One of our colleague – Mr K C Senthil Kumar got married last Sunday.And I was pretty sure that volunteers wont miss the Indian marriage.My thought was true and many volunteers were much eager to attend the function.
Always India seems to be different because of its known and unknown belief as well as due its traditional way of culture.And there are no words to explain how marvelous the Hindu marriage be.But I can tell you how our volunteers enjoyed the occassion.
When we informed about the marriage function to all the volunteers, especially girls were much interested to wear saree for the occasion. Hence we had a shopping program for buying sarees to the local shops and made ourselves ready.
I was little bit worried whether the saree works well for the volunteers, but my heart was full of excitement once I saw the volunteers – wearing saree,flowers in their hair and watching the ceremony with utmost interest..! Wow, really it sounds great..(I need to give a caption at this point – Girls always Rockz..ha ha!).
Also the wedding was amazing.The bride and the groom seemed to be gorgeous with the dazzling dress,garland and so on. Volunteers were so eager in knowing about the traditional methods involved in Indian Marriage..and we also explained them a lot about India. We(volunteers and staff) took pictures with the couples and had a very good lunch at the Marriage hall..
Everything worked well and amazing! And I am sure that this day would be summed up to the happy memories of each and every volunteer who attended the function. And we wish the couples a happy married life for ever!!..
During the past summer, I spent two months as a volunteer journalist for Projects Abroad India. I spent my first month in Sivikasi, before moving to Madurai in my final month. My placement as a volunteer journalist helped initiate me into the daily running of a monthly publication, and helped me acquire the necessary skills of reporting and print journalism, as well as immersing myself into local Southern Indian culture.
Currently, there are three local staff running the publication: editor, Nandini Murali; sub-editor, Ezhil Elango; and Joel Powell, who acts as a placement supervisor for volunteers on the programme. Since 2002, the publication’s byline has been “Global Voices, Changing Worlds”, and according to its homepage, it’s a publication that ‘reflects a commitment to promoting inclusive journalism that is culturally sensitive, multicultural and pluralistic in its approach. Believing in journalism with a human touch, the range of articles are people centric. As ambassadors of cross cultural journalism, the young writers recognize and honour the need for journalism that is inclusive regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, caste, religion, socio-economic differences and sexual orientation.’
During my placement, I was privileged to experience a broad scope of Southern Indian culture through the interviews I attended and carried out. With the invaluable help of the local team I worked with (relying on their own local contacts, as well as acting as translators) I met a number of remarkable locals and found myself in a number of small, remote rural towns in and around Tamil Nadu which feed toward a rich journalistic experience, providing me with a number of memorable stories.
My First Interview
The first interview I attended was a forty minute drive outside of Sivikasi, to the tiny rural village of Poosarinayakampatti -- not even on the map. Surrounded by the dry, harsh land I was driven to the home of the largest joint family any of the locals had heard of -- a joint family consisting of 150 members, although the grandson representing the family grinned as he explained this was just his guess -- he had stopped counting! Nevertheless, it was certainly a large family. I arrived with volunteers from France and Japan, including sub-editor Ezhil Elango who was invaluable as a translator. As we made our way into the family quarters consisting of a number of very large buildings surrounded by farmland, we were encouraged to witness the daily production on hand which kept this large family together as a unit. Surrounded by gleaming children, we watched as several female members of the family were packaging large quantities of fireworks for the upcoming Diwali festival -- a significant Hindu festival known as the ‘festival of lights’. At the same time, other female members were preparing the wheat -- a grueling task requiring heavy sticks to continually thump at the wheat contained in the large pots. Soon, as dusk arrived, and the male members of the family slowly trickled in from their work on the farm, we were invited to sit down and wait for Munisamy, the head (or Karta) of the family, to arrive (that being the oldest male member of the family in Hindu tradition). Munisamy, at ninety years of age, was a man who still woke every morning to spend his day working on the land -- he slowly emerged in his worn white lungi, stick in hand and half silhouetted against the dusk. He made his way to where we sat, and perched himself on a pile of rice sacks. Soon, the rest of his family surrounded us to take part in the interview. Munisamy, surrounded by the countless members of his family, was the head of this joint family that has survived for six generations -- at the time of our interview, the youngest member being three days-old. The interview turned out to be a fascinating and insightful cultural experience.
The Archeological Discovery
One of the more exciting interviews I conducted was with Principal P. Kalai Selvan, of Nadar Mahamai Higher Secondary School in the town of Elayirampannai. He had invited me along to talk about a burial urn that had only recently been discovered on a student’s farm as they plowed the earth. The urn -- including its contents of human remains -- was being kept at the school for all the students to see. I too was invited to see the urn which was resting clumsily in the corner of a dark storage room. With the help of some students, Principal Selvan laid out an empty sack and without warning tipped the urn to haphazardly reveal its contents -- human bones! My questions followed, and although local authorities had asked for the plowing of the site to stop, no professional had yet come to examine the urn or its site which contained several more similar discoveries -- discoveries the family had kept quiet for some time. It was exciting stuff -- not too far away lay the archeological site of Adichanallur near Tirunelveli, first discovered by Dr. Jagor of the Berlin Museum in 1876. Since then, and most recently in 2004, urns were discovered containing skeletons dating around 3,800 years old. Given the deep history of Southern India, Madurai being one of the oldest inhabited cities on earth, it was a piece of archeology to be in awe of.
