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A Tragedy to a Movement

It’s beeScreenshot (59)n nearly four years since I first came across a small team of survivors and families affected by the Carlton Fire Tragedy in Bangalore. The Carlton fire accident had killed 9 people working there and injured many others: some are still recovering today, five years on.

When I met the survivors and families of victims, it had been a year or so since they founded ‘Beyond Carlton’. They were now going door to door educating Bangaloreans about fire safety. They spoke at schools, colleges and apartments, and stood with placards outside malls and in traffic signals. Not an easy task given how they were affected by fire themselves… but they were looking forward, and they were looking out for others like you and me.

Uday Vijayan, the Founding Trustee of Beyond Carlton, had lost his 24 year old son in the Carlton fire tragedy. The remaining trustees were either survivors or individuals who had lost a loved one just as Uday had. Uday and team first featured on my talk show nearly four years ago. Every February since I have anchored the Beyond Carlton memorial event on a voluntary basis. Somewhere a friendship began to bloom with Uday and his family. But this is really not what I had envisioned.

I had, around the time that I started Red Bangle, decided not to volunteer at all for a while to come, since I had anyway spent 4 full years of my youth working for free for the less priviledged and had spent many more years in work associated with development; and now I had a talk show that featured change makers that I made from my own hard-earned money. I was doing enough and I felt a strong need to focus on building a profitable business and to invest in building a reputable digital brand that would help act as a stronger medium for stories of change makers.

IMG_4376 (800x481)When Uday first asked me to anchor the memorial, I somehow did not hesitate. I think I kinda considered it an honour at the time. The second year I kinda did hesitate, because I remembered my decision to not volunteer for a long while to come. But the cause was important and so I went ahead. But the third year, I was almost as good as Uday’s family and there was no looking back. Besides, I must admit that I realize today that Uday has this uncanny ability of asking for suggestions and then very pleasingly engaging you in the work itself. Well, just as well that he has this ability – since the cause needs all the support it can get and there aren’t enough hands on deck to get it all done and soon enough! But yes, I kinda hadn’t voluntarily signed up until three months ago.

I can’t remember when Uday Vijayan first talked to me about overhauling BeyondCarlton.org and the memorial video. But I remember suggesting that they use a WordPress template just as I had done for my websites and that I may be able to offer some suggestions on the video. One thing led to another and soon I recommended that they do not make a new video (yes, I do things like that. I tell potential clients they don’t need a film when I really feel that they don’t need a film. Sensibility and long-term profitability over short-term revenues.) I also recommended that the new website would be a great way to move the fire safety community forward – beyond the founding team and the small bunch of volunteers. I suggested they use the new website to make it a pan-India movement. A website that would collect news and stories from across India, facilitate citizen-driven fire safety campaigning and more! The timing was right and the need was for a bigger vision and more organized approach to spreading awareness on fire safety.

Beyond Carlton had already done enough in Bangalore, take for example their PIL that resulted in high rises needing annual fire-safety checks or the launch of a fire-safety app that lets citizens report fire safety anomalies in an instant. But time was ripe to think big, to be inspired big and to inspire the Nation.

BC blog

I volunteered to run the overhaul mission. My team’s time was offered at a token price and Pixelmattic came in at a token price too offering web and technical services. We had numerous discussions on the website design and content, and on what could be done in the budgets available. While my dream of strong interactivity and room for campaigning was somewhat sidelined due to resource restrictions, we were able to bring alive a beautiful new website that offered enough conversations, content and appeal to people to learn, participate and share. Hopefully soon this website will also have a campaigns section where you and I can start or share petitions, and receive support from Indians everywhere in the world.
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Check out the new Beyond Carlton website, learn about fire safety, share the stories and write in! This website just went live a fortnight ago.

    Comments ( 4 )

  • Kavitha

    Its awesome work Lakshmi. Though I have seen this video earlier, watched it again. It has been a tremendous loss for those affected, but the fact that they are helping make a change and prevent such incidents is very commendable. The easiest thing would have been to blame the system and fate, but they chose the tougher route. Lakshmi, hats off to you to your contribution.

  • Jennifer

    Living in the United States, this was the first I heard of the tragedy. Thanks so much for sharing. What a blessing that you are helping to make a difference.

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