Every year, the participants of SPJIMR undertake a project in a social context during summers called Development of Corporate Citizenship (DOCC). It is intended to
1) Enable the participants to apply management concepts to social problems
2) Sensitize the participants to the hardships faced by the poor and the disadvantaged.
Well, I don’t know about the first, since my ‘feedback’ is pending. But, as for the second, I can definitely say that I was desensitized.
I grew up in Mettupalayam, a town famous for its potatoes [yes, potatoes; even vendors in Mumbai sell ‘Mettupalayam potatoes’!!]. Well, its other claim to fame is that the train to Ooty starts from here, the same one atop which a certain Mr. SRK had danced with the oh-so-gorgeous Malaika Arora, to the superb tunes of ARR’s ‘Chaiyyan Chaiyyan’. Well, the other Mr. SRK is not famous, and probably never will be. But, then this story is not about me. Or maybe, it is!!
So, coming back to the story...
I grew in Mettupalayam, and went to school like any other kid. Life was normal, there was no TV, no computer, and no video games; therefore, I was never bored. We studied; did our homework; played cricket with friends… a typical childhood. We did have our little difficulties. The water supply was erratic, and we had to do our bit of running around to get it from the public tap sometimes. The power cut happened for 4 hours a day [they called it ‘load-shedding', a term made fashionable by slimming centres these days!!]. The roads were not too bad [the very fact that there were roads was good enough]. So, we did have our bijli, sadak aur paani... occasionally.
I saw poor orphaned kids running around every day. I was not sensitized. Maybe, I was too young. I saw one of my friends bring an empty lunch box to school, as his father had no income. Well, we did share our food, but I can’t say that I was sensitized.
I saw another friend drop out of school after standard VIII. He went to work in a mechanic shop. God had rolled his dice again. We did play cricket together whenever we had time, but I was definitely not sensitized.
Then, God got addicted to this dice game and rolled it once more. One of my friends passed away after a short battle with ‘blood cancer’ [which btw is Bollywood’s fav disease]. I was shocked, saddenned but definitely not sensitized.
Another friend landed in bad company, and started cutting classes. One day, his parents found out, and he committed suicide rather than face his parents. I vividly remember his limp body hanging from the ceiling fan. Well, I was not yet ready for the ‘sensitization’ bug.
I came to Mumbai. Big, bad city. Lots of slums around. No luck yet. No sensitization for me.
I started teaching. Poor guys. Went to a place in Dharavi. 40 students crammed into a 10 ft x 10 ft room, with a single fan. I was still not sensitized. Maybe because the fan was set facing me. Maybe they decided that students can get 'hot under the collar', but the teacher needs to keep his cool.
I saw a friend struggle with a job, education and two unmarried sisters. He was the sole earning member in his family. No sensitization yet. Maybe, I was stone hearted. Idiyum thangum idhayam, they say ;)
Well, after so many failed attempts to get sensitized, I landed up at SPJIMR. I spent one year in complete luxury, with air conditioned classrooms and laptops. Then they sent us to a village in Hosur for our DOCC. I saw rich farmers struggling for good prices. I saw retail officers squeeze every penny [or should it be paisa?] out of the same rich farmers. I saw the many development efforts taking place.
I’m supposed to say that I have been sensitized [three damn credits depend on that one statement!!!]. Well, yes respected ladies and gentlemen, this DOCC project has really sensitized me. I cried at the plight of the farmers [If the rich ones faced so many problems, what did the poor guys do?].
I have played my part. Your turn to roll the dice, God.