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Volunteerism (Social Work/Service)

How to usefully teach/volunteer is probably within various capacities of

socially serving India. You can also, find some help with your local map of the town-
for example you may choose to be in the North-West of India. This now brings you
into the beautiful Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh (H.P). The conditions as we
know are a given go ahead for many foreign nationals--to be able to volunteer work

As far as we know, Indian people have not yet ventured from their cities over to H.P.
This kind of is like saying “I have a real nice garden, and in my backyard”. “To visit
and play there, we (Indians) can leave it to some other time”. When you wear your
trek boots and get enough warm clothes you will do well to travel over to
Dharamsala, H.P. Here, you will get exposed to diversity of volunteer workers,
teachers and also a co-culture of serving another (like (Lord) Buddha also did). There
are so many Indians who don’t really take on this idea of service towards, another (be
it an animal or a fellow human). You will find Himachal is an excellent cornucopia of
different people (even Indians serving, recently- in more and more numbers). Now
getting back to the Indian mind-set about social work (Outreach programs such as
teaching kids, etc are some of the things that happen)-unfortunately been lost in the
hustle bustle lifestyles, where so many just are in it for the money.
Finding oneself in an environment of service can be life transforming. From being
exposed to truly fine human beings, we can grow. In our learning, we might even go
on and see the interconnectedness of all peoples. The very fine H.P village folk took
in (and still do) refugees from Tibet. Tibet was also an independent country up until
the late 1950’s. The cultures from Tibet and India haven’t been co-opted much at all
by either modernity or industry. (In this state of H.P, for example)
The fact of the matter’s that I’m a man of many cultures- I am predominantly Indian
-as in a Desi. But then also, I’ve got quite a good thing going on with the west, having
spent as many years as I have (close to thirteen years) of my life there. This has given
me a cosmopolitan view of the planet and its pizzazz. The west might have brought
forth something latently lying within (The west has made me almost like a missionary
and a half). I have felt interconnectedness with the whole world and its flowering
loving, ever since my parent’s first exciting bedtime stories. I must indeed thank both
of them for shaping my humanity. I must also thank India for its own culturally placid
and yet animatingly loving presence in my life.

But now going back to the point of volunteerism, now that India has its own version
of a 9.11 (in the Mumbai bombings), Indians probably see things within their lives, in
a slightly different manner. When you consider that there were people who lost lives,
then you can also better understand Indian mindset’s present day shift(s). If the
volunteers inside the Indian security force (read: police) had not done their jobs, India
might have suffered the loss of more lives, self-esteem as a Nation. The very act of
volunteering Indian army personnel and the firemen showed millions of people- guts
and gumption (in a selflessly wise manner). The Dalai Lama has often said be selfish
but also be wisely selfish, so that you create most for others. These brave guys are an
example to other Indians (As a personal example, I’ll say my grand-dad was an army
veteran. He willingly and due to compulsion went to war against the Axis powers,
back in his army days. He was an Indian, but fought for the then Great British army.).

The Indian emotional reaction to volunteerism is not the same as say globally. What
has been a norm for a country of India’s size and stature?
India’s manner of looking at their civic duty has to be re-evaluated. India’s history pre
1947 is a little hazy. Indian history and volunteered movements are not so well
preserved. Back then, Indians were inspired by examples such as Dr. Babasaheb,
Pundit Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and many others. Since then, definitive changes have
emerged in a young and independent India. The bigmouth of a politician is so
commonplace that it’s, something that’s quite obvious. Most Indians are incapable of
seeing that thinking outside the box as a community of almost unionized Citizens,
they can probably do much more to help the cause of India. By living lives that are
smooth and materially “cool” they can only do themselves, a few favors. So behaving
and believing that we are the center of the universe is the most pressing of modern
problems that each one of us is probably looking at every day. Therefore, volunteers
I’d opinionate are marked in golden if not gilded letters for their ability to service.

