By V. Shanmuganathan
There are certain important days in everyone'slife, like birthdays, wedding days, Parents Days, etc. There is a great amount of admirable sentiment in celebrating these days. Is there anyone who does not succumb to the charms of a little child celebrating his second or third birthday? We can imagine the happiness of a grandfather who never thought of living long enough to live up to his sixtieth marriage anniversary. No one can resist the thousands of people celebrating the birthdays of their dedicated leaders who had inspired them. Quite often we can see the exaltation of spirits in the face of the scores of fans celebrating the birthdays of their heroes. Our whole nation celebrates Ramanavami and Krishnashtami, the birthdays of Lord Rama and Krishna, with great reverence. A passionate joy catches one'sheart when one thinks of his or her own birthday or a marriage day.
There is one thing common in all these celebrations. Generally, people set a big store by it. There is no room in their mind for anything except a radiant happiness and a driving desire to enjoy that day. They invite their friends and relatives to share with them not only their sense of belonging, but also of their pride and honour. Nowadays, many people throw lavish dinners in memory of such occasions, spending huge amounts of money, simply because they think it is only proper and respectable to do so. Rich people are seized only with the luxury of celebrating such events than for the actual virtue attached to that occasion. Unfortunately, it causes no qualm of conscience in their minds, because of their repetition of the same and hence the moral of the affair weighs lightly upon them.
It is certainly not in the best of taste to flaunt one'swealth ostentatiously simply to make a few people happy on these occasions. What earthly good is a celebration when its pretentions are purely based on pomp and show? We cannot afford to be stiff-necked strangers when thousands of our poor brothers and sisters elsewhere are often deprived of even one square meal a day.
The very idea of celebrating such important occasions is to derive happiness by pleasing others. It is time not only to take stock of our pride and honour, but also of our sense of truth, virtue and kindliness.
Instead of celebrating these days simply for the reputation of possessing these virtues, we should celebrate them for the virtues themselves. Such an act assumes not only significance for one'shappiness, but also for one'sdignity. We cannot simply overlook and ignore the condition of the scores of children who are beyond caring, leave alone celebrating their birthdays and left to fend for themselves even for their basic food shelter and clothing.
Celebrate: Your birthday, Parents Day, national hero'sday in a novel way
The dimensions of one'swealth and wisdom and the provinces of one'spelf and power are actually the properties of God and men are mere trustees to His properties. Where there is service to the society in a spirit of worship, there enters God with all His mercy. The service we do for others has been made for us by the will of God, to teach us to lighten the burden of life for others who are in great need.
Sometime back I had to visit one of my friends in Swamimalai, in Tamil Nadu and who was celebrating the naming ceremony of his child born after a long interval. The family was so happy that they wanted to share their happiness. I suggested to the parents to donate a cow to a deserving poor family on that occasion and they readily obliged. Instantly they enjoyed the rush of gratitude from that poor family for having brought order, dignity and grace in their household. Because cows are a symbol of prosperity, the cow'smilk is rich in calcium and protein and meets the needs of their growing children. They could also earn an income by selling the extra milk to their neighbours. After all, a cow costs about Rs 5,000.
We have got to be more neighbourly and sociable on such occasions. Another interesting event took place in Perambur in Chennai. It was a betrothal function and the girl'sfather was a community leader. Right on that day, I requested my friend, the girl'sfather, to donate a sewing machine to yet another girl of his daughter'sage, whose life was driven by despair. Gifts like a sewing machine is an ideal donation to empower young girls to earn their livelihood. It not only increases the income of the family, but also gives them a feeling of self-respect.
You could warm a cold and lonely heart with the glow of your kindness and concern. The district of Kanyakumari is afflicted with a lot of social problems. The men-folk in the villages are addicted to alchohol and so naturally the women and children suffer. I came to know of one such woman who was grasping at the last straw over the shipwreck of her life with her children. Hence, I approached another friend who had invited me to his house for a celebration to gift a pair of goats to that woman and which costed Rs 2,000. Goats provide two litres of milk every day. Looking after them is easy. Goats can survive the harshest environments and can subsist on simple grass and leaves. Goat manure is a good fertiliser. Best of all, goats breed easily, enhancing a cycle of health, prosperity and happiness. It is truly amazing to know how much a couple of goats can go to help a poor family.
