July 24, 2008

Awareness on Wheels

When I first saw an advertisement about the Red Ribbon Express, I was already interested! To me and 'm sure to many more people, it does make a lot of sense to completely appreciate the inititative taken up to spread knowledge about HIV/AIDS amoungst the masses especially the rural India.

The Red ribbon express is an initiative of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, a unique and powerful idea to combat HIV/AIDS: a train that will traverse over 9,000 km a year, cover 180 districts/halt stations, and hold programmes and activities in 43,200 villages!
The train comprises of seven coaches, equipped with: educational material, primarily on HIV/AIDS, interactive touch screens and 3-D models, PPTCT services in the context of RCH II, HIV-TB co-infection, an LCD projector and platform for folk performances, counseling cabins and two doctors’ cabins for providing counselling and syndromic treatment for STI and RTI cases, an office, dining area and pantry.

The Train was flagged off on 1st of Dec 2007 and is expected to reach by Delhi on 1st of Dec 2008. The focus is on youth groups, women self-help group members, adolescents/student community from schools and colleges, PRI members, youth in uniformed services and out-of-school/non-­student youth, particularly in the rural areas.

The train reached Bangalore on July 24, 2008 and I faithfully went along with my colleagues to be of support to the initiative.
Route map of the Red Ribbon Express! Supposed to be whole of India in a year, spreading awareness and educating masses. No Jokes!
The first coach of the train had basic information about how one should safeguard himself or herself from HIV. I thought the soldier who stood to symbolise the concept of "safeguard" was very interesting.
The poster of various people and a mirror on it which meant to project the person's face who stood in front of it and said "You too may be prone to AIDS" was intersting. I could see some silling guys just running without wanting to look into it.. I never read anywhere that by looking into the mirror they would get the disease! Gosh!
Videos about HIV/AIDS were played in every coach targetting different audience.
Some initiatives were as per a person's capability to understand specially to students and the youth. There were phones for various categories of people in the society. For example this student was able to listen to a message played which educated about what a student could do in order to safeguard oneself from HIV AIDS and what he or she could do as a student in educating other students
Importance of an immense magnitude was given on eduating rural India about HIV/AIDS.
Training sessions on HIV/AIDS were held for school and college children, Medical Professionals and general public. It was an exhaustive task for the staff on board but very well carried out.
A 75 year "young enthusiast" who bowled me over with his interest in learning about HIV AIDS. When i approached him and appreciated his zeal, he said this was interested and wanted to explore what this was all about. He had picked up a handout and that was impressive!! Seriously. How many of us can do something like this when we are 75?
Signature campaign from PSI (Population Services International) I did my duty on it too!
At the end I had to say " good bye to the Red Ribbon Express! It was a pleasure meeting this lady"!

July 19, 2008

Peaceful Pondicherry

The Portuguese have been here. So have the Dutch.. The Danes. The English And the French. Pondicherry it is. Somwhere in my heart I had developed a love for this city and needless to say, I surely was hugely excited when I got a chance to visit the city for a weekend hide out :)

A trip to puducherry is like a journey in time with a vibrant present celebrating its interesting past. “History goes back to the Roman times, but factually started with the arrival of the French in 1963, who founded the town and built it in its present form, during the two and a half century they occupied it. “Puducherry” is the French interpretation of the original name “Puducheri” meaning “new settlement”. Many pilgrims have shared the town’s hospitality on their way to the temple town of Rameshwaram, thus enriching its culture.

An overnight journey surely made me tired but once I stepped into Pondicherry the feeling was different above my tiredness. The city didn’t disappoint me at all. At last I was assured that surely there is a “City” that is so isolated pollution and noise. I could only envy people of Pondicherry at that moment :)

I was sure, two days was not enough to experience everything in Pondicherry but I surely was determined to make the best of everything I could along with friends ralph and reshma along with my younger brother rony.

We started off by picking up the map of Pondicherry which ended up being so handy. You really don’t need a guide when you have this map. Its not easy to get lost and people are so helpful.

If you cannot walk, feel free to hire a Cycle :) That’s the best I liked about Pondicherry. People looked so much at ease and happy going around the city in cycles.

We started off with the Aurobindo handmade paper Industry. This a great place for green lovers. One can find all kinds of utilities made of paper only including Jewelry. This surely is a must visit.

Well I was sure it was going to be boring for my little brother, but I couldn’t get off from seeing the Pondicherry museum. The museum has a collection of rare bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties and artifacts excavated from Arikamedu, including remnants of Greek and Roman jars, 200 year old beads made from glass and precious stones and even objects from the Tsung period in China. The museum also has a Geology room, a shell and fossil room and a collection of handicrafts, coins, church relics and French furniture. Also on display is Dupleix’s bed.

After feeding ourselves enough with Pondcherry’s past history it was time to visit my favorite and the main reason why I went to Pondicherry. The Beach! It was just magnificent to view the blue stud! The 1.5 km long promenade running along the beach is the pride of puducherry. There one can relax or take a stroll at any time of the day.

On the sea front are several land marks out of which I got to see The War memorial cold and dispassionate throbbing the memory of last dreams, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, a four-meter statue surrounded by eight magnificent granite pillars, which were supposedly brought from Gingee, a fort some 70 Kms. from Puducherry and

an Old light house that used for the first time on July 1st 1836 and continued to be used upto the year 1979. This now- abandoned lighthouse stands on the edge of the sea.

It was noon and we started planning towards Auroville. We were not left with a lot of time and decided to just visit the Auroville Beach. The Auroville Beach as the name indicates is close to Auroville. Located around 12 kms from the main puducherry town, its shallow waters and small waves make it an ideal place of swimming. Blue sky and the blue sea is a real heartthrob! It was fun unlimited and unlimited means….Tired :)

It was time to leave this quiet and pretty city but we just had to end it the right way and what more than to visit the beautiful Botanical gardens.

The gate leading to the garden is reminiscent of French architecture and it stands out from its immediate surroundings because it is smack in the middle of the old Tamil town. The Botanical Gardens were laid out in 1826 in the ornate French style, with pruned trees, beautiful flower beds and gravel lined paths and fountains. The French introduced many exotic plants from all over the world, many of which thrived. With over 1500 species of plants, this could actually qualify as one of the best botanical gardens in South India.

The cannon ball flower (state flower of Pondicherry) and the 12 million year old fossilled tree was the grand finale!

Well that ended my most memorable journey to Pondicherry but I surely promised myself that I’d come back again! Wait for me Pondicherry :)