Sunday, May 25, 2008

Your chance to contribute and make a difference

If you read my earlier blog about running the Sunfeast Marathon, you will see that it was something which I always wanted to do. Luckily, I got a chance to do it and had an awesome time doing it. When I completed, I was on a high. Social work, NGOish stuff is something that all of us would have wanted to do at sometime. Now my sister Sudha is giving me and all of us a chance to do something that will make a difference.

She is doing a project as part of her advanced course at Landmark Education. My friends and colleagues have heard me talk about the work Landmark does and that I recommend it highly. However, this is not about Landmark but about the project she is doing which is with Akshara Foundation.

By it's own definition, Akshara Foundation "is a Bangalore-based Public Charitable Trust with the mission to ensure that every child is in school and learning well". It was established in 2000. It has illustrious members on the Board who have provided valuable insight and direction and already made a mark with the work they are doing. What I like about the programmes they run is that it is very practical or to quote "designed to be low cost, scalable, replicable and sustainable" Also, somewhere some kid will get a chance at a better life because he or she could get a better education.

The project Sudha is doing comes under "Library Programme". Akshara Foundation has a network of libraries in schools and communities. What they plan to achieve with the libraries is inculcate a reading habit among children. This means that the learning and language skills learnt by them do not fade away but is enhanced every time they visit the library. An important point here is that an Akshara-appointed librarian is always available on site for children. All the librarians have recently been trained to conduct language-based exercises and puzzles to expand children’s vocabulary.

Coming to our part in this, Sudha intends to do a book collection drive with the aim of collecting 200 children's books by June 20th. You are welcome to donate children's books in English, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, Telugu or Tamil. These will be given to Akshara who will place them in various school libraries under their scheme. The action plan is
- once you collect the books for donation, mail her at or me at and we will make arrangements to pick it up
- forward this link to all the people you can think of who want to and will help
- follow up with them and urge them to contribute to a good cause

Libraries are not only about books. They are hubs of learning. The Library Programme is going to be expanded in a major way in the academic year, 2007-2008. Akshara Foundation will partner with the Government of Karnataka to establish 400 libraries in government primary schools in Bangalore where every child from the 2nd to the 7th standard will participate. These libraries will serve the learning needs of all the 1410 government primary schools in Bangalore Urban District. Akshara plans to make each of its 400 libraries a complete world of learning with books, computers, CDs, games and innovative activities.

It needn't stop here for you. Akshara has donor programmes where you can monetarily sponsor a pre-school or a library. They also have a volunteer program which will give you a hands-on experience with the work they do. For more details do check out their website at It is a real eye-opener.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Run Maadi in the Sunfeast Marathon

Ever since I took part in the Mumbai Marathon in 2006 and failed to complete it, I have been waiting to take part in another marathon and complete the experience. The Sunfeast Marathon which is going to be held in Bangalore this May 18th will give me just the chance and I am so looking forward to it (my body is up in arms and would write something different, given a chance)

To me, the word marathon means something which is going to involve a lot of effort, oohs and aahs and a pain in the butt. The dictionary however defines it as
1. a foot race over a course measuring 26 miles, 385 yd = 42 km, 195 m
2. any long-distance race
3. any contest, event, or the like, of great, or greater than normal, length or duration or requiring exceptional endurance

The Sunfeast World 10K Marathon is being held on May 18th 2008 at Bangalore. It is not a marathon in the true sense as the longest distance is 10 kms. The good part is that only international and national elite athletes can take part in this category so I can always pretend that - 'I wanted to do the 10k run yaar but they wouldn't let me'. For atheletes (ahem) like me, there is a another category called Majja Run which is a distance of 5.7 kms. Couple of things struck me as comical - do the organisers really think we are going to have a lot of majja (fun) while running this distance? Also, the qualifying criteria is 12 years. Man, it is going to be pissing off if a bunch of kids run past me waving and shouting 'Uncle, Uncle'. There is also a Sr. Citizens’ Run and Wheelchair Event. Overall, I am getting good vibes about it as they have a pretty decent website - They have online registration and once I registered they have sent me a couple of mails updating me on the event.

The Mumbai Marathon had an awesome turnout. One of the main attractions was and continues to be the celebrities who come to support the event. Also, the sheer number of people makes you feel great, like you are one big city and all about to do something. There are people stretching, chatting, nervously wondering if they are gonna complete the race, giving each other fundas of what to do and what not to do. I was alone and hence spent my time people watching. The race kicked off and immediately my shoes began giving me problems. The laces kept getting unknotted and I had to constantly stop to tie them up. After about 2 kms, my legs started paining unbearably and I stopped running. After walking about two minutes, I cam upon a pocket of residents cheering on the sidelines. I felt so ashamed that these people were out there cheering each and everybody on and I WAS WALKING!! I started running again but my legs gave out. So after that, whenever I came to a pocket of supporters, I would start running. I saw the same spirit of Bombay folks when the big rains happened in Jul 06. The city people were out there providing food and help, sometimes standing waist high in water. What a city, man!!!

Coming back to the Sunfeast Marathon, the Majja run category starts at 9.45 a.m. The weather has been pretty hot over the past two weeks and that will make it tougher to run. The good thing is part of it will be through Cubbon Park. Most of the info is available on the site but there are a couple of cool things such as
Timing Chip - This is a high-tech internationally recognized timing device. It is a miniature transponder in a specially designed housing. It comes with a refundable deposit of Rs 500 on return. Alas, the Majja Rum guys cannot avail of this - these guys stand around and take your photo while running. Later, you can click on the event you raced in and enter your race number. Any photos identified with your race number will be displayed. Woo-hoo.
Best Costume Award - It is being given by Kingfisher. The best individual costume gets Rs 30000 and the best group gets Rs 75000.
For some interesting trivia, please check out Be warned, some of the trivia might put you off from ever taking part or at the least, agree that my definition is more apt.

So, I have started training. I have gone 5 times and have done the Majja run distance once. I feel I will complete it this time except for an Act of God. The downside is people have started telling me that I am looking thinner than ever. Jealousy rears its ugly head heh. Who da chicks gonna be looking at eh? Also, Gatorade has run out of stock in my part of town. I think someone is plotting against me. So if you can grab a case and you are in Bangalore, do come and be a part of this. It will be fun, for sure.