Transporting Sugarcane by Bullock Carts

Pics of families transporting Sugarcane by Bullock Cart in India by Arun Shanbhag

Enroute from Aurangabad to Paithan in Maharashtra State, India. This is quite a common site when driving around rural India. Because such long trains of bullock carts hamper other vehicular traffic and cause backups, our first impression is to curse them out, “why can’t they just stay off the road?” Continue reading “Transporting Sugarcane by Bullock Carts”

Break at a Marathi Village

Father and Daughter eating a banana behind the Devi Temple, pics by Arun Shanbhag

During our AstaVinayak (Eight Sacred Ganapati Temples) tour, we stopped at a roadside eatery in rural Maharashtra. After a simple meal (roti & sabzi for us; curd (yogurt) and rice for Meera), I sauntered over to a village square. Continue reading “Break at a Marathi Village”

Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway


Move your mouse out of the video frame to lose the black border.
Music: Mere Desh Ka Salaam, Shobha Gurtu.


Those who have ridden the Konkan Railway can attest, the rural countryside with emerald green fields is mesmerizing. I think of an early retirement in a village, a small house and running a school.

To share the genesis of this madness, I recorded the view. Here is a 67 second snippet, as the train crossed the Aghanashini River and approached the Kumta Train station. I recorded this from the doorway with my flip video, amidst the rain and rumbling of the train. Enjoy and tell me what you think.
Continue reading “Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway”

Scholarships for the Needy: 2009 – 2010

kumta needy students

That gift which is given, knowing it to be a duty, in a fit time and place, to a worthy person, from whom we expect nothing in return, is held to be most pure.
~ Bhagavad Gita, 17:20

Several years ago we started these scholarships to support needy girls at the Shanbhag School in Kumta. This year, more friends and family joined in helping us support 48 students (29 girls and 19 boys). We extended beyond our original charter and 40 of 48 students are from other schools in Kumta. With your support we will keep growing and eventually cover ALL needy students in Kumta!
Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy: 2009 – 2010”

Academic Update from Shanbhag School 2009

Just received results from the recent Karnataka State Board Exams (Std X) for students at the Shanbhag School in Kumta, Karnataka. What a spectacular performance by the students! Congratulations! Our gratitude also to the teachers who do a fabulous job, every day!

Summary of Results:
74 students appeared for the X Std, Karnataka State Board Exams, 2009:

  • Highest score of 96.5%
  • 20/74 students scored greater than 90%
  • 70/74 scored greater than 60%
  • 4/74 scored between 50 and 60%
  • No student in the entire class failed the X Std Board exams

Of the two Shanbhag Scholarship recipients in the graduating class, one received 90.4% and the other 69.9%. Excellent performers and we are elated to have contributed to their studies. I hope they will be equally successful in college and in life.

I don’t expect our needy scholarship recipients to be at the top of the class, but we have given them an opportunity to study alongside the best students, at the best school. And they held their own. The network effects of this alone are worthwhile. This is akin to bringing deserving students to study at Harvard. You wouldn’t expect them at the top of the class, but just being here, they gain tremendously. Exactly that!

I am still collecting funds to support scholarships for needy students at the school. If you would like to make a small contribution, please let me know.

Shanbhag School Related Posts:

Scholarships for the Needy

I have previously written about the Shanbhag School, an academic beacon in Kumta and surrounding villages.

The Shanbhag High School, managed by the Konkan Education Trust does not receive any governmental aid. But it follows the state determined academic syllabus and guidelines. While we attract many students who can afford fees, our family wanted to make good education particularly accessible to the poor. Thus last year we gave 16 scholarships to very needy students to attend either the Shanbhag High School, or the affiliated primary school, Saraswati Vidya Kendra. At a new site dedicated to our Scholarship activities, (Shikshan.org), you can browse the list of Scholarship Recipients for 2007-2008.

You can also read about my personal challenges in identifying needy girls: Where are all the needy girls?

We did not rest, last December (2007) during my travels to Kumta I visited most of the scholarship recipients in their homes. The visit served two purposes: (a) to meet the families and convince them of our commitment to support their child’s education ~ and in turn expect them to make education a priority; and (b) to ensure that these were indeed needy families, which I could determine from their living conditions.

They lived in simple 1 or 2 room homes, or with relatives, and it was emotionally overwhelming to experience the gratitude of these families. Below, I share with you some of the scholarship recipients in their home settings. Appropriately I have omitted their names.


We supported the boy in the center, flanked by his father and cousin sister. Being poor, the girl was enrolled in the local government run Kannada language school. She wanted to attend our English school, but being in 8th std (grade) it would have been academically disastrous for her to switch the language of instruction a year before the State Board Exams. This was an important reason why we started giving scholarships to students in primary school!

Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy”

Fresh-ground Raagi Flour

Fresh ground Raagi Flour pics by Arun Shanbhag
Raagi Bhakri is a favorite in our home. It’s easy to prepare and very filling. During this past visit to Kumta I replenished our stock of Raagi flour.

A few blocks from our place in Kumta is a little “girNi” (or mill) which grinds various types of flour. It is run by a distant relative ours; apparently everyone in Kumta is related to each other! And fortuitously for me, he was milling raagi flour that day. So here’s a little tour of the making of Raagi Flour.

Above – Shanbhag maam (in Kumta I call all elders by this honorific ~ we are all related, you see) poses with a bag of Raagi flour.
Continue reading “Fresh-ground Raagi Flour”

Peanut Farmers Toil

Peanut Farmer farms Northern Karnataka
During this season of plenty, we turn our hearts and minds to farmers who toil the land, and bring food to our tables. Their's is a difficult life!

Indian farmers would celebrate, simply breaking even. Many are frustrated by the cycle of debt and end their lives, leaving their families deeper in debt! According to Govt of India figures, more that 17,000 farmers committed suicide in 2003 alone, and the plague continues. Read NY Times article here. This is when India is celebrating stratospheric stock market valuations, rocketing real estate prices, aspiring for 'superpower' status and newly empowered youth are lining up for MacDonald's greasy fries and sloshing their brains in imported vodka! This is globalization, I guess! Continue reading “Peanut Farmers Toil”

Sugarcane Fields: Making Jaggery

Photo of Farmer in rural india offering Jaggery or Gur by Arun Shanbhag
Farmer offering Jaggery or Gur in Karnataka

On a recent visit to India, we took a cab from Belgaum to Badami to see the exquisitely carved cave temples. The route goes through some of the most rural and poorest parts of North Karnataka, with whole families helping in tilling the fields, sowing, weeding and harvesting. See post on peanut farm. Sugarcane (kabbu) fields lined both sides of the country road. We passed this one with a small set-up to make jaggery (unrefined brown sugar, or gur) from the cane juice. Continue reading “Sugarcane Fields: Making Jaggery”

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