Amazing insights from the field. Hear it directly from the master.
Though stories are similar to what we keep seeing and reading BUT this book teaches us to VIEW it the way these stories/incidences needs to be viewed and to be acted upon. Must read for every conscious citizen.
Interaction with Dr. Balu changed me for better. Want to quote two incidences -
1. I was looking for answers to one of my dilemma of whether to undertake a development initiative or not? I explained the concept and took sometime and asked him what should I do? he just said that "If I think it will add to positivity of this world, I should do it otherwise No". It was his amazing insight to go to the root of the initiative and that insight gave me power to go ahead and doing it.
2. In one of the class on adaptive leadership, we were asked to map our priorities vs time we spend under different heads. For me one of top priority was "Helping others - 50% weights" and I was spending just very dismal time " weight - 10%". And there was a Eureka moment - I understood why I was stressed.
Seems simple with the benefit of hindsight but these are exactly blindspots which need unlocking and he unlocked it for me.
Coming back to book, it is an amazing collection of his life stories , observations and how he viewed it and for me though stories look very similar to what I have been reading but his "Art of viewing / perceiving" is something which is my essential take away. I am blessed to have read this book. Thanks Dr. Balu and may you have more Shakti to spread the inspiration you got from Madi, Masthi, Kumar,Appiraja, Malathi, Yajamanas and others.
Eloquently told, and yet unpretentious, this eye-opening collection of evocatively drawn vignettes and heartening anecdotes puts the scourge of poverty into well-balanced perspective.
Here, our guide is the perceptive Dr. Balasubramaniam, a stalwart development activist who is greatly respected across all fields. As he has consistently proven previously, however, he also makes for a fine writer, penning down his various reflections with candid clarity. Lucidly, he weaves a brilliant tapestry of colourful characters, tying together all of his real-life experiences with his astoundingly novel ideas and thoughts to produce an inspired, knowing commentary on the state of modern-day India. We begin over three decades into the past, in the rural Karnataka where Dr. Balasubramaniam has been working among forest communities for years, as he elaborates on the self-professed ‘voice’ that keeps him going – that of a fourteen-year old child, newly delivered of a baby, alone in a hut. ‘It was then that I resolved,’ he continues, ‘as long as there would be children like Madi, my work would go on.’ The reader is invited to join this journey, as we meet a host of varied personalities, from a resourceful eight-year-old child who leads Dr. Balasubramaniam to realise the restrictions of modern schooling, to a wise chieftain who provides sagacious council in the aftermath of a failed cabbage crop venture, and a selfless street vendor who generously gives bananas to a hungry child.
Along the way, Dr. Balasubramaniam gradually builds his thought-provoking critique of the narrow economic view that is widely held in the world today, instead preaching a more grassroots approach to alleviating the scourge of poverty. Boldly decrying the disproportionate focus of modern-day thinkers on so-called growth, he instead suggests that bridging the wide disconnect between the poor and those who would decide their fate is a more pressing and noble ideal. Of course, though, no book is flawless, and ‘Voices from the Grassroots’ has its own problems, slight as they may be. For one, Dr. Balasubramaniam doesn’t quite succeed in presenting a unified vision out of his various conclusions. Compounding this issue is the sometimes (though very occasional) aimless telling of the narrative at hand. However, it is perhaps needless to say that these are quite insignificant quibbles, and in any case the author does a fantastic job of relaying the titular voices. Furthermore, Dr. Balasubramaniam does in fact give firm support for citizen engagement, and his ringing ideals to eradicate poverty come through in every story. To conclude, this book is truly eye-opening, and its message should be hearkened to across the country.
- written by a fourteen-year-old, who believes that reading this book could help to open the minds of fellow children across the nation
What makes this book different from others of its genre is, in addition to giving the readers first hand experience of working with the community, the author consciously confronts their deficiencies in understanding the dynamics of life in the Community in the initial days, and how living with the community helped them making their work more meaningful over the years. For those of us who aspire to be public health workers, this book helps to decipher the thin line between 'working for the community' and 'working with the community'. The author through his stories presents us with an informed choice to make - if we have the right intention to work with the community, all we need is little patience to listen to voices of the community before we intervene in their lives. Or we could just turn a blind eye and glorify our work for the community and ignore the very fact that the so called development interventions seems irrational to the community if they are not designed to meet their felt needs. Overall the book is a must read for everyone who aspire to practice public health.
I have been fascinated by the eloquent ways of Balu Sir to bring out in open the voices of the 'unheard' in this book where he takes us literally to the interiors of traditional lives of tribals. Hope his articles in the book helps 'discover' the true meaning of 'development' to be an eye opener to the amnesia of many of our social policy makers, planners and executors.