Report on Jhabua visit

I went to a Rural Immersion Yatra with the thought in mind that “OK this is going to be a rural trip and I will see people living in poverty and their hardships and that is somewhere going to give me motivation and ideas for my education work and some insights into how can we help improve their lives.”

But to my utter shock, I now have many ideas ? on how we all can learn from the people living in Jhabua, MP, Bharat

We were 9 people from Vision India Foundation, visiting Jhabua to see closely the work of ShivGanga, as a part of rural immersion program at VIF. ShivGanga is an NGO based in tribal district, Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh. They mostly work on local solutions for local problems.

Let me directly take you to my experiences at Jhabua:

My Experience and Learnings:

Well, we reached Jhabua on ____ morning, after a night-long train journey and had a session with Mahesh Sharma ji. Shri. Mahesh ji runs ShivGanga day-in-day-out. It was a very insightful session for me.

We talked about Perseverance, Karma & Dharma, Parmarth & Swarth, Volunteering, Social Development, Nature, and many more things. Getting to learn something directly from an experienced person like Mahesh ji is a great opportunity.

While we’re talking to Mahesh Ji, he gave a brief on ShivGanga, Community, and, on request, Talked about his journey also. He mentioned a lot of things and even the subtle things in it had life lessons to teach ?

On asking when and how and why he chose to work his whole life for a cause, he told a few things about his life. But the thing that stuck to me was that he never looked back once he’d chosen to work for a social cause. He said, “You should never have any doubts once you start.”

Karma and Dharma?

  • Karma: Whatever you do in your life for yourself, adds to your Karma. “A person’s actions in life determine their fate in the next life. If a person is kind and selfless in this life, he’ll be rewarded in the next ?Unfortunately, the opposite is also true ? If a person is a scoundrel today, he’ll be paying for it in his next tomorrow!” That’s why we educated class today say: “Karma is a Bitch!” (At least we westerners’s influenced people accepted this reality in this way.)
  • Dharma: Now here the things go a little deep. “It is something that orders the universe. It is the power that keeps the world in motion and keeps the society ticking. It keeps the trees blooming, the grass growing and the birds singing :)” However, it is up to us humans to do our best to keep the world running smoothly. With this, Dharma is both universal and circumstantial, or personal. Shri Bhagavad Gita has everything to help understand this ?

Now, what did Mahesh Ji say that still rings in my ears? (Hindi)

“Khud ke liye kuch karna — Karma hai. Doosre ke liye karna — Dharma hai”
“Doosre ke liye karna hi manushya ka kaam hai. Yahi Dharma hai!”
“Ek jaanwar ghayal hai to usko koi doosra jaanwar nhi bacha sakta. Usko bachana humara Dharma hai. Aur yahi Dharma hai.” (Kabhi socha hi nhi yaar aise! Baaki beings ke liye pyaar to hai par aise nhi socha.)
“Aur Bharat Dharma bhumi hai!” (soch kar goosebumps aa rahe mujhe!)

Swarth and Parmarth?

Aur ye Doosre ke liye karne ki bhavana hi “Parmarth” ki bhavana hai. Isse aap “Swarth” ka matlab to samajh gye honge?

Interesting fact: Swarth —is like a Ring Parmarth — is like a Spiral

The feeling of Parmarth just keeps on spreading whereas Swarth just ends pretty soon. Swarth leads to fights and all things wrong.

Discard the first 20%

Whenever you go to work for people and ask them to volunteer, be careful of the 20% of the population that comes running for their Swarth. Reach out to the 80% of the people who don’t come out otherwise — there are better chances of finding the right people.

There’s nothing called Model Village, Model School, or Model Anything

Do Not go to people with your own Agendas and Ideas. Let People come out with what they want. (This is something that I have seen been implemented by almost all the successful Social Workers, NGOs like Milind Thatte Ji from Maharashtra) Until the community isn’t ready for it, nothing can work out. Direct Donations is the worst thing we can do. Donations do more damage than good.

“Samajik Vikas” is not a 5 or 10 years Project

Samajik Vikas is not something that you walk out to do and be done in 10 years. It sometimes takes generations to bring any CHANGE. (Do you know why?)

