Joy of giving week
- August 1, 2009
Sometimes I wonder if there are enough occasions that bring us all together as one nation. From childhood whenever we have heard the phrase ‘unity in diversity’, we have yawned. But as most clichés have a kernel of truth, I recently gave it a thought- the celebration of diversity and coming together in unity. Almost all festivals celebrate diversity and are exclusive to one community, religion, caste, region or some distinct group. Even modern ones like the literary festival, music festival or film festival cater to a certain segment of society. So only a festival that appeals to the humanity of people at large, the one that leaves nobody out and brings a smile to everyone who participates in it, can truly be a celebration of unity.
I was fortunate to be introduced to one such initiative called the Joy of Giving Week (JGW). It is a festival where every person can ‘give’ as much, or as little, as he/she wishes to. What they are sure to get in the bargain is pure simple joy! In fact that is the operative word that guides the whole movement. Starting this year on the 27th of Sept. and ending on the 3rd of Oct., JGW will be celebrated every year and it is only befitting that it will always include Gandhiji’s birthday.
The nature of giving will be defined by the giver. So it could be one’s time, skills, resources, money and at the very least passing on of the thought. We all probably already do things that can be defined as an act of giving, but when a whole nation mindfully decides to ‘give’ during the same week, there is a good chance of it being larger than the sum total of its parts. My socio-political training was such that the word ‘giving’ denoted an act of philanthropy that is top down and didn’t change anything systemic. But I have often found myself saying, “ let’s not run away from small actions just because we find ourselves ill-equipped to do big things. Every drop counts”.
The JGW is a small pot, if filled with every drop that we have, it can make a big difference. But then most people will ask, but whose pot are we filling? What is the brand? Where do I begin? What is in it for me? It’s our own pot that we are filling. The brand is simply The Joy Of Giving Week! The festival belongs to each one of us and yet belongs to no one in particular. And to answer the last preempted question, what’s in it for me? I get to live in a more caring world.
The brain and heart behind this simple yet profound idea is Venkat Krishnan. He did the usual US darshan after doing MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and found it quite disturbing that Americans across board gave much more than we Indians. After much reflection he decided that all he wanted to do in his life was to promote the culture of giving. He set up GiveIndia, introduced the idea of running for a cause in the Mumbai and Delhi marathons and then finally came up with the Joy of Giving Week. Over the years he has inspired many people and by his sheer commitment and conviction he has built a large group of volunteers. His excitement of passing the flame is so contagious that it has taken over a good part of my time and passion. I began as an admirer of the initiative and soon found myself completely engulfed by it.
You can start thinking about how you want to add your drop. The easiest way of course would be to go to www.joyofgivingweek.org and join one of the existing initiatives, but better still would be to think of your own creative way of giving. The range is as wide as you can imagine. From dabba wallahs in Bombay spreading the word through every dabba, to auto-rickshaw unions in Chennai doing annadanam. From hospitals doing an organ donation drive to 300 colleges celebrating joyfests with the organization of their choice. From Goonj, an NGO that is going to collect 1 crore pieces of clothes to corporate CEOs walking the ramp to raise funds. What is really encouraging is that individuals and organisations are exploring unbelievable ways of giving back to the society. At the very least, it will create hope in our hearts, that there is still goodness in abundance, that I too am capable of doing my bit, and that we are not alone in being the change we want to see in the world.