menu

Give as much as you can
  • 45
  • Name
  • Tag Name

It was summer of 2014, school vacations had just begun and my 10 year old son Rohan was getting busy with his cricket matches. Our maid Lalitha on the other hand was getting ready to drop her two kids to her native place to spend the vacation with their grandparents. Lalitha has two adorable kids – Rahul & Saranya – and they spend most of their time at our home after school. My wife is the unofficial tuition teacher for both the kids; they don’t step out to play and love watching TV. My son Rohan often said, “I don’t know Pappa but Rahul is more interested in watching TV than playing outdoors. I have called him many times but he is not interested”. The kids were not really enthused to go to their village but they didn’t have a choice. On the day when they were all set to leave, I gave them some story books, painting kit, etc. and asked my son if he can give them some toys to play with during the vacation. He went in and came back with two of his bay-blades (If you have a son aged 6 to 10, then you will certainly know what this means. This is like a top which spins at high speed and has close to 70+ varieties and my son had a good number of them). I noticed that he gave away two of his old bay-blades which he hardly uses and kept all the good ones for himself. The kids were happy to receive them and once they left I said, “You could have given them something better Rohan” and he replied “Pappa I keep them very carefully and I am not sure how they will use it.” I did not discuss this issue further and let it pass…

Couple of months passed by and it was in August 2014 when we decided to get a new refrigerator for our home. We decided to give the existing one to our maid Lalitha and she was super thrilled to receive the fridge. To her, the biggest use of this fridge came from the fact that she can now store milk overnight to give her children every morning. Even before the new fridge reached home, I packed the existing one and sent it to her place and told her that I would visit her the same evening to help install it. That evening, we visited Lalitha’s house. My son, who is very talkative and keeps us engaged during our long drives was at his personal best, chatting and joking all the way. After 30 minutes of zipping through the highway, the car now moved from the main road to a narrow lane. I drove for another 2.5 kms taking multiple turns and came across a place from where there was only a gravel road which can barely hold a car and was surrounded by water on both sides. I could not see anything but a small house 500 meters away which was poorly lit. I became super cautious with my car and realized that my son, who was continuously talking till then, fell completely silent. There were frogs croaking all around, it was pitch dark and with some difficulty, we managed to reach Lalitha’s house. I stepped out of the car and that was the moment I realized what true hospitality is all about. Each one in her family was so eager to receive us and took us inside. The kids were overjoyed and it showed on their faces. I looked at my son without him noticing me and I could see that he was in a state of shock. He was smiling artificially and knowing him I realized what was going in his head, but decided not to speak about it. He stood out for some time, walked around the house, realized that it was only water everywhere and reluctantly came inside.

Lalitha had prepared some hot tea by then and was serving us with so much love. The house was just one room (10 *10) which was their living room, dining room and bedroom – all in one. But then, Lalitha had also made a great example to show how a single room can be maintained so well. I looked around and saw the blue 240 ltr fridge standing majestically and noticed that it was also the only electrical appliance in their house. There was no TV, mixer or grinder. The only other basic appliance that I could see was a table fan which was placed right next to us. We spent some time with the family, explained the nuances of the fridge and started for home. There was complete silence in the car, as my son was silent. He did not speak a word and put his chin on the window and looked outside. This is not a very common sight and he does that only when he is very upset.

The car now reached the main road and I heard Rohan say “Pappa, I am sorry”. I didn’t get that and hence asked him “Sorry for what Rohan?”. He said “Pappa I think I should have given some good toys to Rahul & Saranya when you asked me to give them toys. I don’t know how they live here Pappa. I promise you, I will give all my toys to them and let them play with it”. I was stunned to hear this from Rohan and didn’t want to miss this opportunity to speak to him and hence asked him why he wanted to give all his toys. He replied “Pappa, did you notice they don’t have a TV at home and maybe that’s why both of them love watching TV when they come to our house? They just have one room in their house, no one to play with and I feel very sorry for them. I will give all my toys.” I asked Rohan, “When you say you will give all your toys, will you give your favorite one?” And without any hesitation he said “Yes”. I asked him “Which is your prized possession which you will give?” He thought for a while and replied “The first English Willow bat that you and Amma got me is my favorite and I will give it to Rahul”. I was super thrilled to hear this because this was one bat he was crazy about, not because we got this as his first bat, but also because the Indian cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin had written a personalized message and autographed it for him. For the little one to let go of that was a big step forward.

He kept asking a lot of questions on the way and when we were about to reach home he said something that made me think. “Pappa why don’t you collect good gifts like this from my classmates and give it to children who don’t have them?”, he asked. This certainly made me think – we are not talking about old gifts collection but rather, looking at how can we encourage kids to give at a very young age. The next couple of months, I spent a lot of time watching kids and there are only two categories. The “Haves” and “Have nots”. In my son’s cricket academy, I noticed this kid named Madhavan who only bowls all through the day and when I asked his coach why does he not bat, the coach replied, “He does not have a cricket kit and his parents cannot afford one and hence he only bowls for other kids”. At the same time I see my son and his friends carrying two bats & extra gloves as it’s the need of the hour in professional cricket.

I wanted to make a small change and spoke about an idea to my colleagues at the Maatram foundation. The idea was simple – we collect a wish list from kids in a corporation school and fulfill them, but with a difference. We will not buy these gifts but instead give the wish list to kids of the same age in a different school who can afford to buy these gifts. I decided to start with my son’s school and when we proposed the idea, the principal immediately gave a go-ahead. We sent a small note to all parents to check if they are fine with their kids participating in this, and made the participation voluntary. The wish list was collected by the Teach for India Volunteers and the kids from Sishya School picked up gifts for the children. The gifts ranged from a cricket bat, football, Barbie doll to a remote control car and so on. A wish from a 3rd standard child made me sit up and notice, and it read, “I want a dress for myself and a saree for my mother”. It made us realize how basic stuff is so very important not just for the child, but for the 8 year old to think about his mother as well. The kids from Sishya visited the Chennai Corporation school and the gifts were handed over in person. The joy in both the giver and taker was so evident. We wanted to ensure that the whole exercise looks like an exchange program and hence every kid who received the gift from the Corporation school made a handmade book mark as a return gift to the Sishya kids. The experience for the participants and teachers was worth the effort.

I wanted to make a small change and spoke about an idea to my colleagues at the Maatram foundation. The idea was simple – we collect a wish list from kids in a corporation school and fulfill them, but with a difference. We will not buy these gifts but instead give the wish list to kids of the same age in a different school who can afford to buy these gifts. I decided to start with my son’s school and when we proposed the idea, the principal immediately gave a go-ahead. We sent a small note to all parents to check if they are fine with their kids participating in this, and made the participation voluntary. The wish list was collected by the Teach for India Volunteers and the kids from Sishya School picked up gifts for the children. The gifts ranged from a cricket bat, football, Barbie doll to a remote control car and so on. A wish from a 3rd standard child made me sit up and notice, and it read, “I want a dress for myself and a saree for my mother”. It made us realize how basic stuff is so very important not just for the child, but for the 8 year old to think about his mother as well. The kids from Sishya visited the Chennai Corporation school and the gifts were handed over in person. The joy in both the giver and taker was so evident. We wanted to ensure that the whole exercise looks like an exchange program and hence every kid who received the gift from the Corporation school made a handmade book mark as a return gift to the Sishya kids. The experience for the participants and teachers was worth the effort.