Monday, February 27, 2012

Europe is poor so should live within its means
For decades the West has lectured the East on how to manage its economies. Not any more.

Now the emerging economies of Asia look like models of steady, consistent policy and sustained growth while Europe, America and Japan are mired in debt and are growing achingly slowly, if at all.
So what can the West learn from the East?
According to former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the message is simple but devastating: Europe must face up to the new economic reality.
"Europe... has lost a lot of money and therefore you must be poor now relative to the past," he reasons in an interview with BBC World Service's Business Daily.
"And in Asia we live within our means. So when we are poor, we live as poor people. I think that is a lesson that Europe can learn from Asia."
State of denial
Dr Mahathir is well qualified to pass judgement.
If any Asian leader can make claim to having laid the groundwork for his country's economic expansion, it is he.
During his two decades in power, Dr Mahathir helped transform Malaysia from a sleepy former colony into an economic tiger.
But his advice will not make happy reading in the capitals of Europe.
Dr Mahathir believes European leaders are in a state of denial.
"You refuse to acknowledge you have lost money and therefore you are poor," he says.
"And you can't remedy that by printing money. Money is not something you just print. It must be backed by something, either good economy or gold."
Dr Mahathir may be 86 years old, but he still holds very strong views.
In particular, he believes Europe and the West must begin the long slow process of restructuring their economies to reduce their dependence on the financial sector.
"I think you should go back to doing what I call real business - producing goods, providing services, trading - not just moving figures in bank books, which is what you are doing."
His big bugbear is still currency trading, which he believes did huge damage to the Malaysian economy during the financial crisis that hit Asia in the late 1990s.
"Currency is not a commodity", he says.
"You sell coffee. Coffee… can be ground and made into a cup of coffee.
"But currency, you cannot grind it and make it into anything. It is just figures in the books of the banks and you can trade with figures in the books of banks only.
"There must be something solid to trade, then you can legitimately make money."
Tough message
But even if Europe takes his advice, Dr Mahathir believes there will be no quick return to economic health.
"To recover your wealth you have to work over many years to rebuild your capacities, to produce goods and services to sell to the world, to compete with the eastern countries," he says.
European workers are overpaid and unproductive, Dr Mahathir believes.
"I think you have paid your workers far too much money for much less work," he says.
"So you cannot expect to live at this level of wealth when you are not producing anything that is marketable."
His message is tough, he acknowledges, before adding with a laugh: "We used to get tough messages from you before, remember?"
"And now, what is the result? Sometimes you undermined our currency and we became very poor. Well, we learn from each other. We were Euro-centric before. I think it should be a little bit Asia-centric now."
A tough message indeed.
Key words: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Mahathir, Europe is poor, Europe is poor so should live within its means, Currency is not a commodity, Currency trading, wages in Europe, BRIC, Malysia, former Malaysian Prime Minister  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Business Model and Business Plan

Most people are confused between "Business plan" and "Business model".

A business plan is how you will implement your business model. A smart business man should concentrate on his business model, not on a business plan.

If you start your business with a well thought out business model it may bring great success even if you don't have detailed written business plan.

And if you start with a poor business model, even though you have paid lakhs of rupees to prepare your business plan, it is very rare that you bring good profit or success at the end of the day.

In other words don't waste your time "Doing things right". Concentrate on "Doing the right things".

Your business model should be very versatile and flexible.

The important areas for a smart business model are:
§  Brain support (An intelligent thought), Finance support (at start and while growing) and Apt Human Resource.
§  A good branding plan.
§  The business model must capitalize on the ongoing competitive advantage
§  Should be able to attract and maintain quality customers
§  Must be successful long term, not just immediate return
§  Investor should be able to withdraw his capital any time
§  The business model should consider major risks
§  Above average profits

Key words: Business plan, Business model, Doing things right, Doing the right things, brand, branding, capital, major risks, risk, risks, competitive advantage, profit.    

