The Stray


It was September 2010 when I got my half-baked stray mutt. Her face popped up in an advertisement used as someone’s lunch wrapping paper and her adorable puppy face immediately got my attention. I patiently waited until the gentlemen finished his lunch, and (to his surprise and disgust) dived to catch his lunch wrapping paper just in time as it was about to hit the dustbin. Having made a fool of myself already, I quickly dialed the number in the advert. The lady on the other end elated that I was asking for the pup. It had been three weeks since the ad and no one had adopted this one. A couple of hours later, my pup, Pink was safely tucked in my car and we were on our way home.

In the first year, while I was in awe of Pink who would wobble her way to the tiniest corner in the house. I noticed in particular the mindset of some segments of society against the Indian dogs. My neighbours would coo over Pink until I told them she was a desi like me. Then I would see a mixture of pity and perplexity written all over their faces. Some would be in denial exclaiming, “No, No, she looks like a pedigree dog, she doesn’t look like a stray, she must be a good breed.” and others would blurt out, “But why?” they would often ask, to which I never really had an answer.

Thankfully, Pink’s Vet Dr. Ratinder turned out to be very supportive. A retired vet, he never neglected anyone who has ever knocked on his door for treatment. After the shots I nervously asked him, “What breed is my dog?” He said, “No breed” and he added “But from now on, treat her as your own family member, breed or no breed”.

When it was time to get Pink neutered, Dr. Ratinder kindly pointed me to the Karuna Animal Shelter in Bangalore (http://www.karunaanimalwelfare.org/index.htm). The shelter had a couple of operation theatres, which were used to support the municipality with the ABC – Animal Birth Control Program. Providing rehabilitation of scores of maimed and sick dogs. As we strolled around the place we were surprised to see the sheer number of homeless healthy dogs in the shelters. The caretakers explained, “No one wants to adopt them, even if they are for free”. My eyes welled up the moment I heard the word free. The caretakers also mentioned that handling so many can have a huge financial impact on the shelter especially since adoptions were meagre and the funds were merely trickling in. I failed to understand why we as a community were treating strays differently.

All this bias made me curious about the origin. I opened my Laptop, up came Google and typed the magic words, “Indian Stray Dog” and search! I find Wikipedia’s Pariah Dog post. Turns out that the strays or street dogs originate from a breed called the Pariahs aka Pye. One of the oldest indigenous breeds of dogs on the planet. And the dogs on the street are crosses of Pedigree and Pye. The Pariah is not a recognized breed in any of the Kennel Clubs. It is also interesting to note that the literal meaning of Pariah is outcast and the christening a leftover legacy of the erstwhile British Raj.

As I kept digging deeper, I found the INDog website http://www.indog.co.in/. A campaign founded in 2007 by Rajashree Khalap (https://www.facebook.com/pages/INDog-Club/172836359436779) to address the gaps in information available on these dogs. I also found her blog for the campaign, http://indianpariahdog.blogspot.in/. Reading more about the dogs and interacting with Rajashree was a life changing experience. I could now relate to Pink’s behavior and her characteristics. It was comforting to know that there was an entire community, not just pertaining to Indian boundaries but beyond it.

A few months later while I walking Pink in Cubbon Park in Bangalore, I happened to meet the ever so charismatic Achala Paani, who was on a calendar shoot for her NGO called, “Lets Live Together”. The NGO deals with the social issue of the homeless Indian Dogs, holding puppy adoption camps across the city of Bangalore. For more info please click on the following link http://letslivetogether.org/home-lets-live-together/.

It was Achala who invited us to The Great Indian Dog Show, which was exclusively for Indian Dogs. It was organized by Mansi Jaysal – a fellow pye enthusiast and her wonderful team. Even though it was the first event of its kind, close to a hundred dogs and their owners turned up. It was a pleasant change for the media who were accustomed to referring the breed as a menace. The dogs were well behaved, some were pure vegetarians, others vegans, some biker accessories and others tricksters. It was a big INDog party and the photos are on this link http://www.thegreatindiandogshow.com/.

