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The Hindu : Columns / Harsh Mander : Barefoot - The other side of life

The Hindu : Columns / Harsh Mander : Barefoot - The other side of life


Can anyone really live on Rs. 26 a day, the income of the officially poor in rural India? Two youngsters try it out.
Matt (Left) and Tushar 

Late last year, two young men decided to live a month of their lives on the income of an average poor Indian. One of them, Tushar, the son of a police officer in Haryana, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and worked for three years as an investment banker in the US and Singapore. The other, Matt, migrated as a teenager to the States with his parents, and studied in MIT. Both decided at different points to return to India, joined the UID Project in Bengaluru, came to share a flat, and became close friends.
The idea suddenly struck them one day. Both had returned to India in the vague hope that they could be of use to their country. But they knew the people of this land so little. Tushar suggested one evening — “Let us try to understand an ‘average Indian', by living on an ‘average income'.” His friend Matt was immediately captured by the idea. They began a journey which would change them forever.
To begin with, what was the average income of an Indian? They calculated that India's Mean National Income was Rs. 4,500 a month, or Rs. 150 a day. Globally people spend about a third of their incomes on rent. Excluding rent, they decided to spend Rs. 100 each a day. They realised that this did not make them poor, only average. Seventy-five per cent Indians live on less than this average.
The young men moved into the tiny apartment of their domestic help, much to her bemusement. What changed for them was that they spent a large part of their day planning and organising their food. Eating out was out of the question; even dhabas were too expensive. Milk and yoghurt were expensive and therefore used sparingly, meat was out of bounds, as were processed food like bread. No ghee or butter, only a little refined oil. Both are passionate cooks with healthy appetites. They found soy nuggets a wonder food — affordable and high on proteins, and worked on many recipes. Parle G biscuits again were cheap: 25 paise for 27 calories! They innovated a dessert of fried banana on biscuits. It was their treat each day.
Restricted life
Living on Rs.100 made the circle of their life much smaller. They found that they could not afford to travel by bus more than five km in a day. If they needed to go further, they could only walk. They could afford electricity only five or six hours a day, therefore sparingly used lights and fans. They needed also to charge their mobiles and computers. One Lifebuoy soap cut into two. They passed by shops, gazing at things they could not buy. They could not afford the movies, and hoped they would not fall ill.
However, the bigger challenge remained. Could they live on Rs. 32, the official poverty line, which had become controversial after India's Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court that this was the poverty line for cities (for villages it was even lower, at Rs. 26 per person per day)?
Harrowing experience
For this, they decided to go to Matt's ancestral village Karucachal in Kerala, and live on Rs. 26. They ate parboiled rice, a tuber and banana and drank black tea: a balanced diet was impossible on the Rs. 18 a day which their briefly adopted ‘poverty' permitted. They found themselves thinking of food the whole day. They walked long distances, and saved money even on soap to wash their clothes. They could not afford communication, by mobile and internet. It would have been a disaster if they fell ill. For the two 26-year-olds, the experience of ‘official poverty' was harrowing.
Yet, when their experiment ended with Deepavali, they wrote to their friends: “Wish we could tell you that we are happy to have our ‘normal' lives back. Wish we could say that our sumptuous celebratory feast two nights ago was as satisfying as we had been hoping for throughout our experiment. It probably was one of the best meals we've ever had, packed with massive amounts of love from our hosts. However, each bite was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that there are 400 million people in our country for whom such a meal will remain a dream for quite some time. That we can move on to our comfortable life, but they remain in the battlefield of survival — a life of tough choices and tall constraints. A life where freedom means little and hunger is plenty...
Plenty of questions
It disturbs us to spend money on most of the things that we now consider excesses. Do we really need that hair product or that branded cologne? Is dining out at expensive restaurants necessary for a happy weekend? At a larger level, do we deserve all the riches we have around us? Is it just plain luck that we were born into circumstances that allowed us to build a life of comfort? What makes the other half any less deserving of many of these material possessions, (which many of us consider essential) or, more importantly, tools for self-development (education) or self-preservation (healthcare)?
We don't know the answers to these questions. But we do know the feeling of guilt that is with us now. Guilt that is compounded by the love and generosity we got from people who live on the other side, despite their tough lives. We may have treated them as strangers all our lives, but they surely didn't treat us as that way...”
So what did these two friends learn from their brief encounter with poverty? That hunger can make you angry. That a food law which guarantees adequate nutrition to all is essential. That poverty does not allow you to realise even modest dreams. And above all — in Matt's words — that empathy is essential for democracy.