Discover Yourself Workshop in Jeddah - 27 & 28 May 2010

Engr. Sadatullah Khan in Jeddah
Engr. Sadatullah Khan from Banglore conducted his famous DISCOVER YOURSELF workshop at Seasons Restaurant in Jeddah on 27th and 28th may 2010. The workshop was organized by the Indian Islahi Centre, Aziziya area committee :

More than one hundred people from different states of India like Andrapradesh, Assam, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu etc. attended the workshop. This was the second workshop of Engr. Sadatulla Khan in Jeddah. The first workshop had been organized by "TAFAREG JEDDAH" an organization of Tamil community in Jeddah.
The changes this workshop brought to the attendees in a couple of days were amazing! It was a unique experience indeed!

I request all workshop attendees to write their experience and their post-workshop feelings in the comments column below so that it can be a permenant reference about the workshop in Jeddah.

Key words:
Sadatullah Khan, Sadatulla, Sadathullah Khan, Sadathulla, Discover yourself, Discover yourself workshop, Indian Islahi Centre, Indian Islahi Center, Indian Islahi Center Jeddah, Indian Islahi Centre Jeddah, Tafareg, Basheer Vallikkunnu, Saleem EP, Ashraf Unneen, Rasheed Ameer, Seasons Restaurant, personality development, life skills,  personality development workshop, Islam, Muslim, Indians in Saudi Arabia, Malayalees in Jeddah, Malayalees.


Comment -1: Basheer Vallikkunnu
Yes. it was an excellent workshop. even though we cut short in to 2 days, the message is well delivered. We should be very thankful to Engr. Sadaathullah Khan for opening up our minds. 

This is the second time I am attending this workshop (Discover Yourself). But I never felt anything boring. 

Only one suggestion I wrote it in the Feedback Form is to avoid repetition of same points in different segments. Also to show the clippings/aids related to it in the same segment rather than showing it later. A little more professional touch will, definitely, shoot-up ratings of this workshop.. 

Thank you Mr. Abdul Lathief for initiating a discussion in the blog. 

We should think about a Follow up workshop. 


Comment -2: Ashraf Unneen
No doubt, the workshop was very informative to understand the religious teachings from a different perspective. I am copying those tips learned from workshop in to my real life and most of them are working dramatically. Al Hamdulillah. But still required more practice and learning thru sharing with all of you ...!
What my son Basit said is that he got 10 times better understanding about us than pondering in 2 big volumes of personality development books which he completed recently.

Allah's name and attributes were taught to understand Allah and memorize them to make supplication, but now this workshop is telling us to live as Khalifa of Allah having those qualities . And many points like this.. all are worth practicing.. May Allah duly reward Engr. Sadathullah for his great effort. Ameen.

I am grateful to Allah for this workshop by which we were able to get a bunch valued Muslims together from a different States, country together, who can change the world, if we are ready to change ourselves. So, IICJ-Azizia committee should continues its efforts to keep in touch with all those brothers in future too. This enthusiasm should not be faded after a while ....we should run away from Shaytan's..TA TA .. TI...TI'(Nafs Ammara) and should march together towards Allah (Nafsul Muthmainna).

Appreciate Engr. Abdul Latheef for initiating this blog to share our views. 


Comment -3: Saleem EP
I feel light headed (LA) since the 'interview night'. I was in great Spirit on the second day (FRI) with the additional energy/enthusiasm I got from the interviews. My friends just wondered what happened to me and they called me up to know more about the workshop. It was the first time I was asking somebody what/how they feel about me and they were asked a question of that kind. I was not aware of this technique until my great coach Eng. Sadathulla trained me to do. I felt the comfort of LA (nothingness) at the first time. 

Now I look the world around me differently and with more confidence. I am a cautious Muslim who is living at the present, forgiving my past, forgiving all who did injustice to me & looking for creating bright future and a peaceful return to Allah.

