Putting Film Characters on Clothes – not for the Kids but for Profit of Companies! – 21 May 16

A few days ago, I told you how much fun Apra had in Germany with just seeing the raindrops on our car! When we have been out there, I saw Germany from the eyes of a father of a four-year-old. While there are so many things that are really wonderful for the small ones, there are others which, I believe, are rather made for the benefit of adults, not children! One of these has to do with the story I told you about yesterday: Elsa and Rosa.

We went shopping a few times for different items. One was underwear for Apra. Already on our last trip to Germany, we went to buy underwear for her and reaching the floor of the garment store where kids’ underwear could be found, there was a surprise for Apra: underwear with pictures of Elsa and Rosa on them! Wow!

We bought them then and when we needed underwear again now, Apra got excited: ‘Can I have ones with Elsa and Rosa again?’ So we went for shopping with Apra’s German grandparents. And you cannot believe how many Elsa and Rosa we found in the stores all over the place! It was not only underwear, you could get shirts, pants, skirts, bags, caps, gloves, hairbands, socks, swimming suits and basically everything with images of Elsa and Rosa on it!

We managed to get out with only the underwear that we wanted to get. That is mostly due to the fact that she, herself was a bit overwhelmed with all the things she could see in the big mall we were in. Ramona however told us upon leaving the store: “If we lived in Germany, I would probably tell Apra that we would not buy anything with a face on it!” As we spend most of our time away from this massive offer and overwhelming marketing, it is alright if she gets such items from time to time.

Here, I really see the benefit of living in India and in a town like Vrindavan: we don’t have this overdose of offers! You can say that we don’t have the choice but when it comes to this way of marketing for the small ones, it is a big advantage!

Brands, images and children’s movie characters are not promoted mainly for pleasing the young ones. The main aim is to make them want more and more so that they pester their parents who then feel compelled to buy more and more – which ultimately fills the pockets of big corporates.

No, it is not the joy of children which is the first purpose here. And that’s how I am very happy that Apra has not developed the attitude of ‘I want this all’, probably due to our life in a small Indian town!

Going to Germany with mixed Feelings for the first Time – 5 May 16

I am writing these lines while sitting in an airplane from Delhi to Frankfurt! Of course you will get to read this only later but I already know I want to share our reasons for this journey as well as our feelings with you.

The reason is pretty simple: there is some official paperwork to do which requires my presence in Germany. I need to extend my residence permission. I can tell you, would that not be the case, I would most probably not take this trip right now. Nevertheless, I am happy about our journey, too!

The past weeks, if not months, have been very intense! The time leading up to the opening of our restaurant had been filled with ‘last-minute work’ which had to be done before the real start. Then there was the exciting time of opening, with Babbaji’s knee surgery at the same time and after that the overwhelming response I have been telling you about!

I also told you how much I enjoy this new work and I can seriously tell you that as much as we have been busy with it and as much work as it was, it was also as much fun! That's how we fixed our exact dates and bought our flight all relatively late. We tried to get as many things done beforehand as possible, preparing everything in a way that Purnendu and Yashendu will be able to handle the new and old business without us, too!

We however will have a break from our daily routine with this trip and that, too, I am looking forward, too. It will be so great to see friends and family again and tell everyone of Ammaji’s! Of course they all know and have seen pictures online, but Ramona, Apra and I are looking forward to tell all about it ourselves!

Especially Apra has been looking forward a lot and for several days now! She remembers really many things from the last visits and is excited to do some of them again. She already had friends promise to go swimming with her, planned which pets of friends she would play with and even what she would like to bring back to her Indian brothers!

I tell you, friends, life is great and something to enjoy – there is always something going on!

Hosting Events like Birthday Parties and Kitty Parties at Ammaji’s – 2 May 16

I have taken not only the task of serving at our restaurant in the evenings but also one more: I am the one managing the waiting list! With a current sitting capacity of 42 people, we are again and again running out of space and people have to wait for a table. I write down their names and call them once their table is free and prepared. The fact that I now do this daily makes one thing very clear: we have to open our first floor as soon as possible!