Courtsey: The Hindu Daily

Keywords: livelihoodMIT student studies India povertyrural poverty in Indiabelow poverty line Indiapoverty and democracyhousingnutrition and povertypoverty and Indian political economyIndian Planning Commission and poverty, sustainability, green technology, simple living, live within budget, personal budget, best practices, experimenting with life, APL, BPL, will power, determined, happiness, life is simple, simple life, save the earth, consumerism, less consumption.

"Google Translate" helps us to know each other more

"Google Translate" gave me a big surprise today!
I was browsing the web casually on a week end mood. By chance Google Translate struck my eye. So I tested few simple sentences to translate from English to Arabic. It worked perfect.
Translation from English to Arabic

It was like Eureca for me.
I called my colleague Mr. Majeed and showed him the tool. He told me already he knew this. He quoted an earlier example when a supplier from Spain visited him. They communicated through Google Translate! One typed in English and the other typed in is no more a dream!
After this myself and Majeed tried to translate a sentence in Urdu language. Again wonderful translation with correct grammar and usage!
Translation from English to Urdu
Where this is leading us?
Yes, we can communicate to any "NETIZEN" in the world irrespective of the language he speaks!

Is this not very cool?
Is this not promising?
Think of day you are able to communicate with Chinese, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, will be an amazing world.
See below picture to see the languages used in Google Translate today .
Languages used in Google Translate
 Look at the amazing possibilities of:
- Exchanging and spreading the good values of religion
- Using this tool to correct the misunderstandings about Islam
- Exchanging the messages of Quran to the humanity at large
- Doing business without language barrier

Yes there is no limit to the use of this powerful tool.

Written by: Abdul Lathief :

Note: Forward the link of this post to your friends and leave your valuable remarks in the comments column.

Key words: Google translate, translation, automatic translation, dictionary, arabic to english translation, free translation, translate yourself.

The Kerala king who embraced Islam

For Arabs, Malabar was the most familiar place in the whole Indian subcontinent. The relationship between Arabs and Malabar has a history that dates back centuries. Arab merchants were trading spices such as ginger, pepper and cardamom as well as things like sword, ivory and silk from Malabar, and these were precious as well as prestigious commodities in Arab souks. A sword from Malabar, an icon of the best blacksmith craftsmanship was a prestige symbol for Arabs. Cultural exchange was also taking place through Arab merchants. Hence, names of places in Malabar and their customs were quite familiar among the salesmen of Okaz souk in Taif. Similarly, residents of Malabar were well aware of the changes happening in the Arabian peninsula. Many Arabs selected Hind as name for their daughters.

