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Vedanta Visarada, Adhyatmika Ratna, Sri Yaaga Vidya Praveen
Dr P V Sesha Sai Aswamedhayaaji
Vice President (India) – World Brahman Organization, Chief: SAINTS (School for Scientific Analysis on Indian Traditional Systems, Trustee: AANANDAASHRAMAM (Regd Charitable Trust)
# 303, , Vijetha Sanjeevani Apartments, 6-4-8, Opposite Gandhi Hospital, By the side of Saraswathi Temple, Musheerabad Main Road, SECUNDERABAD 500380
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Friday, June 27, 2008
One fine morning I got up and to my surprise I say good number of vehicle entering into the village. Since the village was in a valley, I could see the fleet of vehicles from the top of the hill. They were enquiring about me - the bank manager. They belong to Electricity Board and REC and they gave me a pleasant news of electrifying the village. When they were talking to me, heavy load vehicles too entered with the Electrical Polls. The officials desired me to specify a spot in token memory of my efforts for Electrification of the village.
They dumped a poll in front of my house too. They said that electrical wire would be drawn in due course of time.
In the meantime, perhaps, the same day, I received my transfer orders to another Village by name Kota in the same district and reliever too suddenly appeared before me.
I left the village saluting the land, with one sad feeling that I could not see one electrical bulb burning in the street and in houses, but amidst a cheerful send off when the entire village was present at the Bus Stand.
Villagers started feeling me as one among them and started sharing their comforts and discomforts more than to an elected leader of the village. I reached the business target for 1978 too. I paid attention to the cropping pattern in the village and started physically verifying the fields while inviting the Government Officials in the related fields by organizing camps on different topics.
Yet, my eldest daughter could not go for proper education those two years and I failed in that area. My second daughter newly born could not be given proper tin food as suggested by the Doctors for the relevant age due to non availability of medical shops in the area and frequently we were forced to run to Kavali or Nellore for such purposes. Most of my salary was spent either for the village development activities or for bearing the additional cost of living.
I requested for change of placement from the area and the Management did not agree initially for my repeated pleadings perhaps with a reason that a suitable substitute could not be immediately located or may be that no other officer was willing to take up the responsibility compromising personal comforts.
Sacrificing the personal comforts was a serious matter which was thought of by each staff then and now too.
In the meantime records proved me as the only officer of a bank staying in an unelectrified village for as long as 28 months or so (physically staying in the village).
In due course of time, after satisfying myself with the achievements like setting up a Library - a reading room, a small shop with the needy medicines, a cinema tent and such, I started concentrating on protected water supply while persuing the matter of electrification with REC. A few hundreds of letters were written and prominent one among them was a letter written to the then Prime Minister of the Country Shri Charan Singh who accepted my approach. I was invited to Delhi and It was a day most memorable in my life when I could convince the REC people for electrification of the village. An order was issued accordingly and I was quite happy that my presence in the village could yield some fruitful results though it costed me heavily.
Soon after coming back I requested the Zilla Parishad to grant Water Scheme to supply protected water to the entire village. Survey team was sent by them.
Somehow I was successful when I persuaded Sri Subba Raju - one of the contractors of the village to set up one cinema tent and he bought one cinema tent with a single projector from somewhere near Chittoor and brought the tent to the Village. A trail run was done after setting up the Tent and the single projector. One small 80 watt bulb started blickering at a hight which was visible for all the villagers. That day was really a day when the people of the village was shown what a bulb was and how it gives light. A loudspeaker was set up and songs were played on it with a mike on advertisement lines as to what picture was on display. Only one show was shown by the exhibitor. Film reels of the old pictures were brought to the village through the only available transport - the public transportation bus. The picture was exhibited from 7.30 p.m onwards when all the villagers complete their routine work and get some free time. Every twenty to thirty minutes there were breaks after a reel for the change of the reel since the cinema was exhibited on a single projector. Ten minutes break was given for each reel and during that time tea, snacks etc were sold in the hall. The tent used to get filled up with smoke through cigars, cigarettes, local beedis etc and it was eye burning situation for those who were sitting in the hall. The picture was exhibited till midnight and there was only one show a day.
