Harmony - SilverAwards 2008 - Awards Archives

Awards Archive

Harmony Silver Awards 2007
  Arvind Gupta
  Avatar Krishna Hangal
  Azim Premji
  Chelekkodan Ayesha
  Chewang Norphel
  Deep Joshi
  Ram Chander Sharma
  Ravinder Kumar
  Rehman Rahi
  Shirish Nadkarni

Arvind Gupta

Arvind Gupta, 54, Pune
For making science fun for the children of India

Arvind Gupta makes real the fantasy play that happens in every child’s mind. At the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) at Pune University, he creates teaching aids that he loves to call “toys”. His office is littered with finds from the local bazaar, garbage cans or his own house. There are broken CDs, used Tetrapaks, bicycle valves and tubes, film rolls, magnets, plastic straws, used refills of ballpoint pens, all types of paper, worn-out bathroom slippers, pins, matchsticks and matchboxes, mirrors, bangles and combs.

These form the bedrock of fundamentals in science for young students who visit IUCAA thrice a week in batches of 50. Dr Jayant Narlikar, the famous astrophysicist who set up the centre, assigned the space at IUCAA to Gupta in 2004 (until then Gupta was a teacher on the move). This year, in celebration of completing three years here, Gupta has finished uploading over 700 books for children, parents and teachers on his website, www.arvinduptatoys.com. Inaugurated by former president A P J Abdul Kalam in June 2007, the website is a treasure-trove of rare books, also translated into Hindi and Marathi by Gupta and his friends. Soon the library will also benefit the visually impaired who can read books online using screen-reading software like JAWS.

“It’s my dream to make this online library as big as www.gutenberg.com, the world’s largest online database of free books. Our focus will be on valuable literature that is out of print because publishers didn’t find it viable to print another edition,” says Gupta, who quit his job as an engineer at TELCO in the early 1970s to train rural teachers. Partners in the project were experts who had quit their respective fields to reshape the educational milieu.

Avatar Krishna Hangal

Avatar Krishna Hangal, 90, Mumbai
For coming out of his own shadow

Mashhoor Amrohi’s debut film Hum Laakh Chhupayein Pyaar Magar hits theatres this December with a rather unlikely opening cameo: A K Hangal as a power-driven rogue, frolicking at a nightclub with two young lovelies. “You’d never expect to see Hangal sahib in a role like this,” says Amrohi, writer, director and lead actor of the film. “But he plays it to perfection.”

Hangal knows he was—is—good. “It was a small role but at least I got the chance to show a different side,” he says tersely. “I want to keep trying different roles to test myself.” The statement is an unwitting metaphor for his life; in his 90 years, A K Hangal has worn many hats, experienced highs and lows, laughter and tears.

“I have seen and suffered life,” he says. “I have used all these experiences, my feelings and sentiments in my acting.” That acting has won him the Padmabhushan (in 2006) and wide acclaim—seminal Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak once called him the greatest actor in the world, a fact he remembers with pride. Hangal ranks his roles as the blind father in Sholay and Sardar Patel in Mountbatten – The Last Viceroy, an English film, as his finest.

Recovering from a recent fall, Hangal is remarkably agile and independent, and credits his good health to a life well led—although he doesn’t exercise any more, he played hockey, football and volleyball in his youth. He assures you he’s happy because he’s lived life “without making compromises”.

Azim Premji

Azim Premji, 62, Bengaluru
For his endeavour to change the face of education

By now, we already know how Azim Premji shaped one of the world’s most formidable software empires—Wipro. What you probably don’t know is that Azim Premji once aspired to become a teacher. Today, 62 year-old Premji has touched base with his childhood ambition and is out to change the face of education in India. In 2007, the Azim Premji Foundation launched a pilot project in Karnataka involving about 80 schools to understand the role of community in education. Efforts are also on to educate 53000 education functionaries in the next 18 months.

The Foundation, established in 2001, has collaborated efforts with 20,000 schools and 45,000 educators to make learning a more meaningful and creative experience for children across the country, particularly in rural areas where dropout rates are woefully high. The 1,200 professionals who work with the foundation focus on both academic content and delivery mechanism including curriculum, assessment, classroom practices, school and education management, and leadership development. They also develop multimedia learning tools and economically viable ideas for computer-assisted learning. The initiative, steadily gaining the girth of a revolution, has touched the lives of 2.5 million children in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and 14 other states. Premji in his trademark down-to-earth style is not ready to accept any kudos yet. “With 19 million children out of school in this country, I don’t think anyone can talk of achievements.”

