Monday, August 24, 2009
At Niswarth's Disability camp in Dibrugarh, Assam on August 16, 2009.
Niswarth, a registered charity, is an organisation that works for the welfare of disabled people in the tea gardens of Dooars and Assam. It is run by a tea planter here in the Dooars. Niswarth was started in Bagracote Tea Garden in 2007 by Harsh Kumar and his wife Neelam. Neelam suffered a stroke which left her with some degree of disability. She passed away in 2008, and after this Harsh redoubled his efforts to improve the lot of those who lived - and lived pretty much on the edge - with disabilities.
Surjya Oraon is blind. His life changed considerably once Niswarth became a part of it. At one time Surjya would go to Oodlabari town everyday and beg for a living. He is now fully employed at the incense stick production unit run by the Niswarth Centre in Bagracote. On Founder's Day, April 3 2009, which would have been Neelam's fiftieth birthday, Surjya opened the evening's program with a song.
'Chhoo kar mere man ko, Kiya tu ne kya ishara.' (You reached out to me, you touched my heart.)
'Badla ye mausam, lage pyaara jag saara' (Everything changed, and the world feels like a beautiful place now.)
Surjya's song moved all the people present - it was so melodious, so heartfelt, and so filled with meaning. Surjya's is just one story. There are many people with limited mobility who have received wheelchairs and tricycles, there are deaf-mute children who have been sponsored to attend special schools in Darjeeling, and there are elderly people who have had cataract surgery in Siliguri free of cost.
Many of the disabled residents of Bagracte Tea Garden work at the Niswarth centre, making incense sticks and greeting cards.
The idea of working for the disabled and underprivileged garden residents came to Harsh and Neelam long before she was taken ill. They wanted to keep a living link with the tea world, not just a club membership. It had to be something, thought Harsh, which would be a living connection after retirement, not just with Burra Bungalow and its new occupants, but with the garden and with all its people. Niswarth today has a growing band of workers, volunteers, well-wishers, and of course, beneficiaries.
Niswarth has organised disability camps at Anandapur, Siliguri, Bagrakote and Birpara tea gardens in the Dooars, and in the month of August, 2009, the first such camps took place in Assam. These were held at Panitola Group Hospital and in Dibrugarh town. At the Dibrugarh Disability camp, 205 people were identified as eligible to receive government Disability Cards. Earlier, only 15 people in the area had cards. At the Panitola Camp, 359 people were identified. In the Dooars, 539 people have already been issued government Disability Cards. Card holders are entitled to free rail travel and free bus rides. They are also entitled to free disability aids and appliances. In the Dooars, 291 people have received appliances like wheelchairs, tricycles, crutches and hearing aids. The distribution of these appliances was organised by Niswarth members.
Niswarth was in Assam again to conduct a Disability Camp at Moran Tea Garden on August 30. The camp covered 14 tea gardens from Sibsabar and Dibrugarh districts.
Funding is a constant and growing need as we expand our scope of activities. It would be wonderful if more people could give a thought to making some contribution towards Niswarth.
Our homepage is http://www.niswarth.com/home. Please read about our latest activities here on koi hai - http://www.koi-hai.com/niswarth.html
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
One of the victims of this year's drought and failed monsoon was our Kala Siris, or Albizia Chinensis tree. It was the tallest and grandest tree in our bungalow. My husband loved it like anything. Today, a team of trained workers chopped off all the branches. Tomorrow, the trunk will go and the roots will be dug out too. We'll miss it. So will all the crows - it was their favourite perch. A blue-throated barbet nested in it last cold weather.
Here's an excerpt from an entry made some time in September 2008:
...the splendid creature who dominates our front garden year round is this towering specimen of Albizia Chinensis. We call this tree 'Kala Siris' here. It is a variety of mimosa, and in the months of May and June it produces lovely scented 'shaving brush' flowers which are light green in colour. The species is prone to canker, and a goodish bit of the tree had to be lopped off two years ago. In spite of that, this grand old tree still towers at around 60 ft and hasn't lost its beauty.
The last sign of life the tree showed was in June 2009 when it put out new buds. Within a week, they all died. We'll miss you in the garden.