“Samajik Vikas” is a collaborative effort

Social Work is not a single person’s work and neither it should be. It is to be done by joining hands with people.

After spending two days traveling the place and talking to the villagers, each one of us went on to spend a day and a night at a Karyakarta’s home — to know everything we can in detail.

Arvind Ji from Bhootbarda village came to pick me up from the ShivGanga office. We started the journey on his bike with him telling me all that he can about what we see around during the ride to his home. We passed by many villages on well laid out roads in this tribal area. Below is the picture of Arvind ji’s home:

I was very well welcomed by Arvind Ji. We had water and then just without any wait walked to see his fields. The house was actually beside fields only. I met Arvind ji’s father and mother, who were there in the field working under a very very hot sun. I also tried my hands at what uncle ji were doing — Hal Chalana.

Then we walked further to eat the freshly plucked groundnuts :D, corns, all sorts of dals, vegetables, mangoes and what not. For the first time I’d seen how dals are being grown.

Insaaniyat Zinda Hai. Bharat Zinda Hai.

I found the people in Jhabua and outskirts, more Hindu, more Human, and more Full Of Life ? The feeling of Parmarth that they have is way more than privileged people living in big cities.

The rituals like “Prakarti Ki Pooja” /“Worshiping the Nature” — which is like the core of Hinduism — are still alive here.

To be frank, I feel that “Bharat” is still alive or will become the superpower in this world because of the people like in Jhabua still preserving what we had before colonization.

Men Cook Food. Female Do Business. Hain??

Wherever I spent my time, I saw the men in the house cooking the food. I was shocked seeing this. I saw the women running shops and thelas, selling small items to big items. It was like the whole family is taking care of the nourishment of each other. And we think village/tribal people are backward?

Here, try to digest this: There’s a ritual here in Jhabua that Bridegroom’s family will give some money to the groom’s family for the marriage of their daughter. This is totally opposite to how we city people live this ritual and then blame it to be the reason behind a whole lot of other problems like Female foeticide, Gender discrimination, Honour killing and what not!

They live with Nature

I could see cows, buffalos, goats, rabbits, tortoise, snakes, cocks, cats, dogs, humans — all living under the same roof, and sharing the same land giving fruits to human farms. It gives you the feeling that this is the kind of life worth living ? — To be always in synchronization with the nature around you!

ShivGanga helped the community revive their traditional concepts like HALMA and MATAVAN. Matavan is nothing but worshipping their Gods in a huge forest that they build and maintain. This conserve the nature and forests in the days where we city people are cutting down forests!


In days like these, if I say that there’s no Blood Pressure & Diabetes to even a single person among thousands in a city, would you believe it? Whosoever I asked for all kinds of medical conditions, they didn’t even hear about them. It is not like they don’t get tests done or hospitals nearby aren’t well equipped — this all is available — rather it is their lifestyle involving a lot of physical work and the unadulterated food that they have been eating.

What is unique about ShivGanga?

  1. To be able to get people to take out time and contribute to their village and help fellow villagers with the feelings of Dharma and Parmarth (Baap re! Is that even possible in today’s time where no one seems to have time for anybody else?)
  2. There are many NGOs and other institutions working in the social sector, 3000 more in Jhabua only, but mostly the work is based on direct interventions or donations. Getting the village people to work togethervoluntarilylosing on their daily wage sometime just to contribute in the ongoing work, is REMARKABLE! (Try thinking how you could achieve this?)
  3. ShivGanga started with the aim of improving Education in the area thereby leading to all other changes. But along the journey, they found out that Education alone won’t bring holistic development. They started Youth Programs of 3 days and the youth came up with the problem of water in Jhabua. ShivGanga along with the community started solving the water problem. Hence the name “ShivGanga.”
  4. There are many unique things about the ShivGanga team (Core + Karyakartas) also. The whole feeling of Parmarth that the team lives by has helped the team reach where they are today. They do not work as an organisation. They believe that the organisation is a very small entity with respect to society.
  5. They have helped the community in reviving their traditional concepts like HALMA and MATAVAN.
  6. Bamboo usage and many other initiatives.

Originally posted at Vision India Foundation