Boundary of Benevolence!

18 May

Swamy isn’t much of a spokesperson or a person who speaks to other persons a lot, but he indeed spoke to his kid brother (cousin actually, but brother nevertheless, if you go beyond that mile long Nakshatra & Rasi list read always wrongly in front of the family deity for his blessings 😉 and his mom (Swamy’s aunt, who incidentally went to school along with Swamy – what can one say, ‘active grandparents’ :O), twice – minutes before the results of +2 (aka H.Sc aka 12th grade or standard) were out and a few minutes later. Like any keen student who is burdened by the rote learning education system with no known escape, he wasn’t too happy with the marks he secured, despite scoring a fantastic 96.5%, which is no less than exceptional. Such is the rotten sorry state of education, about which Swamy has ranted a bit in What Say Doting Parent! sometime ago.

LL1Since Swamy has been engaged in the education sector someway, by helping brilliant but economically challenged students in his hometown, thru the NGO Meenakshi Vidhyapeet Trust (started by his 82 year young father-in-law Shri N. Subramaniam, popularly known as NS, over a decade ago & now managed by a board of trustees with him continuing to be actively engaged as a Mentor), he not only shared his pov (cheerful, naturally – his cousin’s an aspiring youngster, after all 🙂 but chose to share a few more inputs with those who care (that obviously includes Swamy’s loyal readers such as you) to ponder.

LL8Swamy’s kid brother has scored fantastic marks (1158 / 1200) in the final year of schooling, especially since he isn’t in the lose-lose engineering / medical race (that most parents pretty much force their wards to prepare for & choose), which require all the marks under the sun – especially for the consciously neglected OC group that we belong to, in a state that brazenly continues with an unconstitutional 69% of quota in all forms of education (and in all probability, employment as well). So, getting a seat in a good city College should be a piece of cake for him. But…

“But what if I don’t get a seat in that top XYZ College with these marks?”

This is a disease that has already consumed the entire school education sector and is already becoming an epidemic in the higher education space as well.

LL4In case you live in a cave in Gupt Kashi, parents in Tamilnadu stand in a serpentine queue, long before the Sun wakes up to wake you and everyone else, to get the admission form for their child’s admission in… wait… take a deep breath… PLAY SCHOOL! And that form doesn’t even guarantee an actual admission, helping the umpteen schools with high brand value rake in the moolah with just form sales. The multi-tier complex fee structure that will confound even Raghuram Rajan comes into play after an entrance exam – right from LKG – and in-person interview of both the child & parents. If you haven’t got that WTF expression on your face yet, you’re certainly one of those parents, with a Whoa expression! :{}

Pause here for a moment and imagine thousands of children who not only don’t get to choose their school (RTE is supposed to help them get educated) and who can’t even continue their education without support from a few benevolent souls – year after year!

LL10Most parents have a plan for their child’s education (which in all probability is something connected with what they failed to accomplish or to ensure continuity of what their current profession is). The ones that plan their child’s education aren’t obviously poor (in the right sense of that oft abused word) and that plan typically will be steered (and most probably funded as well) by close relatives as well. Those who don’t have a direct say in that planned pursuit, will extend their collective goodwill, guidance and – if & only if requested – assistance, as & when required. But…

But there are thousands of children (probably millions – at a national level), brilliant ones, who live in abject poverty and can’t / won’t continue their education, without external assistance, which their parents may not even be aware of – in terms of how, who & where. 

LL2Let’s rekindle your memory (presuming you’re a long-term Swamy reader) with an example. Shri NS (Swamy’s 82 years young, socially active, inspirational father-in-law) has been helping brilliant but economically challenged children continue their education, for over a decade, thru Meenakshi Vidhyapeet Trust in Madurai. These children, all of whom are as eager as your and my child to study, have no means whatsoever to continue their education, on their own. Their fathers typically are daily wage laborers and mothers are servant maids or homemakers. Many of them have more than one child, when they can’t assure a better future – comparatively, of course – to even one. Your heart will bleed and you’ll certainly be moved to tears if you meet & interact with them (you can – during the annual fund giving day – scheduled on June 26th in 2016).

2009_PerformancesKnowing how dire the situation is, Swamy and many other kind souls connected with Shri. NS go out with a virtual begging bowl, requesting their near, dear & acquaintances for donation, to ensure continuity of the education for these children – varying from primary school to professional degree. You’ll be surprised at the magnitude of benevolence shown by people, which is minuscule (compared to what’s required). Generosity always seems to be slumbering, especially when year after year, we practically beg people to help those who really need help. A 500 here or a 1000 there is a nice gesture but also just a notional one. Many don’t even respond. We’ve become immune to such conscious ignorance by now, but never let it deter us from seeking help.