I was shocked to see many villages of the Tirunelveli district being deprived and bereft of their young population. The villages wore a deserted look. I was told that all their youth had migrated to Dharavi in Mumbai in search of employment. The youth had not given a thought to the fact that the price they were paying for their employment was a permanent exile from their homes and their dear parents. Traditional forms of employment in the rural areas are fast fading out. And hence the youth are forced to migrate to some urban centres. They are desparate to earn a livelihood. I know a person of one such poor family who approached me for a suggestion, because he was unwilling to let his grandson leave the family. But the employment was hard to come by. It occurred to me that if we can teach the likes of his grandson, a course in vehicle-driving (both light and heavy), he can readily employ himself in his own district and earn a respectable remuneration. There, yet another kind-hearted person came forward to donate to that young man an amount of Rs 1,250 for obtaining his training and driving licence.
In many families, women often suffer from the agonies of ill treatment at the hands of their own family members, because they do not contribute to the family income. There are many such women with their own life staring in their eyes with all its unfairness. We cannot treat their condition as a matter of no concern. Gifting them a skill is a key to their employment and dignity; for instance, acquiring training in embroidery costs barely an amount of Rs 1,000.
I requested my friend, the girl'sfather, to donate a sewing machine to yet another girl of his daughter'sage, whose life was driven by despair.
One could galvanise even the most weak or timid child with a gift of a bicycle and thus swing him into activity. That way a bicycle would stop the hundreds of little children from becoming school drop-outs simply because their schools are very far away from their homes. A bicycle would at the most cost Rs 1,500. Bicycles not only save their long walk to school but also their precious time in which they can do their homework and much more.
There are scores of poor children who are unable even to share their sorrow, despair and broken pride. One can use one'sbirthday to present these children with a pair of shirt and pants and thereby see the glint in the eyes of these children and happiness in its soft depths.
It will be amazing to learn how much a gift of education to a deserving student can work wonders not only for him or her but for the whole family, community and in fact, for a big village. Donating for a futuristic education like computers and technology will transform the entire life of a good lot of people. Shri Ramakrishna Prasad of Chennai was fond of the idea of sponsoring a village student in memory of his celebrating an important event in his family. He sponsored a village student for computer education at a cost of Rs 6,250. This way, we can help to inculcate the qualities of responsibility in those young minds that would truly make them desirable and proud citizens of our next generation.
While individuals celebrating their important occasions can gift a computer education, a sewing machine, a bicycle, a cow, a pair of goats, etc., we can also donate collectively for the betterment of a village. It can be on an occasion of a memorable day, like the birthday of a national leader. For example, we can contribute to construction a percolation pond in a village. Percolation ponds can be constructed at a cost of Rs 20,000. Where there is no water, there are no crops. As a consequence, cattle get thin and emaciated and become a burden. This makes the entire village suffer. A simple way of helping these people is by developing a percolation pond which makes a difference between poverty and plenty by preserving as much water as possible when the rain-water falls.
We have got to feel sorry for someone'ssorrow without ever being contemptuous. Often poor families in the villages are stranded with the problem of medical emergency at which time they are absolutely helpless.They have no money. We can apply balm to their aching illness by giving them a village fund for emergency medical treatment and help their vulnerable children in their hour of need. By sponsoring health camps and medical check-ups periodically, we can instill in them a sense of hygiene and health. We can also provide basic medicines, syrups, tablets, etc. at such times. This will indeed set a good example of a collective donation.
There are places where there is plenty of water beneath an apparently dry earth. But the village-folk are unable to access the water for lack of a bore-well. It is a familiar sight to see hundreds of our village-women walking miles of distances to fetch a pail of water and left to the mercy of the scorching sun. One bore-well may cost about Rs 15,000, and make a world of a difference to these poor people. It will unleash the buried water and please those people who are hungry and thirsty for good drinking water. Likewise, a water-tank will change the condition of an entire village. A water-tank may cost Rs 20,000. It will release the women and children from the hard struggle to obtain clear water and keep out the water-borne diseases, like diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid, etc. Thereby, it will certainly uplift the community.
Certain things do not seem beautiful when dragged to light, especially when thousands of our poor children in the villages are forced to go to public toilets. But it is a great embarrassment for those girls and children who feel shy to use a public toilet. Hence, toilet construction becomes a necessity. It may cost about Rs 3,000 per toilet.
The villages wore a deserted look. I was told that all the youth had migrated to Dharavi in Mumbai, in search of employment.
Besides all this, one can make a visit to an orphanage on their birthdays or on other such important occasions. One can enjoy the peals of mirth and joy on the faces of these little orphans with no hint of pretentions when one shares their time, telling them short stories and giving them sweets and small presents.
These are only a few examples. Many more things can be done. Our life is not for ourselves alone. There is a glamour in gifting; it is like a perfection and completion like an ancient art. We are all like a link in a life'schain which is eternal. No matter how small the link is, it has a purpose. Of course, poor people cannot even half repay what we give them in cash, but one can nevertheless get back a thousandfold of their affection and love which one bestows on them.When you have something, please think about the have-nots on your birthday.