I also feel the Islamic brotherhood in its true sense. I received some calls/emails from non-keralite attendees who were thankful to us for organizing this workshop. We can't retreat now, so we must continue our efforts in all possible ways. Wabillai Thoufeeque.

I express my heartiest thanks to Eng. Sadathulla Khan sahib for this workshop and Eng. Lathief for taking the leading hand to organize this workshop as well as this blog. My full support for the subsequent get together of all the attendees at the (new) centre office and follow-up workshop.

Best Regards

Comment -4: Rasheed Ameer
Indeed, it was a different experience. I was able to see myself from another perspective. The methods taught in the work shop were very practical. The participant will be able to understand the influence of the 'reptile brain', which control us most of the time, especially when someone criticizes us. It teaches us to build greater relationships in the family, at work place, business and in the society etc. Over all it was an excellent event. I would recommend this training for anyone who is looking for a purified life. 

Congratulations to Islahi Center brothers for the selfless efforts and pain they took to organize the program. My special thanks to Eng. Assainar for inviting me personally.
May Allah guide us all to lead the life of His Khalifa.
Jazakallah Khair,
Rasheed M Ameer
CIGI – Jeddah Chapter

Comment -5: Abdul Salam Chaliyam
Many thanks for Engr,SADATHULLAH KAHAN and IICJ for giving opportunity to participate an eye opener helped a lot for self assessment and to realize the weak points of our own. The methodology was quite interesting and scientific.May Almighty help us to rectify our behavior in the light of the messages we received from workshop.
with prayers

Comment -6: Nisham Abdulla
It was pleasure to attend this programme but i really missed it on Friday 28-05-2010. but any how i attended on Thursday 27-05-2010 it was interesting. Many thanks to Engr. Sadathullah Khan. We wish 2 see you again soon.
Saudi Binladin Group-ABCD
Mob :- +966-56-181-3294
Tel :- +966-2-616-5703/04/05
Ext :- 294

Comment -7: Mohammed Shahedur Rehman
As Salaamu Alaikum War Rahmatullahi Wa Barkatuh


I was thrilled when I received the mail from a brother about the workshop. It was my urdent desire since last year that somehow Br. Sadathullah Khan's workshop should have been conducted in Jeddah. Reason, I know number of brothers suffering from extreme anxiety / clinical depression. I could think of only Jeddah Islahi Centre having capability of conducting such a program. I did mention to a member of Islahi Centre. I whole heartedly thank and appreciate the members of the Islahi Centre for their dedication in making the event possible. Special thanks to brother Ashraf and brother Abdul Lateef for their foresight. I could see your enthusiasm radiating throughout the workshop.

It was an emotional experience having actively participated in the workshop. As if Br. Sadathullah Khan dug out all the dirt from our heart and thrown them out. I took my son also for the second day's workshop.

I could easily relate the experience as these processes of Tazkiyah are elaborately taught to cultivate / experience by Sufis(not the commercial Sufis) and Tablighee circles. Poor Sufis and Tablighees are sidelined by common mess having no knowledge of what they do either due to having peripheral experience or scanty knowlede about their activities.

In fact one Tablighee brother I pursuaded to attend the workshop remarked that Br. Sadhathullah Khan has assimilated the processes of Tazkiyah and Tabligh Usul in one format.

One thing has become clear that if muslims are united, no matter what chapter of the organisation you represent, wonders can be done. Jeddah Islahi brothers have shown the way.

I wish all the best and pray Allah (SWT) to advance you in your efforts to unlift the Ummah.

