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Dominik Heilig

TAMIL NADU Impressions from South-East India

In Progress!! Scribbles, thoughts and stories from a short trip around Pondichery, India.

TAMIL NADU Impressions from South-East India

Š 2013

TAMIL NADU Impressions from South-East India by Dominik Heilig

Many thanks to Anthony Samy for your time and hospitality, Mary, Ragavan “Schumacher�, .... more to come

ballet of the snowflakes...

... outside my window. each flake seems to have ...

combined with a hot cup of - as if i knew -

... its own role, one pompuos choreography.

spicy and sweet indian tea. chai as they say.

chai-kovski’s snow-lake, he he.

... but i didn’t know.

while in a not so far and even snowier place ...

... my charming photographer friend aida ...

... was plotting her next adventure. her thoughts swirrled around the globe.

through whitened unrecogniazble streets.

and also familiar social networks

i like i comment and i wait

india, that’s what the divine lottery came up with. less snow, more chai! and for sure, little monkeyman is in! hanuman of kazifornia shall prepare....

little did i know, that we’d stay in a shelter of a local christian school

behind the shiny curtain of tourism ... ... where the magic of real people happens, not of gods, maybe with their help, who knows.

05.00 am airport, chennai hello india, we expected some crazy traffic.

here you go!

the difference, indians don’t swear...

we knew it from moscow

... t h they aT muc h, jus t ho and nk smi le.

in the city of rapamarakapapuram or so,

his face turned white - instantly!

ragavan took the “wrong” turn,

we stopped for a cup of tea.

the nearby temple was almost empty.

sweet indian chai!

calm beauty of morning grace.

... big pencilcase at the stop-over in london.

my choice of pens and colors was very limited. because, i left my ...

ragavan didn’t even know about. aida didn’t care.

and i didn’t waste time on choosing the “right” colors!


in 1989 Anthony Samy founded BLESS, a charity organisiation in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, in south-east India. With different kinds of educational programms, BLESS empowers people from all religions in Tamil Nadu’s rural areas, mainly poor families and children. While Anthony worked under Brother Windey S. J. , a Belgian missionary, he everyday saw the misserable situation in his area and gained a lot of experience in village development. So finally in 1989 he founded BLESS, an organisation that concentrates on empowering the poor village community like women, youths, farmers, fishermen, artisans and disabled people to become econimically selfsustainable. The portfolio of BLESS offers a range of interdisciplinary programmes to build a solid ecosystem; to tackle also the sources of problems not only its symptoms.

Self Help Groups A registered or unregistered self help group is an association of micro enterpreneurs, who have a homogenous social and economic background. They voluntarily come together to save small ammounts, contribute to a common fund and to meet their emergency needs on a mutual help basis. Collective wisdom and peer-pressure ensures an end-use of the credits.

The Open School The Open School in Reddichavady has opend it’s doors for 30 Adivasi* children, who have dropped out of the traditional school system. The children were generally not passing their

classes, psychologicaly fragile or forced to go to work instead of school. The school has an opposite approach than traditional ones. The programme ensures, that the children learn through independence and emancipation with a focus on responsibility and especially environmental aspects.

Shelter BLESS strongly believes in the community. So building shelters became a very crucial part of BLESS’ priority list. It often happend that the people evolved and were able to manage their village and the inveronment.

Building a house can be done by anyone, but building a community is a process Rehabilitaion Programme for Bicycle Fish-Vendors During the tsunami desaster in 2005, many NGOs, INGOs and government departments worked for the fish vendors as a temporary relief activity, like organizing meetings, distributing relief materials, conducting awareness camps and so forth. But the fish vendors were unable to receive governmental support, as they were not registered in any fishery departments. According to a survy from Bless, these

BLESS in Fabruary 2012, after beeing hit by a heavy thunderstorm.

vendors were then bonded to credits with huge interest rates. Bless successfully grouped these scattered vendors under one roof. The bicycle fish vendors are men between 18 and 60 who are below the poverty line. They buy fish at the local markets and resell it to their communities on the countryside, by bike. Everyday they cycle over a hundred kilometers, in the south-east Indian heat.

Livestock Promotions The livestock promotions programme has three main objectives. Objective one: Empower project groups to contribute to family and social harmony. Objective two: Create livelihood opportunities for sustainable and increased income. Objective three: Improve a family’s nutrition hygine and sanitation by also being environmentally friendly.

Micro Enterprise Development A new initiative of identical self help groups who come for a collective income, where it’s profit is used to scale up.

Water, Sanitation & Livelihood Since 1996 BLESS is implementing water sanitation projects. This includes promoting ecological sanitation such as dry toilets and water purification for keeping up the health and hygene and thus improve the people’s life-quality.

