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Weekly Blog

Monday, February 25, 2008

Talk by 'Sarvodaya Prasad': 21st February 2008

It was indeed a pleasure to be present at the talk by Prasadji last Thursday. He opened our eyes to the real meaning of Gandhian philosophy.

He told us an inspiring story about food wastage in one the Sarvodaya youth camps. Despite constant requests by the camp organizers not to waste food, most of the attendees were leaving a lot of food on their plates. Finally, not knowing how to prevent this wastage, the organizers announced that they will eat any leftover food in everyone's plates once the meal was over. To everyone's astonishment, they did eat the leftovers from everyone's plates! In a country like India where 'Jhutta' leftover food is considered a sacrilege, this was a turning point for all the attendees who did not waste a single morsel from that point onwards. A true Gandhian style strategy which involved bringing about change in oneself first and then letting others follow. There was no force or fine imposed, simply a humbling act which changed the food eating habits of the residents of the camp forever.

Prasadji also talked about educating children in the rural areas of India, using organic methods for farming rather than synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and wearing clothes/using products made by rural villagers. He elaborated on the condition of many villages in India where the inflow of products such as cigarettes, alcohol, coke, cosmetics and other commercial products is very high. The outflow is of milk, fruits and vegetables which need to be used for consumption within the village itself rather than for selling it at low prices to urban areas. Thus, obviously the villages are suffering a loss and farmers are committing suicides. The reasons are probably deeper and more complex than just this trade imbalance, but this helped us to get a small glimpse of what is the tip of the iceberg of problems in rural India.

When asked by many students how they can help improve the rural conditions, he responded with a simple answer. He said that all we need to do is gain knowledge about what is really going on by interacting with people who are involved in such projects. Once we have an understanding of the current scenario, that is when the ideas start flowing. What was appealing about his suggestion was that it was not some huge unattainable project about how we can 'change the world'. Rather, it was a simple starting step towards figuring out what our involvement can be as students at Stanford.

One idea which came to our mind was helping the Indian villager sell his products such as soaps, oils, creams and khadi apparel in USA. These products are made from the most natural ingredients and have highly beneficial health value. Americans would love to use such organic and healthy products and at the same time, the Indian villager will find a new market for his goods. Ideas and suggestions on how we can make this happen are welcome.

Watch Prasadji's talk on Google Video.

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