Yes, now even the afternoons are often getting full: we have a lot of inquiries for ‘Kitty Parties’. For those who don’t know what that is, I will give a quick explanation. As far as I have understood the concept, it is a club of ladies – mostly about twenty of them – who can be friends or just acquaintances, with one or two having the leading role. They make a small monthly contribution to the financial funding of their meetings. At these, they visit a restaurant of their choice, which is obviously now Ammaji’s for many of them, and get together, have snacks or a meal and play a variation of bingo with often hand-made bingo cards.

These parties take place in the afternoons. After that, we now often get reservations for birthday parties or wedding anniversaries! People already know that they cannot just turn up with a group of twenty people and expect to find empty tables! So they call before and reserve their seats, which is nice for us, too. It gives us the possibility to plan in the kitchen and to make the required setting for the amount of people beforehand!

We even got an inquiry by students of the biggest university of the area for catering at their farewell party but we politely declined – we are already involved in so many different activities and have enough to do just at the restaurant without having to worry about how we will get warm food to another place and serve it nicely there! Maybe we will do that another time!

What we do plan already is to have buffet-style options for meals as well, once we have a bigger space for it. There are anyway more plans already, to use a part of our garden for sitting in nature and eating there, for example. With the pathway in the middle removed, it could be a beautiful place that will allow us to host some of those bigger parties that people were already asking for, too!

All of this and all of our plans for the future will work out not only with our own effort and love in this project but also with the great work of our staff! That is something which we always know and that’s how we regularly have meetings with everyone, talking about the events at the restaurant, everything positive and what didn’t go as well – and we feel we are thus on the way to create something really special!

Accepting Challenges of an overwhelming Response at Ammaji’s – 1 May 16

Last week I started telling you about our restaurant and as this is currently the most important project of our lives, I will tell you a bit more about it today and in the next days.

I already told you about our great start with our restaurant. Obviously, as we didn’t expect that many people, we were, in the beginning, under some pressure to accommodate everyone! We quickly had to employ more waiters to be able to serve everyone fast enough. Even with the help of Purnendu, Yashendu, Ramona and me, it was sometimes tough and we all were very exhausted at the end of such an evening! Soon however, we had a few more people and it was getting better.

At the same time however, the kitchen was having similar difficulties: we brought in more staff for cooking, more experienced cooks as well as helpers – but they didn’t have enough space on our existing cooking range! Of course, the person who designed the kitchen was a salesman first, not a cook, and now as it came to practical work and with all the pressure of a full restaurant, it was getting tight. Immediately we ordered a new cooking range and after re-organizing the kitchen a few times, it is now all set and the kitchen is running fast and well, too! We have two expert cooks for each department, so that each of them can take their days off while we can still provide all dishes.

Obviously, all of this means a lot of expenses, too. Especially in the beginning, we knew this would happen and it is normal! We are not looking for the biggest profit however, as this was not the first aim and intention for us to open! We are having the goal of providing best quality at low cost.

That’s how we kept our rates cheaper than other eateries in Vrindavan. Our guests are often surprised about the low cost of their dinner in this beautiful ambiance and with such good taste. We know however that this is how it should be: first, we will show people that healthy food can be very tasty and we will give a practical example of our meals’ quality. About the rates, we can see later and make adjustments. We can see already that people like coming back for more – so much that we will need to expand very soon, finishing our first floor to fit more tables!

With this great response, at least one thing is true: we did advertisement but didn’t have to spend as much on it as expected, because another kind of publicity is going very well for us: the word of mouth. Talk spreads like wildfire in our town that there is one place you have to have eaten at, at least once: Ammaji’s!

How Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant will help shut down Education Business in India – 21 May 15

At the beginning of this week, I told you about the big problem with education here in India and about my vision for equality. Yesterday I described in detail what I think could be a way to challenge the education business in India. Today I would like to get even more concrete and tell you how I can very well imagine that this dream can become reality with the help of our Ayurvedic Restaurant Ammaji’s.

For so many years, we have run our school and charity projects with the support of our business and the help of sponsors and supporters. All our business customers and a very big majority of our donors are westerners. Non-Indians who come here to the Ashram for Yoga and Ayurveda Retreats, who take part in workshops or come to counselling sessions. And non-Indians who want to support poor children in India.

Now we are about to start a new business venture with the opening of our Ayurvedic Restaurant Ammaji’s. We will provide good quality of food for everyone who wants to eat delicious food while doing something good for their body. We create a lot of diseases by eating the wrong food – and not only health-conscious people will eat healthily and at the same time pamper their taste-buds in our restaurant! We will provide tips and information about nutrition and the body with an extra benefit: with every meal at our restaurant, you will support the free education of children!