Contact Executive Director: L.S. Anthony Samy Website: *ADIVASI is an umbrella term for a heterogeneous set of ethnic and tribal groups claimed to be the aboriginal population of India –Wikipedia

kara probably told you about our projects.

he he, at least after a month. but, there is a lot more to see.

oh, very, very nice. we’ll show you around and keep you busy. for the fish vendors, we’ll have to get up at 4 am, he he.

yes, a bit, about the school and the bicycle fish vendor’s.

we also run water sanitation project, then mary’s anbalayam, a house for women. but, aida, i’d really like to see some of your photos.

don’t worry, anthony! we’re still jet-laggy. we might be already up and dancing by sunrise.

can’t imagine to cycle with a box full of fish through this heat. i guess the men are in good shape, ha ha!

sometimes, you’re lucky and you catch one. mostly, you’re not.

because they came for you! and they didn’t eat much today!

no chance no mercy! they don’t care!

my shoes are spattered with blood, and so are the walls.

hunting mosquitos in india


Unlike many other third world countries or so called emerging markets, also India has huge potable water issues. They can’t be only addressed to the heat but also to ecologic sideeffects of a growing world industry and especially economic politics. The struggle over water has been always there, but now, in a more global world, water becomes a global good and is no longer only local. It gets shipped or licensed. Not only that it became a global good, but we also realise its global impact due to e. g. ecological catastrophies.

lever and others. They bottle and sell valuable groundwater near villages that often can’t afford clean water. So people have to buy and also carry home the expensive and mainly (plastic) bottled water - a source of waste problems.

once i visited my brother in switzerland. even their tap water is far better than our bottled ones.

the land of my parents has been contaminated by a neighbouring factory. so, i became a cab driver.

The Industry

Human right vs. Privatization

Water was always vivid for technical processes. As a means of power, cooling or also cleaning. In many cases, companies don’t pay much attention on their water treatment. Unfortunately they often get backed by polititians with the excuse of generating working places.

Not only countries who are part of the UN, but also corporations must stick to the UN’s principles and keep the human rights. This often is in conflict with water-privatization. In the shortrun it’s cheaper for local governments to sell botteling licenses than to develope and main-

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water Bottled water is a fairly new invention. It came up with the brand of Perrier in 1898 as a British marketing action and has been followed by many others, such as the globel players like: the Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé, Danone, Uni-

tain a proper water supply.

Sources • Study: Behind the Brands by OXFAM • •


anthony and father daniel took me to see how their new water-filters could help in the villages.

especially those, which were hit by the recent hurricane the water filter is very simple and it’s,very cheap, but even the people in ...

...the villages can’t afford it, it is about $ 10,50. so now we try to raise some money. the main problems started in 2005, when the tsunami hit the coastal area.

and, just two months before you guys arrived, a heavy hurricane hit the tamil nadu coast.

the poorer people often live very close to the coast, so there is no chance to escape, when there are bigger waves.

the infrastructure was torn appart and most of here’s a the villages were leveled. muddy river, the they live in simple strawonly water-source around, huts, you’ll see. and lots of industry, bad water. they need filters!

or they’ll have only polluted water for cooking, get sick or even die, which is not only tragic, but also a problem...

... for the economy, as these people are farmers, a cruical part of ...

Tamil nadu’s food production. the state helps, but it’s not enough!

you see, many of the huts are still torn down and others have been fixed.

some have electricity, some even tv. it’s easier to get a dozen channels out here, than clean water.

no one’s here, i guess everybody is on the fields, working.

we meet young asok, who left work to study for school and to help his mum. maybe he could get a proper job once.

his grades are quite good, but the chances are still very low for dalits to move up the ladder. but, who know’s. maybe anthony can help.

another problem is the heat and the sinking ...

... groundwater level. which is also often caused by neighbouring industries, a real major problem.

he’s still young, but at the moment he rather needs clean water to stay healthy to work and study. a nearby fertilizer company, pollutes the water and air and they use up a lot of clean ground water.

it’s a mess! and it’s just so common.

but even if there was access to clean water, the fields and animals are contaminated and at the end it’s us, who eats it, ironic, isn’t it?

and like everywhere, the government is supporting the industry, not the people. so we try to fill a gap, at least.

allright, anthony i’ll just organize some pots and water. then we can set it up. some villagers are on the way, just a second.

now, we need water from the river and pots. daniel, tried the filters already?

exactly, ragavan, please bring them along. daniel, you can you turn the heat down a little?

sure, where’s the ™*#^ switch? ah, here on that tree, now wait a bit anthony

thank you, it’s always a big pleassure to work with you!

well, the water is on it’s way, than let’s start. first the filter must be. assembled, this little pipe goes here, and where is the pump? ah, you have it, ...

so, this little fellow purifies about two liters of water in one hour. and let’s say, 15 liters a day. it can be used for roughly three months

this one works with an activecharcoal element and something like an inverse osmosis filter, which cleans out even particles from chemical factories. a big thanks to the people who invented this little filter here. it is light, small and very powerful, the best for cases like our’s.

then, change the filter element.

hello anthony, thank you for coming. since the hurricane, the river is very dry and dirty ...

