Arguendo is the Core Project in the Lex Coterie Group of Organizations.

Friday, 21 July 2017

India's First Blind and Sighted Tandem Cycling Expedition to Himalayas by Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation

Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation is an organization rooted in the belief that sport has the power to catalyze more inclusive, accepting, healthy societies. Using adventure sport as a platform to promote inclusion between Persons with Disability (PwDs) and the able-bodied community, ABBF believes that change starts at the individual level and nurturing friendships that go beyond markers of disability is the key to shattering stigma and stereotype. To this end, ABBF works in five verticals currently – tandem cycling, scuba diving, mountaineering and trekking, paragliding, and marathons – and since inception in 2014, has been able to reach out to 3500 PwDs and over 1.5 lakh people from the mainstream community. This is only the beginning.

In August 2016, our founder Divyanshu Ganatra set out with a sighted captain to pedal from Manali to Khardung La in the Himalayas, a length of 550 kilometers that the team completed in just eight days. He became the first blind tandem cyclist to accomplish the feat. Divyanshu, who lost his eyesight to glaucoma when he was nineteen years old, previously became the first blind solo paraglider in 2014. His thirst for adventure and love for adrenaline sowed the seeds of ABBF, and the community is only growing by the day. When Divyanshu and his captain successfully completed the expedition on September 4th, 2016, ABBF decided this would only be the beginning of our annual tandem cycling expedition, In Sync. Tandem cycling had so much more to offer.

Built to support a minimum of two riders, a tandem cycle is a perfect solution for accessible adventure. On the heels of last year’s success, this year’s edition of In Sync, #M2K2017 has drawn the participation of blind, sighted, as well as amputee cyclists from across India and beyond. Cyclists are as diverse as one can imagine, with professions ranging from corporate giants to language teachers, from the armed forces to motivational speaking. The age bracket ranges from around fifteen to about seventy years old. The experience on board spans seasoned cyclists to those getting on the pedal for the first time ever. With such diversity in lived experiences comes the opportunity for conversation, camaraderie, and personal growth. At ABBF, we have seen time and again that we climb the mountains as strangers and come down as friends. We are confident In Sync will be no different.

The key to the vision of ABBF is involving as many people as possible, inviting them to join us on this journey. For In Sync to be truly path-breaking, paving the road as India’s first inclusive tandem cycling expedition, we need your support and media coverage.

Check out how you can be a part of it here or contact Ms.Yashasvini Rajeshwar

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Real People, Real Stories- Interview with Mr. Harshad Fad, Organizer, Human Library Hyderabad

Arguendo has a tete-a-tete with Mr. Harshad Fad, Organizer of Human Library Hyderabad (HLH)

Sourya (S): What inspired you to start the Human Library movement in Hyderabad? Please tell us something about the history and origins of the Human Library movement.

Harshad Dinkar Fad (H): I have always believed in and experienced the power of meaningful conversation. The positive change it can bring to an individual. When I came across this meme on Facebook talking about Human Libraries the first thing I did was frantically search for one in India as I was intrigued by the concept and its potential. This was in 2016 when we had no Human Library in India which was quite surprising to me as I thought if there's one country that needs Human Libraries most it is our plural democracy where lifestyle changes every 50 KM's you travel. So I visited the Human Library Organisation's website and applied to be an organizer. During this time, probably in November Mrs. Amrita Goel conducted the first Human Library event in India at IIM Indore. It was wonderful to see the concept finally being introduced in India and the positive reception it had there. Finally, it was in March this year that we had our first Human Library event conducted in Hyderabad with 10 wonderful human books and around 70 readers gracing the occasion.
You can read about the history of Human Library Organisation's origins and how Ronnie Abergel, the inventor of Human Library concept took the concept across the globe here:

(S): Did you expect the kind of response you have received?

(H): I expected it to be received well by everyone but certainly did not expect it to become a national phenomenon.
It all started with a really nice article by TheBetterIndia on Human Library Hyderabad's first event and the movement worldwide that went viral. I guess that gave us a very good reach and identity all over the world and not only India as there were calls from UK, Mexico, Columbia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and many other countries. What it did in effect was that many people were willing to start a Human Library in their cities and today we see the number only growing every month.

(S): Which book/author would you say has had the most impact on your life?

(H): Jim Corbett. His writings made me fall in love with nature, people, and life. Unconventional choice but it's in his writings that I found solace. 

(S): Can you tell us how does a Human Library work?

