when we meet on morning walks at Mantri's 'Dada' Chakraborti (F block) asks, 'what's our idea for the day?'. This is 'dada's way of greeting,'good morning'. Mr Vasudevan (B block) joins in our deliberations. That they lead us nowhere,and that most of our ideas melt away with the Marghazhi morning mist is quite another matter. Point is, we usually have an idea to bat around, to 'talk the walk' daily morning.
Anyone who walks with us can come up with something, but it takes the Mantri community to put wheels to an idea we generate. Just how much of a task it is to get an idea working is articulated in the community website - DreamIndia.
Those who run it say it all began with an idea:
The idea of conducting English classes for the slum children occurred in October 2004.
We spoke to a bunch of children playing in the playground opposite our house.Though apprehensive in the beginning, when we got down to their level and participated in a few games (marbles, cricket etc) with them,their fear subsided. We then enquired about their background ...Their living standard was below par;so was the education they got from government schools.
We asked the children if they would like to learn English during weekends...15 children enrolled for the classes.
We had to find a place for holding classes for them...the school they went to was just a km away. We approached the teachers for permission to use the school premises on Saturdays and Sundays...their response was negative...said the principal was 'away on official trip'.
We tried a tuition center in the ground floor of our flat, but the owner flatly refused to part with his room.
We then looked at an old temple nearby, with some vacant space. Secretary of the temple trust asked us to give a written request seeking permission.. . said he would get back within a week, after discussing the matter with other members of the society...No response for a week and a half,and after a call to the secretary,we were told the temple society didn't okay the idea.
In anticipation of approval we had already bought books, a cloth blackboard,and alphabet charts.
That was when we found a piece of government land of which an elderly person was the caretaker. He heard our plea and allowed us to use the space under his care.
This was DreamIndia's experience. At Mantri's we have ideas waiting for wheels to move them:
a)Finding adequate space for community tree-planting
b)Mentoring deserving security and other workers who go to college in the day and work at Mantri's, night shift.
c) Teaching housewife and senior citizens the use of computer to widen their world view through e-mail and Google search and Internet
d) Coaching children of our domestic workers
e) Training school students in conducting energy audit and other service activities they can do during school breaks.
We meet many who trot out five reasons why a given idea can’t work before we run into someone who says, ‘Let’s give it a try’. A website that posts ideas awaiting someone for Giving It A Shot remains un-updated for the past two years.