We will soon have a lot of Indian guests as well and we will reach the point when we will not only support anymore the education of poor children but can start working on this bigger project! We will open a high standard school with really good quality with all possible facilities – completely for free for any child that comes to learn! Also the children of our restaurant’s customers!

Yes, while you come to eat in our restaurant, every rupee spent actually supports the free quality education of your child! The full support for this school could come from our business!

I believe this mission and project would make everyone happy: the parents of poor children who get education instead of remaining illiterate, middle-class parents who don’t have to struggle affording good quality education anymore and financially abundant parents who get for free what they would otherwise have to pay for! Who wouldn’t prefer free education in equality to an education that you have to purchase like in a mall?

Only those businessmen who run such malls could object my plan because it would hurt their business!

Business people of any other industry however would love it. And that is the point where I would ask people to come forward and support this mission with their own business and donations! Business people can give percentages of their business income to support the expenses. Parents can give donations which can be of an amount which they would anyway easily have paid for any other school. There can be sponsorships in different forms from furniture to food or books! Everybody could contribute in their own form! Obviously, also donations and sponsorships from out of India will be welcome.

It can extend to other cities where we will open further restaurants and with each restaurant another school. Free for all, of such good quality that everyone wants to join! Once we have several schools of this kind in one area, people will not be ready to pay as much for those education malls anymore – and more people will follow our example!

I don’t know how successful this idea will be and how quickly everything will move forward but I enjoy my freedom of creating a vision. My freedom to have my thoughts and dreams. We will go further on this road and as far as possible towards an equal education for children of all levels of society or financial status!

The Dream of free quality Education for the Rich and the Poor alike – 20 May 15

I told you yesterday how I wished for an education in India which is the same for everyone. Education which is for every child the same, no matter how much money the parents can pay, so that everyone gets the chance to reach where he or she wants to reach! Believe it or not, I actually have a plan to achieve that.

You probably think now that I am a fool, a daydreamer or unrealistic builder of castles in the air. I want to finish the importance of money in education in a country like India, in a society where money is nearly everything for so many people – because they don’t stand a chance without.

You know however that we have been running this school for the past eight years and have already before that supported poor children by giving them education. My ideas don’t come out of thin air, they have a solid base of experience. Every year, the number of children in our school has increased. With the help of a generous donor, we have been able to build the first floor in order to accommodate five more classes and teach even more children!

Of course, there is a limit and there will always be.

I don’t think I can even dream of finishing corruption from this country. I can also not make everybody rich enough for sending their children to expensive schools with good education quality. No, my idea is to do something on a realistic level, with a small start but the possibility to become huge and have a big impact!

I will create a school according to my dream of equality. A school in which we will teach children of all levels of society, from all financial backgrounds and completely for free! We will provide education of really great quality for every student, be that the son of a rickshaw driver or the daughter of a bank’s top manager!

Just like now, our school will provide books, uniforms and food. Every child will have health insurance through school. And every child will be completely equal to the one next to him.

When our free school for small children opened, the business of a few small and cheap schools was negatively affected and one school even had to close – because the children came to us.

Now imagine we open many such schools that provide education for free for simply everyone who comes during admission time until the seats are full! This enourmous business with education will receive a severe blow – because even children who would normally go to those education shops will come to our school instead to learn with good quality but for free!

How I think to achieve and finance this? With our Ayurvedic Restaurant Ammaji’s! What, how? Read about that tomorrow!

India – where Education has become a Victim of Corruption and Business Moguls – 19 May 15

Yesterday I told you that we sometimes have to deny a child admission to our school for ‘not being poor enough’ although we know that the parents are, by no means, rich people. I mentioned that I would like to finish the need for making this distinction between ‘poor’ and ‘not so very poor’. My wishes go a step further however: I would actually like to completely finish the distinction according to financial status! I want complete equality in education, no matter for whom!

Unfortunately, in India education is not equal for everyone. In many western countries that I have travelled to and especially in Germany, I have been to schools which were run by the government and where children of all social levels were learning together. There can also be private schools where very rich people send their children into expensive care that includes boarding – but even if you don’t have any money, your child will not only have the right to go to school but is by law required to go! And every child will go to a school where he or she gets a good quality of education, no matter how much the parents earn. They are equal, sitting in the same row of benches and learning from the same teacher!