(H): Human Library works like any other standard library, the only difference is that the books are replaced by humans, reading is actually a conversation and you have to return the 'books' in half n' hour. (borrowing time differs event to event)
A reader can walk in, check out the human libraries book catalog that has the titles and synopsis of the books and borrows one of those human books for a conversation session. 

(S): Is there any one story in Human Library Hyderabad which you consider special for you?

(H): There are many. One of our books was a domestic violence survivor and she told me how not very long ago she wanted to end her life but today after talking to so many strangers and feeling the care and warmth from them, she was glad to have lived for that day. Her smiling face has stuck in my memory forever now. 

(S): How do you think has the Human Library movement benefitted people or society so far?

(H): People after being a reader at the Human Library have been able to understand the differences in our society. When we don't understand something we fear it, we have insecurity about it on our mind, Human Libraries have helped reduce that insecurity and people have become more compassionate and as a society at large more integrated. 

The Human Books at the Human Library Hyderabad
Second Edition

(S): Do you feel the HLH can help breakdown stereotypes?

(H): Yes, it is already doing that. The framework works. We have had people coming and telling us how deep the impact has been on them and they found themselves living with many misconceptions about a certain issue their entire lives until the time they actually met and spoke to someone representing that topic at the Human Library.

(S): Can anyone become a Human Book?

(H): People who have experienced prejudice due to issues such as race, sex, age, disability, sexual preference, gender identity, class, religion/belief, lifestyle choices, career choices or other aspects of who they are or represent can be a Book.

(S): How do you make sure that the “Human Books” are in a safe environment at Library?

(H): So far we have experienced that the readers who came to our library came with an open mind to listen and understand what the books wanted to say. We have been lucky to have a very disciplined and receptive crowd that way. However, on our side, we make sure the readers are informed that this framework is based on mutual respect. The books are informed to categorically deny questions that might be uncomfortable to answer. The librarians also try and talk to the books after every session to see if they are all right and need anything. 

(S): Do you have plans to see that the Human Libraries spread all over India?

(H): Yes, of course, there are Human Libraries in Hyderabad, Indore, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Surat and now Banglore as well. In the next five years, I guess we will have a Human Library in every major city and town in India. 

(S): What is the story in the “Human Book” titled "Life of Harshad Dinkar Fad"?

(H): It's a story of a perseverant and a tidsoptimist. A story of the best student and a dropout. A story of sincerity and rebel. The story of a genius and an idiot. :)

Monday, 17 July 2017

I Can Flyy - An Initiative which helps Special Needs Individuals in Kolkata

"Some of the most wonderful people are the ones that don’t fit into boxes."

~Tori Amos

The writer Gabriel Garcia Marques, had once woven a beautiful story called ‘I sell my Dreams’ about the prophetic Frau Freida who made a living by selling what happens to be the most innate part of one’s soul, she sold her dreams. And god, what a life she lived! Much sought after, as people flocked to know what unfolded in her last siesta. Some made a living out of dreaming, and for the rest of commoners like us, we find an antidote to the malaises within our dreams. When the reality appears too harsh to be accepted, we dream of a better future, a hopeful tomorrow. But then, what happens to the ones who haven’t learned to see a tomorrow for themselves?

They say that to rob someone of money is wrong, but to rob an individual of their dreams is probably a graver sin. In a hedonistic society, like ours, we commit such sins every day. Segregating and branding people ‘unworthy’ of an opportunity. Sometimes on class, sometimes on color, and sometimes on the way one is abled. I Can Flyy is an initiative, whose Founder refused to walk by the  ways of this world challenging society’s cruel ways of branding people. We are born with our destinies, and as humans, we all deserve an equal chance to shape it. 

We know that time, empathy and compassion is what we lack today. We do not stop by for the ones who might lag a step behind. Because well, we are all in a fight. Darwin led the way and we fight along to be the fittest.

Amazing goodies created by the I Can Flyy members.

However, there are places on this very planet which form a warm cradle of a comforting space and within the walls of one such warm cocoon, lies an initiative called I Can Flyy – a center for vocational training for Special Needs individuals. It aims to empower the young minds, arming them with an arsenal of know how in crafts, baking, data entry, launderette operations etc. The knowledge is not only intended to benefit them monetarily but instills in them a sense of vision in this competitive world. They are taught to create things fit for a demand in the market, the market of commoners. To say that it instills in them a sense of self-worth, may not be the best way to put it. So, we settle for saying that at I Can Flyy, we tell them of their right to dream, we remind them once again, that, while everyone may not be abled the same way, we’re all able nonetheless. And that’s the only factor that matters. Food and goodies made by Special Need Young Adults are sold and they are rightfully handed over what their creation fetched, ensuring a steady occupation on the lines of what their real calling was.

