Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Real Heroes

When I was a kid, don’t remember about what age, but before my class 5th/6th, I had a very simple dream about what I would do when I grow up. simply stated, first I would earn a lot of money, then I would kind of ‘adopt’ a village, put my money in there to build nice quarters (yes, I used to live in quarters!), make it a neat and clean village, everyone will be happy and I’ll be a hero! Then I’ll move onto another village to continue my heroism. Innocence is bliss! When we are kids, our problem space is generally simple and we can come up with simple solutions.

I have thought about this ‘dream’ many times after I have grown up. Let me not get into the problem that I was trying to solve or the solution either. But the mentality – that when I have money, I’ll support someone else and that will make me a hero. My ideas have definitely changed over the years, especially over the last 4 years of my involvement with Asha and some other volunteering organizations. I do volunteer quite a lot of my time and donate to charities. But at the end of the day – I have a nice-paying job, air-conditioned car, wardrobe full of clothes and many of the luxuries I can do without. How much of my salary do I really donate? It’s so easy to get into the mindset that I’m donating because I’m generous, not because it’s someone else’s right to avail some very basic needs like everyday food and shelter.

Don’t get me wrong – donating time and money to whatever extent many of us do is great and certainly very helpful. And we should absolutely be proud of what we do. But that donation or volunteering should also come with humility. We are helping the underprivileged because it is their right. They are the ones fighting against incredible odds without many of the basic amenities that we all take for granted. Think of a farmer who goes out to till her land in the scorching heat of the summer knowing that most of her harvest will go towards paying her debt and very little, if anything, will be saved for her family. She will go back home and feed her children whatever she can afford and she will go without food for days. Think of a factory laborer who became jobless because the factory got closed. But despite all odds he sends his children to school – with the hope that they will have a better future. Think of a tribal family who were evicted from their age old land because some big corporation has constructed a mine or a factory there. With whatever little power they have they are fighting a ridiculously unequal war to regain their land and dignity. These are not rare fictional stories from any imaginary land – these are real people living in the same world with us and there are millions of them. Then there are countless others who are working for poor people’s rights – not with the goal of any recognition, but because that’s the right thing to do. These are people who probably have given up lucrative career to work for a cause close to their heart.

They are the real heroes. Whether it is Raja Harish Chandra or Bill Gates, they can donate millions and billions of dollars, but very few will ever be able to sacrifice to the extent of what many hundreds of thousands of heroes across the world do every day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fast unto death ...

I can not imagine someone fasting for almost 7 years - that is totally and sadly insane. Check out the story at:

Just imagine the kind of mental strength it takes to continue fasting for this looong stretch. Sharmila is demanding the repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the army in the state. Committee has been formed on this issue and their suggestion is to scrap the Act - but the state has rejected that! Can we make the government listen?