– Shreya N Chopda
The meaning of life is to give meaning to life.
It isn’t unusual for people to say that they want to give back to the society that cradled them. But how many actually take the detour out of their routine to serve? This query of mine was answered not by words but by the actions of students in our very own college.
A casual talk with Kavya Sekar from I B.Com ‘A’ turned into an informal interview when I got to know that she had trained the students in a government school in the use of computers. As I dived for further details, Kavya obliged by telling me how her first step in this direction was as a mere volunteer for the VNS Jyoti drive. Happily admitting that the contentment then overpowered her and after the downfall of the former project she associated herself with India Forward Movement, which is the first NGO to be run by minors. The memories now flashing back in her eyes, she accepted that guiding the children of Reaching Hand Orphanage was a humbling experience. It has helped her not only acquaint herself with students of the same age on ‘the other side’ (as she calls it) but also appreciate all that she has. A subtle smile curved her lips as she said, ‘it might sound cliché, but I have changed as a person and look forward to reach out to many more.’ Though this ended my interview with Kavya, it wasn’t the end to my hunt for an answer.
A few days after this talk with Kavya, a chance encounter with a photo pushed me to have my next interview with my classmates Tanish Jain and Siddharth Mohan. A quick talk soon unfolded the facts of their volunteer-work for the movement OATH, started by their mutual friend Kushal Jhajharia. When I asked them to share their experiences, Tanish began by saying that the increasing incidents of child sexual abuse had screamed out to them to educate children and help them be aware about their surroundings and more importantly their own bodies. It seemed like a viable cause, Siddharth chipped in. On a more serious note, continued Tanish, these issues are usually hushed up and children become victims because they are unaware. He adds that parents need to treat their children as friends and create a comfort zone. Siddharth pitches in here to explain more about how they went to schools and showed people what is right and what is not okay. Tanish puts up his hands and makes quotations in the air saying, ‘the concept of Izzat Ka sawal Hai’ must be eradicated. It is the base of all the problems. In the end they both agree that the movement still has a long way to go but with a positive outlook they are happy to take that journey.
Looking at me take these interviews a friend then introduced me to Aaron Rego, Daniel Rosario and Calvin D’souza who have been a part of AICUF in their PU years. As I posed my usual questions on the nature of their work and their personal experiences, their expressions gave away the coy attitude of their work. Calvin broke the ice by outlining a memorable Christmas when they gifted the children of an orphanage an LCD TV and spending time with the children there. They jeered at each other as the struggled to remember the name, ‘…dan, s…dan, it was some …dan. Snehadan! That’s it Snehadan.’ After this warm-up Aaron adds that he isn’t sure how huge an impact they have made to the people out there, but they definitely saw great changes in themselves. We are blessed with almost everything, but now we know that sharing what we have is our greatest source of happiness. Exchanging knowing glances, Calvin continues to explain that they have learnt not to squander money on materialistic pleasures anymore. At this juncture, Daniel points out that what has changed the most are their instincts. He shares an incident of just a day ago when they saw a beggar fall into a pit in the footpath, instead of being indifferent, they helped him out. And we closed the pit too, confirmed Aaron. So as a whole the trio are satisfied with what they do and look forward to another year of contentment.
Feeling now that my doubt has been completely waived, my little chats with these students changed my perspective of giving back to the society. They made me realize that money is not the only way to bring about a change; good intentions with the will to act on those intentions suffice. If not anything, even spending time with those who feel lonely is a worthwhile attempt. And if not that, a mere smile is all I need to make someone feel better. Well maybe we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.