Saathi Haath Badhana – A summary of our work

As we complete 2 and a half years, Saathi Haath Badhana(SHB) Social Foundation would like to thank you all, our well-wishers, donors, volunteers and partners for your support over these past years.

We are happy to share with you a summary of our activities over the last couple of years, as we are translating our vision of creating a “Social Wellness space for communities” into a reality, working on three core themes: Compassion, Gender and Life Skills.


Listening Post, our first community reach-out, completed 3 years in February and we are happy (not so happy that so many had to walk-in) to say that we have had over 100 walk-ins. We are grateful that our community has reposed its trust and faith in SHB and our volunteers have truly extended themselves in reaching out to individuals who have (at that point of time) needed a soothing ear.

Through our POSH program, we have reached out to corporate organisations in building a positive and professional work environment towards Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at work. We have also reached out with our gender sensitization programs and ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) workshops to corporates in multiple locations.

Gender Sensitization and Sexuality for young adults addresses the need for awareness on gender sensitivity and increasing competence in handling gender diversity amongst young adults. We have reached over 750 students in high schools and colleges in Pune over the last couple of years.

Our Support Program for board exams students/their parents has reached over 200 students and parents through group sessions as well as one-on-one sessions, providing a space for them to share their anxieties, learn a better way to cope and support each other.

Our Smart Phone Assistance program for Senior Citizens  is very popular amongst senior citizens and helps them learn to handle their phones, iPads or tabs better, to help them connect with families, use the internet for financial transactions, shopping or conveyance and in general , cope with the “digital” revolution. Weekly sessions have helped us reach over 80 senior citizens over the last one year.

The Caregiver’s Group helps care-givers get the support they need while caring for someone they love,  which can sometimes be unfamiliar/intimidating or overwhelming. Caring for caregivers is a critical endeavour to nourish our souls.

Many of the above programs which run evenings from our Centre in Aundh are FREE of Cost to the community.


In addition, we have conducted a number of Saturday morning workshops on delightful subjects such as “Haiku”, “Serendipity” and “Madhubani Painting” which open up a brief window into a hobby of happiness. We have also focused on workshops to build life skills (“Financial fitness”, “Online Banking”) and coping skills (“Palliative care”, “Awareness on Laws for Indian Women”, “Writing as a therapy” etc.). The idea is to help us learn newer, exciting skills that help us flourish in a world of everyday challenges.

We are happy to announce 2 new programs, one for adolescents/ teenagers and the other a legal cell for Women in distress starting April 2017. We will be sharing details of these programs on our website and on this blog as well.

We have a strong volunteer team and our volunteers are drawn from all walks of life: students, teachers and young entrepreneurs have been volunteering with us for the last couple of years and have brought energy and enthusiasm to all our programs. They are trained and mentored to deliver these services professionally, but with a personal touch. Many of you who have attended these programs have already met them. We are indeed blessed and we hope that our volunteer work-force will increase as we move along. We hope to add professional paid social workers to work with the larger community as we grow.

Do visit our website for details of our programs and workshops. Our mailers announcing our plans and new programs will also reach you every month.

Kindly feel free to write back to us at or call us on 9373339162.

World Health Day – Are we failing our children?

Have you been disturbed by the incidents that you have been reading about in the newspapers?

A young man, 24 years of age, doing his MBA flings himself off from the 19th floor of a five-star hotel in Mumbai. See here.

A young man sets himself off on fire in IIT-BHU, see here. See here

Kota, in Rajasthan has the ignominy of having most suicides of students that the Collector writes a letter to parents. See here

So much so, a student is committing suicide every hour in India. See here.

What ails our students? What ails our society that we fail our young people? Isn’t every suicide a cry of anguish for any parent, teacher or Head of an Educational Institution?

Today is World Health Day and this year’s focus is on Mental Health, particularly on Depression.

A suicide is often the last straw. In the incident in Mumbai, it was his third attempt at suicide. What triggers the suicide is not the issue. Often, an altercation with parents or higher authorities or poor grades is only the visible issue. It is not. There are deeper underlying issues that have been bothering the person for a much longer time and the incident is only the trigger.

