“If you are using your digital wallets, swiping cards left, right and centre, doing online transfers and feeling that everything is well around you then remember. This is what privilege feels like.”
It struck me hard how this Demonetization drive is going to cause inconveniences of varying degrees to the different sections of society. One could rationalize the move but there are certain challenges that are very difficult to comprehend since we are a country of colossal diversity.
Amidst this chaos I find myself a part of that miniscule section of people who are not really affected by anything that afflicts the common man. The ones who neither get affected by governance or lack of it. We are the minority of the entire Indian population. We are the opinion Makers, We are the employers, we are the Money Makers.
As queues swelled up outside banks and as panic grew all around my restlessness also grew. The desperation and frustration of being helpless started affecting me drastically and then it struck me. How could I contribute using my privilege? I am an Associate Professor in School of Creative Business, Pearl Academy in Delhi. An upmarket Institution that caters to the students of the privileged class. I take courses in Design Thinking, Innovation, Creativity and Leadership wherein I have been trying to build a sustainable and a joyful community. I shared my anxiety and anguish with my students. Hoping to find solutions to the predicament inspite of knowing that my plight might fall on Deaf ears considering how we are as a social class.
“History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and give up their unjust posture; but … groups are more immoral than individuals.” – Martin Luther King
I asked a simple question to my students. “How can we help?” and what happened after that was something out of a Utopian world. Some of my students shared the same anguish and helplessness, Some of them seemed skeptical and some of them couldn’t be bothered enough. I then shared with them How when history summons us and asks of us what were we doing when such colossal crisis was going on, I want to be on the right side. I think that resonated with the students and what happened next was a miracle. Almost everyone in unison said that we must help out the people who are struggling in those queues. I couldn’t agree more. But How? I asked? Since this was end of semester and there was a huge pressure of final submissions and exams. I said, “Maybe we can distribute water, tea and refreshments to people who were in those long lines.”
The next two days saw about 150 students doing their best to reach out to the suffering people outside the banks with Water, tea and refreshments. One had to be there to believe it. the positivity and sense of empowerment that these young students of age group 17-23 experienced seemed surreal and very heartening. I am sharing below some of the messages i received from the students while they were doing this and each message overwhelmed me with joy, love and immense hope that comes with the passion of the young.
“I have always underestimated the power of kindness. More like I have always been indifferent towards other people’s pain until & unless they were not affecting me in some manner. Thanks to you sir , Ive realized that being selflessly compassionate can be the most empowering feeling. When we first arrived at the banks , there were long never ending queues of people who not only looked impatient & distressed but also really tired of standing in this scorching heat. When we approached the queue with Frooti packets , we were welcomed with expressions of surprise mixed with relief. It looked like they could really use something to drink and feel slightly energized. Everybody accepted it with a wide smile & that smile & that look of relief on their face is something that has been etched in my mind for good. There were some asking for a second serving and we all couldn’t be happier to see that our small effort turned out to be worthwhile.
I have never felt more content in my life , how small of a gesture it was , but it still made some people smile and helped them in a very small but significant way.”
“McDonalds, our hostel and sagar ratna helped up with 15 litres water each. Dr. Kukreja donated 200/-. Poorva and I bought chai ka samaan for almost 800. Manjeet paaji from Naraina Gurudwara also helped in tea and getting us discount and stuff. I am so glad this circle is increasing.”
“The feeling of bringing smile to someone who is almost approaching the crying phase is a feeling which gives you joy and inner peace. Today I not only brought smile on different faces but I also had a talk with my inner soul that what is it we are living for, it is helping each other out in tough times. When a man of my grandfather’s age gives me a smile and says “thank you beta, good work” while standing in that scorching heat is a moment which I will cherish throughout my life and is a feeling which cannot be replicated in any other form whatsoever.
I am truly honored to be a part of such a great initiative and all I can say is “Together we can.”
“Helping needy people assures me that I am moving in a right direction. Talking to people who were standing in queues makes me wonder how privileged I am! They might have not needed the little contributions we were making but it definitely made them smile. It was emotional watching people smile because of you. They were blessing us for the little support we showed. It felt great talking to them and listening their side of stories.”
“That day I went outside the bank where there was huge queue, I went around 4 in the evening. When I asked few people they told they were standing from 8 in the morning and till now they have not got any money exchanged. I had water with me and I served it to people. While Doing this thing I had an immense pleasure and a smile that came from inside. Old people too were standing in the line and one man among them called me and hugged me saying, “boht punya ka kaam kar rahe ho beta, hamesha khush raho (you are doing a very noble job my son, always be happy)” . That made my day and maybe it was one true blessing I had got from a stranger. I walked home with a smile and I can proudly say when someone may ask me that where were you when the entire nation was suffering from this problem that I was serving people!”
“The step that the government has taken has affected a lot of lives. People are sitting in front of banks for an entire day only I be disappointed. So we took an initiative to help those people even if by little. I decided to distribute water bottles. The feeling of doing all that was very nice and cannot be described easily. The blessings I got can never be compared to any amount of shopping I will ever do.”
“It was a very beautiful experience .Early in the morning, slightly hot, people waiting outside the banks , with hope in their eyes , that this time we will get the money .With bag of biscuits, I started distributing the packets , as I kept on moving forward, there was excitement increasing among people.People were really happy .They gave me blessings ,while I was doing the activity.It was a billion dollar feeling.If one person can do it all of us can make a change.”
This beautiful organic campaign has reiterated my long held belief that there is inherent kindness and a beautiful sense of justice in all of us despite our sociological differences and everyone is looking to get inspired. All it takes is a conversation. All it takes for us opinion makers is to increase our circle of influence by having genuine conversations with people around us. Conversations without any ulterior motive but only to increase equity in thoughts. Rest people take care of. Our students have inspired so many people around them with this small gesture that strangers have taken over the mantle and are spreading joy in their circles. What more can we ask for. Small steps make large movements. All it needs is a conversation.
This is a call for action. All educators and thought leaders must inspire people around them to do their bit, no matter how small. Something as small as a reassuring smile at a frustrated person will go a long way and multiply manifolds. We at Pearl Academy are doing our bit. Are you?
Here are some glimpses captured by our students. Its not a photo-op but a way to reach to the others who are desperate for inspiration and are willing to do their bit but don’t know how.