Sunil is a young well-wisher of pointReturn, who works in the USA and has been following this project from its inception. He often mentions our work in his blog. He has been intrigued somewhat. In September, 2010 he posted some questions for us to answer in order to understand what it was all about. Questions were tailored and addressed to each of us. Recently we answered them.
Taken together, this exercise reads like a good conversation that will help readers understand the pointReturn experiment. I also believe it would be very useful for others who may one day visit us and work with us and those considering similar initiatives. When we are indeed ready to welcome volunteers we may use this material for their orientation.
With his permission I translate from Tamil, where necessary and re-present the whole content. What follows appeared in two blog posts. First on Sep.02, 2010, Surveyson, [our friend’s preferred online name] explained his motive, framed the questions and asked his readers to also post theirs. On October 27, 2010, our responses appeared.
I had reported that Karpagam and Sriram have started to work full time at pointReturn. Refreshing your memory about this project, [between 2000 and 2006] D V Sridharan [‘DV”] went around the country digging out little known success stories and introduced then to us through goodnewsindia.com He wrote at length on his heroes and explained their work well. Go to that website and read for yourself.
In 2006, he began a new initiative, called pointReturn. Buying 17 acres of barren land in the village of Jamin Endathur, he has sought to turn it green, by means of extensive rain water harvesting, tree planting and stewarding the return of nature. Working alone and spending his own money, he dug a pond, installed a windpump and experimented with new techniques for restoration. He was looking for volunteers to join him.
I said to myself: “Bah, who’s going to give him his life and join him to work in the wilderness”. Boy, was I in for a surprise! Karpagam and Sriram did exactly that. What surprised me was that both are well educated and with good careers; how did they decide to leave their comfort zone and step out to work under the harsh sun in the interest of common good.
I too consider myself a man with public concerns: every now and then I bemoan India’s public ills and then quickly turn to chase the next dollar. Many self-centred people like me however, harbour tiny dreams of making a difference by acts of sacrifice. But where do we start? How do we walk away from good careers and money? How do we say, ‘enough’ to money? I was confused. To work for public good, needn’t we at least set aside two or three hours per week? What use is our education? An education paid for by the society at large? What do we do in return for the comforts received. Yes, yes I used to be confused. Then I would douse these questions and move on to the next chore at hand.
So I was curious how Karpagam and Sriram [-and Siddarth, who has come on board since Sep,2010] came around their confusion and made the jump. I decided to ask them a few questions in the hope their answers will clarify me. What follows are my questions [-and your questions as well if you sent them in]. When their answers come it, I shall list the Q-s and A-s in some order.