LL7Sevalaya is another example. Located in a nondescript village on the outskirts of Chennai, this school secures 100% pass in both XII and X standard, year after year. They offer free education to poor and orphaned children, only thru benevolence of donors. Of course, it’s far well known than Meenakshi Vidhyapeet Trust and receives a lot of corporate funding too. Sivananda Gurukulam on the other side of Chennai is yet another.

There are numerous NGOs and individuals who are doing their bit to enable a few hundreds or thousands who are in need. But in reality there are millions more who genuinely need help.

Campaign3_2014The stark contrast between well publicized so-called success stories of hard work resulting in sky high marks and state level ranks (and, of course, the ever rising brand value of the popular schools that keep churning such rote champions out, year after year after year) and students who have no assurance of even completing their education is so alarming that one can’t help but wonder Why (and what can be done by each and every one of us)!

Despite his open apathy for his own species’ abject stupidity in whatever they do (reflected in many of his sharp – daily – quotes), Swamy never fails to mull about (& share) whatever little that can be done to change the attitude at least a wee bit and ignite action from at least a small percentage of them. So, here goes his take on the human beings’
Boundary of Benevolence!

LL9All humans are benevolent (well, almost all, one must accept reality) by nature.

But for whatever incomprehensible reason, they’re convinced that they don’t have to express it in any way – beyond their own family, that is. Humans remain convinced “My responsibility is limited to taking care of my family.” True, but Really!

Blog_Campaign_2012_1Ls

Most humans don’t express their benevolence in any way.

These are the “it’s not my problem yaar” or “what can I do yaar” type.
There’s water on the road ~ it’s not my problem yaar!
Politicians suck ~ what can I do yaar!
The dog catcher has taken away the mommy of 5 newborn stray puppies ~ it’s not my problem yaar!
Millions of poor children can’t continue their education ~ what can I do yaar!
You get the drift…

Many humans don’t go beyond tokenism, when it comes to helping others.

These are the “500 here 1000 there” type.
We’re offering Annadhanam for over 3 lakh seekers on Mahashivaratri ~ “here’s my contribution – Rs.500”
We’re conducting annual Car Festival in the local temple ~ “here’s my contribution – Rs.100”
We’re helping 60 poor children continue their education ~ “here’s my contribution – Rs.1000”
They’re obviously better than the first two characters, but there’s a predetermined limit to what they contribute to which. And that limit hardly ever gets a raise!

LL11Few humans step beyond the tokenism and actually offer meaningful help, to the genuinely needy.

These are the “I take care of my driver’s or servant maid’s child’s education” or “I regularly contribute to xyz cause” type.

While obviously commendable – compared to the first 3 types – they are often not too keen on extending their benevolence to causes or organizations that aren’t well known to them personally. Such limited perspective of the varied needs of the world usually limits their benevolence to a bunch of handpicked organizations, some of whom may already be well funded!

Even fewer humans actually get involved in making a difference, in someone’s Life, even if that person or organization isn’t connected to them in anyway.

These are people willing to explore the many options to expand their giving.
Open to listening to what’s the purpose of an individual or organization’s cause.
Keen on extending the range of their benevolence, at times directly related to their own income stream (
for example, a raise in their regular income may actually result in an increase in their charity spend).
The challenge is finding such benevolent humans, since most of them prefer to remain away from the public glare or publicity, which could result in many not-so-genuine entities from pestering them for funds, all year long.

Only a handful of humans actually end up changing the world, at whatever level they can, in whichever area they choose to.

These are the Shri. NS type of people. Not all such humans are celebrities or even well known outside their circle of admirers and supporters.

LL3Shri NS isn’t a rich man. But he had a singular vision, driven by a purpose he totally believed in – to ensure continuity of education for needy students. Here’s a snapshot of his meticulous journey of selfless benevolence, steering Meenakshi Vidhyapeeth Trust, single-handedly for the first few years, for a decade now.

