, I used to live on day scholars' lunch boxes and also use to fast. That is when I learnt to fast ! I must say a lot of friends helped me with money and food."

    Scarcity of money was so bad that he had no money to buy food just before the final semester exams. When he gave his final semester exams, he had not eaten for a day-and-a-half. "After finishing the exam, I almost fainted."

    The day after the exams came all the scholarship money that was due and it was around Rs 5,000. "So, I went home a rich man and that helped us repay some loans."

    First job

    Like opting for Chennai and joining Anna University instead of a college in Tirunelveli, Kal Raman took another risk with his first job also. His first job was with Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE), and he had a choice of joining either Chennai or Mumbai.

    Although he knew nobody in Mumbai, he chose the capital of Maharashtra.

    He remembered the first day. "It was interesting. With bag and baggage, I went to the TCE office after taking a shower at the railway station as I had no money to go to any hotel. After the first introduction at the office, the manager noticed that I was wearing slippers to the office. He called me and said, "I don't care which college you are coming from but this is not acceptable. You should come in shoes tomorrow."

    I said I couldn't come in shoes the next day and this the manager construed as arrogance. "How could you talk like this?" he asked me. I said, "Sir, it is not that I don't want to, but I can't afford to buy shoes. Only after I get my first pay cheque, can I buy shoes. Sir, I request you not to terminate my job because of this. I and my family need this job."

    Shocked to hear the explanation, the manager asked, "Where are you staying?" and the reply was, "Dadar Railway Station."

    So distressed was the manager to hear Kal speak that he immediately released a month's salary in advance and also arranged for him to be at his friend's place till he could find a place to stay.

    "He bought me a pair of shoes and those were my first shoes. The next day, I sent Rs 1,500 from the advance to my mother."

    From electrical engineering to programming

    Kal's rise in career was meteoric in a short span of time. Within a month, he got a chance to move to Bengaluru (then Bangalore) and also to programming.

    Soon, he was in Chennai with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Within a few months, he was sent to Edinburgh, UK.

    From Edinburgh, his next stop was the United States. In 1992, he went to the US as an entry level contractor with Wal-Mart. In two years, he was a director running a division.

    When he left Wal-Mart after six years, he was a man running the information systems for the International Division of the retail giant.

    In 1998, he joined drugstore.com Online Pharmacy as the chief information officer and in 2001 at the age of 30, he was the CEO of the company.

    He was at the right place at the right time. "God was there at every step guiding me to take the right decisions. I was also willing to take risks and tread new paths," Kal says.

    Starting GlobalScholar

    Philanthropist Mike Milken who had donated more than a billion dollars to education, wanted to use technology so that high quality education was accessible to ordinary people.

    Milken convinced Kal to join him. That was the time Kal was building schools in his village for poor students.

    In October 2007, GlobalScholar was launched targetting both teachers and students by acquiring four companies -- National Scholar (USA), Classof1 (India), Excelsior (USA), and Ex-Logica (USA) -- that were into education.

    "Three months after the launch, I travelled all over the US, India, Singapore and China talking to teachers and companies and the public. I found that the only way to impact education was by impressing teachers. The biggest scarcity in the world is good teachers. We decided to help teachers with teaching practices and kids, learning practices."

    Kal Raman decided to concentrate on the US market as the US is more advanced in using technology. "They are also willing to pay money for technology. At present, schools buy the material which can be used by teachers, students and parents."

    Today, they have 200 people working for GlobalScholar in Chennai and 150 in the US. The study material is prepared in the Chennai office.

    The company that was started with $50 million will have in excess of $32 million and will generate $5 million of profits. In 2008, the turnover of the company was Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) and in 2009, it was Rs 80 crore (Rs 800 million). In the current year it will be 150-160 crore (Rs 1.5-1.6 billion).

    "GlobalScholar is growing at 200 per cent every year. We have 1,000 schools and 10 million students, which is one out of 10 kids in the US, using our study material. This is almost 18 per cent of the US population. We are the fastest growing education company in the US."

    GlobalScholar will soon introduce a pilot project in India and China. In the course of all this, Kalyana Raman became Kal Raman. "The country gave me everything and took half my name."

    Giving back to society

    Kal Raman is in India now for the Kumbhabhishekam of the temple at his village Mannarkoil. "It is taking place after 500 years. It is the culmination of two-and-a-half years of work. I have spent more than one and a half crore rupees (Rs 15 million) to renovate the temple and do the Kumbhabhishekam. More than anything else, I have given jobs to all my friends in the village who are masons and carpenters."

    Other than this, he has also adopted all the orphanages around his village and he takes care of around 2,000 kids, some of whom are physically handicapped.

    "I feel if I can educate these children, eventually we can make a difference in the society. We also help 100 children in their higher education. Around my village, everyone knows that if a kid who studies well cannot afford to pay fees, he has to only come to my house; his education will be taken care of."

    "I do not do this as charity; its my responsibility. I am giving something back to the society that fed me, taught me, and took care of me and gave me hopes. "
     
  5. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Last edited: May 10, 2015
  6. abirbec04

    abirbec04 Regular Member

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    Narayanan Krishnan - The Real Indian Hero

     
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