... we sometimes go to the neighbour village. but it ran dry. it is just too hot. it took anyway too much time to go there by foot, and for the young ones it’s still to heavy and kids like Asok have to go to school or help with the field work.

esmeralda is fine, she is busy with the school, it got hit a lot by the storm. so we need to fix many things like the roof or windows. but, we have a very big water filter now. it’s enough for all the kids and us. they need water, when they learn.

and more than once a day none of us could go there. that is just not enough for cooking, cleaning and drinking. but, anthony, tell me how is your wife doing?

a bit, at least. later it will help a lot to have it in the shade, before the water evaporates from the heat.

oh look, the first drops! after the filter is soaked, it will go faster.

last week we met some people from the local government, we wanted to convince them to support these filter, at least in emegency situations like after natural catastrophies. let’s see, they will think about it.

let the water run, but you should cook it anyway - the heat.

fortunately it’s getting a little cooler. so, let’s get in the car, imagine it ran on water.

horrible, we’d be lost out here!

and then we leave the village. one of so many

heading into the evening. on the way back we’ll pass another village where bless is running a water project.

daniel told me, that anthony had a special knack for this one, because he got baptized there, in the church of saint anthony!

therefore, anthony got not only baptized with water, but also ...

because the period, in which he got baptized was so hot, that the holy water had dried up during the service, so the priest had to run home.

... with its absence.

i wish, i could also hear the story again from anthony’s grandmother.

with some extra time! the holy spirit made up his mind carefully.

later, they built a new well. it hadn’t run dry, since anthony started taking care of it.

and sometimes he just needs a glass of it, to keep his super powers up and running.

i finally found out how priests get holy water - boil the hell out of it.*

* Joan Rivers


Anbalayam is Hindu and means «House of Love» or «Temple of Love». We met Mary, who founded Anbalayam in 2004. It is a also a project within BLESS and targeted to many issues especially rural women have to face in India. Anbalayam’s vision is engaged in the social and economical empowerment of women in the rural and urban area of Pondicherry, Karaika, Cuddalore and the Villupuram Districts of TamilNadu. We are working past 8 years. In the first years we worked with the government of Tamilnadu and Pondicherry to empower women folk by giving skill and skill upgrading trainings in various trades. We also promoted some successful micro enterprises which are run by women Self Help groups in Cuddalore and Villupuram areas. We also offer care and support linked with skill development and vocational trainings todestitute women in distress and the many sexual trafficking victims. Creating awareness on social, moral and economic issues as well as to facilitate rural and poor women to enjoy the welfare measures is on of our objectives. Many poeple don’t know their rights, and they wouldn’t know as they are still illiterate. Similar problems we face with children and their right issues. So our so called target audience are poor children, rural poor women / young women, and adolescent girls.

It is not easy, a lot of our enterprises were closed because of a lack of understanding and competition existing. also a big problem is to teach a culture of duiscussion to grown ups. Many don’t know situation with problems that can be solved. So they just leave Abalayam, as if they had something to fear. One of our most important empowerments is teaching women to say NO. Even they idea of it is so abstract for them, and they are so afraid of men or their husbands. That is why we also develop ways to communicate certain issues especially to men. because it takes always two.

Anbalayam 78, Villianur Road, Puducherry, Pondicherry Contact: A. K. Mary ( Chief Functionary ) Mobile Number: 9443469358 E-mail: Website:

we got invited. ... an indian wedding, in two days.

between a tamil christian ...

and a hindu girl from another cast.

without their parents!

but with one hindu and one christian priest.

religion - is like a shirt, you could change, but your caste is your skin!

this couple goes beyond their traditions.

there are many ways to oppose - the laws of man.

... with the wings of unconditional love ... rise upon the given structures ...

... you open new perspectives, a whole ocean!

but some people are busy with just barely surviving.

they have no time for yoga.

their lives start at, let’s say, minus seven.

and if they’re lucky, they make it to solid zero, maybe a bit more. zero point four?

oh, how lucky am i? to choose and have chances.

to see the beauty that is in life and nature and culture.

with all its wonderful people

no need to get up at 3 am

and sell it

to people, with little money

to buy some fish

i can hardly afford.

bargain survive


but, i can withdraw from the struggle

to live my chances and passions.

like getting a wedding present and my wild beard trimmed!

and my shirt ironed.

on board that ship ...

... boat!

and and, and

get on board please!

which takes you deep into the ...

... endangered and enchanted jungles of your soul. full of creatures and things and wonders, within the sounds of a savage - silence.

to where man-made laws do not apply ...

where souls speak to souls and hearts to hearts

and even trees can grow the way they please!

and things get done the right way ...

