My Manni's sentiment sparked off a burning, yet latent, feeling within me. I have, for quite a while since moving to Delhi in April, been looking at how I can make my surroundings better. How can I make a difference to the environment that I live in? I figured that this environment consists mainly of two components - nature and people. With World Environment Day coming and going in between, nature took top priority for the moment, buoyed by all the hype of global warming. So I started seeing what measures I could take. I made Blackle my homepage and promoted its usage to others because somebody said it uses less energy to project a black screen than a white screen, and hence the black Google. I signed up for newsletters from TreeHugger to learn more. I got pissed off when my search for a green or hybrid car in India came to naught (I was considering investing in an automobile). I resolved to buy a bicycle for weekends and car-pool or auto-pool, as the case may be, on weekdays. I felt guilty if I found myself in an auto alone and kept trying to figure out how I could have made this trip without leaving a carbon footprint, if I had only bought that bicycle. I was generally feeling pretty good about myself and how I was trying to do my bit for the environment.
As a result of all this frenetic activity, the desire to do something along similar lines for people took a backseat and generally became latent, though still very much present. I started giving it a little more importance and thought sometime last week or so. My Manni's sentiment however has now given that desire a much needed boost. It has set me thinking seriously, and that is a crucial beginning. How can I make the life of someone somewhere better? It does not have to be somebody I know, or somebody who I know knows. It does not have to be a large-scale mass effort. It can be as simple as buying a bicycle to help the environment (even though manufacturing it probably harms the environment, but what the heck, the positives far outweigh the negatives). The Hutch Delhi Half Marathon is happening on October 28 2007, and I decided last week to run for charity. I now have to get details. If all goes well in that race, the Delhi Marathon happens on February 17 2008, and you can be sure I'll be looking at a charity run there as well.
I had a pretty solid idea today. It's a smoking charity, for lack of a better term. Let me try and illustrate through an example. Let's assume that you smoke 10 cigarettes a day and that each cigarette costs Rs 5. That means that you spend Rs 50 a day on cigarettes. Now, if you register with the smoking charity, you are making an effort to quit smoking. You will still spend Rs 50 a day, but the entire amount will not be spent on cigarettes. You will now smoke 9 cigarettes a day and hence spend Rs 45 a day on cigarettes. The remaining Rs 5 will go into the charity. Slowly, you will smoke a lesser number of cigarettes, thereby leading to a healthier lifestyle for you, and the money that you would have burnt away on cigarettes will now help in giving somebody else a life. Sort of like two birds with one stone, eh? I haven't worked out details yet. I just had the idea today, and hence it's still in a very rough first draft sort of format. But I like the sound of the idea and I'm starting to get really excited about it. And before all you smokers out there get up in arms with me about the idea and how it's a personal choice, let me silence you with a startling confession. I smoke too.
After lunch, we went down to buy some cigarettes. We stood outside the building by the cigarette shop, smoking. A couple of extremely young lads came up to us, asking us if we wanted to get our shoes shined. My colleague agreed, but I refused.
Firstly, I don't like people touching my feet. I have grown up in an environment where you respect your elders, but very rarely touch their feet, probably only on special occasions like poojas when you seek their blessings. Otherwise, we reserve the namaskaram only for Gods (and considering my atheistic tendencies and beliefs, I do it very indifferently, doing it only to please my elders and respect their beliefs). And here was a little child who wanted to touch my feet. Removing my shoes and giving it to him to shine, like my colleague suggested, was also not an option. Why should he touch my shoes? My shoes are not more important than him. Material objects cannot and should not be more important than people. On this note, I have started disliking the idea of employing a person to look after the car, to clean it and make it look like it has a chance of lifting the employer's social standing. Employing a driver is excusable, because chances are that the employer does not know how to drive, or has to send the car back home during the day for his/her spouse who either lacks or is limited in her/his knowledge of handling an automobile. So the driver is providing a service to the employer and not to the car.
Secondly, I don't like employing people to do stuff that I am perfectly capable of doing myself. It just indicates laziness, a dangerous vice. I can shine my shoes myself and I ought to. There was this one time when I was moving from Chennai back to Bangalore at the end of 2004. I was carrying quite a few bags. They were all stuffed and heavy. On top of this, I was wearing a leather jacket that could not be stuffed into any of the bags. I got on to the train station and was accosted by the usual number of coolies (porters) to take my load. I refused every one of them. I was a strapping young lad, not yet 21 years of age. How could I allow a man much older than myself, and probably under-nourished, to lift my load? I struggled along, content in my belief that I was being true to myself, if nothing else. By the way, we paid both the shoe-shine boys, even though only one pair of shoes had been shined.