This was surely a land mark in the lives of the villagers and I was quite happy when villagers approached me and thanked me for initiating setting up of a cinema tent. Even today - say after 30 years or so villagers surely remember that historic day of the village
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The rainy season started soon after my taking charge of the branch. Suddenly one day in the early hours I found bullock carts going up to the hill while crowds followed it as if it was a procession. I could not understand what it was. In the meantime Mr Raju - my office assistant came to me running and asked me to vacate the house and go along with him. The reason was that there was a Cholera Case in the village and the villagers preferred vacating the village for fear of life. I was holding the first set of safe keys and the clerk in the office was holding the other set. In the meantime the other set of keys were brought to me with an information that the staff were also leaving the village.
Myself and my wife (a pregnant lady) looked after each of our faces and we decided to stay back in the village if necessary alone and take care the property of the bank - no matter what happens. We conveyed our decision to the staff. That one day life in the village was a land mark in our lives - we were all alone in the village amidst all darkness. My wife prepared lantrine much earlier than the routine daily time.
This was the incident that inspired me to use the type writer for drafting the situation and for finding out the possible solutions.
A few days later I asked one of the villagers to open a small shop and retain the basic medicines like Anacin etc for quick use by the villagers and I assured him that I would provide required financial assistance either through the bank or personally. That was the beginning for the reformations.
Water was carried in pots to my house and a major portion of my salary was spent only for procuring water. Initially I requested the Village head to try for putting medicines in the wells to keep the water free from backteria.
I startedmeasuring the distance between the nearest electrical point to the village from the two neighboring district places. I calculated the number of electrical polls needs either side. A detailed draft was prepared and the need for providing electricity was placed before the Rural Electrification Corporation in Delhi and Hyderabad. I wrote that if electricity is provided to the village, it would help the villagers to go for lift irrigation using pumping machines, and the ladies in the village shall have free time which could be used for other income generating positions. Electrical need for pumping protected water to the houses was also stressed in the draft document submitted.
As usual there was no response from REC. In the meantime I geared up people for adult education by providing the books I possessed at that time. A small centre was initiated and gradually people preferred to enter into the so called Library. I started getting news papers from Kavali and the papers used to come to us normally the next day or so. These papers were also placed in the Library for public reading as they could not afford spending any money for News Papers.
The next point was my role responsibility as Bank Manager. I requested the villagers going round each house to open a savings bank account with as little as Rs.5 per account. The response was not encouraging and as such I offered each account holder a passport size photo if an account is opened. I was possessing a Click III camera and it used to give us 12 snaps per reel. The reels were sent for processing and for prints whcih used to come to me after ten days or so. It was a matter of surprise for the villagers to see their photos and it was a point of attraction for all the villagers to come to the bank for opening of the accounts. This photo business costed me heavily on my personal purse but it gave me good results and I could successfully reach the target of Rs.6 lakhs by the year end.
Lot of appreciation letters from the Bank management were received, but there was no occasion for the bank management to knew how the confidence was created in the minds of the public and how an interest for depositing into the bank was created. Lot of money was personally spent, and lot of energy behind the successful reaching of the target.
My wife was sent to a different place since it was delivery time. I used to take my wife for regular check up on my scooter to Tekurpet in Cuddapah District duly crossing the hill and the jungle - carrying all the risk. Dr Rosa Basani was the medical superintendant at a Mission Hospital and she treated my wife. I may have to shed tears even today when I desire to write my bad experiences while travelling on my scooter with a pregnant lady and small kid in the night times through the jungle on the hill.
My daughter Shanthi could not be given any convent education/education at that point of time.
And when my wife left for Pithapuram for delivery, my life journey started as a single individual in the entire house when lantrine etc were to be cleaned every day for night light by me. It was a strange job for me and the cuts to the fingers are still a nightmare.
Scorpians and snakes were commonly seen the house and there were good number of bites for which the villagers used to run to my house with a tribal remedy.
I was working as Assistant Manager of Syndicate Bank at Buchireddipalem and I was asked to manage the new branch at Seetharampuram for awhile. I visited the place and understood the difficulties if preferred to stay in the village. By that time one house was fixed as Managers residential quarters, perhaps the only one building in and around all the 40 plus villages, with a upstair room.
I was born and brought up in a City - Vijayawada and I never knew that there were places without electricity in our country. I was just entering into my 30th year of life and I had all ambitions to complete the professional courses in Banking to brighten the career.
I was also offered a house in Udayagiri to make up and down journey to the village everyday. Udayagiri was the Block Head Quarters and it had electricity supply, a few cinema halls and schools and colleges too.