It did not take much time to spread the news in Malabar, through Arab merchants, about the emergence of a prophet named Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Makkah and his religion, Islam. When the moon was split into two as a miracle from Prophet Muhammad, many people inside and outside the Arabian peninsula had witnessed it. Cheraman Perumal Rama Varma Kulashekhara was said to be the king of Kerala at that time. He saw the miracle while he was relaxing on the rooftop of his palace in Kodungallore in a moonlit night. The king had come to know about Islam through Arab merchants and became more curious to know about the Prophet and his religion after the moon-splitting incident.
Luckily a group of Arabs came to Kodungallore at that time, met the king to get permission to visit Ceylon, the present Sri Lanka. They wanted to visit the mountain which has the footsteps of Adam, the first human being and the first prophet. King Cheraman asked his Arab guests about the miraculous moon-splitting incident. Sheikh Sahiruddhin bin Baqiyuddhin Al-Madani, a prominent member of the team replied: “We are Arabs, we are Muslims. We have come here to visit Ceylon.” The king became more curious to hear about Islam directly from the residents of Madinah, the center of Islam and the first capital of the Islamic government.
Sahiruddhin gave convincing reply to all the questions asked by the king. Cheraman then expressed his desire to embrace Islam and travel with them to meet the Prophet. This incident is well documented by M. Hamidullah in his book “Muhammed Rasulullah,” William Logan in his book “Malabar Manual” and Ahmed Zainudhin Makthum in his work “Thufhathul Mujahideen” as well as in the interview with Raja Valiya Thampuran of Kodungallore.
Before going to Makkah, the king divided his Kingdom into three parts and appointed his sons and nephews to rule each province. He also visited many of his relatives and employees to give them instructions. He went to Kalankara to see his sister Sreedevi and told her about her decision to visit Makkah and embrace Islam. His nephew, son of Sreedevi, was appointed to rule the present Kannur district. He later embraced Islam and became Muhammed Ali, who established the Kannur Arakkal royal family and became the first Adiraja.
The Arab visitors returned to Kodungallore from Ceylon to take King Cheraman along with them on their way back to Arabia. The king was waiting for them. They arrived in Shehr Muqlla. It is said the king met with the Prophet and this was mentioned by Balakrishnapillai in his book “History of Kerala: An introduction.”
This historical meeting has been mentioned in the Hadith by Imam Bukhari and Abu Saeed Al-Khudri. The Hadith says: “A king from India presented the Messenger of Allah with a bottle of pickle that had ginger in it. The Prophet distributed it among his companions. I also received a piece to eat.”
King Cheraman declared his conversion to Islam in the presence of the Prophet and adopted a new name, Thajuddin. He later performed Haj. As per the wishes of the Prophet, a team of his companions led by Malik bin Dinar started their journey with Thajuddin to propagate Islam in Kerala. But along the way the king fell sick. Before his death the king had written a letter to his sons to receive Malik Bin Dinar’s team and to give them all necessary help. The king later died and buried in Zafar (now Salalah) in Sultanate of Oman.
After landing in Musris (Kodungallore), Malik Bin Dinar met the ruler of the area and handed to him the king’s letter. The ruler made necessary arrangements for them to propagate Islam. Some history books say that a temple named Arathali was converted to a mosque and named after Cheraman in Kodungallore. Bin Dinar and his colleagues built mosques in 12 places. Surprisingly all of them are situated along the coastal areas of Arabian Sea. Bin Dinar died when he was in Butkal, Karnataka, and was buried there. It is mere coincidence that King Cheraman and Bin Dinar were buried on the two banks of the Arabian Sea: Salalah and Butkal.
Three conditions are to be fulfilled for a person to become a Sahabi or companion of the Prophet. First, he should embrace Islam from the Prophet or from his companion, second, should spend at least a small period of his lifetime with the Prophet, and third, should die as a Muslim. Cheraman fulfilled all the three conditions and can be said that he was the only Sahabi from Kerala, known to history.

By Dr. Ali Akbar: He is a dental surgeon at Shifa Polyclinic, Jeddah

Coutsey: Arabnews Daily

Key words: Cheraman Perumal, Kodungallore, Malabar Manual, Rama Varma Kulashekhara, William Logan, History of Kerala, Kerala Muslims, History of Kerala Muslims, Ponnani, Malabar, Malik Bin Dinar, Malik Dinar, Malik Deenar, Prophet Mohammed, Islam, Quran, Early conversion to Islam, Islam in India, Muslims in India, Muslims in Kerala, Mappila, Moppila