Karan Grover

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 2003
Karan Grover & Associates

Citation

This profile was prepared when Karan Grover was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
For Karan, western India's centuries-old architecture contains a deep wisdom that can show modern society alternatives to the destructive patterns of thinking that imperil the natural and historical environments. He has devised a program to awaken and motivate otherwise apathetic and distracted young people to advocate for these legacies. By imbuing school students with the spirit of their bountiful yet fragile architectural heritage, Karan nurtures engaged and responsible citizens devoted to preserving both scarce water resources and threatened ancient monuments. Participants in Karan's program learn how their ancestors built structures that were not only practical but also sensitive to the needs of their society and environment.
The ancient step-wells, or vavs, of western India are not mere receptacles for fresh, clean water but in fact, standing testimonies to this heritage, at once celebrating and safekeeping it. As students realize this through exhaustive field trips and hands-on activities, they develop a newfound sense of ownership over this inheritance of buildings and water. When seen functionally, the architecture is no longer "dead"; rather, it resonates with an everyday relevance.
Once the link between ancient structures and water is made, students come to share a sense of urgency in the face of impending crises: the wells of western India are running dry. People across the region daily experience difficulty in getting the water they need to sustain their lives in good health and dignity. The response of most is to blame the government. Few think about water critically; even fewer feel personal responsibility. Meanwhile, classical heritage is being ruined at an alarming rate. Citizens who could act are standing idle because they fail to connect old buildings to water, and to their own lives. Yet, western India has for centuries been a dry zone, and earlier civilizations learned to manage water responsibly and creatively. It is not surprising, then, that the ancient heritage of Gujarat shows a marked concern for its use. Indeed, without earlier generations' refined understanding and regulation of their environment, the millions of people in the region today simply would not exist.
The Heritage Club, which is the junior wing of the Heritage Trust which Karan heads, is unique in bringing children into contact with inventive technology from the past as a means to assess the problems of the present. It carries young people into an "adult" domain and makes it accessible and pertinent without simplification. Once involved, they become ambassadors for the program, raising awareness among family members and fellow school students, and advocating better resource management through the media as well as to government officials. Many of them will be the business people and policymakers of tomorrow, and the Heritage Club is making a lasting impression that they are sure to carry into their professional lives. As for the club itself, it is a simple concept that grew organically in response to the demands and interests of the young participants. To spread it to other parts of the country will require no special resources; just like-minded partners keen to invest the time and energy needed to make connections between India's ancient legacy, its modern problems, and future generations.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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