Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | December 7, 2008

Community Service

I watched two Indian films and I thought they touched a chord somewhere. I suggest readers to watch these two films- Mumbai Meri Jaan and A Wednesday.

I know many people are wanting to move on and stop ranting about same things over and again. I don’t want to be one of them, because I believe even if the collective frustrations leads us nowhere in the short-run, we should not stop getting scared and paranoid. Unless and until we are forced into an awareness because of our fear, I don’t think Indians can act. It is high time that India acts.

In India we don’t have a culture of community service which is prevalent in West. We are generally the people who through our rubbish bags into the street without caring whether the streets are getting dirty. I have seen this happen in the best cities in India . Root cause of problems in India are its cities and people living in cities. This was not the case earlier. Urban dwellers in India use cynicism and ignorance as excuse to escape situations and therefore my fear is the current frustration is not going to lead anywhere.

I encourage and thus believe that we ask ourselves whether we are prepared to devote an hour of our time to community service which may help the nation. I have already started doing that from here (using skype) encouraging people I know to act. I wish all help me to do that efficiently. None of my friends in either orkut or facebook, I believe do enough (including myself) and it is time that we change that.

What is community service? What to my mind we can do instantaneously?

First, ask ourselves do we know how to fight an emergency / crisis situations ourselves? If the answer is no, let’s ask ourselves what can the emergency situations be. Fire in our apartment, may be! If we don’t know how to fight fire, do we know, if we write a letter to the nearest fire station, they will come and teach us some of the basic things.

People in fire service and police service often tend to feel that none cares for them unless one is affected. This can be a good exercise perhaps to get them involved.

Can anyone of us amongst ourselves take the responsibility of doing that for our own colony, apartment back in India?

Get yourself trained without really relying on tacit intelligence (we are tremendously over confident, I know!) and importantly help the women and children in our family / colony to get trained.

Secondly, can we start telling our children about our savings and teach them banking operations. In West, all children after the age of 10 tend to know about such things. We seem to protect themselves till eternity. I strongly believe we Indians should strongly remove this facade of protection. It does not help. As far as teaching them Banking operations are concerned, it may sound very simple and unimportant however trust me it is very important because children feel important when entrusted with responsibility.

Also encourage children to take up some sports. I believe sports helps to make them learn importance of teaming, winning and losing? Earlier there used to be Scouts in schools, now sadly there isn’t it. Most children are brought up in isolation and without our knowledge they become reluctant about community. We don’t realise that because we feel we are putting our best efforts but in reality in times of crisis such as these best effort needs to be more perhaps.

Let’s not make them isolated. Books are important no doubt, but being in a team sport as early as possible is essential too. I am sure even martial arts is important at least they can protect themselves in street. Most of us would laugh reading this but spare a thought other than running frantically what shall you do, if you are attacked on a road alone?

At least give yourself or your younger ones to have a chance.

Thirdly, can we as a community go to the “lazy” police station across the street and tell them that we are scared. I know many of you loathe such police officials but trust me the feeling is mutual. They loathe you too but we must not assume they are utterly rubbish and stop involving them. If we make police / firemen a part of our community, after sometime they would become conscious of their existence too. We have to give them confidence, that we trust them. How many of us invite these people to our community functions? We don’t but why is that so?

Fourthly, can we be aware of things like Right to Information Act, Consumer Court, Public Grievance System in Government, Directorate of Public Grievances and many such organizations.

Let’s read these Act and tell people what it is all about rather than hoping someone else shall do it? Why cannot we read them, understand them and organise sessions for our communities and families to tell them about these?

Fifthly, have a diary at home where emergency numbers are stored. I am sure most of our mobile phones don’t have them and same is for our family members. Why is that so? How long shall be inflict wounds on our families because of our callous attitude.

Sixthly, how many us have ever planted a tree or have helped someone to plant one?

I know most of the readers would say – “Nothing would happen”, “Media should flash these things”, etc etc BUT my fellow countrymen trust me, we need to read these, interpret these and spend time with our family, friends, society to explain these to them. Many people from earlier generations don’t know these things exists. I wonder why don’t get to study about these in our schools.

How many of us have bothered to type out an invite for a public meeting post these attacks on us and discuss on a topic – What Next?

Trust me, if we are at least ten people debating such things there are many who want to debate such things. Let’s not be so ignorant about them. If they are not forthcoming, bring them forward. It is much more useful to get people to do something constructive.

I know it is not easy but then things were never meant to be easy. Even if one person comes to hear you out or discuss say RTI, it is a gain – you have contributed to community service, you have helped organize mind.

