Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Team Asha rocks Kaveri Trails!!

Hi Folks,

Though this mail comes in a bit late, it does not diminish the celebration and enthusiasm that was evident at the Kaveri trail races!! On Sep 13th, Sunday many folks from Team Asha participated in the Kaveri trail races! More than 20 runners were at Srirangapattinam fighting out the hot and humid conditions. This surely was not an ideal day for running. But, our team did great even against such odds! I have had the privilege of observing most of our runners train and reach many of their goals. So, I guess its my responsibility to give a brief account, which in my language is a long email :) - So, here goes!

More photos here -Kaveri marathon

We all set out in the Team Asha bus on Saturday, 12th afternoon. Manjula, Balaji and Vinodh ensured that we had a great time with a lot of laughs all along! We reached Mysore for dinner and after a run through about the plan, we went to sleep. The next day we all set out in two trips - Half marathoners and 10K runners! All our runners put on an inspirational performance and here is a personal account for each of them!

Photos from the trip are here.

Firstly, the thulir kids - Vinoo, Ezhumalai and Sakthivel put on a stupendous performance. Even with the minimal training this season, all three of them did a great job at the run! Vinoo did a super fast half at 1hr 54 mins and Ezhumalai followed at 2hr 2mins. I tried hard to hold them back on the run and in the end they just bolted out :) Sakthivel, coming to Bangalore for the very first time in his life did his first 10.5K in about an hour! Congrats to the thulir kids and for being an inspiration for all of us.

Ajay Gupta is a Team Asha veteran and has just moved to India from Chicago. He has done many long races and this 10K was part of his training for the Bangalore Ultra 25K. He had a smiling face in all the heat and humidity and that itself tells a lot about how he enjoyed the run :) - Welcome to Team asha Ajay!

Anjana Deepak leads many lives - managed at yahoo, super mom to avani, coach with Runner's High and Team Asha runner! She was her usual strong self in completeing a well run 21km at Kaveri. She prepares for her first Ultra marathon (50K) at Bangalore Ultra on Nov 15th!

Anita Bora is well known in the running circles of Bangalore though not many of the Team Asha folks know her. She is also an avid cyclist and I am sure she is going to go for the record of most funds raised by a Team Asha runner - just a hunch from her popularity levels :) - She had a strong half marathon at Kaveri Trails as well!

Dhanesh Padmanabhan joined us for the Sita School trip and is already very much into Team Asha! He did a half marathon at Kaveri and plans to run the Bangalore Ultra for Team Asha as well!!

Gautham Sadashiva is one of the Runner's High coaches with a lot of races on his colorful running resume! Like with his running, he has been organized in his fundraising as well and has already reached more than halfway in fund raising target! He will be targeting a really long run at the Bangalore Ultra as well!

Kanishka is a Team Asha veteran and long time long distance runner! He had a tough race at Kaveri due to the extreme heat. The training didn't go as well as he wanted as he was busy with many efforts he was involved with in the weekends. Nevertheless, he successfully finished his half marathon and he has already gone way past his fundraising target!!

Kavitha Kanaparthi did her first 10K only a few months back and now she is already done quite a few half marathons, super long treks and really long cycling trips! She is the new endurance athlete in town! Though she took a fall, she successfully completed the Kaveri half marathon and looks forward for the 25K at Bangalore Ultra.

Mathew is an avid runner with bubbling enthusiasm and amazing photography skills! This was his fourth race in just a few months and he has become an expert 10K distance runner already! He did amazingly well in the fundraising front as well and has already reached his target!

Pramod is a long time asha volunteer and veteran team asha runner. Last year, a half marathon went out of reach due to work. But, this time he did it in style! Pramod runs with the Ananaya kids regularly and also volunteers his time teaching there.

Preeti Ashok is the world famous physio in Bangalore :) - Everyone knows who is the physio who understands runners well! In addition to her sterling contribution as an educational resource person at various asha supported efforts, being an asha volunteer, heading the injury prevention and strengthening aspects of Runner's High - she has now finished her first 10K and is going for a 25K!!

