Month: February 2009

The Aasha Build: Gift hope, build a home

Slumdog Millionaire has put the slums of India on the world map, albiet in an artistic way. Despite the obvious, it’s still hard to believe that some people don’t have a concrete roof over their heads, that they live in make-shift shacks even in this age and time. Apparently, India homes 17% of all slum-dwellers in the world, a figure which translates to about 170 million people! The odds are just slightly tilted in our favor.  If you have ever witnessed the poverty on India’s streets (in person or through CNN or BBC), I am sure you have wondered, even for a moment, if there was a way you could help. This is your chance. A few of us have started an initiative with Habitat for Humanity to build houses in a slum area in Devanahalli, on the outskirts of Bangalore, India. The 2 weeks we spend on site will involve an intensive 10 day build, with an aim of constructing 8 double-storeyed houses, sheltering 16 families or approximately 96 individuals. A house might sound trivial, …

Climbing Mount Kinabalu

Climbing the 20th highest peak in the world is probably my greatest achievement thus far! It was exciting, daunting, exhilarating and surreal, in that order. We started our climb via the Timpohon Gate, located 90 km from Kinabalu National Park, Borneo (East Malaysia). The first day’s target was to climb 6 km horizontally and 1300 m vertically. The initial stretch was relatively easy, alternating between clearings and small steps, amid tall trees and dense vegetation. The second half was slightly more taxing, with steeply inclined rocks and steps, where trees were gradually replaced by shrubs and bushes. The trick was to save as much energy as possible by finding an alternative way to climb the steps through rubble and using small rocks as stepping stones. The view became more scenic with height and we were shrouded in mist for certain stretches. I would typically describe it as breath-taking, but I must reserve the term for the summit.     It is mandatory for all climbers to spend the night at Laban Rata or one of its …

Viva la vida!

Good days are here. I am off to Malaysia early tomorrow morning, to scale the 4th highest peak in South East Asia – Mount Kota Kinabalu!  Coldplay is coming to Singapore! Yes, finally. I’m ecstatic at the thought of hearing them play Violet Hill live! 23rd March, here I come. I have 2 subsequent Malaysia trips brewing! Tentatively, Malacca and Cameron Highlands.  I am working on a community service expedition with Habitat for Humanity, to build homes for slum-dwellers in a village near Bangalore. We are in the midst of launching a social media campaign to create social awareness. Look out! And in the middle of all this excitement, I’m turning 21!  “The future looks so bright, we’ve got to wear shades…”

Vision for all

If you wear eyeglasses, I’m sure you can remember what it felt like the first time you wore them. Personally, I was in denial for 2 years before I got my first pair. My bespectacled self realized that my whole world had been a blur. Suddenly, everything was bright and all those blotches had defined shapes. I could see clearly again, thanks to Salvino D’Armate, peace be upon him. Unfortunately, millions the world over, and nearly 15 million people in India can never experience their first time. I shall resist brooding over how this affects their quality of life and how unfair the financial inequality in our country is. I will however mention that the aftermath of unaided poor vision is often blindness.  A while ago, a friend told me how some IIT students had found this problem an ingenious solution. Today, I stumbled upon a similar initiative by Lions Club International. Apparently it has been in place for over 80 years! I’m still blown away by the idea, and to prevent further anticipation, here goes: …

21 Blues

Dear world, 21 years ago, I crawled into your arms, a mess of blood, skin and life. My tiny imagination was awestruck by your splendor, your shapes, your sounds, your colors, your movements, your smells. I probably didn’t imagine it then, but it must have felt like home. My early memories are lost somewhere between jumbled lego structures and frowzy plasticine moulds. I grew up marvelling at the seasons, the sun, the stars and the flowers, even things that man had created, like photographs, the television and the phone. Then I got used to them.  Adolescence was a rocky phase and my sole aim was to emerge unscathed. In retrospect, I grew up too soon, taking things for granted, missing my chances to ask my questions. The world gradually changed from colors and sounds, to people and nature and science, to dishonesty and selfishness and inequality.  World, now I stand before you, 21 trivial years in me, and pray that I may become a child again. I want to be enamored by your majesty again. I …