Chelekkodan Ayesha

Chelekkodan Ayesha, 87, Malappuram
For showing that one is never too old to learn or too poor to dream

With six children, 18 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, Ayesha Chelekkodan is the last person you’d expect to see in school. In 2007, at the age of 87, though, Ayesha completed her formal education, appearing for her Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examination.

“I had never been to school,” reminisces the octogenarian from picturesque Kavanoor village in Malappuram—influenced by national fervour of the 1920s, Moideen, a small-time shopkeeper from northern Kerala and Ayesha’s father, did not enrol any of his three children (two daughters and a son) in school. “I always wondered what it would be like to be able to read bus signs and newspapers and medical prescriptions. All my life, I had nurtured a dream to complete formal education,” says Ayesha whose journey to literacy began in 1990, when at the age of 70, she enrolled in the government-sponsored literacy drive. “I remember the questions that the anganwadi teachers asked. I was always the first to answer.”

Ayesha’s sharp mind did not go unnoticed. In 1991, the State Literacy Commission chose her among thousands of candidates to declare Kerala’s 100 per cent literacy status in front of a huge crowd, which included top politicians and bureaucrats gathered in Mananchira Maidan in Kozhikode. She went on to pass her Class IV and Class V exams with ease in 1995 and 1998 respectively. Though her enthusiasm was admirable, her financial status remained a major deterrent. As word got around, generous donors from Kerala and abroad supplied her with fees, books and stationery. Finally, in April this year, Ayesha appeared for her SSLC exam—the oldest among 700 candidates from the state.

Chewang Norphel

Chewang Norphel, 72, Ladakh
For his innovative approach to solving Ladakh’s acute water scarcity

The map in Chewang Norphel’s office in Leh is his, as much as Ladakh’s, progress report. Nicked on it are roads, culverts, brick-and-log bridges, canals, greenhouses, sheds to breed sheep, food processing units and micro hydroelectric units. And then there are water catchments (or artificial glaciers, as the world calls them) that have completely changed the face of this cold, mountainous desert, so much so that Norphel, after creating seven such glaciers, has come to be fondly called Ladakh’s ‘glacier man’. This year, he has presented the state government a new homegrown technology that can avert seepage in artificial glaciers, a huge problem that reduces the accumulated water by half. The technology is awaiting funds.

Ladakh gets just about 7 cm of rain every year and water shortage is acute in the ‘window time’ between March and June when Ladakhi farmers sow wheat, barley and peas. But they have to wait for glaciers to melt, which happens only after July. Any delay in receiving water for the crops rules out the vital October harvest. One day Norphel noticed a helper in his backyard leaving the tap open to prevent water from freezing in pipes. Seconds after flowing from the tap, water froze in the connected drain; frozen water kept getting pushed away with more water flowing into the drain. “It was simple. The melting water from glaciers simply needed to be brought closer to villages in the rain-shadow area,” says Norphel.

Norphel’s average glacier is 600 ft long and 150 ft deep and can collect 6 million gallons of water, enough to sustain four villages. Though half of it is lost to seepage and evaporation, it sustains four villages and 1,500 farmers. It also recharges local springs and replenishes ground water.

Deep Joshi

Deep Joshi, 61, Delhi
For giving tribal women in Jharkhand an economic lifeline

Engineers and management students from institutes like IIM and IIT occupy a large utilitarian hall with rows of bamboo partitions forming cubicles at the Delhi office of Pradan, an NGO headed by former MIT management expert Deep Joshi. He has proved that development is both a challenging and noble choice—and in no way inferior intellectually to high science, industry and diplomacy.