Cover Story Opportunity
I was given the opportunity to write and report on a number of topics and issues during my two months at both The Sivikasi Times and Times of Madurai, but one of the more special opportunities arose when I was given the task of visiting and reporting on The Grace Kennett Foundation for the December cover story of the Times of Madurai. Based in Madurai, the Grace Kennett Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization that serves as both a hospital and orphanage. I spoke to Dr. Augustus Samuel Dodd who is an executive committee member of the foundation and works as a general practitioner at the hospital. One of the more pressing issues that came up during our interview was prevalence of female infanticide in India, and how the Grace Kennett foundation focuses much of its attention in trying to eliminate this distressing trend within Indian society. Dr. Dodd explained to me about the Mazhalai Illam Orphanage, which was set up by the Grace Kennett Foundation predominately for the cause of providing a home to the many female infants that are stranded at birth -- simply left to die. Dr. Dodd went on to explain how ninety-nine percent of the children in Madurai’s Mazhalai Illam Orphanage are female. I was taken to the orphanage and saw for myself the wonderful work taking place by the special staff at the orphanage: I was surrounded by the warm, delicate smiles of children bearing testament to a bright future -- well beyond the days of their fragile beginnings. I was invited back to the orphanage by Dr. Dodd and was given permission to interview a family on the day of their adoption -- Saravanan and Varalakshmi were two very proud parents as they held little three month old Madhuvanthi and expressed their joy and gratitude, surrounded by their supportive parents. They explained to me that their first day with Madhuvanthi would be spent with family at their local Srivilliputhur Temple in order to pray and give thanks to their family God as an expression of gratitude. It was an overwhelming privilege to have been given the chance to speak to Saravanan and Varalakshmi on what was of course a very important day for them -- It was certainly a very rich experience to end on.
Learning and Experience
My time as a volunteer journalist in India was marked by a very steady introduction and densely packed experience of Indian culture -- predominately specific to the South. As a volunteer through Projects Abroad, I was able to rely on the journalistic contacts of the local reporters I worked with, and they were able to guide me and teach me not only the workings of a monthly publication, but also many intricate aspects of Indian culture I would not have experienced either as a traveler or a freelance reporter. It was an experience I would recommend to any aspiring journalists.
Contributed by Mr Nigel Moffiet(Alumni - New Zealand),Journalism - Sivakasi Times
I'm sitting here in Varkala under the palm trees with the sound of waves in the background. Only a few hours ago we said goodbye to Victor and the other volunteers for the last time. I'm thinking back to the beginning of my placement and this incredible journey that started 6 weeks ago.
It started like it ended: with Victor. He picked us up at the airport in Madurai, and from that point I felt like I was in good hands. After sorting out some administrative matters at the office Pandi drove me and my friend to Balar Illam, an orphanage for girls. This was both my placement and my accomodation, and it became my home for 6 weeks. We just dropped our luggage in the room and immediately left for Madurai. Pandi showed us how to take the bus from the placement.
Half an hour later we arrived to Periyar busstand half deaf from the horns, terrified from the traffic and astonished by all the cows on the streets. At first sight Madurai was just chaos, and even crossing the road seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. Luckely it only took a few days to learn how to walk on the jump at every spund of horn. When we came back to the orphanage, after a whole day of India and 20 hours of travel, we mostly felt like throwing ourselves on the bed, but the children really wanted us to come for dinner. They guided us into a building and through many doors, until we came to a room with 70 curious children sitting in several rows on the floor. Suddenly all the children gathered their hands, so they sat like small buddha figures, and they started praying in tamil. We were both very suprised and touched by the intensity of their voices.
It was incredible to be in this whole new and different environment, and see all these children that I would soon begin to love. We looked up to the sky and only then we saw the stars and realised that we were sitting outside. Every morning would start with a good cold shower and then I would sit on the terasse in front of my room and look at the children bathing outside and getting ready for school. As they passed in front of me they would alle say 'kaleiwanakam' (goodmorning) with a little smile. Even though I had to say goodmorning many many times everyday, this was a nice habit.
Some days I would enjoy a good cup of sweet milk coffee and other days I would take part in the children's duties like sweaping, getting water or washing the ground in front of the orphanage. During the day the children were at school, so we were free to go to town or go to the pool. Every afternoon we would teach spoken english to different groups of children. We would teach them rhymes, play games and do drawing. Having 1 or 2 hours with them everyday was intens but it felt like the best way to spend time with them and teach them something.
Eating Indian food 3 times a day was definitely a challenge, but I have come to love masala, dhosas, idlis and chapathis. We were surprised to see that it was the oldest girls that were cooking for us everyday, and we couldn't help feeling more like guests than like employees. We wanted to take part in the practical work, but we had to face that we were no good at indian cooking or anyother duty.
However, we felt that what these children really needed was our attention, and our ability to play with them and make them feel special. 6 weeks passed way to fast (also because of some exciting weekend trips). I will miss sitting on the stairs in front of Balar Illam talking to some of the oldest girls and smelling the jasmin in their hair. I will miss talking to the small children that would spontaneously start dancing or singing in tamil.
This was a fantastic experience that I will never forget, it just left me wanting to see more and expirience more of India ..
Contributed by Marie-Court Payen(Denmark), Care Project - Ballar Illam
Visit Our Main Sites
Be Our Friend