Most helplines that function as reach-out spaces for people who have suicidal tendencies or are close to that point of complete helplessness, report that people who call are aware of the difficulties that bother them, are battling with their unique situations, are unable to find solutions to their issues, see no other way out but to seek escape from their position and to choose death.

Depression is a stage you reach when you have been battling life’s challenges for too long. A prolonged battle with the odds is one of the causes of depression. While depression can also be caused by neurological or psychological factors, there are sociological reasons too for people to get into a depressed state of mind.

As younger people get troubled because of academic or social stress, as a community we are withdrawing their vent spaces. Families have become smaller, with no time for each other, schools and colleges come with their own milestones of academic performance with teachers under constant pressures to show results, peer and social pressure to “belong” so much so, that though our youngsters are able to vocalise their anguish, we have nobody to listen.

And where are the listening spaces? The confidential, non-judgmental spaces where one be? Just be? Even hanging out with friends today seems risky for fear of being ridiculed or judged based on what we wear, how we talk. Our sensitive kids withdraw into themselves, afraid of voicing who they are or expressing themselves. They invite parental censure or social disapproval. How are we helping them build self-confidence and faith in themselves to surmount all odds?

We at SHB Social Foundation are highly seized of this issue and need your help in taking some of our initiatives forward. Our Listening Post and Hang out with Art and other initiatives are trying to create barrier free spaces where all are welcome to express themselves.

And we need the community to help support these because we can’t fail our children again.

Appreciate The Goodness In Children

The city is under attack! Cars, Chota Bheem, Kalia and their troupe, super heroes- everyone is running for their life. After almost 5 minutes of panic, there comes Jaggu the monkey atop a shoebox that works as make-believe tower. He announces that he has arrived and there is nothing to worry about. The monster has been captured.

The next instant, I feel a plastic toy tugging at me with a sense of urgency while I am working. I turn around to check what the matter is. Holding the blue toy monkey in his hand, my four year old says “Mumma you are the monster that everyone is running away from. Jaggu is the superhero and he is going to kill you” By the time I react to show how terrified I am of being killed by Jaggu, I see tears running down my little one’s cheeks.

“What happened?” I ask, intrigued by this sudden change of mood. He lets out a loud wail and said “I don’t want to kill you”. I quickly enveloped him in my arms and told him that it was okay to feel bad inside after saying or doing something bad to others. And that it showed he cared for and loved that person- in this case his Mumma. It took me another ten minutes to calm him down until he resumed his play. This time the city was routinely normal and the superheroes were assigned the job of traffic police. After confirming that everything was well with the city, I went back to work.


But I couldn’t concentrate. I wondered why he played such games, why he used the term ‘killing’ so loosely, why does he think the world needs superheroes. I thought I needed to sit him down and tell him right from wrong. But then I realised I didn’t have to. He had already understood it. He understood good from bad. He knew where he had to draw the line. He figured what was unacceptable. He instantly felt guilty of his thoughts and asked for forgiveness (without being told to). As a parent, should this be enough?

This morning I came across the term ‘emotional development’ in the newspaper. It is the ability to regulate and control ones emotions and to form secure relationships. The article by veteran actor and psychiatrist Mohan Agashe, says that emotional development is not taught in our schools nor at home. Children are left to deal with it on their own as they grow.

While something as delicate a subject as this cannot be ‘taught’, it certainly needs to be internalised. Big words like inclusivity, compassion and equality that we adults talk about are practised by kids too. In the park, when a child is shunned by the others, there is always that one kid who feels bad for him. When a kid falls from her bike, the others rush to help and go tell her mum “Aunty usko lag gayi”. When kids take turns to bring Parle-G biscuits and a dish of milk for newborn kittens in their parking lot. All of these instances must be taken note of. Our role as adults or parents is to pause from our routine and tell the kids that we appreciate their act of kindness. This in itself will go a long way in making the children more humane and thankful of the world around them.

If we are so quick in reprimanding them for their bad behaviour, why not be just as quick to value their good behaviour? What do you think?

Understanding mental illness in India, and the rights of the mentally ill

A few days ago, my fourteen year old daughter was watching a Hindi crime show on television. It showed a lady attempting suicide by jumping off a flyover, when she was stopped just in time by the detective, and she was warned, “Madam, what are you doing? Don’t you know attempting suicide is a criminal offence in India?”