Your brother in Islam

Mohammed Shahedur Rehman (Native of Assam)
Saudi Cable Company
MObile : 0500104920
E-Mail :;

Comment -8: Omid Noor
thanks to islahi centre,the food was good. 
i had a lot of questions during the lecture but since i could not ask questions, i had to contend with keeping quite or sleeping.
with due repect to the coach and his intentions, a lot of what he said felt contradictory to me, something like a mix of psychoanalysis, tasawwuf, budhism and the recently popular western corporate stress management trainings.
it felt like 2 days of feel-good-factor-training, something to break us expat slaves from our daily messed up lives and feel good about 'accepting' our slavery.
i doubt the training will deliver what it promised in me or any individual - a permanent change. its gonna fade in 2 weeks for sure and the whole program will feel like a 2 day drama we all acted in.
last word with reference to the 97%-3% theory that the coach mentioned. if 'playing in the court' is about gaining 95% wealth of the world, i d rather stay in the stands, cos i m already suffering playing for the wealth and success. 

Why else am i a slave in the most oppressing nation on earth?

i have been searching for that something else which could liberate people like us. i dont know what that is, but i guess neither does our coach.

Comment -9: Iyman Muhammad Yousf
Many thanks for Engr,SADATULLAH KAHN and IICJ 
Now I look the world around me differently and with more confidence. I am a cautious Muslim who is living at the present, forgiving my past, forgiving all who did injustice to me & looking for creating bright future and a peaceful return to Allah.

Iyman Muhammad Yousf
Mob :- +966-59-793-1787

Comment -10: Habeeb
We may read many books, attend many programs but if we do not practice what we read or listen to, the efforts will be useless.

Discover Yourself was a practice oriented workshop where the attendees were invoved sincerely throughout the program without any 

boring feeling. We practiced what we learnt then and there and the concepts went into the mind with less effort. I really like Engineer Khans 

advice on replying by ourselves to our Inner Critic saying "I dont know. Allah knows the best". The expression of worryness that people have 

about the past and future in the rhyme of "da da daaa... ding ding ding" really entertained and was easy to remember.

And the demo of "I am right... I am right..." also showed how we are fooling ourselves in our lives with our EGO and the necessity to over 

come it. 

"Forgiveness" is another masterpeice of the workshop which Engineer Khan explained how it cured many people from diseases and eases 

peoples lives.

I have accompanied a 9th standard student who initially questioned about the duration of the workshop. I think he was not satisfied with the 

two days duration that too till 10 pm on the first day. 

But at the end of the second day he said "Uncle we have missed the 3rd day". When asked why he replied. "The program was actually for 3 

days and was shortened for us. So actually we have missed the third day". I have some how convinced him.

Another 9th standard student who I have accompanied was also very active throughout the program and volunteered himself to act as the 

vice captain for helping the program to run smoothly like making announcements etc.

Overall, the program was so entertaining, informative and helps each of us to live as a good human being. More space is requierd about 

writing on the two day workshop. I leave it to the other attendees to express their views on other concepts that were taught in the 


We need more people like Engineer Sadathullah Khan for the revival of humanity. May Allah shower mercy on him and all of us and guide us 

and give us success in this world and the next.


Comment -11: Abdul Lathief
Nice to see the comments of Br. Omid Noor...
Now I understand that Engr. Khan was not successfull in making the glass empty in the case of everyone! and poured his messages easily....
Let us accept this reality and create solutions as the coach taught us in two days!

Comment -12: 
I never believed before the workshop that misbehaviour and misconceptions that one has for couple of decades could be permanently corrected just in three days of workshop. Thank to Engr. Sadatullah Khan may Allah bless him and we praise our Lord Allah subhana Watala to grant means and powers to Khan to continue his mission.
By implementing the workshop in our day to day life, the result is amaizing. Change is guaranted for those willing to change inshaAllah. 

When I ask my wife about my negative points she said:
1. If you are angry you don't listen to me and people in general.
2. You don't give me the attention I'am expecting from you (most of the time I want you to play with me).
3. Sometime you want other people to change the way you see things.
4. When speaking to people sometime you ignore whether you will hurt them or not.

For the boy:
1. He said that he don't want me to be angry with his mother.
2. Sometime I don't reply to him when he is asking me. He want me to aswer him anytime he ask me something.

