Sometimes I think about the life I’m living
I seem to take more than I’m giving
More vengeful than forgiving
More reluctant than willing
Cynical without believing
Need to start emptying the bad
So the goodness can start filling
The opposite of death is not life but birth,
And we make that journey to figure out what we’re worth.
As I embarked on my first namma metro ride and DaD (Dream a Dream) journey literally and figuratively I have come to realize why I wanted to be a volunteer in the first place. Even though we all lead very superficially successful lives there is this gross feeling of inadequacy that we all feel (I’ll be the first to put my hand up and admit this), and we can’t help but feel there is more to life than just being. I think the verse above that I wrote a few months back captures this sentiment perfectly.
I was among the 20 volunteers who had the privilege of undertaking a train ride in the Namma Metro with 80 very happy and excited school children of the Mt. Everest School.
Besides being my first metro ride it was also my first event as a volunteer. It was reminiscent of how one feels on his/her first day of school…play school! By the time I had joined the party at the Byapanahali the kids were already gathered around the DaD volunteers singing songs and doing roll calls. The energy was palpable with a heady mix of the positive vibes and playful banter coming from both child and volunteer alike with a nice warm draft of the afternoon breeze made the atmosphere warm and fuzzy. Puzzled onlookers in the form of commuters, station personnel and passersby completed this very happy picture.
2 Volunteers each were assigned to a group of 10 children for the remainder of the trip that started and ended at the Byapanahalli Metro train station.
Station personnel gave us a complete run down of how the metro functions and the advantages of commuting in them. The children were attentive and answered any questions that were asked of them during this talk.
We then lined up at the platform and waited with bated breath for our train to arrive. I tried to strike up a conversation with some of the kids while we waited. They were all looking at the escalator and were noticing how it slowed down to a stop when no one was using it. I used that moment to point out to them how the escalator had a sensor that was sensitive to weight. (Boring I know!).
The train arrived and we all poured in and the kids scrambled to get seated. One of the first things I observed once the train started its journey towards MG Road was how cold some of the children were feeling because of air conditioning. I felt bad for not having carried my jacket that day, could have given it to one of those kids.
The kids had their heads turned towards the window for most of the onward commute taking in the sights. I explained how one must go about reading the route displays and upcoming station information. My audience of 4-5 students understood and didn’t have any doubts or questions.
We alighted at MG Road and made our way to the other platform for the return commute. Many of the kids now turned their attention towards each other and us and started striking up conversations.
I too made an effort to speak to the kids on the return commute. I asked a few of the kids their names, which class they were studying in, why they were wearing canvas shoes on that particular day (I used to wear canvas shoes on days when we had PT periods). What their favourite sport was (I was surprised to hear cricket). And I asked them about the DaD football coaching programmes in their school and if they liked it. I also asked them if they were enjoying the outing.
These children are exceptionally well behaved and courteous. They kept addressing me as “sir” till I asked them to drop the “sir” and replace it with “anna” (big brother). They almost immediately complied with a very warm smile. One boy also let me know by what name I could call him. (That wasn’t so hard now was it?) I salute all their parents for having raised their children so well, I am sure you must all be very proud!
We arrived at Byapanahalli station shortly afterwards. And we assembled outside for the wrap up and experience sharing session. While I couldn’t follow what was spoken mostly because it was in Kannada, the look of content and happiness on the faces of the children spoke volumes.
Volunteers were asked to share the feedback, I was a little too tongue tied to say anything meaningful and hence passed up the chance then, but I am going to take the opportunity to do so now.
Thank you for
- helping me understand that the greatest gift one can ever give another person is time and the greatest virtue undivided attention
- reminding me that no matter how grown up I am or appear to be, there is always a little room and time to be a child
- helping me realize that the time I spend with you lighting up your life, you are also lighting up mine, more so
- being underprivileged is a state of mind indoctrinated by social dogma and if you peel away those layers you and I are not so different in what we want and who we are
- helping me appreciate that the real joy of giving is when its unconditional and without expectations
One particularly endearing incident for me during the ride was when this girl caught hold of the hand of a volunteer and pulled her towards her. “Are you having a good time”, she asked the volunteer. “Of course I am happy, I’m spending time with you and if you are happy I am also happy.” replied the volunteer.
Such a selfless gesture from a supposedly underprivileged kid. It was both a turning point of this event and a humbling moment for me. I realized that many aspects of our life are equally underprivileged and impoverished and it takes a kid like this to enrich it as much as we enrich theirs.
I would love to hear how volunteering added more meaning to your life. Do share your experiences below.
About the Author
Dinesh is a mallu but culturally, a mish-mash of Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai, the cities he has lived in and fallen in love with. Poet, calligrapher, compulsive googler, self-proclaimed dogfather of the strays, ardent sports fan (Arsenal, CSK, Michael Jordan), foodie, anti-pop music curator (Underground & Alternative Hip Hop, Electric Blues & Jazz), world movies cinephile and classic car enthusiast, this left-hander tries hard to keep it right-brained (pun intended). By profession, Dinesh is a Marketing and Sales professional and a volunteer at dream a dream.