In India, this is a faraway dream. Here, only those children get good education whose parents earn well. If someone’s parents are illiterate, they on one hand don’t give importance to education because they themselves never needed it. On the other hand, if they actually do feel like sending their child to school, their only chance is a state school or a very cheap, private one. The result: low quality of education to no education at all!

In villages, the situation of state schools is so bad that they are only running on documents and teachers come twice a year to collect their money. I told you once about a village where the school building was used as a house for cattle! This all is happening in front of everyone’s eyes and everyone knows that corruption is the evil force in this. So why should parents send their children to school in such circumstances?

In India, only children of those parents can reach far who have enough money. In our country, the first thing is corruption and the second thing is the big business that people have made out of education! Government schools don’t work due to corruption and big people saw an opportunity for business: they started an industry and opened education malls. You can choose between different levels of education according to your pocket. Even within one brand, you can choose your level of facilities and education to match how much you can afford!

To be very clear, even a child with a brilliant mind has no chance to get good education if his parents cannot pay! You only have an average amount of money? You only get an average quality of education!

I know the pain of such parents, too. They are middle class mothers and fathers who know that their child is intelligent and are ready to work hard and even take loans for the education of their son or daughter – but they still have to make a compromise with the quality of education they would like to have. It is simply too expensive!

Once I told you how a couple came by car to our school to admit their children. We politely denied because they could obviously afford school fees at a private school. Looking at the disappointment in the parents’ faces however, we could understand their pain: they could not pay the fees for a school as good as ours. So their only fault was that they earned a bit too much money for coming to our school!

Children are not equal in this country where education has become a victim of corruption and business moguls. This is something that I want to see a change in! And I will work towards that! How? That you will read in tomorrow’s blog post!

India’s moneymaking School Business: Education for Sale – 13 May 15

In yesterday’s blog entry, I explained our experience with a local school that offered to take our children and the subsequent disappointment when they gave us a cost which was far beyond what we could pay. We inquired in several more schools and what we found just reconfirmed something we had actually already known: in India, education is a huge business!

Education, running schools, has really become an enourmous industry in this country with so many children and young people! It is a complete business model for small, medium and big companies or individuals with money!

All parents want the best for their children. It is the biggest task of a mother and a father to put their children in a school with quality education. This means that they have to not only pay an admission fee and a monthly fee but then a fee on every exam, buy the uniform from the school, the books from the school and of course stationery and certain extras for additional activities at the school.

Now take the example of schools in our small town. The average admission fee for a primary school class lies at about 4000 Rupees, which is approximately 60 USD. The fee for every month varies from school to school but is usually something in between 600 and 1000 Rupees – in between 10 and 15 US-Dollar. If you want to have a good standard however, you can just double both fees! And all the other expenses on top! Now it is up to people’s income – can they afford it or not? Can they afford a better, more expensive school or are they stuck with a school that has lower fees and thus pays their teachers less which means that the teachers are less qualified and experienced?

I have heard of reputed schools that they don’t even just take regular admission fees – you have to pay an extra donation which can range anywhere in between 1000 to 2000 Dollar! And yes – it’s not an official fee, it is a donation but without it, your child won’t be allowed to set a foot into this school! You can imagine the big money the owners make!

These figures are the average of four medium-standard schools in our town. I have heard of friends who live in bigger cities where the fees are much higher! The amount of money that is spent and earned through education is incredible!

Not only incredible, for me it borders on immorality. Having lived in Germany for a big part of so many years, I really feel it should be more like there. Education is free. Even in university. Of course, those are state schools and you have the option of going higher in private schools and universities, too, but even the state schools have such good quality standards that most people just go there!

We have state schools, too – but the standard is so low that most people don’t want to send their children there! And poor people who don’t give importance to education anyway don’t see any sense to send their children there! They have not studied themselves – why would they pay money to send their children to a private school? Often they really cannot.

And then, children stay illiterate while big school owners make a fortune!

Even in Business, the most important Thing is not always Money – 2 Sep 14

While in Germany, a woman came to me for an individual counselling session. She had a few problems and was quite confused about what she should do. One aspect of this confusion is what I would like to write about today: what is more important in a business that helps people? Helping them as quickly as possible or making as much money as possible?