Topping the list of achievements of Pradan is a dairy revolution in Jharkhand. In December 2005, Pradan began a campaign to convince tribal women in the state to take up dairy as a commercial venture. “They considered it a sin to deprive a calf of its mother’s milk,” recalls Joshi, who with his team worked with 80 women from remote Kudu and Sneha, two blocks in the backward Lohardaga district. “We challenged their conventional wisdom, helped them form self-help groups to raise funds to buy superior crossbred cows, trained them in veterinary care, introduced them to farmers already doing it, and imparted skills to form a milk cooperative modelled on AMUL.” They also set up a processing plant with the capacity to process 10,000 litres milk. This year, the cooperative has grown enough to supply 6,000 litres of milk to the plant—last year, they only managed 1,200 litres. The number of members of the cooperative has also grown dramatically—600 women are part of the movement now.

What’s more, these women managing the cooperative can maintain their accounts with user-friendly software called Computer Munshi that keeps a tab on credits and debits and issues passbooks. “Our idea was to pull these families over the poverty line,” says Joshi. “While their annual income was about Rs 20,000 each earlier, now they make Rs 10,000 each more. And the cooperative ensures they will earn this amount year after year. I am happy the institution will now perpetuate itself.”

Ram Chander Sharma

Ram Chander Sharma, 87, Jaipur
For taking the Jaipur Foot to the world

In 1969, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Pramod Karan Sethi and his apprentice Ram Chander Sharma together developed the world’s lightest prosthesis, the Jaipur Foot. Twelve years later, Dr Sethi was presented the Magsaysay Award for bringing it to the world’s attention, while Sharma, who actually engineered the artificial limb (he was inspired by a cycle mechanic fixing a ruptured tube), went unrecognised. At 87, Sharma is proud not to have harboured any regrets or enmity. “I was illiterate and couldn’t have made the Jaipur Foot without Dr Sethi’s help,” he acknowledges.

Today, not only is Sharma active at Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) in Jaipur—the organisation set up in 1975 to provide the artificial limb free to the poor—he is also going the whole distance with the NGO. After camping for years in war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Nairobi, Rwanda and Iraq, on 7 August 2007 BMVSS set up its first permanent base in foreign land to manufacture the limb: the Mahaveer Ka-mina Artificial Limb Centre in Colombia. As Sharma is too old to go there himself, he trains technicians for the centre and helps them fabricate a large part of each limb before it is finished in Colombia. “I may not lead, but I am happy to help the foot take bigger strides,” he says.

The foot that will go to Colombia has come a long way, too. From the wood-and-rubber prosthesis Sharma invented (he is from a family of sculptors who carved the idols at Jaipur’s famous Amber Fort), the foot was later crafted from beaten aluminium sheets. With support from modern tools, the foot is now made from locally available high-density polyethylene (bio-inert, non-toxic material). But its essence remains the same—lightweight, low cost and closest to a normal human limb—making it the world’s best all-functional, all-terrain artificial limb.

Ravinder Kumar

Ravinder Kumar, 54, Delhi
For doing for the tractor what Maruti did for the car

Manufacturing tractors seems an unlikely vocation for a man who graduated in history from Delhi’s elite St. Stephens’s College and did his MBA at Mumbai’s Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies. Ravinder Kumar, though, hastens to explain that he has “reverence for agriculture”.

Kumar introduced Angad 200, India’s cheapest low-capacity farm tractor, in the Indian market in 2004. The 22 horsepower (HP) vehicle has a load-carrying capacity of over 3 tonne and is 25 per cent more fuel efficient than any other tractor in the Indian market. It costs 60 per cent less to maintain than any comparable product and its buyers are India’s debt-ridden farmers with small land holdings. All this comes at a price of Rs 99,000, one-third the price of an ordinary tractor.

From January 2007, Angad has become even more accessible, with major banks such as State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Allahabad Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and Bank of India approving it for retail financing. This year, Kumar also established the Angad Seva Kendra in Pune where village boys are being trained to repair and service tractors.

Apart from Kumar’s native Muzaffarnagar, Angad’s target customers are farmers from Assam, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal who together own less tractors than farmers from one district in Ludhiana. “Every pair of bullocks you see on the road is a luxury we cannot afford,” explains Kumar. “It’s making our farmers poorer by Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 a month.” The solution: Angad, which has found endorsement from Dehradun-based agrarian scientist Anil Prakash Joshi, who was part of Harmony’s Hotlist in January 2007 for bringing electricity to the Himalayan hinterland.