India’s idol to her young is not an Indian idol- but is the capital or money riches.
India’s focus on wealth creation is socially the anti-thesis of say Gandhian thought
modules, enriched as they were with volunteer enthusiasm. The excuse that you get to
hear is: those were the days, when people had not too much else to do. So back then
Indian people started following Gandhi as a way to almost escape? Poor Gandhi’s got
to be turning in his grave, from all the compliments—if not just plain “spinning” from

The strength of India’s poor people is what fits India into its traditional role of care-
giver of a civilization. This civilization is as old as they get. India was back in the day
of kingdoms called Bharat. The word is now, hardly used to describe. It means a non-
rhetorical and yet real India. The very idea of cleaning up this age old Bharat, made
Great Britain into: an Empire (with the then historic East India Company). Now, if
you had Mickey Blue eyes come back to clean out India’s chaos (read: mess); could it
also advance India’s “clean” image? The answer is a big and loud no. This answer
was shaped by Indian independence back in 1947.
Presently, India’s role is a different one in the world as opposed to lighting up torches
of freedom from tyranny of foreign rule. It demands a different approval from within
on its own internal merits of sharing poverty with the developing countries of the
third world. A recent success at the box office is pretty relevant to this discussion on
poverty (and civics). “Slum dog Millionaire” is a statement of the ghettos in India. In
this movie, people watching can recall poverty as seen and seen its heroes onscreen.
Poverty was almost recognized here, as the mother of a universally Indian
characterization. Now, thinking about elimination of the poverty is a given logical
step in the direction of social work and also, justice for the society. Community by
community this can be a priority or it can be on the backburner as no-brainer-
therefore-somebody else’s problem. A cultural ethos of the logically and heart imbued
momentum of social workers should then intermesh to do its job. In today’s India the
scarred psyche of its majority population is almost made to believe in messiahs of the
abode to come for them and their children. (This is a problem of illiterate more so
than any other class of people).

Imagine that, for one day, India shuts down all of its Dargahs, the Golden temple, all
of its take out holy places. We now, can truly appreciate their serving food to the
population of millions on a lunch hour schedule. Now, if you warm up to a schedule
you might have to find the closest Macdonald’s. The missionary style giving and to a
nation is very good to look at on foreign T.V channels that will produce
documentaries about India. But the message of loss of this one day is clear people
need people (or is it that we are all interconnected at almost birth/even umbilical.)
The able bodies of Indian youth, so well connected to the dusted and grimy older
body-old age. So, let’s hope that we can all say: more power to the Indian heart,
striking the right balance in its appreciation of other factors (such as the above
mentioned), once more.
In India, the matters (read: affairs) of heart are important. There are many soft spots
that an Indian heart is deeply invested. These places are a home, a family leading a
life within the culture of kinship towards relatives and friends.

Indian Psyche breathlessly marches towards all these indicative places at any given
point(s) in time. But for those who might have missed out has there been any church
—Jesus Christ. What a wonderful world he always brings with his emancipating?
Equilibrium - where it is now is a big question, though. This aspiring spirit was truly a
blessing. The world has grown since his time and example. But, missionaries have
almost led the mission of equality for all brethren. India’s un-sung heroes are
definitely these missionary or volunteer workers. Their job is only at best half done.
India’s commitment (enshrined constitutionally) of a prospering and not-so-crazy-not-
so-scary vision as to-presenting itself to the world is going to get lettered, sooner or
later. (Missionaries used to have a toehold after India’s independence, now they have
gathered quite a foothold as their style and actions bring relief and sustenance to
India’s untouched.)

The ode to an inquiring spirit must be given its due respect: for Indians were and
remain some of the most curious of people. But can they ask themselves the right
questions thinking what will be bringing that old wonder struck expression on the
faces of even my closest Indian buddies? The question that was asked about disease
and our delusions leading to suffering—does all of India possess a desire to beat out-
the big Poverty? And put down suffering and emerge out with the best?

Let’s take this example of a famine: it being a possible reality. (In India, its chances
are slightly higher, due to her agriculture-based economy.) When, we look at it again
from a social perspective- we see differences of opinion and value systems. Within
India, people say you look for answers from someone—“higher”. And the interpreter
of the higher message-from god could be: a local (from the famine struck village), or
a scientist. This is when you see a whole entire system or traditional Indian way of
approaching life then a belief system kicks in (to make better sense of this situation).
This famine is quite likely sanctioned by a human system, adherent in Godliness.
Interestingly a “server of God” (another form of volunteer act?) is very acceptable
during this situation. This is the case through out most of India (read: villages).

