What moves pointReturn

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.

Surveysan’s preface:
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.

3 thoughts on “What moves pointReturn

  1. hi sriram

    -first of all,have you experienced what life is like, growing up in a village as a poor,landless,low caste villager?

    while ‘our’ education is not perfect,i wonder if something is better than nothing. for the urban elite,village life is very romantic and ideal,but it is not so for the millions of poor,illiterate,low caste,landless villagers.while they may have skills,those skills,unfortunately are often not enough to even provide them with 3 square meals a day.what freedom do they now enjoy that will disappear after they get ‘our’ education? are they not servicing the rich now,working for the rich in village,at wages which hardly are enough to make both ends meet,not to mention the other types of exploitations like the ignominy of casteism? at least’our’ education ensures that you and i do not go to bed hungry,that our basic needs are met.

    you yourself have ensured an alternate source of income ( thru you rent) and the much maligned education system has probably helped that and also you relatives whom you don’t have to support.you have your own land.you can use media to find information.how many poor people in india have this luxury?whether you accept it or not,it is this education which has given you the knowledge and confidence to survive in this world and this is always a back up for you in case there is a need. why is it that the poor have to carry the responsibility of maintaining traditions,skills etc etc etc?

    like i said before,’our’ education is not perfect but atleast it can ensure that people do not starve.as for happiness,it is not that all the well- to- do in the city are unhappy and all in the village are happy.if the rich are unhappy,they have only themselves to blame for it.more spirituality and less materialism is what is needed.but for the poor,tortured by hunger,casteism,exploitation etc,they are helpless.just by talking about idealism is not of any help.it is the question of survival.abandoning them just because it is not ideal,is not the way to help the vulnerable.

    an education,though not perfect, and blending in the city is one of the best ways to escape poverty and casteism- and i say this from a near personal experience.

  2. hi sujatha,
    sriram has replied to your query as follows:

    “we said – “teaching children OUR education…”
    this ‘our’ is to signify the current education system prevalent in the country which makes our children literate/educated/city-centric/rote capable/rich servicing etc., but destroys their freedom and so on.

    so unless, we are able to conduct education in a completely revised manner (for eg., like defined in gandhiji’s nai talim), we do not have the interest to impart education.

    using the double negative to interpret this statement (or any other) is going to give you the wrong perspective.”

  3. you say: ‘teaching under privileged children will make them lose control of their freedom and start servicing the rich.’ do you mean to say that uneducated/illiterate underprivileged children/people are living enviable lives now? and, have full freedom and are being serviced BY the rich?

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