The Arkitect,Volume 04/03
- 01/ 06/ 03
An Ark Newsletter
2. Volunteers' Column
3. Two Ways
AN ULTIMATUM BY A YOUNG ARKITECT
In the evening of January 19, 2003 I went to Ark Education Centre at
Dhapo Colony Slum. While parking my scooter at the entry point of the
slum, I heard a voice "Sir aagaye (Tr. Sir has come)". I heard this
voice several times and that too in a chorus. And before I could able
to park the scooter, I was surrounded by these kids with huge smile
on their face. Within a few minutes the message reached to other
students of Ark Education Centre. All assemble around the scooter
with one question in their mind and lips- "why are you not coming
these days?" No one was ready to subscribe to the fact of cold wave.
We teach them in an open park, so we had to close the centre to save
the children from unbearable cold wave. Deepa, practically shivering
out of cold, was asking that where is the cold? No Sir there is no
cold. Vibbha joined her in her argument and gave me an ultimatum-
agar kal nahin aaengen to maim kabhi nahin padungi (Tr. if you won't
come tomorrow, I will never attend a class). It was so heartening to
see these young kids demanding for education. They have so much
desire and passion to learn.
I tried my level best to convince them but it is hard to convince
those kids who have been born and brought up in the problems like
this. For them chilly winter, burning summer or flooding rain hardly
matters. They have learn to live with such kind of problems. But we
knew how dangerous it would have been to ask them to sit for two
hours in an open air classrooms. I felt helpless.
This will remain one of my most memorable evenings. It is hard to
express the exact feeling on this computer screen. But one thing is
crystal clear. Their love and affection strengthen our commitment.
2. VOLUNTEERS' COLUMN
LEARNING TO READ THE RAJASTHAN LANDSCAPE
Australian National University, Canberra
Land is the fundamental base of human culture. It is from the land
that a society derives the resources necessary for survival. Natural
resources such as fossil fuels and timber, and spiritual resources
such as tradition and a sense of belonging. As a volunteer working
in rural Rajasthan, I was given the opportunity to develop an
understanding of how humans interact with the land. I did this
by `reading' the Rajasthani landscape.
Reading the landscape involves observation of the physical landforms
and being aware of the processes and time in which they have
evolved. Reading the landscape also involves looking at the human-
made, built environment such as infrastructure design and settlement
patterns. These patterns provide insights into the nature of human
interaction with the land and resources. For me personally,
understanding how the Rajasthanis interact with the land made me more
aware of my world. Being part of the Rajasthani landscape, albeit
for one month, was the greatest learning experience.
It would be unjust for me to describe the landscape in south-western
Rajasthan (Udaipur district) as `stunning' or
`pretty'. The natural
landforms in the region are absolutely beautiful. Beauty that truly
only occurs in the natural world. Beauty that aroused in me feelings
of respect and humility for Earth's systems. The region is
by the Aravalli mountain range, one of the oldest mountain systems in
the world. The average altitude of the mountains in the area is 600
meters. The undulating barren and stark terrain is dotted with dry
(non-perennial) rock-strewn riverbeds and rocky outcrops. The region
has experienced severe drought for the past four years. The land
lacks sufficient vegetation cover, yet this harsh landscape is simple
Reading beyond the physical landscape, I developed an understanding
of how people interact with the land. As a volunteer I worked on a
project that essentially aimed to provide village communities with an
ecologically sustainable future.
An issue of concern in this region is villagers encroaching on common
forest and pasturelands. Villagers are motivated to encroach on
these common lands for a number of reasons, such as the dynamics of
population pressure and hence economic necessity, administrative
inefficiency, and political appeasement. Surprisingly, rival
who adhere to a communist ideology, had also encouraged encroachment
in the past.
All these factors motivating encroachment result in fragmented
landholdings. The individuals who manage these fragmented
landholdings are essentially competing for survival. This
compromises the carrying capacity of the land and the quality of the
natural resources. There is minimal desire to practice sustainable
agriculture as each encroacher is using the land to meet their short-
term survival needs and not long-term ideals.
Seva Mandir is an NGO operating in the region. Seva Mandir is trying
to encourage encroachers to vacate common forest and pastures lands
so that these lands can be developed for the common good. They
believe that the development of common lands will essentially provide
the local villagers with greater control and responsibility over
their livelihood. Common lands will also produce profitable gains on
a community level and promote the sustainable use of resources.
Reading the Rajasthani landscape gave me insights into cross-cultural
perspectives on environmental management. In addition, reading the
landscape made me more aware of my world and how I interact and use
the Australian landscape and resources. Being in the rural
Rajasthani landscape at times made me feel like I was literally at
the ends of the earth. I felt physically isolated. This was a
positive feeling that resulted in the greatest learning experience.
I developed a deeper respect for the land and a greater understanding
of human interaction in the landscape.
[Sara is a student of Anthropology in Australian National University,
Canberra. She came to India for volunteering in May 2002.]
3. TWO WAYS
"I like the concept of a development circle but I would like to know
about its functioning. Does it work?" -Lallan Gopal (Bihar, India)
in response to The Arkitect, Volume 03/03.
Right now ARK has only two Village Development Circles (VDCs) namely
KDC in Kataila and CDC in Chitarkoni.
In KDC we are running a high school which has been recognised by
Uttar Pradesh Education Board up to 8th standard. We are working on
to get it recognised by the government till 10th standard. ARK
activists from Kataila village have collected old books and kept them
in a room. Now this place functions as a library. As I have mentioned
earlier that ARK is a group of teachers and research scholars hence
it its activities are restricted to few important programmes like
education. Other activities viz. Ark Health Care Centre, Ark
empowerment Centre, Ark Youth Bank, Ark Old Items Bank, Ark
Information Dissemination Centre, Ark Eco Club will take sometime.
But we are working on this line. We will keep on updating you through
In CDC we are running a primary school and planning to make it a High
School in the coming years. Uma Singh and Uma Shankar are taking care
of the primary school. Dr. Ahmad Khan is working on establishing a
library on the line of KDC.
So the concept of Village Development Circle, though on a limited
level, is working.
The readers are requested to send their ideas and experiences before
25th of every month. to share with other people through this
newsletter. Comments and criticism are also welcome. Please visit
arkitectindia on yahoogroup.com for earlier issues of The Arkitect
and photographs of volunteers in action.
Please send your comments and suggestions directly on
Dr. Shaheen Ansari