Let’s talk about blood donors. When, India’s poor receive donated blood, it’s never
completely voluntarily accessed. The principle of blood donation is based on giving
without asking anything in return. But when you really look closely, you can observe
how un-settling this whole procedure can be. This happens due to some really ethical
dilemmas given a big shot in the arm. People in the north, in small town hospices,
play this scenario out. You give me money, and I’ll register you on as a blood donor.
Recently somebody, I met paid Rupees 700 (13.5 U.S dollar) to donate their blood to
help out in an hour of need. Thus a whole systemic failure can be seen here. (These
are the same outreach style programs we can see so well done back in the west by
people and groups such as the Red Cross).

Hurricane Katrina
This event is a landmark one in all of America’s history. It has left an inedible mark
on America’s psyche (due to various reasons— most quite publicly discussed). This is
so because hurricane Katrina- a preventable and yet present danger went on to stir
more disaster than any hurricane had.

Post Hurricane Katrina

What happened after this natural disaster had practically wiped Nola (New Orleans)
off the satellite/geo map—a new love of America’s volunteer force to change the city
of Nola also happened. (We now, know that the city of Nola has risen like the
proverbial phoenix.) American people (back in 2005) had at this point, opened up
their door(s). Some forty nine states had organized teams to help out the relatives of
the bereaved. These relatives were housed in precarious conditions in states such as
Texas, etc. The Red Cross and many other organizations were involved in a concerted
effort to evacuate Nola. Most people will freely acknowledge feeling like “foot
soldiers of disaster”. These were the same people who had lost their homes, etc. The
conditions were not very ripe for any kind of activity.

But within a few months, America based non-governmental organizations (NGO’s)

had aided almost anyone in need. This is quite like a perfect storm, in terms of how
well organized America became-post Hurricane Katrina. This compassionate
outpouring (as a civil society) was moving and can be further broken down as a)
Missionary b) Humanistic
c) Both. Most observers worldwide of current events could perceive American power-
gentle here and also unified (compassionate America). India can emulate America
here, directly and indirectly. India’s billion plus populace would like her to.

Now, Direct contrast—India’s political season.

Let’s examine the party workers. The Indian political season has produced multitudes
emerging as (freelance) volunteers, to further her democracy. Your average visually
conscious Indian can observe this feature:
Politics of Money: (Where & when, you pay/arrange/load one)
!!! Translation: The definition of loading a volunteer can be clear, after watching
a documentary. In the movie, Attenborough’s “Gandhi” people were seen riding carts.
People move around with their buggies and bullock carts. When you flash forward, to
a similar scene in the twenty first century politics you are given money to come to a
political stump speech, called as a “rally”. People make money off these rallies, as
poor as they are they can now support their party for a few hundred rupees (couple of
dollars) handed out. So you can contrast the ethic at work with what happened in real
lives of people of pre-independence India. The political base of such a system of give
and take is often common to politics and lives. But the scale at which it happens in
India is something to not take and implement for any fledgling democratic country.

India- in closing goes from one surprise to the next before you can say: strike one. In
the east of India lies the state of Bihar. There’s chaos in Bihar supposed to border on a
loony bin, some have reported (in Indian and other newspapers). Could this chaos be
attributed to the lack of a Buddha? Or someone like Jesus? But, no one has quite
understood how the poor students of this state always are topping the academic life.
The lawless state of Bihar must have a karma? Of its own. Poor kids often having a
very humble (parental homes) origin, aspire to top India’s best and therefore very
tough entrance examinations. In this context, one teacher stands out, making a
difference. He formed a network, of super 30 for IIT (Indian institute of Technology).
Then this teacher overcame funding and other crazies to reach a place amongst the
best in voluntary work. The man literally is a legend for all young Bihari students,
wearing reading glasses and gawking at the blackboard. These stories can be seen on
Discovery channel via the tube. There must be at least a few thousand more
successful volunteer stories in India. The most moving ones are certainly set in an
ancient culture of hospitality and amiability (read: sometimes, just good old loving). I
think that things one can observe in India are sometimes difficult to fathom outside of
here. The kindness of Indian people is an inspiration to the world, yet. Let’s hope that
they move their basic structure of human kindness and expand its aura from inside
each family-onto-community- and onto finally a billion plus society. Let this
universality be the end zone for all our world wide Indian people.