Monday, October 18, 2010

The Joy of Giving

Working towards a social cause: My opinion on the same has changed over the years. It is no longer about fraudulent NGOs and donations made to save taxes. I have seen acts of kindness in my everyday life that have moved me and inspired me. A lot of people who I know do a lot of generous gestures without any expectation of a return or recognition. I believe they do understand Life’s most basic Law that every single act of kindness love and generosity will multiply and return to you many times over.
The other day my driver was asked by a dentist friend of mine to deliver a carton full of biscuits to someplace. The driver then gives me the details:
Most of the children of the labour class are unable to afford education here in Gurgaon. There is this lady who in the confines of her two bedroom apartment has a school for such children. During the day when her family is away, each of the room in her apartment is converted into a classroom from 1 to 5. In the afternoon, the house gets converted into classrooms 6-10. People in the vicinity send goodies in the form of food, books or clothes whenever possible.
After I dropped my son at playschool, one day, I decided to visit one of my very dear friends. I called her up and she said I could come over. When I entered her home, I was in for a surprise. There were huge containers containing kheer, apples and puri sabzi spread on the dining table. Her mother- in -law tells me that every year on the day of her husband’s Shradh, she personally cooks food for the children who are educated in her garage. All the food was individually packed by my friend and her mother- in- law to be sent to the children. Now this kind of a gesture, I believe is enjoyed twice, first by the giver who revels in the pleasure of doing this act of kindness and then by the receiver who receives these acts of kindness. Any child( rich or poor) would love to eat hot kheer once in a while after school.
After I give an inferior alveolar nerve block before I start a root canal, I get chatting with the patient just to open him/ her up and make her relax. A conversation with one of my patients opened my eyes to this wonderful world of giving. He is a part of a foundation that organizes tree plantation drives in Gurgaon. The citizens who enrol themselves as members plant trees around the city and his foundation has people to look after those trees. I always felt very strongly about this issue and how nice it would be if each of us planted one tree and looked after it! By the end of two years, whole of the city would turn green! They also run cloth bag campaigns where they hand over free cloth bags to people and educate them to carry their own bags before they go shopping.
Another of my patients is the founder of a prestigious foundation. He believes that the only way we can make a huge change in the society is by bringing a change in the young children. The foundation runs schools where the children are personally taught by him to wash their hands before eating and also taught the right brushing technique. This has automatically brought a change in the childrens’ parents’ hygiene habits too. And thus they have brought a major change in the grass root level.
Our driver who has been enthusiastically taking part in the durga puja this dusshera decides to forego half of his salary to feed young girl children as a part of their festivities. I wonder what it takes to be that generous when you don’t even have enough food for your family!
After reading a very inspirational book, I have realized that giving doesn’t have to be materialistic all the time! When you come across someone, you can silently wish them happiness and joy. This kind of giving is very powerful, and after having done that I have seen people suddenly opening to me in joy and happiness.
As I type this post on my net book , my baby’s nanny comes to me and asks me how much does my netbook cost. When I mentioned the price, she said she too wanted to buy a white small netbook for her brother. I told her that it is going to cost her a few months salary. She replied that two of her sisters and she are going to contribute to buying this net book as they are very fond of her brother. Since she could not afford to continue her education, she wants her brother to study further and not miss out on what she missed in her life.
Giving and happiness are so inexplicably intertwined. Go out and give! Even if it is a smile! And see the change in your life yourself!

“Do not stand on a high pedestal and take 5 cents in your hand and say, “here, my poor man”, but be grateful that the poor man is there, so by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.” Swami Vivekananda.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My first ride on Delhi Metro to the Qutub Festival.

