Why tell Manjula’s story?

 

Manjula’s Story

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Manjula is from a poor background.

Her poverty, family instability and the consequences of being a woman in a patriarchal society are not atypical. She has shown great determination, fortitude, even stoicism. It’s a common story for Indian women (and men) coming from difficult backgrounds and managing to survive through challenging life circumstances.

Manjula’s story helps illuminate what life is like for so many people living in contemporary India. There maybe, explosive growth of the economy and with it the middle classes – we can see the evidence in many ways – higher disposable income, spare money sloshing around, leisure holidays, the shift to the cities, flash cars, house dogs, you name it, it’s here.

But as with everywhere else in the world, probably more so here, in India, the rich and poor have traditionally lived ‘cheek by jowl’ yet as the economy grows people are left out and left behind. The distance between the rich and poor actually becomes greater. There is always the risk that their story is not told nor realised, their needs forgotten, a myopia of the modern age.

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Manjula’s fortunes, have changed, she has seized the opportunity of running Mysore Bed and Breakfast and in many, ways she not only survives but thrives. So, she’s sort-of-moved-on but is still a bridge between those different worlds and hence provides invaluable insights. I, therefore, believe it’s all the more critical that we share her story, her experiences and her world.

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Of course, I’m in no way, biased. She is, of course, a beautiful woman of great character, with wonderful beguiling wit  combined with an astonishing tolerance and resourcefulness….

The story shared through this site, comes from recordings she has made, the tales she tells me and our shared experiences since I came to live in Mysore six years ago when I first met Manjula.

…. do join us on our journey.

so, what’s it all about?

imageMe and MyCycle is our story. Manjula who manages the Mysore Bed and Breakfast and myself, Stephen from the UK who set up the BnB and MYCycle Tours. So it’s about what we do and the wonderfully diverse people that visit us in our life in this wonderful, unpredictable madness that is India.

Admittedly this sometime blog has a slow burning fuse. Maybe if you stick with it you’ll appreciate its value.. You’ll find the beginnings here of some of why and how it all started and as it grows we’ll share something of our experiences of life in India. Personally I reckon the real gem will be Manjula’s own story. Her life here in Mysore and elsewhere in India, her take on what’s happening in contemporary India and those who come into our lives. Who knows where it might lead but I promise it will be an entertaining read.

So Manjula’s own story will appear later in the year and I’ll announce it via Facebook and Twitter.

So, in the meantime, please continue to read the entries in meandmycycle.com for some of the background or see our Mysore BnB entry on Trip Advisor to find out something of our visitors and what they do here.

Seeing is Believing.

“yes Steve. But what have your brought us to a construction site? There are so many in London, why have we travelled all the way to Mumbai to visit a site?”

Nevertheless we continued our study tour, they were being tongue-in-cheek but there was a serious question behind this, you don’t waste Company Director’s time!!! The senior executives from a range of multinationals in the UK were led by Ian Smith, MD of the UK part of Oracle Corporation. They saw the wooden scaffolding, the women carrying building waste on their heads, the shanty living conditions of the ‘out-of-state’ itinerant workers. All very different from the safety conscious sites in London but still they didn’t get it.

Then we walked into a dilapidated building in the corner of the site….and the light bulbs began to switch on…

they began to get it.

They saw that the construction worker’s children were being cared for and educated in the safety of a nicely decorated, clean and comforting environment. The NGO Mobile Creches’ staff were doing wonders. They saw the tremendous service and heard from the workers. Of course, many if not most other construction sites did not have these sort of facilities. In those cases children would be often left to roam the site where their parents lived and worked. This was together with the inherent risks and likelihood they would become child labourers. That was the crux of the matter.

more light bulbs went on, it had worked like a charm.

