There was a time when most of us cribbed about going to school. The incessant ring of the alarm clock would begin at 6am and with groggy eyes, we’d step out of bed and find our way to the shower. Soon, we would gobble down hot idlis, drink milk and hop on to the bus. Not much has changed for a bunch of 20-somethings even years after they finished school, except that they no longer sport a blue or white pinafore but a salwar set or a saree, as they head to their classrooms to teach young minds. Belonging to Gen Y, these youngsters are open-minded, a little low on patience (mind you, they end up really working on that) and a bundle of energy that’s seldom out powered by the jumpy, bright faces of second and third graders they teach. Their fresh, out-of-the-box method of teaching tiny tots seeks to shape the children into curious human beings with a strong conscience.

Celebrating the lives of these teachers, is a three-part series of articles that I’m starting on my blog, which will feature interviews with three teachers sharing their experiences about teaching and working with little ones. Peppered with sweet and heart-warming anecdotes, the blog hopes to open your mind to this wonderful profession of teaching and how, if it’s done right, it can significantly impact young minds.  Continue reading


Chennai: A pleasant surprise awaits passengers frequenting the Thiruvanmiyur MRTS, whose drab and dusty walls have become more engaging than their luminous phones. A splash of colour and a slice of city life – the large captivating photographs stuck on the pink walls are quick to draw your attention. Captured by women from the Down Syndrome Federation of India and a group of young girls from the NalandaWay Foundation, these pictures are on display along the platform of the station until March 13 as part of the Chennai Photo Biennale.

 A digital camera and a two-day workshop was all it took to get the women excited about photography. “I love photography. I like taking pictures of colourful things like swings, slides and flowers,” says Babli Ramachandran. Photography may be seen as a challenge to this 35-year-old with Down Syndrome and partial vision but her beautiful pictures of nature tell a different story.

Babli is one among 14 others who attended the introductory sessions conducted by Lensational, an organisation dedicated to empowering marginalised women in developing countries through photography. “The idea is to challenge stereotypes through photography and transform lives. These girls have a strong artistic acumen as they shot photos in unconventional spaces like slums and garbage dumps,” says Bonnie Chin, founder, Lensational.

The striking images of red pomegranates, yellow flowers, colourful plastic pots, rusty hand pumps and happy locals catch your eye while waiting for the train. Shot at Nageswara Rao Park, Kapaleeswarar Temple, the slums in Perambur and areas near the Kodungaiyur dump yard, these pictures reveal untold stories of the city through the lens of these amateurs.

“When we went to shoot near Kodungaiyur, we noticed that there is so much garbage and people were living around it. We felt that if we shared our pictures of the place, the residents may get help,” says V Dhanalakshmi, a class 7 student from NalandaWay art lab. Similarly, 12-year-old Kushbu Solanki captured stagnant, dirty water around a hand pump covered in fungus to convey the living conditions of slum dwellers.

The programme was a unique experience for most girls as it was the first time they interacted with the local community. “They had no qualms about going to a dirty place. In fact, it triggered a lot of questions and they came up with great ideas for pictures,” says Monisha V, associate for projects, NalandaWay Foundation.

Photography served as a platform for expression and the exercise has been empowering. “The women have become more outgoing and confident after this,” says Dr Rekha Ramachandran, president, Down Syndrome Association of Tamil Nadu.

Pumped with energy, they fearlessly roamed the streets capturing what they liked. “We noticed that these girls weren’t hesitant to put cameras before faces and click pictures. We would think twice but they were thrilled to engage with the public,” says photographer Shuchi Kapoor, who conducted the workshops with French photographer Yannick Cormier.


exhibition photo of P Balachandar painting at Bindu Arts School

Chennai: Clutching a paint brush which is strapped to his palm with a rubber band, P Balachandran paints colourful pictures of various birds on his canvas. The 63-year-old may have lost a finger to leprosy but he found solace in art. The creative journey that began through the Bindu Arts School in Chengalpet has helped him lead a life of dignity ever since.

“Drawing has become my passion. Earlier, I used to feel depressed thinking about my illness. But painting helps me forget all my worries,” says Balachandran, who is among 18 other students displaying their artwork at an exhibition organized by the school at DakshinaChitra.

This year’s paintings capture a variety of themes in bright colours. From animals to birds, flowers to fishes, the exhibition has around 37 framed canvasses. The initiative hopes to empower many leprosy patients by making them financially independent.

