Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Joy Of Giving- Serve Your Servants Day-2012

Ever since Joy of Giving Week commenced two years ago, I have managed to celebrate it each year by having a “Serve Your Servants’ Day” on 2nd October- Gandhi’s birthday.  This year I’ve been so busy I thought I wouldn’t make it.  But yesterday, I woke up determined that come what may I would host a brunch for the sweepers in my area the next morning-2nd October! 

On my morning bike ride, I met and roped in Jaising - the security man at the building gate to contact all the garbage collection persons, the sweepers in the locality and invite them to a brunch party the next day at 10 a.m.
 “What is the party for?” he wanted to know.
Since explaining Joy of Giving Week, would have been difficult, I told him we were celebrating Gandhi’s birthday. “Ahhh, you are a Gandhian?”

 “No-“ I began, then gave a mental shrug. Who knows? Maybe I am.

On my way to work the same afternoon, I ordered the food for the brunch- Piping hot udid vadas, spicy samosas with green chutney, strawberry cream biscuits, sweet ,milky tea, saffron laddoos and jalebis -then stopped by at Reliance Mall to pick up small gifts for all the guests. For Kavita, the 12- year-old who daily collects the building’s garbage along with her mother, I had a special gift. Four meters of bright blue cotton for a salwar kameez!

The Pretty Rajini!
 Monday night, it rained torrents and this morning when I awoke, the garden was fresh and sparkling, the usually dusty tiles of the small amphitheater, where I meant to have my brunch-party, had been washed clean and shone white amid their grassy green borders.  Perfect!
Kavita and her Mom
Going to pick up the snacks for the Brunch, I found Jaising waiting for me. He confessed wryly, “I was a little worried. What if you hadn’t turned up and all these people arrived…?”
“But why would you think that?” I asked puzzled.
“This is ‘different’ isn’t it? No one has parties like this.”
I felt a little sad.  But I knew from past experience, that the idea of someone throwing a party for sweepers and servants is hard for people to digest.

Jaising with the Grocery Boy
My guests  were on time. (Including the gate-crasher grocery boy!) Jaising and my help Laxmi got busy serving the food and distributing sweets and gifts.  All the guests  had dressed for the occasion.  I found that touching and was glad I had on my new parrot-green kurta with red leggings and had taken the time to wear some lipstick.  Some of the guests  were married couples and walked in shyly.  One of  them was Rajini. So beautiful, it was hard to believe that she swept dirt off the streets each morning.  I took pictures and my guests posed happily.

My gifts were small and none too exciting.  The food was hot and delicious but surely all the guests must have had vadas and samosas hundreds of times and surely they must have liked their tea sweeter.  Yet all of them looked obviously happy. Kavita was surreptitiously feeling the material she had received and everyone was eating and laughing and playfully snatching at each others’ gifts.

When Jaising declared, “Koi kaam chota nahin hai.” (No job is too menial), I saw my chance to deliver my message. “Yes,” I agreed,  “But when you work with your intellect, you progress faster. So make sure you educate your kids.” I pointed to Laxmi,  “Look at her. She has 3 children. 2 dropped out of school and are now working at menial jobs. But her youngest  is finishing college and has just started working, earning more than her entire family put together. Wouldn’t you like your children to dress smartly, earn well, live decently?”

Rukmini with a Friend.
At that, Rukmini, a fierce woman with whom I have had skirmishes over her haphazard garbage collection skills,  left  her samosa half eaten and came up to me, arms akimbo.  “My daughter has finished 8th Grade. But she doesn’t want to study any more. Says the boys tease her at school. She’s insisting on leaving school. Can you help?”
“Yes,” I said, confidently, “Of course.”

 I don’t know what exactly I’m going to do but maybe I CAN help.  Maybe today will not end as just another day in the Joy of Giving Week, as just another celebration of Gandhi’s birthday.  Hopefully, today will do something more. Nip in the bud another Rukmini! 


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