Rajeev Muralidhar is another Team Asha veteran and long time long distance runner! He carried on training even through his trips to the US and had a strong finish at the Kaveri Trails! He has already surpassed his fundraising target and is not stopping anytime soon!

Ranjita Bhagwan was introduced to running recently and did her first 10K run only a few months back. She successfully finished her first half marathon at Kaveri Trails! It was an amazing effort and she has already started her fundraising as well!

Rohit Chaudhri is another Team Asha veteran who has returned from Seattle and joined Team Asha in Bangalore recently. He is targetting the Bangalore Ultra and did about 15km at Kaveri as part of his training. Welcome to Team Asha Rohit!

S Balaji is avid long distance runner, long distance cyclist (really long distance - like a tour of south india :) ), super coach, football coach, mentor and the list goes on! Balaji spent considerable amount of Thulir and has been instrumental in the training of the Thulir kids. He came along to Kaveri to support the team and ran with many of us to the finish! Thanks for being there for all of us Balaji!

Santosh M Hulkund is a Team Asha regular and he started running along with us last year. He is now doing comfortable long distances and did a strong half marathon at the Kaveri trails. He was bogged down by many aspects that stopped him from training well. Nevertheless, he put on a great show!

Savitha Muralidhar is a true inspiration to many of the beginners! Only a few months back she was worried if she will be able to complete a 10K, leave alone run all of it! But, on Sunday, 13th she did her first half marathon and is looking forwards to her first 25K at the Bangalore Ultra. She has already crossed her fundraising target by leaps and bounds!

Sindhu Srinivas is the super athlete of Team Asha :) - She came 12th in the women's category - this was a result of an organized effort and consistent training. She has been a super athlete with her fundraising as well! She has already crossed her fundraising target as well!

Srinivas Vooruvakili was quite an inspiration with his training. He followed what the coaches said to the word and put in a very disciplined and organized effort! The results are there to show! He did a time of 2hrs 3mins and was equally organized with his fundraising as well! He has already more than doubled his fundraising target. Great job and go for the 25K Srini!

Vikram Srinivasan missed a good part of training due to injuries and family commitments. But, that did not stop him from completing the half marathon at Kaveri in a strong way. He is continuing training for the Bangalore 25K and has already started his fundraising efforts as well! Great going Vikram!

Vinodh Kumar is a regular Team Asha runner and volunteer at Ananaya. He is also the web master for Asha and Team Asha. Amidst all the work tension he responds in lightning speed to set up all our runner pages and urges them to start! This time he missed a lot of training due to work and other reasons. But, this did not stop him from gritting out the half marathon successfully! He continues to train for the Bangalore Ultra 25K!

Last but not the least, the super lady - Entreprenuer, Endurance cyclist, Runner, Poor jokes coordinator, Karate Black belt, Volunteer at Ananya...Manjula did a marathon at Kaveri trails with an inpiring effort and staying out there for 7+ hours! It was an awesome display of determination and focus!

Thanks to Anu and Krishna of Thulir for supporting the kids on their endeavors and making this possible for all of us!

Thanks to Ananya and Sita School for hosting us for a couple of training runs!

Thanks to Runner's High and everyone who were part of the training and coaching efforts to help our runners cross the finish line at Kaveri trails.

Thanks to all Asha volunteers, friends and family for giving the support and encouragement that we all badly needed! This has been a wonderful experience!

While many of us crossed the finish line in terms of some of our running goals, there still is one more finish line to cross. All this effort, running and crossing the finish line would be worth a lot only when we achieve the goals we all set out for! Asha Bangalore relies heavily on the marathon program for supporting all the wonderful grass roots efforts. Lets gear ourselves up and make sure that this running makes a difference in many other lives as well!!

Go Team Asha!!

(For Team Asha.)