The woman who had come to me did some kind of physiotherapy for earning her money. She was quite successful with that: mostly, her clients only needed two or three sessions with her. After that, they didn’t come again. They didn’t need to because their back was fine, their knee pain gone or better and she had showed them all necessary exercises for improving at home. There was simply no need for these people to book further sessions with her for the same problem.

The woman was, in general, happy about that. When she met her customers on the road, they thanked her, telling her that they felt so much better. Who wouldn’t be glad to hear such a thing?

Her husband. He told her that she needed to be a better business-woman. She should tell people, at the beginning of the treatment, that they needed to buy a package of five sessions with her, if they wanted to proceed. No matter how fine you were after two sessions, you would already have paid for three more. Everybody could then decide themselves if they really wanted to do the remaining sessions or not.

I was asked my opinion to the matter. Should she earn more money by making people come five times even though they don’t need it?

I answered absolutely not. First of all I asked her: what does your heart say? And she answered that it didn’t feel right. She was fine the way she was working, it was just the input from outside, from others that made her feel as though she was doing something wrong. So just do it as you are feeling it is right.

The second point is that you are already doing the best you can do for your business: you are making your customers happy. Don’t you see that business is not about ripping people off? About pulling as much money out of their pockets as you can get? It is about providing a service or selling a product that fulfills a need, helps the other one or makes him happy!

There is no bigger advertisement for you than a satisfied customer! If those people come to you on the road, telling you how happy they are, they will also tell this to others. They will actually tell ‘She helped me in only two sessions!’ and will add how much better this is than any treatment that was done before, where they spent a lot of money and time and when it didn’t get any better. That will get you more customers, securing your income on the long run instead of just getting as much as you can right now!

The funny thing about this is that normally a person will want to do the right thing from inside. It is just insecurity and hesitation to trust our feelings that confuses us and maybe lets us choose something else. Don’t listen to such fears – do the right thing by following your heart!

The Dangers of Globalization – when everything good is exported! – 10 Jul 14

I yesterday told you that it was difficult – or rather impossible – for us to find good tomatoes on the Canary Islands as the best ones are usually exported to other countries. This is however not a problem only of these islands or of Spain! It is a global problem, a disadvantage and big danger that has come with globalization.

We know the exact same problem in India as well! India is the number one mango producer in the world. Nevertheless, there is always the complaint that we don’t get to see any of those great mangoes that are produced in our own country! They all are shipped away right from the tree to the markets of other countries.

The same holds true for rice! When travelling abroad, everyone knows of the quality of Indian rice and when you cook a good quality rice bought in the west, you get an unforgettable smell of this rice in your kitchen – but it is not so easy to find this rice in India!

India also produces lots of tea and coffee! Tea from Darjeeling and Assamis among the most famous of the world, but just yesterday someone commented on my diary entry, telling that the best tea is directly exported! And my commentator also wondered why everyone in India drinks instant coffee. Where is all the coffee we produce?

It is all about money. Western countries pay a higher price for the same products, so they get exported, even if that means that the own country is left with less. Less quality and quantity.The margin is higher – but it comes to a high cost and it ignores everything that you could call humanity or common sense!

Just look at the situation of water in Africa! Huge companies like Nestle have bought water sources that were formerly used by the local people, which provided water to whole villages! Now, this water is privatized, which means that the companies fill it in bottles and ship it abroad. Or sell it against good money in that same town that previously drank the water for free! Regardless of the fact that they don’t pay those people, the workers in their factory, enough to actually buy this water and still feed their families! They now have to walk far to a water pump, they have to carefully use it so that they have enough for the day.

Water. Rice. Fruit. Very common, everyday things! In an effect of globalization, everyone wants the best of everything at all times and right at his doorstep. Could we just take a minute of time and consider that this might be comfortable but at the same time has devastating effects on our earth? That people are starving and don’t have drinking water because human looks so much for convenience and comfort, for the highest margin and the biggest money!

You may think it is all about those huge companies, what can you do? You can!

Take a step back and consider where your food is coming from! Whenever you can, buy local vegetables, look out for labels of organic farming or production, prefer fair trade products, even if it costs a bit more. Take a check on yourself and your own consumption.

If we all do this, we can succeed in making this world a better place, individual after individual!