CHENNAI: Amudha, a resident of Perunthottam village in Nagapattinam district, was forced to pull her two children out of school and push them into daily wage work. This was nothing unusual for the women of her village. Financial woes and related hardships kept them and their families chained to jobs that crushed their hope of a better livelihood.
But sometimes, it seems, hope is enough for that tiny window to let the sun rays peep in. Like in the case of Amudha, who went on to become a Self Help Group (SHG) leader — trained by Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), founded by Venu Srinivasan, chairman of TVS Motor Company — and has played a crucial role in ensuring children in her village attend school.
This is one of the several stories in A Silent Revolution — The journey of the Srinivasan Services Trust. Authored by Snigdha Parupudi, the 300-page book is a celebration of 25 years of efforts that the Trust has put in several villages of India, especially in uplifting women and making them financially independent.
Her debut book, the work for which began in 2017, was launched two weeks ago. “While I was, of course, familiar with TVS Motor Company, I had not specifically heard about their social service arm, Srinivasan Services Trust. This, I believe is by design; the Trust likes to work very much in the background. Their model of development work involves encouraging and empowering change from within rural communities. The more time I spent with the organisation, the more I wanted to help share its story,” says Snigdha. It is their work at the grassroots level, involving women that immediately appealed to Snigdha.
“As I began to visit the communities that SST works with, including villages in which the organisation has been working with since the mid-1990s, I began to understand that this was not an ordinary CSR project. The length of engagement, the depth of commitment — it was something I had not seen before,” she shares. The book is packed with anecdotal accounts of SST officers, villagers whose lives have changed for the better, and even TVS officials.
Her extensive research involved visiting SST’s ten project sites and spending time with the staff and community members in each area. “I recorded all my interviews and tried to have smaller, one-to-one interactions with people, when possible. I interacted with local officials, farmers, SHG members, teachers, and students and was able to get a sense of how each community had changed over the years. I ended up visiting some communities twice, after a gap of a few months, to get different perspectives,” she notes.
Reading up on rural development, poverty alleviation, SHGs, healthc are , education , environmental policies, social justice and philanthropy aside, Snigdha also spoke to several subject experts and visited anganwadis, schools to fully appreciate ground realities.
“Wherever possible, I checked for documents to corroborate individual stories. Every Self Help Group I met kept meticulous accounts. Much of the Trust’s work is documented through photographs, and their internal reporting was helpful. As SST’s staff live in the communities they work in, they are a good source of information and offer valuable insights into these rural communities.
Snigdha finds that much positive change has happened in rural communities over the past decades through education and hard work, but we do not celebrate these enough. Strong, empowered rural communities have the potential to change so much in this country, she asserts. Listening to and watching such stories come to life were inspiring for the author.
“The stories of women in SHGs moved me. I learned how these groups of women not only saved money together but were able to find strength in each other too. And together, they were able to unleash such positive changes in their communities. They were able to build roads, close down liquor shops, and ensure that children stayed in school. I met farmers who told me how after switching to organic methods, earthworms had returned to their soil, sparrows had come back to their villages after decades of silence,” she shares.
Concurring that we need several NGOs working together to help improve the lives of millions of people in India, Snigdha clarifies that highlighting the work of SST is not intended to take away anything from the achievements of other NGOs. “As an organisation, SST is very open to collaboration and is eager to share their model and their learning over the past 25 years with others. I too would be happy to share such stories of service,” she says. And we, of course, can’t wait to tell them! ‘
A Silent Revolution’ is priced at Rs 324 and is available on Amazon .in