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Reflections from a GenWise Participant on an Evening Adda...


I’m at the Genwise summer school 2k19 and we have a programme in it called Evening Adda. This is where people who have done something good for the society come and speak to us about their work. There was one such evening adda, which I really loved.

Our speaker's profession was not possible to define, as he has worked in fields ranging from social activism, to discovering a star. His name was Ashwin Mahesh.

He started off his talk by asking what the population of Bangalore was. We (the students) estimated it correctly. Then he asked us how many new people come into Bangalore each year. We got that too. Then he asked what can be done for such people who come into such a developed city. How are we supposed to find space for them? Many of us mentioned that we could build houses. But this was where the confusion started. Where are we going to get that land from? For all the new people coming into Bangalore, we need about 75,000 houses to be built each year. But the number that we are actually building is 15,000 - 20,000. This was something that none of us had ever looked into. We just thought that it’s the ‘government’s job’.

This brought us to the next topic. If there is a leak in your house or maybe the road in front of your house is dirty and you want it cleaned, who will you call? All of us replied, “The authorities”. In response, he mentioned that "the authorities" was too vague. He needed something more specific. All of us were blank. Then he went on. “Who supplies you with electricity?” Blank. “Who is the mayor of your city?” Blank. “Who is the Prime Minister of India?” Narendra Modi. We all knew who was the PM of India but not who to call when you want your area to be cleaned. So he gave us this task. We had to find out 10 things which might be of use to us in our area. For example, the nearest bore wells of our area, or the nearest police station.

He also talked a bit about buses and electric cars. He asked us the advantages of a bus over a car. Very few people had an answer. He presented facts that were right there in front of our eyes but we couldn’t see them. Buses are big vehicles, have pre-determined stops and travel on the main road. This is where most of the traffic is and helps us to determine live traffic. On electric cars, he asked us the difference between electric and non-electric cars. Everyone started talking about Tesla and how they are making the electric cars. “Who is making electric cars other than tesla?” Blank. The same problem comes back. We know people who are far away, better than people who are closer.

Towards the end of his talk, he he shared his philosophy of the seven 4-letter words. If one were to practice these for 5 minutes a day, they would become a better person.

  1. Read - Read at least 15 pages a day. Catch - no novels, newspapers or magazines. Only things that inform you about your surroundings.

  2. Meet - Meet 1 stranger everyday.

  3. Cook - Do something that you think is someone else’s job

  4. Vote - Support other people in what they are trying to do.

  5. Give - Give something to people who need it

  6. Make - Make something everyday

  7. Play - Play a contact sport

This talk was an eye opener for me. We all say that we should serve the public. It’s accepted in principle but rarely done. Its easier to say than to do. This man had done exactly that - serve the people. He had researched the traffic conditions in the whole of Bangalore, shared his thoughts/ ideas to different companies, which they are implementing currently. We always want something good to happen in our society, but people are just waiting for someone else to do the work and they reap the benefits.

To end with something that sir said in the end, “People are just waiting for the next Mahatma Gandhi to be born in the neighbour’s house, not their own!

Other Pictures from my Summer Program Experience