Rehman Rahi

Rehman Rahi, 82, Srinagar
For giving Kashmir, and the Kashmiri language, a voice

On 28 September 2007, when Rehman Rahi was presented the Jnanpeeth Award 2004, the poet was in his element, reciting poetry, exuding the joy of fulfilment. “The honour is recognition for Kashmiri and the people who speak the language,” he told Harmony on the blooming terrace-lawn of his house on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Rahi has not only composed great poetry but salvaged the language from the shadow of Persian and Urdu, which otherwise dominated the Valley’s literary scene. Rahi’s poetry also reflects the loss of peace in his homeland. “Fork-tongued dread slithers through the land, smothering us; Even loonies look for cover, in grave and silence,” Rahi writes in Siyah Rood Jaren Manz (In Black Vernal Showers, 1996), the book that earned him the Padmashri in 1999. In it he observes Kashmir’s tragedy as part of the eternally unfolding historical process.

Rahi’s panacea for his people is the mother tongue. “It (language) is the wellspring of a people’s unique outlook, sensibility and cultural orientation. Besides, it is the storehouse of the collective memory, which connects a community to its roots and helps it define itself.” He, however, bemoans the fact that Kashmiri has not been given the respect it deserves. “Except for a brief period in the 1950s, Kashmiri has never been a medium of instruction,” says Rahi. “This is dangerous. We are losing our own distinctive way of looking at the world, our myths and our story.”

Shirish Nadkarni

Shirish Nadkarni, 57, Mumbai
For fighting physical odds for the love of sport

“Forget badminton; you will be lucky to walk without a limp,” was Shirish Nadkarni’s orthopaedic surgeon’s grim prognosis in April 1985 when he saw the severity of the slipped disc in Nadkarni’s lower spine. And in 1994, arthroscopist Anant Joshi who also works with the Indian cricket team, told him to “drop badminton and switch to carrom, chess or billiards” after performing four operations on his knees. Turning a blind eye to these pronouncements, Nadkarni plays on with a vengeance, adding to his kitty of titles on the national and international badminton circuit. In 2007, he approached The Guinness Book of World Records for recognition as “the only person to win a world championship with a replaced knee in a sport requiring running”—the claim is being assessed.

Nadkarni calls himself an “above average player” in youth; he graduated from “gulli badminton” to the real thing, playing at the school, college, district and state levels. However, his winning streak started when he turned ‘veteran’ in 1995, winning the national doubles titles in the 45+ (1999), 50+ (2001 and 2002) and 55+ (2007) age categories. At the prestigious 2002 World Masters’ Games in Melbourne, he won three gold and two silver medals; followed by a gold and two silvers in the 2005 Games in Edmonton, Canada. Nadkarni has now set his sights on retaining his 55+ doubles title in the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney.

Nadkarni can only compete in doubles events because of his medical history. He has gone under the surgeon’s knife 10 times—four arthroscopies to repair damaged cartilage and ligaments in both knees (between 1981 and 1992), a torn Achilles tendon (1994), tennis elbow with severe bursitis in the playing hand (2002), total knee replacement (2003); acute heart attack followed by balloon angioplasty and the placement of a stent (2005); and laser surgery in both eyes following several bouts of retinal bleeding (from 2003 to 2006). “The only part of my body untouched by a surgeon is the space between the two ears,” he says.

Harmony - SilverAwards 2008 - The Events

The Events



Ageing doesn’t mean slowing down. And to celebrate this fact, Harmony for Silvers Foundation honoured 10 Silver achievers for their irresistible momentum at the first annual Harmony Silver Awards held at Mumbai in October last year.

We are now gearing up for this year’s edition. Our jury, comprising pioneering judge Leila Seth, Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, actors Om Puri and Victor Banerjee, and MP Priya Dutt will choose our 10 heroes for 2008—men and women from across India who continue to set benchmarks for themselves, and society. The thread that binds them together is their commitment to their chosen cause and determination to surmount every obstacle.

At Harmony Silver Awards 2008, which will again be held in October, these dedicated men and women will be honoured on a public platform—their work brought centre-stage to show the world what silver can do. The winners will be felicitated with a cash reward and citation, followed by an entertainment programme that showcases the potential of silvers.
Prominent senior citizens, social activists, media and marketing professionals, people from the entertainment industry and leading minds from across India will attend this select gathering, which will include distribution of the awards and an entertainment programme.

Discover the power of Silver!









Harmony - SilverAwards 2008 - Partners