Volunteering Volunteering in India

2013, my surroundings and Me

Wow, a new year!!, a new beginning – that is what most of the young think. For slightly older people like me, it is just another year – a date change ;).

Most of us welcome new year by our resolutions only to get into life’s revolutions by the end of the 1st month. And resolutions, hmm, did I make one? Some of us do persist on our resolutions like “I will lose weight”, I will do this, achieve that, and so on. It is always about ‘something’ that I would like ‘to happen’. At the end of day, all of us are selfish, and should be – that is how nature created us. Now some of us could be selfish in a very individual way like I will lose weight; while some of us can be selfish in a slightly broader way saying that I want my society to be safe for women. This is still a selfish act – it could be because I feel ashamed to be associated with a society/ country where this happens or simply I want my friends and family/myself to be safe or for some other reason.

In our surrounding (society/ country), the diversity and magnitude of problems that we face generally lead us to pessimism. In worst case, it may lead to hopelessness. Let me give some numbers I searched over the net (mainly World Bank and Wikipedia). India has about 18% of world population, about 4% of world billionaires, about 30% of world extreme poor (living below $1.25 a day), and about 50% of world poor (living below $2 a day). If the percentages are not telling enough, India has more number of billionaires than UK and more number of poor than entire African continent. No, don’t brush it under the carpet saying it is the population problem. China does much better than us on say, per capita income or child health or education in spite of a larger population.

I might say that all this is fine, I have read it before, why should I worry about it? It doesn’t affect me. Well, as it turns out it does affect us irrespective of the framework of our selfishness. I might feel very bad/ disheartened to know that though my country has just 18% of world population, it also has 50% of world poor. In my selfishness I might want to do something about it. It may also happen that I am happy with my “abundant” life and couldn’t care less for the other countrymen. Well, that would also have been fine if the disparity problem was not so humongous. And of course there is this well documented direct correlation between inequality (income  or societal) and crime to worry about, which has started manifesting itself in our society. Hence in my selfishness to be safe (after all crime doesn’t differentiate, anyone can be a victim), it is in my interest that I do something about this disparity.

Whatever the framework, I am still a selfish person with immediate priorities and reducing this disparity isn’t one of them. Well, the good news is that I need not leave my career or financial aspirations and still work towards an equitable society. The key is to “volunteer” towards this other 50% of population and improve their quality of life. If I don’t, nature will make course corrections and return to equilibrium by shifting the normal ‘bell’ curve to left (effectively reducing the disparity by distributing the wealth). On the other hand, even if I want to do something about it, I have only so much time for this. So I will break down this huge problem into a small one by taking up an area/community and making it better. Who knows I might acquire new skills on the way or become the leader India is waiting for…

Happy 2013. May it be happy for everyone. May I play my part to ensure this.

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