Comment -13: Sirajudeen
I thank my brother who took my son and my neighbour's son both of them are 9th std boys. They are very happy that they could attend such a programme. My son is all praise about the techniques taught in the programme. As he is a sharp listener he regretted that his mother and I missed the programme. 

I missed the programme due to pre occupation. I would like to attend the one in the future by Eng Khan.

Thanks for the blog to share the views of the participants. I hope my son would also write about his experience.

Best wishes to everyone,


Comment -14: Abdul Lathief
Today we the below mentioned attendees met again in one of the attendees' apartment and refreshed our experience about the workshop.
Following were the attendees:

- Abdul Aziz
- Abdul Basith
- Abdul Lathief
- Ashraf Unneen
- Hassainar
- Mohammed Ali Chundakkadan
- Noushad Karinganadu
- Saleem EP

We called few guests as well to attend our discussion. The discussion went very live and we felt it was a must that we sit like this. We refreshed almost all of the main topics like:
- The concept of LA (Nothingness)
- World of reality / Acceptance / Resistance
- The context
- Play ground and gallary
- Being unreasonable
- Human being and animality
- Reptile brain
- Sharing
- Khalifa
- Beating the left hand to control the evil and reptile thoughts
- Techniques for getting concentration and to be in the present
- Da Da Da .......Di Di Di
- The nice memories of some of the demostrations in the workshop
- Application of the lessons from the workshop at work and at home

Over all it was a very nice reunion. We suggest all the attendees to get together like this and make it a point to discuss and share the post workshop experiences.

Comment -15: Saleem EP
Dear bro's,
It was a great experience for me to attend the meeting held yesterday at the residents of one of the attendees. We not only shared our experience after the workshop but also refreshed ourselves of what we have learned in the work shop. Nobody was remembering everything but when you united we got all the points and shared them. So unity is the power. Please organize in-house meetings and you will see its effects in your life. Insha Allah.

I have added my experience in my blog with some photos. Please visit and put your remarks. 
Best Regards
Saleem EP

Comment -16: Anonymus
assalam walaikum it is a eye opener to humanity

Note: This blog was published earlier in another blog. To see the original comments you my visit that blogspot as well.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Samaritan

One evening last May my son came with an email printout signed and distributed by the principal of International Indian School Jeddah, Mr. Masood Ahmed among the students.
It was a very interesting reading for me as well. I searched for the source for this article and found it to share with you all here.

The source of this article is here: 

Read and pass it on to others. It will definitely have some positive impulse on all readers.


One act of kindness that befell British writer Bernard Hare in 1982 changed him profoundly. Then a student living just north of London, he tells the story to inspire troubled young people to help deal with their disrupted lives.
The police called at my student hovel early evening, but I didn't answer as I thought they'd come to evict me. I hadn't paid my rent in months. 
But then I got to thinking: my mum hadn't been too good and what if it was something about her? 
We had no phone in the hovel and mobiles hadn't been invented yet, so I had to nip down the phone box. 
I rang home to Leeds to find my mother was in hospital and not expected to survive the night. "Get home, son," my dad said.
I got to the railway station to find I'd missed the last train. A train was going as far as Peterborough, but I would miss the connecting Leeds train by twenty minutes. 

I bought a ticket home and got on anyway. I was a struggling student and didn't have the money for a taxi the whole way, but I had a screwdriver in my pocket and my bunch of skeleton keys.

I was so desperate to get home that I planned to nick a car in Peterborough, hitch hike, steal some money, something, anything. I just knew from my dad's tone of voice that my mother was going to die that night and I intended to get home if it killed me.

"Tickets, please," I heard, as I stared blankly out of the window at the passing darkness. I fumbled for my ticket and gave it to the guard when he approached. He stamped it, but then just stood there looking at me. I'd been crying, had red eyes and must have looked a fright.

"You okay?" he asked.
"Course I'm okay," I said. "Why wouldn't I be? And what's it got to do with you in any case?"