For a moment, I couldn’t decide who looked more confused, the poor lady on the flyover or my daughter, who turned to me to ask why this was a criminal offence. All I could come up with as response was “I know it is a criminal offence, but I don’t really know why. Maybe that’s one way to discourage people from taking their own lives…?”. My response sounded lame, even to my ears. 

When I checked later, I found that while an attempted suicide is illegal in some other countries too, the intent is not to “punish” those who have attempted to take their own lives. Rather it is aimed at enabling the state to intervene so that it can assess the mental state of the person, based on which their treatment can be enforced. Someone who has attempted suicide typically does not (or is not supposed to) get arrested, jailed, and tried for the “crime”. However despite the noble intent of discouraging another suicide attempt, viewing an illness from a criminal lens has felt heartless and impractical. 

Therefore it was heartening to read about the Mental Healthcare Bill 2016, passed by the Indian Parliament this week that has decriminalized attempt to suicide and acknowledges that a person is suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code. The government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person having severe stress, and to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.

It is being hailed as a landmark and progressive bill that addresses many other crucial factors of mental illness in a patient-centric way and aimed at ensuring that the patient’s interest is safeguarded

  • Definition of mental illness – as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, and mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs. It does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence.
  • Rights of persons with mental illness – The Bill addresses crucial aspects such as the right to access mental health care and treatment; free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or belong to Below Poverty Line. And right to confidentiality and to live with dignity and no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability.
  • Advance Directive – A person with mental illness shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he/she wants to be treated for the illness and who his/her nominated representative shall be.
  • Mental Health Authority – Set-up a Central Mental Health Authority at national-level and State Mental Health Authority in every State with which all mental health institutes and mental health practitioners including clinical psychologists, mental health nurses and psychiatric social workers will have to be registered.
  • Mental Health treatment – specifics of the process and procedure to be followed for admission, treatment and discharge of mentally-ill individuals.

It is high time that India discusses its mental health issues, and the increased focus of the government on mental healthcare is encouraging. Per the findings from the recent National Mental Health Survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), at least 13.7 per cent of India’s population has various mental disorders; 10.6 per cent of them require immediate interventions.

They survey also points out that India’s urban areas are most affected with mental illness. And urban areas have a higher prevalence of schizophrenia, mood disorders and neurotic or stress-related disorders. This disturbing scenario could be due to fast-paced lifestyles, experiencing stress, complexities of living, a breakdown of support systems and challenges of economic instability. With continuing urbanisation, the burden is expected to rise and hence, there is a need for an urban specific mental health programme.

The survey also says that despite three out of four persons experiencing severe mental disorders, there are huge gaps in treatment. Apart from epilepsy, the treatment gap for all mental health disorders is more than 60 per cent.

Also, due to the stigma associated with mental disorders, nearly 80 per cent of those with mental disorders had not received any treatment despite being ill for over 12 months. Poor implementation of schemes under the National Mental Health Programme is largely responsible for this.


These are just some of the survey findings, and if you are interested, please do study the survey findings at .

Both the survey and the bill cover many critical aspects to do with gaining insights on the various aspects of the illness and its incidence, and its treatment and care. It is important that we understand these and also appreciate that passing the law is but one step. What is also needed is that we as a society – our caregivers, police, family, educational institutions, workplaces, etc. – are sensitised to the illness, to the rights of the mentally ill, and to taking timely action for their care and treatment.


Hello from Singapura!

I am Dipali Ekbote. As a quick intro – I have been a corporate professional with an exciting twenty years in the financial technology industry. I am a mother of two teenagers – a girl and a boy. A keen follower of disruptive developments in fintech, an avid trekker and a passionate believer in encouraging diversity and equal opportunity – these are all some of the topics I cover in my writing. I recently left my full time corporate job. In the past few months since then, among other activities, I write, work with the youth, and have joined the leadership team at Lean In, Singapore, and Women in Tech, Singapore as Lead-Marketing and Communication. I also breathe!