Efforts such as these can lead up to bigger and better things like ensuring the streets are clean. Most of the times in India we give into inefficiencies because we are unaware. We are unaware of our rights, privileges and how to get our things done. We don’t even know how to save ourselves from fire (other than the things that our grandmothers told us) because we have not seen a fire-drill ever (unless in some offices). This is a shame actually because our intellect is not so well-developed to counter everything.

Let’s do some small bit of community service and circle back amongst ourselves on what we did. Even if we did not achieve much in first few times, let’s continue this habit. Please let’s do it. I don’t want to be the only one not to escape my responsibilities.

As far as my reporting to you is concerned – I have already started doing it for the building where my parent’s stay back in Kolkata.

I just wish we get cracking and promise on our comment boxes (rather than discussing why we cannot do community service or who should do it), that we shall take up one such issue to tackle. At least amongst my friends we haven’t had such discussions but you can have that, can’t you?

At least, don’t be like my peers from school and college who can never say : Yes, I have done something for the community. They would change too, I am sure about that.

However, let’s not wait to change till the time we are directly affected. Many of us who are reading this hardly ever reacted or did something new when Nithari killings happened, Aarushi Talwar died or in times of numerous other terrorist attacks and killings of innocent. What has happened cannot be undone but we can be a little better in serving our community.

Let’s start by fighting our ills inside family, telling people how we should all care and take the battle outside too.

Let’s forget for a second what others are doing and should do, let’s make them do for ourselves.

Let’s realise we can do very small things and yet make a difference.

I shall wait for some small changes to be reported in our lives (other than criticism of someone else).

I hope the country emerges strong beyond the mere cliches. I hope we can call spade a spade and hit back. I hope schools teach us basic things that make our lives better. I hope we teach our children importance of breaking their isolation. I hope we can start the Little Magazine movement and hit back on our inefficiencies strongly. I hope we can at least help one person with practical awareness.

I hope we remain scared and start learning from ground zero to emerge winners.

Moving on would not help – trust me. We are in a state of war and if you don’t realise that, situations shall make you realise. Please let’s not forget that not only the current terrorist attacks, but the attacks on Christian churches, attack on North Indians in Mumbai, gruesome murders in our backyard (by Naxals and Ulfa) are all different manifestation of the same war.

Please let’s realise that this is an unique war which none shall fight on your behalf – you have to fight it yourself. Many of us could not join politics because we fear our lives there too and corruption has engulfed even student politics but at least let’s do our community services.

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Responses

  1. I have always said that mutual understanding and acknowledgement of each others contribution is essential for the improvement of society. Unless we give importance to the jobs that deserve importance – like the job of a coast guard, of a policeman, or of a fire fighter – and stop giving unnecessary importance to worthless politicians who have won their seat by simple ‘do numbari’. Alongside this, giving compulsory NCC training, first aid knowledge, and basic practical knowledge of fighting fire, are things that should be implemented in the curriculum of every central and state board. And the parents will not take this seriously if the Board Exams do not have evaluation of students on these issues along with other subjects. We need a lot of change. But trust me, none is going to happen. As I have always said, we need a few nuclear blasts in this country to make us aware of our real mistakes. And I say this even if it means that I might be blown of in the nuclear blast too.

  2. I have always said that mutual understanding and acknowledgement of each others contribution is essential for the improvement of society. Unless we give importance to the jobs that deserve importance – like the job of a coast guard, of a policeman, or of a fire fighter – and stop giving unnecessary importance to worthless politicians who have won their seat by simple ‘do numbari’, we will not see improvement. Alongside this, giving compulsory NCC training, first aid knowledge, and basic practical knowledge of fighting fire, are things that should be implemented in the curriculum of every central and state board. And the parents will not take this seriously if the Board Exams do not have evaluation of students on these issues along with other subjects. We need a lot of change. But trust me, none is going to happen. As I have always said, we need a few nuclear blasts in this country to make us aware of our real mistakes. And I say this even if it means that I might be blown of in the nuclear blast too.

  3. Need to ask yourself, given everything is disgusting but what are we doing?

    As they say, change has to come through me and with you

  4. That reminded me of a question that I wanted to ask you some time ago – Do the people over there have gardens full of flowers as almost every household here does? Flowers are so pure and pristine in beauty. I wish I had been a flower.

    And there is another new picture on my blog. I do not know whether people will like it or not. But somehow I felt the perspective is different.

    Pardon me for the irrelevance of these words to the topic of this post.

  5. I enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for the sharing


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