"You look awful," he said. "Is there anything I can do?"

"You could get lost and mind your own business," I said. "That'd be a big help." I wasn't in the mood for talking.

He was only a little bloke and he must have read the danger signals in my body language and tone of voice, but he sat down opposite me anyway and continued to engage me.

"If there's a problem, I'm here to help. That's what I'm paid for."

I was a big bloke in my prime, so I thought for a second about physically sending him on his way, but somehow it didn't seem appropriate. He wasn't really doing much wrong. I was going through all the stages of grief at once: denial, anger, guilt, withdrawal, everything but acceptance. I was a bubbling cauldron of emotion and he had placed himself in my line of fire. 

The only other thing I could think of to get rid of him was to tell him my story. 
"Look, my mum's in hospital, dying, she won't survive the night, I'm going to miss the connection to Leeds at Peterborough, I'm not sure how I'm going to get home.
"It's tonight or never, I won't get another chance, I'm a bit upset, I don't really feel like talking, I'd be grateful if you'd leave me alone. Okay?"

"Okay," he said, finally getting up. "Sorry to hear that, son. I'll leave you alone then. Hope you make it home in time." Then he wandered off down the carriage back the way he came.

I continued to look out of the window at the dark. Ten minutes later, he was back at the side of my table. Oh no, I thought, here we go again. This time I really am going to rag him down the train.

He touched my arm. "Listen, when we get to Peterborough, shoot straight over to Platform One as quick as you like. The Leeds train'll be there."

I looked at him dumbfounded. It wasn't really registering. "Come again," I said, stupidly. "What do you mean? Is it late, or something?"

"No, it isn't late," he said, defensively, as if he really cared whether trains were late or not. "No, I've just radioed Peterborough. They're going to hold the train up for you. As soon as you get on, it goes. 

"Everyone will be complaining about how late it is, but let's not worry about that on this occasion. You'll get home and that's the main thing. Good luck and God bless." 

Then he was off down the train again. "Tickets, please. Any more tickets now?"
I suddenly realised what a top-class, fully-fledged doilem I was and chased him down the train. I wanted to give him all the money from my wallet, my driver's licence, my keys, but I knew he would be offended.

I caught him up and grabbed his arm. "Oh, er, I just wanted to…" I was suddenly speechless. "I, erm…"

Bernard was desperate to see his mother, Joyce 
"It's okay," he said. "Not a problem." He had a warm smile on his face and true compassion in his eyes. He was a good man for its own sake and required nothing in return.

"I wish I had some way to thank you," I said. "I appreciate what you've done."
"Not a problem," he said again. "If you feel the need to thank me, the next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. That will pay me back amply. 
"Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place."
I was at my mother's side when she died in the early hours of the morning. Even now, I can't think of her without remembering the Good Conductor on that late-night train to Peterborough and, to this day, I won't hear a bad word said about British Rail.

My meeting with the Good Conductor changed me from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being, but it took time. 

"I've paid him back a thousand times since then," I tell the young people I work with, "and I'll keep on doing so till the day I die. You don't owe me nothing. Nothing at all." 

"And if you think you do, I'd give you the same advice the Good Conductor gave me. Pass it down the line."
Key words: Good Conductor, British Rail, Peterborough, International Indian School Jeddah, Masood Ahmed, Bernard Hare, Good Samaritan

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Hindu : Columns / Harsh Mander : Barefoot - The other side of life