... until the malstrom of reality drags you back in. he he.

like, what will i wear to that wedding, tomorow?

that wedding, that unarranged, love marriage!

i’m sure their love won’t go «pop» as quickly as these cheap balloons.

for many years, they have been waiting and struggling for it.

so much is possible ... in the house of love!

Some Random Sketches

enjoy Indian tourists or locals Pondycherry, probably the ocean. (like us) an evinng at

the marriage of my son was also some sort of a love marriage, one day, he proposed a girl to us. whereas our doughter was already in love with the boy we chose.

guests of the wedding.


my mariage was arranged, sure! love-marriages are quite new. people say, arranged marriages are prostitution, i dont want to see my wife like that.

yes, she’s my girlfriend

she smiled at me, so sweet.

Nagooa, a young volontary and student from another organisation on a business visit from Chennai, disussing girl issues with Maya, a volontary from Denmark.

before going back, back to moscow and berlin, we wanted to see the famous auroville.

a spiritual place, that sells incense, was all i knew.

banyan trees! aerial roots, a tree with wings, it feels a bit like a brother. no place to climb though for little monkeyman.

but, do you need to know more, when you’re touched anyway?

this one is over a hundreed years old. it stood there alone, until the garden appeared, waiting! born before the independence of india

well, a hundred years is nothing in cosmic meassures. the matrimandir, the golden petal platted ball, the center of the garden is the place to be for cosmic meassures, meditations and wordly contemplation.

it bundles the rays from the infiniteness of the universe.

a straw of light, your soul can quench its thirst with - star nectar.

far away from planet earth and yet - amidst it

even houston, texas is within the cosmos, you know?

and as we went through it, i slightly got the feeling, ...

... that this was the «incal» and that every moment ...

... i’d bump into john difool. moebius must have known this,... been here ...

i thought of him, the hours we were there ....

while he, not so silently ...

... passed away in peace and paris.

that moebius had just gone, was yet an unknown fact for us, and busy chennai!

tomorrow we’ll be back in europe. back in our reality, which some indians might dream of.

closed shops it feels so unreal. and after all, we got nothing left to do ...

... but drive around ...

... kiss, and say good bye.

QUO VADIS? India, it seems so far away, but yet, a lot of issues they have to tackle are the same we have, especially the more modernised the society gets. May it be salary inequalities or women rights, cultural differencies in the society or just food, water, waste and / or health issues. Christianity After showing the first pages of this book to people, I got asked, why I pointed out, that we were at a christian place. Well, for several reasons, first it’s a fact. Protestant christians are a quite big minority in Tamil-Nadu. Second, I had went to a Franciscan Catholic school as a kid and some rituals, stories, values or cultural patterns were already familiar and internalised, but to many also less exotic than the Indian Muslim world (Which we didnt dive into.) and especially the original colorful Hindu world. And third, I really liked the surprise of meeting local, “exotic” and yet so close christians that merged Hindu approaches with Christian ones, as European pagans did, just with way more flowers and less focus on the suffering part.

Waste Walking though the countryside is a bit like walking through a snow storm of all sorts of wrappings and packages. Snickers, Coke, Wrigley’s, water-bottles, cleaning agents, you name it. It looked like, as if it wasn’t from the people around, as they couldn’t afford it, but carried away by widns and storms and spread around the are like the anti-advertisment of fast moving consumer goods. So what can one do then curse these companies who give a tiger’s

ass about nature and eat less of that wrapped up sugar crap?

Hospitality We were received in a very respectful and generous way. People were so open end friendly. The question of how they must feel if they come to Europe, where people give a dog’s ass about forreigners went around my head.

Water Being form a normal German family, I never faced water shortages during my life. But in India, it’s not the same commodity. Tap-water is rare and often germ-infested and definitaly has to be treated with heat and filters. Whereas bottled water comes in small containers and is far more expensive in the long run, probably by the factor 20. Further bottled water comes in plastic bottles which are not receylcleable and the influence of the plastic on the water, I don’t know, I just dont trust it. Bottled water is a billion dollar business of less then 20 global companies. So, after this trip, I really reduced my bottled water consumption. And if possible, I avoid the big players. I’d feel like feeding some monster.

My collection on more Info

A poetic documentary Tamil Nadu or former Madras, is a state in the south-east of India with a stong culture dating back more then 200 years. Hindus, Christians and Muslims speak its only language -Tamil. The differences between castes seem strong, whereas technology and nature threaten rural people of all religions alike. Anthony Samy takes us along the beauty of his cultural heritage and and shows us the gaps he’s filling and the windmills he’s fighiting.

Thoughts in India  

T A M I L - N A D U Impressions from south-east India A hurricane hit in December 2011, just 2 months after we arrive. One could still s...

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