On my many visits to slums in and around Bangalore, I have seen the perfect coexistence of these dogs and humans. Pets during the day and watchdogs by night. No leashes, no harnesses, no kennels and no walls yet each canine sits right beside their thatched mud walls they call homes. I have also seen dogs outside my home craving for just an inch of affection, which is often more important than food.

I know I stumbled on this whole underlying issue by accident but I now know there is something we can do about it. Many friends who met Pink and immediately concluded that is because of my lack of funds that I adopted a Pye, were later moved by her affection, intelligence and obedience.

Borrowing inspiration from People like Dr. Ratinder, Rajashree, Achala, Mansi and hundreds of pye lovers all over the world, we have come to respect these home grown canines coexisting with us for centuries. Dogs who are waiting for that mere sign of acknowledgement in our hearts and homes.

Author: Ajith Alex Jacob
Editor: Ankita Mishra 

About a certain Coolie and his son


School children in Tamil Nadu

Image via Wikipedia

Last week,we were on our regular visits to the Koramangala slums with CRY like every Sunday evening.These visits ensure continuous enrollment of the slum children in schools and  to address any grievances that parents might have regarding this.

It was normal as usual till the moment when I was stopped a man who figured out we were about education and welfare of children. My fellow volunteer Tarun and I were stopped by him as the rest of the volunteers moved along. He asked what we were about and we told him that we were surveying whether or not the children of the community were going to the schools or not.

He told us, “I am sending my son to the government school. I may not be so educated but I know when they are teaching the children and when they are not”.

We asked him in broken Tamil, “What do you mean?”

“My son is in 7th Grade and he can’t even do basic arithmetic. I am a coolie and I work hard  so that these children don’t have to toil the same way.”

We knew that the state of the government schools in the locality was known for its inadequacy but what he said later shocked us more. He went on to say, “The teachers will promote them to the next grade if they are offered bribes. What is the point if my son reaches 10th standard and still don’t understand basic mathematics? He will have to be a coolie like me.” We told him we were raising a petition to the government to raise the bar for the government schools. I knew that our answer didn’t mean anything to him.

It is one thing to say that if we all the people become educated then who will be our coolies and who will do the lower level jobs? I do not want to even address that here but what bothers me the most is when children who want to learn don’t have adequate access to even substandard education.

The standard of education in government schools were found to be particularly low in and around this area. We have had many children and parents  complain that the children in the schools are subjected to discrimination by caste and corporal punishment is used without hesitation. We have also had reports from parents telling us that these children were only being taught songs. It would be incorrect to categorize all schools under the same roof of inefficiency since some of the schools do confirm to the apt norms. My point, therefore being, how do we as a community improve the standard of these schools?

One thing is for sure, the Indian Department of Education needs to be kept under constant check at  national, state and local levels; especially since there is limited accountability of faculty in these schools.

Things like establishing workshops to train the teachers on updated teaching methodologies can go a long way.

Also, offering vocational training to the children at least at the secondary school level can help. Vocational training could include basic training in Carpentry, Electrical, Tailoring, over shorter periods of time.

Interactive learning using computers maybe far-fetched but will certainly be effective in the long run. Computers from http://www.raspberrypi.org/ could go a long way for us.

Author: Ajith Alex Jacob
Editor: Tulika Dubey

Let us Dream a little Dream


Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.
– Mother Teresa

Reena, believed in Mother Teresa’s quote right from the start. Especially when she saw street children vying for attention at traffic signals. She noticed that it wasn’t always money that the children wanted; rather a smile or a funny face would have them burst into laughter. And there, in that moment, they would cease to be just ragamuffins on the street, their eyes speaking a thousand words, shining with laughter. Money was easy to give she realized. It was love that these children had so desperately craved for; after all they were just children.