P.S: If I missed mentioning anyone's contribution, I surely didn't intend to and would want to blame it on permanent mental fatigue from running and typing long emails :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Team Asha and Thulir

Thulir is an Education Resource Center for children and young adults at Sittilingi which is a tribal village in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. It's a Tamil word that means, "tender shoot", also "to sprout". The goal of Thulir is to provide a place where children are in the presence of adults who can motivate them and provide support for learning, and can access basic learning resources that are not available to them in their homes or schools. It is also a place where children can attend supplementary classes or prepare for exams away from crammed and noisy homes, and interact with visiting professionals from various walks of life to get exposure. Young adults are trained to create similar spaces for children in their own villages. As children grow into young adults, they can have access to vocational training courses and network with other such centers. Learn more about their efforts at:

Team Asha and Runner's High have been coaching the children over the last year for various events. They were monitored on a weekly basis from Bangalore. Detailed training schedules, guidance, injury prevention tips etc. were provided on a regular basis. There was a lot of support from the co-ordinators at Thulir - Anu and Krishna as well. Many children have completed marathons, half marathons and 10k runs in various events in Bangalore, Pondichery and Mysore.

This season three children trained for the Kaveri Trail Races. Balaji, an Asha volunteer spent considerable amount of time with the children to guide them through the training. Vinoo and Ezhumalai successfully completed their first half marathon in a good time of 1hr 54mins and 2hrs 02mins respectively! Sakthivel successfully completed his 10K in 1hr 02mins.

Here is a detailed account of Balaji's stay at Thulir with photos.

Here is Balaji's experience coaching the children:

August 3-9
Balaji reached Thulir on August 4th to help the Thulir Kids with their training plan for the KTM '09. After consulting with Anu and Krishna, we decided that Vinoo and Ezhumalai will run the half-marathon. Perumal could not participate because of his commitments in the newly started Basic Technology Course and Senthil was busy preparing for his final year of formal schooling. They warmed for the weekend long runs by doing a easy 5K run on Friday. On Saturday, they started their first long run of 10K. The boys were naturally fit to run the distance and did very well to finish the 10K in about one hour. On Sunday, they went for an easy run of 5K. Shakthivel, one of the students of the BT Course expressed interest in running with us. On Sunday, he appeared to run with us in an unusual attire - A lungi and a pair of ordinary slippers. Balaji was so impressed by his interest and enthusiasm that he allowed him to run about 3K with the group despite his unorthodox appearance.

August 10-16
Balaji had to leave Thulir in the second week to work on the Team Asha 8K run. He went for a trek with them on Monday and was given the glimpse of the boys' endurance and fitness! The students trained themselves for the rest of the week and Shakthivel also joined them.

August 17-23

Balaji joined them again later that week in time for their weekend long runs. They were scheduled to run 18K on Saturday and 8K on Sunday. Balaji, Vinoo and Senthil set out for the run on Saturday. Shakthivel joined them to run for 3K. They ran for 2 hours through the beautiful Bamboo forests. It was one of the longest runs for Vinoo and he enjoyed it thoroughly. On Sunday, it was a larger crowd for the run. Balaji, Senthil, Vinoo, Ezhumalai and Shakthivel started out to run. They were accompanied by two other students - Parameshwaran and Jayabal on bicycle. They did an easy run for about 4K and turned back. In the return run, they improvised by using the 'chain-running' technique. Runners run in a single file with the runner in the start being replaced by the runner in the last at regular intervals. The time interval was a little longer at the early stage and it was later reduced to zero in the last 1K encouraging runners to go faster. It was enjoyed by the boys and the cyclists assisted in co-ordinating the whole effort.