It’s been more than three years in Delhi and till yesterday I haven’t taken the metro. Delhi has been in a festive mood ever since the opening ceremony of Common Wealth Games , and it pinches me to think that i haven’t been a part of this historic event.
Out of the blue, at six thirty in the evening yesterday, i decide to be a part of the celebration.
” Lets attend ‘Delhi celebrates’ festival!” I tell my husband. “Let’s take the metro and explore Delhi, it’s going to be fun!” For a change, he agreed to my sudden plan and I checked the newspaper to see what’s in the schedule after eight pm. Qutub Festival suited us perfectly. The festival is famous for showcasing talent from different cultures across India to the backdrop of the classic victory tower built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak.
Most of the best moments in life happen when you don’t really plan. After we parked our car at Guru Dronacharya station Park and Ride, we bought a metro travel card each. I wonder when our next ride on the metro is going to be; nevertheless I hoped to travel often to Delhi to explore the place and culture I am so much in love with. Buying the travel card instead of the regular tickets proved to a wise decision. Besides the privilege of bypassing standing in queues (not that there was any huge queue), you also save an additional 10 % every time you travel. Moreover, you don’t have to be a frequent traveller to buy the card! Saving a rupee while travelling on the metro gives me a strange sense of satisfaction of being money wise. Never mind the splurge of thousands on a shopping spree in a mall when you save on things like this.
Having battled the bumper to bumper traffic on Mehrauli -Gurgaon Road for three and a half years now, what a breeze this journey turned out to be. I couldn’t appreciate the much raved about greenery of Gurgaon that you can see on your ride, as it was dark. The incidents of broken rear view mirrors, bent bumpers and innumerable scratches on my car which couldn’t be eliminated unless I repaint my entire car again, flitted through my mind. The sheepish look on my driver’s face when he hears a thud, the feeling of blood draining to my legs as soon as I hear the noise, the hopeless arguments that you have with the driver of the other car on whose fault was it anyway : I was so glad, that it was all going to be over!
In no time, we hopped off the metro at the Qutub station and hopped into an auto rickshaw waiting for us at the entry itself. The driver said he knew where the programme was held, so he would drop us right at the gate. I had a chat with the driver, and asked him a variety of questions ranging from the traffic at Lado Sarai to the significance of the number 786. Rahul was more than eager to answer my last question, when I told him that I wanted to hear the driver’s version. “Yeh hamara lucky number hota hai ji” the driver answered with a smile. I was happy that i brushed my skills in hindi and i learnt that 786 is saath so chiyasi. It is good to revise once in a while.
As soon as I reached the venue, I walked straight up to the cops at the gate and asked them where to buy the tickets. Imagine my disappointment and the look on Rahul’s face when he said “ Passes tho Dilli haat mein milenge aur ab tho bahut late ho chuka hai”. I cursed myself for venturing out like this unplanned. Rahul turned around and started looking for another autorickshaw. Looking at my disappointed face, he asked me “What do you want to do now? “. I didn’t dare suggesting going to Dilli haat only to find the place closed.
“There’s no harm in trying at the gate once” I suggested. I walked to the same cop and told him that we have come all the way from Gurgaon, and weren’t aware that you don’t get tickets there. The cop just smiled and said “get in”. Wow. This is so cool. I was a gatecrasher for the first time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We walked through the Qutub minar complex . Qutub Minar looked all the more beautiful in the night. I wish I could capture its glory on my camera, but there is something I need to figure out on my Canon night portrait settings. As we walked a hundred meters we were stopped by another gentleman at the Complex gate. I just smiled and told him that I didn’t have the passes and the cops just let me in. He smiled back and said ‘ Koi baat nahi hai, you are welcome!”
Now this is what i call Forces of the Universe working for you.! After a usual security check we were let in and greeted with two cokes! There we were at the Kailasa concert which hadn’t begun yet. The open ground was so crowded that I thought, only if i were Sheila dixit, I would manage a place somewhere. For once I wanted to turn back. It is only then that I noticed that the left corner of the stage was empty and uninhabited. I wondered why people weren’t standing there when the whole ground was so jam packed. Probably because there were cops with automatic assault rifles dangling on their shoulders.
“ Ladies and Gentleman! Kailash Kher has just arrived” and there was a huge applause from the audience. The entire crowd was waiting there for more than an hour to get a place to sit and to listen to Kailash Kher. I slowly made my way towards the left corner of the stage hoping that no one would shoot me. Surprise surprise ! No one stopped me. I noticed a large wooden trunk which carried some equipment for the concert. It could accomodate two people and I gestured Rahul to sit with me. We both looked up at the cop who was right next to us. He smiled and said “ Abhi yahan se uth math jaana!” Other people who got there were chased by the cops and we waited for our turn to be chased out as the concert began. What an atmosphere it was. Just then there was another lady cop who asked me to get up from my self- made Gallery seat. This cop who was next to us stared at her and asked her not to trouble us. I wonder who this cop was in my past life that he was being so nice to us. She said” Sorry madam, CM saab aa rahe hai “
Before i had time to think or get up I see people being shoved around and there I see Shiela Dikshit one feet away from me. Now I realized that the left corner was unoccupied to make way for the chief minister! As soon as she was seated in the front row, we continued sitting there. I suddenly remembered the conversation that i had with Rahul when we were watching ‘ Zangoora the gypsy prince’ at Kingdom of Dreams. Rahul had told me that the most privileged seats in any theatre where the gallery seats on the side. That’s where Abraham Lincoln was shot when he was watching a play. That’s were we sat. Kailash Kher arrived and showered praises for the CM and that she was a true rock star. Sheila Dixit asked him to stop the praises and move on with some real music. His first song Teri Dewani sounded better than ever before. There is this sheer magic in his voice that has the ability to move people. The atmosphere was electric. He sang most of my favourite numbers like Allah ke Bandhe, Dhol vajda and the new number for the common wealth games. There’s this number called Babam bam that I heard for the first time.. It sounded ten times better than what it sounds here on youtube.

I loved his common wealth theme song too: Yaaro Jashn Manao! I don’t know how he manages to sing better live than these recorded videos!

The cop who was standing next to us started chatting with us. He asked us how we managed to get the passes. We repeated our story and he said that getting passes was extremely difficult and if we wanted any help we could contact him in the future. He even gave his phone number! As soon as he found out that i was a dentist he took my number and I more than readily offered him a complimentary orthodontic consult for his daughter: All this on the left corner of the stage! “Aap thanda piyenge? “ He asked. I am very sure Shiela Dixit must not have had the kind of treatment that we recieved! I can bet we had a better view of the stage! What more can one ask for?
As soon as the chief minister felicitated the band, Rahul wanted to get back as soon as possible. We had to find an auto rickshaw again. I walked back sipping my coke, smiling to myself thinking about the wonderful evening that we just had.
At the exit, a gentleman walks to us with a Namaste and a smile “Sir, do you want to reach the metro station, we have a complimentary feeder bus to the metro station for you here” :)
The turn of events that evening would probably happen only in India, in Delhi. Probably we are “like that only “!. But i would rather prefer us to be that way. I would rather see the smiling face of the cops than a grumpy old face shooing away the patrons of art and culture such as us. The evening turned out to be extraordinarily special because of the bada dil of the Dilliwalas. True to their name. What an evening it was!