Hers is an example that defines the thin line between ordinary and extraordinary. The line being the courage to practice what one believes in. Reena is yet another professional working for an IT company in Bangalore. She is one among us but her dreams get the better of her. She believed in uplifting the livelihood of street children and often contemplated on the best way to touch their lives. Finally in 2010 she had the answer; bringing two of the biggest elements of her life together, love for children and love for art.
The same year she laid the foundation of her initiative calling it, Dream a little Dream. It would collaborate with other NGOs and organize art camps. And these camps would give children the outlet to express their dreams through the medium of art.
DALD soon tied up with India Literacy Project (ILP) as part of their collaborations. ILP did more than just collaborate; it rendered its full support to the young organization. And, so they set sail with the dreams of the younglings powering the sails.

Dream a little Dream has already organized five art camps across Bangalore. At these camps children come together to paint and have a fun time, dance and sing. She intends to take this one step further and identify talented artists from among them and give them expert coaching / training – funds being a crucial element in realizing this dream.

Her ultimate vision for these gifted children is to be able to admit them to art institutions where their talent can be suitably nurtured.

She told us that every Camp begins with a question to the children. “When do you dream?” In unison they say, at night. She then asks them why not during the day? This question is usually met with giggles. She then asks them to draw their little dreams. The best part of the camp, she says, is when the dreams are put down on paper. It is almost surreal. Some draw a picture of Dhoni holding a cricket bat, except Dhoni’s face is replaced by their own.Some draw a class full of children stating they want to become teachers. Some draw themselves as singers and actors performing on stage.

These paintings and the glint in their eyes, Reena says, is her little dream which comes true at every art camp she organizes. We applaud Reena Chowdhury for teaching us that people who do extraordinary things are always one among us. It takes at lot to look at these street children and see future sportsmen, teachers, singers and actors. You have taught us to do just that, to dream a little dream… Bravo!

Dream a little Dream is organizing an Art Camp on 26th February for BOSCO, an NGO which works to rehabilitate street children child laborers, abandoned / orphaned children, victims of drug abuse, victims of child abuse, begging children, rag pickers etc. They need your help to fuel the dreams of these children. Please volunteer or donate to bring a smile on their faces.
To volunteer or donate, please contact: Reena at reena.chowdhury2008@gmail.com or +919845211797 or visit www.dreamalittledream.in for details.
Author: Ankita Mishra
Editor: Ajith Alex Jacob

I Am Her


She goes to the bus stop to get to work. A group of men whistle to get her attention. One of them decides to take the liberty to sing an obscene song. Surprised at his own bravado, he flaunts how ‘cool’ he can be. He follows her, throws her way a vulgar glance and waits for her reaction. Her blood seethes with anger. She knows she must retort or the girl behind her would be next. Ironically all she ever does is walks on without reacting. He wins this one! Rounds of high fives are passed between his friends. I am her.

Society looks up to her as she is the woman of tomorrow. She is as educated as her brother is and earns as much as her husband does. She travels to work in a crowded bus in Delhi. There is hardly any space to breathe and she can feel hands on her breasts and body. She gets molested. She cannot make out if the grope is conscious. She does not react, she dare not. Will she be trivialized if she yells to protect herself from her offenders? She knows she will be thrown out of the bus herself. She is the ‘woman of tomorrow’, financially independent but with sexual freedoms at stake. I am her.

She is a twenty something studying in Bangalore. Her parents want a better life, better than they ever had. She gets raped among eleven men on Christmas Eve. Does she have the courage to fight against her rapists? Will she get any Justice? Her rapists will be on bail the very next day. And her rape case would go on for years. In the end, her family would neither have money nor the energy to carry on. A complaint filed and her life will be forever marred. I am her.

I live in a country that dubs itself as spiritual and religious by god fearing men. Yet I am raped, eve teased or molested, everyday by the same.