August 24-30
On Tuesday, Vinoo ran 200m splits for 8 laps. He looked strong after the 8 speed laps. Balaji felt that he could run the half-marathon in about 1 hour 45 minutes. Asked if he would be interested in training harder for a half-marathon at Auroville in Feb. 2010 and winning it, Vinoo humbly replied that he is happy just to run and enjoy the feeling without being bothered about the prizes. They went for another easy run that Thursday. The weekend running plan was 14K on Saturday and 7K on Sunday. On Saturday, Balaji, Vinoo and Ezhumalai set out to run the 14K. Shakthivel joined them for about 3K and returned back. By now, we decided to have Shakhivel on board for the KTM and he was to run a 10.5K, which will be his first taste of a running event. Shakthivel was comfortable with the shoes that we could arrange for him. On Sunday, Balaji, Vinoo, Ezhumalai and Shakthivel set out to run the 7K. As usual, they attracted plenty of on-lookers and funny comments. After sometime, a cycle carrying two persons went besides them. The person sitting behind enquired about them and their purpose for running. Balaji replied them in his sarcastic manner and offered invitation for him to run with them. The person commented that Vinoo does not look like a runner. Vinoo and Ezhumalai asked Balaji if he would allow them to go faster and overtake the cyclist. Well aware of their abilities, he agreed for it and asked the boys to embarrass the cyclists! The boys took off and sprinted past the cyclists making them feel ashamed for their comments. As Balaji neared them, he further commented to them that they are better off running with them than cycling. However, on the return when the boys wanted to try a similar stunt, Balaji refused to allow them to do the same as he felt that they would be stretching their muscles too far.

August 31-September 6
Early this week, Balaji left for Chennai and hence could participate in the training with the students. They trained on their own for the week. Balaji returned to Thulir later that week and because of some health complications could not run with them for their Sunday run. They did not run on Satuurday and hence ran a 10K that Sunday. Shakthivel was asked to take it easy and run less. Senthil, Ezhumalai and Vinoo and ran for over one hour. They were paced and guided by Senthil. All the three students looked fit to run the KTM the next week.

September 7 - 13
On Tuesday, Vinoo and Shakthivel went for an easy run of 5K and wound up their training for KTM. They left Thulir on Saturday morning and reached Bangalore in the afternoon. It was the first long distance trip for Shakthivel and was quite excited on reaching Bangalore. He found the bad odour a bit strange and also the huge drainage canal! They left for Mysore in the team ASHA bus from Bangalore and were all set for the KTM the next day.

Team Asha: Tryst with Science at Ananya

Vinod is among the most active volunteers from Team Asha at Ananya. After having a great stint at the AMD sponsored science workshop with a Govt. School he is now going to share some important concepts at Ananya.

Understanding the concept of density and how it is different from weight?

This is what Vinodh broached to the kids and that kept the minds tickling. Slowly he moved on to the concept of what makes things float in water and what makes it sink. I guess next he will introduce Archimedes principle and the Newton's laws of motion.


So what is a lactometer and how does it work. Can we make a simple lactometer without any special gadgets. This concept was linked with density of water and milk and the methods and means by which one can test if the milk supplied to you is adulterated with water or not.

In the coming weeks Vinodh will be introducing to kids such simple science fundas and will show them things practically.

Until then, keep running !

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Team Asha at Sita School

Sita School has been supported by Asha Bangalore for more than a year now. We support the entire running expenses of the school. The school was started in 1975 to try to address the problem of many local children not going to school and the fact that many children dropped out of school. The reasons were varied and included economic factors and lack of flexibility in mainstream schools to accommodate children with special needs. The schools also were not attractive to children and if parents were not motivated to send their children to school the children rapidly left.

The school is structured in a way that children can enter at any level and are encouraged to learn at their own pace without pressure of exams or fear of failure and disapproval. Literacy is only one aspect of education. Learning that fosters solely the growth of the intellect is often fundamentally disconnected with life and therefore, oppressive to children. Sita School tries to create an environment which stimulates the child not just intellectually, but also emotionally, creatively and socially.

From Sita_school_overview_health

About 20 of us - many from Team Asha and other interested volunteers did a car pool at Cubbon park on August 29th, Saturday for a trip to Sita School. Even as we reached, the kids were assembling and getting ready for the run with the team! We spent some time introducing ourselves to the kids and even got on the trees :)

From Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

We then started on a run/walk for about 3.5kms/7kms. The kids had a lot of fun and it was a very scenic location with beautiful green trees, grasslands, eucalyptus forests, mango groves and so on!

From Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

After the run, we all had a wonderful breakfast of Uppitu, Bananas and Tea. It was under a big tree with all the children as well. Even as all of us gathered for breakfast, Jane interacted with the runners to give them a background of Sita School.

From Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

After breakfast, Jane gave us a tour of the school and we discussed the philosophy of the school, the teaching methodologies, integrated learning and goals of the school. We met with a few teachers who showed us a few activities for teaching various concepts related to science and language. We also had a discussion on integrating children with disabilities in the school.

From Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

Last year, Sita School children designed and printed a lot of calendars for Asha. Asha volunteers sold the calendars to fund raise for Sita School. The funds support vocational training and continued education of children graduating from Sita School. Here is more on it by one of our Asha volunteers, Sanjeev Ranganathan

This year too, children are doing the design and hand printing of Asha calendars. After the run we got a glimpse of the work involved. Its quite rigorous and time consuming with all the elder kids involved. The kids who had passed out and are currently supported by the funds also contributed time and efforts for the calendar.

From Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

The pictures were all painted by the kids themselves. The kids were involved a lot in the printing process as well.

From Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

After the runners left in the morning, many of the Asha volunteers helped in the calendar making process along with the kids.

From Sita_school_calendars_teamasha_trip

Overall it was a wonderful day at Sita School and a unique opportunity to learn more about diverse efforts supported by Asha Bangalore.

More Photos are here

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Teachers Day at Ananya

We celebrated Teachers day at Ananya on September 5th. Luckily as it was a weekend most of us were able to make it.

For Team Asha folks the day started as usual with a quick 3KM run with the kids and we soon started to interact with the kids during the cool down session on who the first prime minister of India was, then who was the first president, the second president and at the same time getting to know why Teachers day and Childcare's day are celebrated, the essence behind them. Then we slowly moved into Sensei Manjula's karate session. This time it was much vigorous and kids were really glued to it. We then had a break for breakfast before the day's event started to unfold.

When he became the President of India in 1962, some of his students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday, September 5. He replied, "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teacher's Day." Since then, Teacher's Day has been celebrated in India.

-- Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (September 5, 1888 – April 17, 1975)

Report card to parents

As Parents kept arriving they all were handed over their child's report card. This was to keep them abreast of how they were performing and doing in general at Ananya.


So all the senior kids who passed out their 10th class exams had their graduation ceremony in our own Ananya style. All of them were handed over those graduation hats.

We also have a big list of kids who are going to appear for their Xth exam next summer and some who are going to take exams this October.

Ananya Alumni

There was a huge presence of former who kids who climbed through the education and life ladder through Ananya. It was wonderful to note how each one of them were settled and making waves in their careers.

Also some of them have partnered together to form their own entrepreneurial ventures.

Everyone attributed to the cordial and friendly teacher-student interaction at Ananya. As each one of the students spoke the teacher and volunteers at Ananya couldn't have been more happy. All the efforts that the team put behind for over decade has clearly borne fruits.

The Unsung Heroes: Teachers

The day was apt to honor all the teachers who were (and are) the core force behind the success of Ananya. All the teachers received huge ovation as they were all presented some nice handmade cards and flower pots as bouquets.

They have been an unflinching force that has stood by Ananya and in making what Ananya is today.

Team Asha Volunteers honored

Apart from other volunteers Team Asha volunteers were also honored. The running and Karate team has been interacting with the kids on a regular basis and we hope to continue this further.

Good job, Team Asha !

Karate Demo
Soon the kids showcased their Karate training to parents and teachers, headed by Sensei Manjula.


Then some of the kids showcased their experience at Ananya and abroad as an ambassador of Ananya through multimedia presentations. The elan and panache they displayed during these presentation sessions were of very high quality and well narrated with all the confidence.

These kids have so much in their kitty and I'm sure we will have a lot to see.

Puppet Show

We then had a puppet show which these kids add innovation and variety every time they do it. They play looks different every time I see it.


Lunch was served to all of us and most of us caught up with each other and had some lengthy chats. The kids also got a well deserved break after a hectic pre-noon.

We could see so many happy faces, from teachers, parents, their kids, volunteers and visitors. You all made this success of Ananya happen and just keep that going.

More pics at:

(More pics are awaited, shall update once we get all of them)

All the best to all of you and good luck. We as Team Asha shall always be there with your endeavors.

We also thank Printo for the certificates.

-- Team Asha