The facility's latest addition is slated to open doors in August 2017. Watch this space for more on this brand new member of the I Can Flyy Family!

The Initiative houses itself on 4B Valmikee Street, Kolkata 700026.

Find them on Facebook

About the Author: 

Esha Meher is a post graduate student of the London School of Economics and Political Science. She nurtures a keen interest in feminism and human fights and can be found painting or reading when not engaged in matters of the day.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Tale of Bengal - By Esha Meher

Once upon a time, she was the glory of the crown. The majestic jewel, the lovingly spoilt one. As the days went by, tales of her valor and glory traveled far and wide, wayfarers from the distant lands sang her praises, a curious yet brave bunch amongst them reared a dream, and armed with ambitions, they crossed the 7 oceans and 13 rivers to catch a glimpse of the undeterred beauty. And then, it happened.

The land of Bengal which took great pride in her riches and fortunes gave in to a momentary lapse. A lapse of judgment induced by an exalted sense of superiority with immense faith in destiny, which apparently claimed that she was destined to rule Hindustan forever, and ages after forever. The Great Battle of Plassey proved them wrong, as Mir Jafar turned against his brother in faith, to give away Nawab Sirajuddaulah of Bengal, while Dewan Mohanlal fought swearing by the Khatriyapurana, doing his dharma of protecting his Ruler before the British army. 

Bengal is the land of Goddess Durga, it is the land of many pirs and imams who pray five times a day facing the Mecca. This is their holy place, as faith resides deep in their hearts hand in hand with love and devotion to our golden land. It is often said, in the Gita and Quran alike, that God only inflicts so much suffering as what one can bear. And this land has borne, more than others. It has cried tears of humiliation at Plassey, the sons of Durga and the followers of Mohammed alike, suffered centuries of imposed servitude as the British ruled the country headquartered in this state, The Brahmins and the Maulavis standing by each other, starved by the great famines – watching mothers in their black burqas and their red and white sarees beat their chests in sorrow, in unison. When history and nature couldn’t break her spirit, policy tried its hand. The bloodsoaked partition of the state, on the nonexistent lines of religion. And behold! That worked. It created the country of Bangladesh. But it failed to divide the hearts of the dwellers of this land, who were Bengalis by birth, by the soul. 

We Bengalis, are different from the rest of the country. We are ruled by our emotions and united by our love for art and culture. We Bengalis, are the most righteous of them all. We ask them questions. We stood firmly behind Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, and Surendranath Roy when they questioned Sati and a ban on widow remarriage when the Vedas were made to play the devil. We lent our ears to Kazi Nazrul Islam, when he revolted against the social ills, christening him the “bidrohi kobi” (the revolutionary poet). We were there when Binay, Badal, Dinesh challenged the British Crown for trying to divide us. We were there when Master Da Surya Sen inspired a generation of teenagers to challenge the powers and break down the Chittagong armory. The Crown divided our land, but they failed to fragment the pieces of our souls. 

We are all who listened to the great poet, Tagore. He was taught by his motherland to believe in a soul which stood without traces of fear, he called upon his brothers and sisters to march alone, if no one came along. And we heard. And we believed. And we lived by it. 

From housing the glorious erstwhile capital of British India to being called a city which lives in an era behind the country, we saw it all. Today in the year 2017, when the nation faces grave crises in the name of religious divisions, once again Bengal stands at the crossroads of witnessing history. The modern cynic says we won't escape. The cow politics and the skull cap fanaticism will finally tear us apart. And yet the old and wise, smile. We’ve withstood the Conspiracies of the most dreaded colonizers of the world, the sons and daughters of Bengal have refused to cower under the terror of the known devils and the unknown ones. Distortions of democracy can never shake our roots.

Yes, the old and the wise smile. They smile with the memories of yesteryears on their eyelids, the sound of the counch of an evening puja reverberates on the tall white walls of the old building, slowly diffusing into the call of azaan of the neighborhood mosque. Cause Bengal is not just a State. It is a feeling.

About the Author: 

Esha Meher is a post graduate student of the London School of Economics and Political Science. She nurtures a keen interest in feminism and human fights and can be found painting or reading when not engaged in matters of the day.