I burn with hatred when the Police refuse to protect me. They say I am raped because I dress in a provocative manner.

The incidents involving me are animatedly discussed over tea in small towns and in posh coffee houses by NRI wives in cities. It provides fodder for debates on news channels and kicks a huge uproar in social media sites.

In the end, my protection meets the same fate as those tea debates. Everybody eventually gets back to their life silently thanking god that they were not me i.e.; till I am raped or burned for dowry again. I am her. I am put to death as a baby, I am put to shame everyday and I am an Indian Woman.

Fight Gender Discrimination! Fight Sexual Abuse! Fight Female Genocide!

You can visit and support Gender Bytes, a campaign that supports women and female genocides, here http://genderbytes.wordpress.com/
Author: Ankita Mishra
Editor: Ajith Alex Jacob

To be or not be, an NRI, that is the question?


English: Map of the British Indian Empire from...

After speculating for hours, days, weeks on what to put up as the next blog post, we finally decided to focus on a highly controversial topic. Brain Drain.

The Biscuits were having a usual 5pm – a regular week day – high on the edge of the seat discussion or argument as most would call it. It all got kick started when we heard a gut wrenching comment from a relative, “India is substandard, the work below par and its crap, I rather be in this foreign country than India!”

Most of us were still shell-shocked after hearing the comment, when one among us lowered his head and said, “Corruption and inefficiency of the government is what is driving the country to the dumps”. A voice among declares, “Yes, if all the bright minds in the country give up hope and leave in despair, we will only have goons to govern us”. And on and on the biscuits argued for hours on corruption, poverty, global warming even, inflation, and Kapil Sibal; ending in a stalemate without a conclusion.

So, we thought we’d ask you, what do you think, is India worth staying in? Why would you want to or why would you not want to?

Bangalore CRY Street Theatre


The heroes of this story are CRY volunteers, a mixed bag of students, professionals with differing age groups and languages. They would’ve never known each other had it not were for this cause – ‘Emancipation of less privileged children’. They braved heat and fatigue to put up a series of magnificent shows in slums across Bangalore. We at ‘The Biscuit’ were lucky to have met them and seen them in action.

CRY Bangalore launched an initiative to combat school drop outs in urban slums and adjoining areas; primarily due to child labour, child marriage, and lack awareness on education system. The volunteers armed with this knowledge started visiting these children to ease the hindrances and re-enrol them in schools. Despite the tremendous effort the drive was just not enough.

And so, to make the right push, CRY decided to use a tried and tested approach, “The Street Theatre”. And, so began the valiant month-long preparation by the Volunteers to perform in the slums of Koramangala, Madiwala, Yeshwanthapur and Jeevan Bheema Nagar on the 12th and 13th of November 2011; by forming a team of 20 who had little or no experience in dramatics. The team sat through writing the scripts, sacrificing their weekends; practising with all their heart even after a hectic week’s worth of work and studies; giving up precious time with their families in the hope that at least one child might re-enrol as a result. A few of the North Indian volunteers had a bit of struggle since majority of the dialogues were in Kannada, even then they never gave up using whatever means they could in order to deliver it with precision.

On the day, fear and stage fright was barely visible in any of them, all that was visible was a deep-rooted passion towards the cause. Even while travelling to the locations the like-mindedness of these volunteers was staggering, they were no longer individuals, but a single bodied outfit, a strong unit. They performed for more than 9 hours each day. Shouting and chanting slogans for hours at stretch to gather crowds for the play, and performing a total of 11 times. After each show they would talk to the crowd and pin badges on the students who had re-enrolled as token of admiration. And they would then close each act by singing, “Hum Honge Kamiyabh”.

And it is with the same note that we summarize these volunteers who were left exhausted but undefeated in November 2011, simply because they dreamt, that as a nation – “We shall overcome”.

