The glory and the notoriety

The country responsible for 35 percent of the world’s poverty is also a home to 122 billionaires (fifth in the worlds list of nations with the greatest number of high net worth individuals) and 158,000 millionaires.

It is a land of tropical diseases, malnutrition and other major concerns; ranking 112th in healthcare system out of 190 countries, while simultaneously participating in outstanding research and achieving breakthroughs in the medical field.

Infrastructure in the nation is lacking, even when thousands of students graduate as engineers every year.

Food grains are rotting away, yet there is an increase in demand for grains, reversing the export of the same to importing them.

It is proud of its innovations and inventions, and yet, ranks 136th in the Human Development Index.

Welcome to India, the country of extremities. Bad governance is common and corruption is our pledge and a cry for help, our anthem.

Is this what we really want? A country where the world’s institutions are maintained to assist just the 30 percent of the population?

Indians = Frogs (?)

Let me tell you a story I recently came across from the novel The Oath of Vayuputras by Amish Tripathi.

A man once dropped a frog in a pot of boiling water. The frog immediately jumped out.

He then placed another frog in a pot of cold water, and the frog settled down comfortably. The man slowly began to raise the temperature of the water. The frog adapted to the increasing warm and eventually hot temperatures, until it died without making any attempt to escape.

I was struck by the simplicity of the story. It obviously resembles today’s societal’ indifference to unfair situations. Forget unknown strangers, people are hesitant to help even their own family and friends.

How can we, as a group of socially conscious individuals, bring people away from their comfort zones to encourage them to try to make a difference in the society?

Here is my two cents to the question:

  1. The people around you are influenced by your actions– small or big. Live as an example, and let others learn from you.
  2. Give a gentle push (for some it tends to be a shove), to involve your friends/family in events you take part in.

As Francois de La Rochefoucauld said, “nothing is as contagious as example; and we never do any great good or evil which does not produce its like.”

AID started with just two people and lived up to its motto. It went on to be the change it wanted to bring to society. A change emerged with the hundreds of individuals, spread over four continents, joining and strengthening the organization. Not a mean feat.

Ingredient in AID

With this year’s Taste of India, I have completed a year of being a part of AID. It has been one terrific roller coaster ride. In this past year, I helped with organizing the Independence Day event, the Welcome Picnic for the “freshers”, the Bollywood Night show, and coordinated volunteers to manage the food stall at PSU football games, and now, the Taste of India.

Each event/activity has had its own share of incredible stories. Of course, coordinating for the football games takes the prize:begging and blackmailing volunteers to attend, prepping the stall in the cold wind, trying to be accurate when managing the cash till, getting weird requests from drunken customers, even weirder conversations, sending back volunteers with a heavy heart who forgot their ID’s (including myself for the OSU game)…the stories just go on (And hats off to those few volunteers braving snow/ rain/ sun hawking on the stands during the games!).

I have also observed that the Indian community of Happy Valley is a big treasure for the AID-Penn State chapter. Community members always invest their time, energy and financial resources to make every event a successful fundraiser. A big SALUTE to them too!

To each and every volunteer who helped in their own way: you are an inspiration. Your efforts make a difference in a lot of people’s lives in India. Thank you to each of you. In the words of Tom Brokaw, “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

India has always been, and still is, a spiritually vibrant and culturally rich country. Its heritage, traditions and values are things that we should be proud to be associated with. Let us revive our country’s glory. Only a collective effort can create an impact.


Taste of India, 2013 (right before the event started)

* AID’s motto – Be the change you wish to see in the world (M.K Gandhi)

**This article was published in Association for India Development (AID)-Penn State’s annual magazine, Sankalp, released at their spring fundraiser (Taste of India) .