A Bombay girl, having born, and studied and worked there as only a Bombay girl can; I have also been lucky to live, work, and raise a family in the beautiful city of Pune, which is also where I met the wonderful people that got me re-connected with trekking. Pune is also where I met with Janaki at our friendly neighbourhood Twist n Tales, and got to know her over many conversations at her warm bookstore and some over hot filter coffee at her home. Been in Singapore past three years, and getting to understand and soak in this place, beyond its obvious qualities as a tourist attraction and a superbly well-organized country.

A few months ago, at a Lean In Circle discussion here, one of the younger ladies remarked how useful she found the sharing of various issues, ideas and potential solutions to challenges from the circle discussion. And how despite going through school, college and even MBA, how few conversations take place about the real world issues and life-skill learning and how strongly there’s a need for that. Her’s is not a standalone thought. The more I have engaged in conversations with people – at work, with parents, with youth, with women, with the elderly – the more striking has been the need to encourage more conversations…and more open conversations…on life skills. Some of the topics close to my heart are to do with youth and parenting, aging and the elderly, gender diversity and inclusiveness.

When Janaki discussed about starting this blog based on the “School of Life” philosophy, the idea resonated strongly.  Through this blog, I look forward to engaging with you all and to a great forum to exchange ideas and have conversations.




Women’s March, January 21, 2017

It is estimated that 4.8 million people around the world took part in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017.  That’s a lot of people gathering in support of women’s rights.  

The march came together quickly, held on the Trump administration’s first day in office.  The American election was the catalyst that brought people together from every corner of the globe drawing attention to human rights and women’s rights, reproductive rights and children’s rights.  The march was about economic security and environmental justice for people in every country.

The facebook page for the Women’s March on Washington encouraged people  “to celebrate democracy and diversity, with people across the world coming together to support women’s rights and equality.”

More than 673 marches were held across the globe including a nation-wide march in India called “I Will Go Out” which demanded women’s right to public spaces.  In Kenya protesters demanded reproductive rights and women’s land and inheritance rights.  In Antarctica people protested to draw attention to climate change.

In Canada 29 marches were held, including one in Ottawa, that drew 7,000 people.  It was a perfect day for a march in Canada’s capital.  Though winter, it was not too cold to walk a few miles chanting, telling stories, singing, demanding equal rights for indigenous Canadians, Muslim Canadians, those who identify as LGBTQIA.  There were families with children in strollers and babies carried on fathers’ backs and mothers’ fronts.  There were people in wheelchairs, on skateboards and on crutches. There were creative signs and placards and pink hats.

Where to from here?

As women we all know that our work is never done.  Though what happened in one day was historic, there is still work to be done.  So what do we do now that the march is over?  How can we ensure that our voices are heard so that the things that are important to us are on the agenda of our country’s law makers?

We must continue to meet with one another, to talk about the things that are important to us, to work towards a better future.  Isn’t that what we have always done?

The organizers of the global march suggest 3 actions we might take in our local communities to continue the momentum from the march:

  • think how we can do to make our local community more equal for everyone
  • envision the world that we want to live in
  • think of what we can do that can bring about change in small ways

We stand together in solidarity with our Amercian fellow women and their partners and children for the protection of ALL OF our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of both our countries. We must send a united message to citizens and their governments all over the globe that women will not stand silent as our human rights are stalled, eroded or ignored – when even ONE of us is not free, than NONE of us are truly free.

(from the official statement of the National Organizers for Canadian March in Ottawa)


Hello from Canada

Hi everyone,  

As Janaki said in her January email introducing us writers to the SHB blog, she and I were classmates in Gender Studies at Pune University.  I can’t believe that was six years ago already.

I was born in England but grew up in Canada.  I live in the capital, Ottawa, a beautiful city which, in winter, boasts the world’s longest skating rink.

Before retiring two years ago, I had a varied career working with women who were homeless, church officials and federal politicians. It was during my last job as a government employee that I decided to pursue a degree in Women’s Studies.  Somehow I was lucky enough to be part of a student exchange that took me to India, an experience that changed my life.

I’m interested in discussing ideas, particularly around gender, women and aging; and looking at questions about where the world is heading politically, especially in regard to the environment, borders and weapons and the future of our planet.

SHB has grown out of an idea that includes community, support and information for events in our everyday lives.  This SHB blog offers a forum for exploring ideas and connecting with others.  I’m pleased to be part of the idea and the community.