The executives begin to realise why I’d organised for them to come here. They all had suppliers or subsidiaries or their own companies that had construction sites here in India. They, their colleagues and their customers back in the UK would not want to be associated with sites that put children in dangerous situations nor helped provide a safe supportive caring educational environment. So we’d highlighted a potential problem, a serious business risk and an area where they needed to check their current polices and practices. Here was an opportunity to be socially responsible that also served the business and of course we’d also given them a ready made solution, it was one of those win win situations, a no brainer.

That’s how the Prince’s Seeing is Believing works

The executives were on the first event organised outside Europe, in 2006 in Mumbai The Prince’s Seeing is Believing events had been tremendously successful in the UK for over 20 years

It was also featured in article in Ethical Corporation…..

http://www.ethicalcorp.com/content/csr-india-seeing-believing

After a series of similar visits helping bring corporately responsibility alive and to show its relevance to even the most disconnected business, the delegates were to join executives from around India for one of the first sustainability conferences held in India in partnership with the Bombay Chamber of Commerce at the Taj. The following week the team were to deliver a series of interactive workshops to show small business here in Mumbai how being a responsible business wasn’t just about community partnerships and that it also related to all aspects of business behaviour and the big clincher was, it would help the business survive, grow and thrive….

I’d organised the whole thing jointly with Malcolm Lane the Corporate Affairs Director from TCS in London,(an inspiring man and more of him later) with an amazing team from from TCS in India, Bombay Chamber of Commerce, colleagues from Business in the Community and Impact International in the UK and the series of NGOs we highlighted on the event.

The executives would go back and report on what they’d seen and how they as a company were planning to act to demonstrate their own credentials as a responsible business to HRH the Prince of Wale, all very neat, when it works…

Ok so back to the Prince and Vandana (sorry Vandana, I feel we’re first name terms as you’ve had so much influence on my life.) My first visit ten years ago to India, I fell in love with the place and on my return to the Uk was on the look out for anyway to get me back ….. I’d go out for an annual holiday each winter but there was something more….Vanadana’s article and the Prince’s memo to my CEO led to me organising these events in India

me, I subsequently went on to help organize more of these events here in india and then an innovation to help design leadership programs that provided valuable experiential learning experiences through short collaborations with community based NGOs here in India.

thank you to the team Malcolm, Peter, Jo, Simon, Vandana (from BCC and now HSBC), Prema (from BCC then to Vodafone) ( the business executives who came, particularly Ian and of course the others… HRH the Prince of Wales and Vandana Shiva for helping me get so connected to India

Why?

So why?
India….
Cycling….and a BnB

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Think of it. Moving to a new country at age 54, launching a completely new venture in a field in which I had no previous experience and all this in India which at the best of times is mildly confusing and frequently incredibly frustrating.

If I’d thought about it for too long, it may have seemed daunting.

The fact is. Work was drying up in the UK. There was a financial crisis affecting everyone and a key market for our leadership and team training, the very banks who created the crisis (and clearly needed more effective teams and leaders with a smidgeon of sense and ethics) and other businesses suddenly didn’t require our services. It was time to find new cheese and that was to be in India in 2009.

Cycle tours and a BnB were in fact on the cards but not straightaway.

I have a track record of trying out and developing new things. My careers have ranged from social and community work, varied management roles and latterly as consultant and trainer with international companies. The only leads I had were a lifelong interest in cycling, a realisation that I thrive on meeting and engaging with people and maybe, just maybe a sign of real potential in the beautiful city of Mysore. A human scale city with great traditions, lovely people and a place where people go to retire ha ha.

Above all I’d fallen in love in India, in my 20’s and from a distance. A sort of blind date. But it wasn’t for another 25 years before I’d managed to meet her and realise the love was real. Like so many others before me, I wanted to get to India as much as possible.

I had indeed dipped my toe in the water by organising some events in India in 2006 (more of which later) so I knew a little of what to expect and I already had a small set of supportive friends here in Mysore, two in particular: Vasanth and Cary in Mysore.

To tell the truth….I hadn’t realised what an absolute joy it would be setting up and running this business in India.