The Hindu : Columns / Harsh Mander : Barefoot - The other side of life


Can anyone really live on Rs. 26 a day, the income of the officially poor in rural India? Two youngsters try it out.
Matt (Left) and Tushar
Late last year, two young men decided to live a month of their lives on the income of an average poor Indian. One of them, Tushar, the son of a police officer in Haryana, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and worked for three years as an investment banker in the US and Singapore. The other, Matt, migrated as a teenager to the States with his parents, and studied in MIT. Both decided at different points to return to India, joined the UID Project in Bengaluru, came to share a flat, and became close friends.
The idea suddenly struck them one day. Both had returned to India in the vague hope that they could be of use to their country. But they knew the people of this land so little. Tushar suggested one evening — “Let us try to understand an ‘average Indian', by living on an ‘average income'.” His friend Matt was immediately captured by the idea. They began a journey which would change them forever.
To begin with, what was the average income of an Indian? They calculated that India's Mean National Income was Rs. 4,500 a month, or Rs. 150 a day. Globally people spend about a third of their incomes on rent. Excluding rent, they decided to spend Rs. 100 each a day. They realised that this did not make them poor, only average. Seventy-five per cent Indians live on less than this average.
The young men moved into the tiny apartment of their domestic help, much to her bemusement. What changed for them was that they spent a large part of their day planning and organising their food. Eating out was out of the question; even dhabas were too expensive. Milk and yoghurt were expensive and therefore used sparingly, meat was out of bounds, as were processed food like bread. No ghee or butter, only a little refined oil. Both are passionate cooks with healthy appetites. They found soy nuggets a wonder food — affordable and high on proteins, and worked on many recipes. Parle G biscuits again were cheap: 25 paise for 27 calories! They innovated a dessert of fried banana on biscuits. It was their treat each day.
Restricted life
Living on Rs.100 made the circle of their life much smaller. They found that they could not afford to travel by bus more than five km in a day. If they needed to go further, they could only walk. They could afford electricity only five or six hours a day, therefore sparingly used lights and fans. They needed also to charge their mobiles and computers. One Lifebuoy soap cut into two. They passed by shops, gazing at things they could not buy. They could not afford the movies, and hoped they would not fall ill.
However, the bigger challenge remained. Could they live on Rs. 32, the official poverty line, which had become controversial after India's Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court that this was the poverty line for cities (for villages it was even lower, at Rs. 26 per person per day)?
Harrowing experience
For this, they decided to go to Matt's ancestral village Karucachal in Kerala, and live on Rs. 26. They ate parboiled rice, a tuber and banana and drank black tea: a balanced diet was impossible on the Rs. 18 a day which their briefly adopted ‘poverty' permitted. They found themselves thinking of food the whole day. They walked long distances, and saved money even on soap to wash their clothes. They could not afford communication, by mobile and internet. It would have been a disaster if they fell ill. For the two 26-year-olds, the experience of ‘official poverty' was harrowing.
Yet, when their experiment ended with Deepavali, they wrote to their friends: “Wish we could tell you that we are happy to have our ‘normal' lives back. Wish we could say that our sumptuous celebratory feast two nights ago was as satisfying as we had been hoping for throughout our experiment. It probably was one of the best meals we've ever had, packed with massive amounts of love from our hosts. However, each bite was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that there are 400 million people in our country for whom such a meal will remain a dream for quite some time. That we can move on to our comfortable life, but they remain in the battlefield of survival — a life of tough choices and tall constraints. A life where freedom means little and hunger is plenty...
Plenty of questions
It disturbs us to spend money on most of the things that we now consider excesses. Do we really need that hair product or that branded cologne? Is dining out at expensive restaurants necessary for a happy weekend? At a larger level, do we deserve all the riches we have around us? Is it just plain luck that we were born into circumstances that allowed us to build a life of comfort? What makes the other half any less deserving of many of these material possessions, (which many of us consider essential) or, more importantly, tools for self-development (education) or self-preservation (healthcare)?
We don't know the answers to these questions. But we do know the feeling of guilt that is with us now. Guilt that is compounded by the love and generosity we got from people who live on the other side, despite their tough lives. We may have treated them as strangers all our lives, but they surely didn't treat us as that way...”
So what did these two friends learn from their brief encounter with poverty? That hunger can make you angry. That a food law which guarantees adequate nutrition to all is essential. That poverty does not allow you to realise even modest dreams. And above all — in Matt's words — that empathy is essential for democracy.