You have our respect. We at The Biscuit salute,

The Volunteers: Punit Shrivastava, Anjali Shivanand, Rinesh Raj, Sweta Satpathy, Adithya Nandavanam, Rashmi Shekar, Shreyas Mithare, Anusha Hegde, Apoorva Siddhi, Aishwarya Lee, Ashwini Sundara Naik, Shreoshi Dutta, Raghavendra Sajja, Zabiulla Mohammed, Arpitha Rao, Abha Thakre, Satish, Thangamma Monnappa (specialist), Rajakumari Michael (specialist) and Cyrus Sir

The CRY interns, Madwila PAG Volunteers, Koramangala PAG Volunteers, Yeshwanthapur PAG Volunteers and East PAG Volunteers.

Author: Ajith Alex Jacob
Editor: Ankita Mishra
Photography: Alex Jacob Thangamma Monnappa

We need more volunteers, if you are inspired and want to volunteer please do visit

C L I C K   H E R E   F O R    M O R E    P H O T O G R A P H S

Chandni Parekh, the game changer who changed funding to Fund-A-Cause


The year 2009; twitter was emerging rapidly in India and with almost everyone tweeting. One Saturday afternoon in April, the same year, Mumbaikar Chandni Parekh received an invitation from her friend to join Twitter; joining only with the intention of reading her friends tweets with no particular interest in networking or tweeting. A week went by and the next Sunday morning, the 19th of April, she recollected the many financial appeals through e-groups for projects and medical treatment, from NGOs and on occasions from individuals. The idea of sharing these appeals as tweets struck her. And after contemplating on a few names with her friend, she changed her account handle from Chandni to Fund-A-Cause, and the legacy had begun.

Since the inception of the idea, a little over two and a half years ago, Fund-A-Cause now is a nationally acclaimed initiative that has channelled funds to numerous causes. F-A-C has grown from being a twitter account to a blog and a Facebook page that connects thousands and has continually tried to raise funds for anyone in need farmers, the adivasis, the unemployed, the critically ill, the poor students, those affected by natural calamities, and even endangered animals.

What inspires us the most about Chandni is that she is not only the pioneer of F-A-C but also a Social Psychologist who has taught courses in Counselling Psychology, conducts workshops on Sexuality Education and Sexual Abuse for schools and colleges, and consults with NGOs. Moreover, Chandni’s interest does not only lie in merely raising funds but also in helping reach out to the ones who cannot be reached out.

Chandni says, “The belief behind F-A-C is that once we learn about someone’s financial need and are motivated to shake off the lack of empathy or trust that might be preventing us from helping, we will contribute”. On being asked about the predicament of society towards NGOs, she mentions that while many NGOs do attempt to address the structural and systemic inequities that affect our country, there seems to be a general lack of motivation on the part of laypeople to think of the different ways in which they can make a difference to the lives of the less privileged.

She further argues, “Being sensitive to other people’s realities and the effort made by NGOs does not always mean providing monetary help. It can also mean donating our time, skills, ideas, creativity and resources”. F-A-C attempts to make people realise that they have a role and responsibility in ameliorating the lives of others around them, and in using and sharing their money more wisely, she adds. Finally she emphasises “It’s easy to get desensitised to the problems of other, poorer people in our country. Young people need to be honest to themselves and reflect on their reasons for not doing their bit to make a difference rather than stating that ‘The system won’t change'”.

As with any other case, great deeds rarely go unnoticed, F-A-C has been featured more than 16 times in the media, with 2000+ followers and 100+ lists in twitter (which by far is a no easy task), over 260,000+ blog hits and about 500 followers on Facebook. Chandni was awarded the First Citizen in the contest conducted by the American Center for the citizens of Western India for this effort.

We at The Biscuit are inspired by your work and your story. We would like to acknowledge your effort as our Favourite Initiative of this month. Our nation is indebted to you for the noble cause you have pledged yourself to. It is people like you Chandni Parekh who change this nation; you have our respect, Kudos.

