I stopped reading the newspaper long time back. With the news full of scams, murders, rapes and corruption, it makes all of us feel helpless and resigned. “Nothing can change this country” – we say and get on with our daily routines. This feeling of resignation makes us blind. It makes us somebody who is only ready to blame and not take any responsibility. It makes us blame the authorities, government, neighbours, schools, colleges and youngsters – basically everybody other than the people living under our own houses.
As a kid, I saw my father make a difference to a small community when he first started a waste management program. I saw him work hard, toil his days only in educating people about segregating waste. That step of his was a huge inspiration for me. Waste segregation not only made our colony cleaner but it helped those poor rag-pickers who got clean dry waste to be recycled. He changed a few lives and inspired many.
I grew up and came to Bangalore. I joined a few NGO’s. I soon found that here work was being done even at a bigger scale. Providing learning skills to underprivileged kids, teaching English and Computers to underprivileged kids, working on waste segregation at a much larger scale, basic sex education to kids and working against child sexual abuse – I have largely touched these areas while working with many people. I realised that world is full of passionate and enthusiastic people who are not resigned but all ready to make a difference at their own scale.
I belong to a sikh family and in Sikhism, we are taught to do “Seva” (service) to the mankind. There have been times in my childhood when I used to go with my parents and sister to a gurudwara (Sikh temple) just to do seva there. It could be anything – polishing shoes of the people who have come to visit, serving food to those who have to come to eat, clean and sweep the whole area, etc. As a kid, I used to enjoy it because there were other kids and my sister and we used to have loads of fun. As I grew older, I learnt more and more the importance of it. I was a school topper and a vice captain because of it there might have been a bit of arrogance in me. But as the Sunday arrived and I polished shoes of those strangers and served food to those who are not even fortunate to go to a private school – the experience brought me to the right level of humility.
This is what art of giving is all about. It about feeling humble and feeling human. I have gone to old age homes for volunteering and the feeling that I get after an old lady says that she wished her daughter was like me – is worth a million dollars. It touches you right through. It is the perfect way of forgetting all of your petty problems in life and believe that there are indeed a million people who need you. As part of a program, I have taught English to young college kids (from lesser privileged backgrounds) with the intention to help them look for a job for themselves. Even today when I get a call from one of my students telling me that she got placed in another company as an accountant – I feel special.
I read somewhere – the right time to do service is just anytime but the best time to do service is when you are at the highest point in your life. Just when you got that promotion or you got a 40% hike or you bought that villa you always wanted to buy or you bought that super expensive sports car – that is the time when you should sign up for a program and volunteer to help those who are in a need. Donating money is also service but not an effective service, because you can never keep track of your money. And by donating money you will never get a feeling of giving. You must give your TIME. And when you spend time in service while being at your highest highs – you will be brought back to ground and humility. You will know in reality of what kind of sufferings people go through and that happiness is not that promotion, villa or car. Happiness is being in touch with the real souls.
It is easy to sit at home and blame the government or the authorities for not doing what you expect. It is very difficult to take it up in your hands and do the bit of your contribution. I loved what Aamir Khan said in Satyamev Jayate, he said that there are a billion burning issues in this country called India… child labour, infanticides, waste hazards, child sexual abuses, etc. Just take up one issue that is close to your heart and try to make a difference to it. If you are really passionate about it, you will go to just any level to get that issue eradicated from our society. And the best part is that in the process you will inspire many more to join you and take your mission forward with you. You will realise just how many people are willing to work on it – they are just waiting for the right leaders. You don’t have to be politician or a policy maker to make a difference. Just get out of your comfortable homes and start working on that one issue that is close to your heart. In a country of 1 billion people, even if 10% of us take up a cause and a mission to bring about a change, corrupt politicians will be weakened.
There are a lot of people who are doing a lot for their society, who have made it a mission of their lives to make a difference to the people who are not even related to them. Some of them are known by a few people in their colonies, other in their states and some go on to win noble prizes for that. It depends what scale do you want to work on? Start small and get inspired!