My daughter was aged five years and my wife was pregnant at that time. Initially I desired to express my unwillingness to join the new post, but then --------------I can not describe what it was, some unusual force driven me to the village and I preferred my life with the villagers than looking for my comforts in a town. People did not believe a bank and it was a tough time for me to convince them for their banking needs. Please do not laugh - people desired to see their money deposited on regular intervals and there were instances when I was asked to show the same note deposited, the next day and later too. As a result I preferred to put up a board in front of the Bank duly indicating that it was a Government Owned bank and the money kept with the bank remains always safe. A big notice in the local language was put up by me at my own cost to convince the public and the notice was written by a person specially brought from a different place just for the purpose.
I joined the Branch and took charge of it perhaps in the month of June 1977 or so and my Bank put up a high level target of procuring 6 lakhs deposit by the year end. It was hardly a lakh at that time of taking charge and I was given assistance of a clerk and an attender. I was to find out the ways as to how I should convince the villagers and attract their deposits. I was to spend sleepless nights for this purpose and any WAY I SPENT SLEEPLESS NIGHTS IN THE DARKNESS. It was a bitter experience for me and my family and we felt unsecured in the darkness. To habituate ourselves for the dinner at 5.00 pm was itself a strange matter for us.
The blog is named as Dark Days of Life, but factually this is related to the dark days of a village by name Seetharampuram situated to the west of Nellore in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh around 130-150 km away from the District Head Quarters. The Block head quarters being Udayagiri. Between Udayagiri and Seetharampuram one has to cross a Canal which had no bridge in those days and one has to pass through a forest near Basinepalli. There were wild animals too in between since it happen to be a valley and sorrounded by hills. The Population of the village might be 10000 including the nearby villages in the valley and one Mr Subba Raju was the Village head in those days. The main activity for the men in the village was cultivation and this was based on mostly rainfall. There were a few drinking water wells of large size and a few other wells water of which could be used only for other usages. Sheep rearing, piggery were the main activities. The women were engaged in bringing water to the homes from the wells situated far off from the residential localities. As such women could not generate any supplementary income to the families. There was no medical facility, nor even a small medical shop serving the villagers for a small need like a headache tablet like Anacin etc. No protected water facility, no electiricity, no cinema hall, no other possibility of recreation, no news paper facility, no phone and what not. There was a small police station with a wireless connection and that was the only one communication mode available. This is the corner village of the District with the other district boundaries like Cuddapah, Prakasam.
One has to take food by evening 5.00 since darkness enters into the village faster due to a hill on its west side. Kerosine Lamp was the only one in the houses. Sometimes the Canal in between Udayagiri and Seetharampuram over flows suddenly due to rain or some such on the hills and no one knew what time the canal overflows. If this happen the link - bus link gets broken from the District Head quarters. The other side road to the village is from Tekurpet/Porumamilla in Cuddapah District and once again one has to pass through a Jungle and cross a hill to enter into the village. The other side into the Prakasam district is all the more dangerous since it was a rough road and again through a jungle.
Let us not dream about the petrol supply for any vehicle and if by chance someone owns a scooter or motor cycle, he has to keep reserve of a tin of petrol bringing it either from Udayagiri or from Atmakur etc.
It had a small school upto the elementary level since children never preferred to go to a school. The land owning might be 3-4 acres per household. Syndicate Bank preferred its branch as the lead bank of the district and it opened its branch somewhere in the month of January 1977 or so. One Mr SMMK Varadachari was the first manager posted to the place and the branch was located in a two room small house by the side of Police Station. There were hardly few police staff in the police station. Perhaps the village had three or four RCC roof houses in the village. One is for the Police Station, one for the Bank, one for the Bank Manager and the other being the Village Office. The rest of the houses were either of tile roofs or tatched roofs.
Though it was a short distance the bus journey to the village took more than six hours either from Nellore or from Kavali. There were two buses from Nellore and one bus from Kavali which used to leave around 6.00 or so and reach Seetharampuram by 12.00 noon or a little later. The buses from Kavali or Nellore were halting in between for breakfast and thus taking a break of an hour or so. The loading and unloading of the goods was again a time consuming factor. Only buses could carry the vegetables and other essentials of the villagers.
It was a matter of surprise as to why the leaders elected from the constituency did not pay any required attention to the village for the minimum basic needs, leave alone electrification.