You can visit FAC on http://fundacause.posterous.com/ Follow FAC on Twitter @FundACause Like FAC on Facebook Fund-A-Cause.You too can contribute towards F-A-C, by reading the posts on F-A-C, sharing the posts, making financial contributions, and by offering your time and skills.
 We would like to thank Kiran Manral who had introduced us to F-A-C. You can also get more info on her on http://www.thirtysixandcounting.wordpress.com and follow her on twitter @kiranmanral
We specially thank R. Lalita for helping us find F-A-C. You can get more info on her on http://lrfascinations.wordpress.com/  and follow her on twitter @rlalita
Author: Ankita Mishra
Editor: Ajith Alex Jacob
Photography: Vinod Sreedhar

Is India still under poverty?


The title of the third largest economy in the world will befall upon India soon, with towering buildings in her largest cities, mega-corporations employing tens of thousands, infrastructural developments, widening national highways, ever increasing consumer spending power, and the fastest missiles in the world. While the political clowns jumping in and around Tihar eagerly proclaim, “Shining, shining, India is shining”, do we citizens ‘above’ the poverty line, realize that much remains to be questioned of the pathetic state the rest of the country is in?

We are a country with more poverty than any other nation that is comparable to us in terms of size and population. Forty one per cent of the country has less than a daily income of Rs. 60 to survive on; of which 25% thrive on not more than Rs. 30 a day. Two hundred and seventy five million people are malnourished, without medicine, without access to water and sanitation, and are ill-treated and abused in households and work places across the country.

A recent visit with CRY to the Kolar District had confirmed my fears to be true. “You don’t have to go to Somalia to see the malnourished, you can find it here in Kolar,” exclaimed Naranya Swami, Director of the NGO, TREES. He argued that the food subsidies provided by the government is a mere 38 paise allocation per child even though it is supposed to be Rs. 5. “The government claims to have all under control, but the funds and support have rarely trickled down. There is not enough that is done for them. It’s as though no one wants them to come out of poverty,” he added.

It is not that the shoddy state of affairs has been hidden from the public; rather, it is the numbness of the urban masses to the predicament of those in suffering. There are few who are content to say, ‘It is not my responsibility, it is the government’s job’, but if there is no one to keep the government in check, there would be no action at all. It is time for us Indians to address this inequality. One just has to look around to find the means to combat poverty. One can volunteer with organizations who help the poor, judiciously fund the right organizations, find out how much of what you invest reaches the poor, empower organizations that educate the poor, spread the awareness, write articles, talk to your friends, question the government, question their motives, and support NGO’s, amongst others.

We will never be able to eradicate poverty by simply changing the definition of how the government defines the poverty line. Regardless of large or small scale efforts, only through collective action can we the Indian citizens’ nurture and spread the commitment to tackle poverty and work towards the prosperity of our nation.

Authors: Tej Prakash, Samuel John and Alex Jacob
Editors: Ayushman JamwalAnkita Mishra and Ram Kumar Ramaswamy
Illustration By: Sanjukumar P. S.

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[Poll] Which of the following issues trouble you the most?


The poll is about socio-economic issues in India.

The poll has provisions for multiple answer selection and custom answers as well. Please feel free to let us know what you really feel in the comment section.

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Also, if you wish to send us an article for the blog, we will be very happy to publish it. Please send your contribution to abcfindia@gmail.com

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Mike Biddle, the plastic tycoon, the founder and president of MBA Polymers, gives a talk on his revolutionary method of recycling all or any type plastic in any shape, type or weight.

Instead of throwing his hands up in the air against the impossible, he’s worked to making the impossible possible. Hopefully, the drive shouldn’t end here, much effort needs to be taken to make sure this revolution be made cheaper, profitable and sustainable. Waste management is the key to the future, the better we get at it, the more we grow responsibly.

Looking forward to have more of their plants that recycle plastic all the world over.How about contacting Biddle for a franchise then, aye?