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“There is an inner beauty in poor people that we don’t recognize. Unlike popular perception, they make beautiful paintings. Their work does not reflect any depression or frustration despite the difficult circumstances they’ve been through,” says Austrian artist Werner Dornik, who founded the school with Padma Venkataraman in 2005.

When Dornik first visited India in 1977, he was very disturbed by the plight of the leprosy patients in Varanasi. Initially, he raised money for their treatment. But the idea to set up the school developed after the government began offering free treatment for the illness.

“I didn’t want the concept to be perceived as charity where I am seen as the ‘good man’ and the students had to be ‘thankful’. The idea was to make them independent so that they didn’t beg,” says Dornik, who showcases their work at exhibitions across India and Europe.


The school has also been instrumental in honing their skills by helping them develop their own personal styles. “We give them the freedom to paint what they like. Sometimes we have group interactions where we discuss what is missing and what can be changed,” says Dornik, who also curates the exhibition.

Apart from guest lectures and workshops, students are also taken on week-long trips to give them exposure. “The school has become like my family. We wouldn’t have got an opportunity to visit so many places if we were living in our own homes,” says Godavari, who looks forward to their trip to Shantiniketan in February.

The exhibition is at the Kadambari Gallery, DakshinaChitra until February 3. The paintings are priced at Rs. 4,500 and Rs. 9,500. “The proceeds from the sale help in paying the monthly stipend for the students and in purchasing art supplies for the school. In fact, since 2008, the school has been running purely on the income from these exhibitions and not on donations,” says Dornik.


Little drops fall into potholes in the street. Tiny eyes look out from their yellow tents supported by tall, sturdy branches, to see if it’s that time of the year. Within seconds the shallow potholes are brimming with water – a muddy brown – and it doesn’t take long before the sound of heavy rain acts as a summon to the little children huddled in the tents of the nearby slums. They run on to the streets – jumping, playing and enjoying – the rain. While one splashes water, the other jumps into the puddle. They listen to nature’s music and dance to its tunes while we just sit within four brick walls, beside our windows with a hot cup of tea taking in nature’s beauty through the eyes of a concrete window. We capture a perfect picture to upload on social media, while they are a part of the picture itself. We order in hot samosas and bhajjis to hog on, while they stand by the petite roadside tea stall and munch on crispy treats in the chilly monsson. The fear of catching a terrible flu successfully suppresses the urge to play in the rain but nothing puts a full stop to their fun.

Surprisingly, you and I have greater access to medicine. 

Carefree, young and happy – they listen to nature’s music to enjoy it in the moment. They don’t take a picture of the rain from their windows to upload it on social media. They seem to understand nature better

(A 7-part series to bring out the ironies in life between the rich and the poor).


#DaanUtsav or the #JoyofGivingWeek began on October 2. So here’s what we have decided to do this sharing season. We encourage you to buy one of our Joy of Giving tees, especially the kid size ones (10 to 14 years) which come in red colour and gift them to an underprivileged child. It could be your maid’s daughter or your driver’s son, a small present to them which they could wear this festival season. 🙂

The t-shirts are available at a discounted price of Rs. 370 per t-shirt (plus shipping if any) for this week (till Sunday).

If you wish to get a tee, do feel free to contact us by inboxing us on facebook or commenting below! Spread some smiles this festive season. 🙂

We know the joy of wearing new clothes is something everyone looks forward to. It is truly exciting! 🙂

Also, do share our post and spread the message. If each of us helps even one child, we can make a huge difference 🙂





Fraterniti t-shirts!

Order them here 🙂

Sat down for too long? Well, be a part of the new era – StandUpism. Stand Up against injustice, violence and inequality. Buy the Stand Up collection today!

These t-shirts come with a strong message. They are thought-provoking and ensure that whoever reads your tee, takes back something to ponder on. They are unique since they combine design with a message. It is the right balance of quirk with meaningful design. These t-shirts are unisex and a must-add to your collection.

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Nepal Earthquake

As you all may have heard, as of today, 6200 people have died in the Nepal Earthquake. Relief and rehabilitation efforts have been going on since the disaster occurred. While each of us are in different parts of the world, we would still like to help the victims of the earthquake as much as possible. If you were wondering how you could help, then here is something we came up with. Take a look! And do contribute. Your donation is important and it can make a huge difference.

After much brainstorming, we decided to opt for crowd funding for the relief & rehabilitation efforts following the Himalayan earthquake in April 2015. We hope you will donate generously & with much compassion.

Here is the link. Please share it with your friends too.