By Indrani Rajkhowa Banerjee
In a country where millions struggle for bare necessities, scores of obscure Indians try their best to meet the gap between the rich and poor
ARE you one of those whose heart is full of compassion but the pockets don’t quite match up? Don’t worry. In a country where millions struggle for basic necessities, money isn’t the only way to reach out. Keep aside your cheque book and explore more meaningful ways to make a difference in this world. Yes, this story is not about the huge sums of money that mighty corporates or the rich donate. We are also not talking about how we ‘gift’ clothes that we’ve outgrown or offerings made out of religious compulsions on auspicious days.
Here we are talking about people like Nandan Pandya, who hit the headlines for distributing footwear among the barefoot poor at traffic signals in Mumbai or the 70-year-old man who attends every wedding in his locality in Navi Mumbai to collect leftover food and feed the hungry kids in his neighbourhood. We are talking about the nameless and faceless Indian who reaches out to the needy on his way to work, in unusual ways.
You don’t need much to be an everyday philanthropist. As Ajit Singh Narulla from Delhi’s Rajouri Garden realised. A real estate builder, Narulla and his friends set out on mini trucks every evening with potable water tanks to distribute drinking water in the shanties of west Delhi. Narulla says, “These shanties have no water supply and it can be terrible in Delhi’s punishing heat. We thought that we could help by getting a little proactive.” They take turns and bear the expense themselves. “The remaining water is used to fill huge earthen pots that we’ve installed in strategic points in Rajouri,” he adds.
Meet Ratan Chheda from a posh Mumbai locality. A Parsi from Kutch, Mrs Chheda unflinchingly delivers five litres of buttermilk everyday for the three summer months at a nearby milk booth to be distributed amongst the thirsty vendors, watchmen and taxi drivers. “Chaach or buttermilk is like nectar for a Parsi family, the most vital drink for the day. It gives me immense joy to share a nutritious glass with the thirsty traveller or labourer,” says Chheda. Astrologer Sunita Chhabra says, “Giving should not be a selfish act. Astrology says ‘concentrate
on karma and not on the
fruits of karma’. Give because you wish to give, not because you think you have to.”
“Give something that you enjoy yourself,” says Mumbai-based grooming expert Chhaya Momaya, who takes a bunch of urchins every Friday to a Chinese joint or buys them fluffy pastry, bags of potato chips and Pepsi. “Kids will always remain kids. They long to taste the goodies that they see us buying, and there’s no happiness like sharing a meal you love with those who truly relish it,” she says. R Kumar, a Delhi-based journalist, never leaves home without packets of glucose biscuits in his car. He hands them to poor kids and cops stationed at traffic lights. Kumar feels, “It’s better than giving them money. As for the cops, they are just grateful that someone even stopped by to think of them!”
There are scores of others who go about their daily business without even letting their families know. Surprisingly, most of them didn’t want to be named but at the same time agreed that “sharing their experiences would encourage more people to come forward to reach out to the needy”. Says Anant Nadkarni of Tata Council for Community Initiatives, “Giving should not be under pressures of fear, desires or some form of deprivation or guilt wherein the whole ‘act of giving’ could be some kind of a compensatory behaviour. What is important is to understand that giving is about the receiver.”
Always wanted to help but couldn’t figure out the right way? Take a cue from Rohan Solomon, lead vocalist of rock band Cyanide. Little girls at Khushi Home in Delhi call him ‘guitar wale bhaiyya’. He drops in during his free time and shares some music with the kids. He also gets them Tom and Jerry DVDs. “What most people don’t realise is that these kids have the right to have fun as much as they have the right to food, clothing, shelter and education.”
“Engineering student Pradip Ugra from Pune, who spends his birthdays with the elderly in an old age home, agrees. “It’s heartening to see the smiles on their faces. Sometimes altruism can be nothing but giving your time to make someone smile.”
Delhi-based businessman Nitin Gupta’s family doesn’t make offerings to priests on shraadh ceremonies. The entire family shares food and spends the day playing antakshri with blind kids from an orphanage in Vikaspuri, Delhi on such occasions. “There is so much hunger around that food never gets wasted here,” says a known lady restaurateur from Delhi, letting out a trade secret. “The leftover food in every restaurant is eaten by the waiters and their families.” Five-star hotels like the Taj Palace Delhi gives away surplus food to Father Agnel Bal Bhavan, a hostel for lepers. The Le Meridien gives excess food to Asian Food Bank and other leftovers to People for Animals. Meridien regularly gives wilted flowers to an NGO for women and children where natural colour is turned into dye. The remaining food from the Times of India Mumbai’s director and executive canteens goes to Pavement Club, a project for street and underprivileged children.
If you’ve wondered about the authenticity of those mute donation boxes in malls, we would say it’s safe to dip into your wallet. Pradyuman of CRY, Delhi, says, “Though the percentage of these collections is less than donations from corporates and individuals, it definitely helps our cause.”
Prasad Dhume, a former engineer, gave up his job to dedicate full time to the cause of those who have their upper knee amputated, by providing them low-cost artificial limb accessories. He says, “Giving is our culture. But give what they want rather than give what you have!” So, the next time you see that girl next door feeding biscuits to her canine friends don’t think how deep your pockets are. It’s your feelings that matter!
Courtesy: Times Life / 02.05.2010