  • He went about finding children who needed financial assistance to continue their education – starting with the poor neighbourhood.
  • He would make their parents fill a detailed form (he was a government servant after all – all his professional life) and promptly cross verify the details provided (talk about accountability – the funds received have to go only to those who truly deserve it).
  • He’ll then go about contacting people known to him and request funds, never forgetting to send them a formal letter of request and invite for the finds giving event. And request them to request funds from more people known to them. For example, Swamy being his son-in-law will be requested by NS, who in turn will request his colleagues, friends & relatives.
  • He’ll ensure all the funds raised are deposited in a bank account created exclusively for this purpose (accountability, once again) and a receipt is issued to each and every donation – however small it is.
  • He’ll plan the funds giving day well ahead and communicate to many, requesting each of them to be present, in person (only a few turn up, unsurprisingly).
  • He’ll meticulously prepare a case register, with each filled form, with his own notes highlighting anything that’s worth notice and hand it over to the panel of dignitaries (many of whom are now part of the board of trustees) invited to hand over the donations.
  • He’ll organize an in-person interview of each student, along with the accompanying parent(s), to not only check their credentials and current status but also to offer a piece of appropriate advice – personalized, as he known almost all of them personally.
  • He’ll ensure at least one more dignitary, unrelated to the NGO, to be present on D-Day, to address the gathering of beneficiaries and offer valuable advice. This is over and above the speeches given by the board of trustees.
  • He’ll organize seating and free food for the event – at his own expense (from his retirement savings).
  • He’ll ensure all the funds collected are disbursed to students on D-Day itself – somehow or other. Next year comes only next year!
  • On conclusion of the event, he’ll ensure the disbursement details are meticulously documented and send a copy of the event summary and funds disbursed by name, category, et al, to each trust member and also some of the highest contributors.
  • Occasionally, but always regularly, he’ll contact the students or their parents to check the continuity of education & progress made
  • He’ll restart and complete the cycle diligently, year after year

LL5About 7 students who have received financial assistance from Meenakshi Vidhyapeet Trust have now graduated and secured jobs in large organizations – including IT behemoths. These are children who didn’t have much hope of even continuing their education. Many of them don’t know who all helped them, but remain indebted to Shri. NS as their saviour (though he himself humbly remains only a conduit – simply connecting the donors with beneficiaries). These achievers (yes, in the true sense of that word) are now being included as active members of the Trust. They’ll be the ambassadors who’ll take the reach of the Trust far and beyond what Shri. NS and the trust members can. They’ll eventually become members of the Trust board itself.  

Our Boundary of Benevolence can be as non-existent as the first category of I-Me-Mine people, or as broad as the last Shri. NS kind of humans, or anywhere amidst these two categories.

As ever, what we can do remains boundless and what we really do is bounded – by faith, belief, relationships, ideals, preconceived notions, etc. But the choice to do something purposeful, in order to be someone valuable, is always ours.

Blog_Campaign_2012_3LsMeenakshi Vidhyapeet Trust will give away the funds raised to deserving students this year too – on 26-June-2016, at Madurai.

You can contribute funds for this year’s event (directly transferred online to the Trust account or via cheque or as cash), irrespective of whichever category you belong (known only to you).

You can explore a bit and take the responsibility of funding one or more children’s education, for one or more year (do ping Swamy or Shri NS, if you’re an explorer for details & guidance).

You can expand a bit and request your near, dear & acquaintances to contribute funds (feel free to use the details shared in this post or ping Swamy for any custom messages).

You can expand a bit more and directly engage with the Trust – as an active member (you obviously have to meet Shri. NS to get started on this enchanting journey, which could turn out to be a rewarding lifelong pursuit).

What you do (or not) will always remain your choice. But whatever you do (or not), keep in mind this (not just for joining hands with Meenakshi Vidhyapeet Trust, naturally 🙂

LL6The Circumference of your Compassion
Is limited only by
The Boundary of your Benevolence!

Be joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

~ @PrakashSwamy

Additional Related Reading…

3x3x3 Life Matrix! (Swamy’s address to Meenakshi Vidhyapeeth Trust beneficiaries & parents in 2014)

Yes We Can – Light the Lamp! (published for Meenakshi Vidhyapeeth Trust’s initiative in 2013)
The Purpose of Life! (Swamy’s message to Meenakshi Vidhyapeeth Trust beneficiaries in 2013)
ஒத்த தறிவான் உயிர்வாழ்வான்! (Swamy’s message to Meenakshi Vidhyapeeth Trust beneficiaries in 2013, in Tamizh)
Whoa to Wow! (published for Meenakshi Vidhyapeeth Trust’s initiative in 2012)
Choice = Chance! (published for Meenakshi Vidhyapeeth Trust’s initiative in 2012)
What Say Doting Parent! (Swamy’s rant on the rotten rote-based education system & insights for parents to change the course for their children)
Light the Knowledge Lamp video by Swamy on YouTube
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