Monday, February 17, 2014

Shramadaan - a humbling experience!

The past weekend has been a memorable experience for me. 

I have come across a large number of people who want to "change" India. A large number of people are continuously vexed with India. They complain that our country has gone to dogs; we don't have this, we don't have that; we don't know how to do this; our education is bad; our roads are bad etc etc. And then they remain clueless on what impact they can create, or what change they can bring in. Bringing in change does not mean ushering in a revolution. Bringing in change can start at an individual level, by targeting at an individual level too. 

This is precisely what Mr. K. Gangadhar Tilak does on a daily basis. Going forward, I will call him Tilak uncle, because I have known him for many years now :). He was distressed with the state of our roads. The accidents that keep happening because of the potholes moved him. He is a senior citizen, yet did not hesitate to pick up the dambar lying idle on the roads; dump it into his car; take it to the pothole location and filled it. He then quit his job, and started doing this on a daily basis. Since filling up of potholes cannot be done in rainy season, he used to do this even during the peak summer in Hyderabad. 

After individually filling up nearly 500 potholes, he approached the GHMC commissioner. The commissioner, surprised at the dedication of uncle, has agreed to officially provide him with dambar material so that he can continue with this mission. Slowly, others started taking note of this. With the message spreading, many young engineers now join him on his mission almost daily. He gets a lot of support on the weekends, but is mostly on his own on weekdays. 

When Mr. Tilak started his mission, he had no idea on how long it will continue and on how many potholes can be filled. He just started doing it, pothole by pothole, road by road. Today, he has filled 925 potholes in the city of Hyderabad. More than 75% of these, he has done on his own, without support from any volunteer. Most of the time, he did it under blazing sun because sunlight is essential for the drying up of the dambar. He has turned his car into a "Pothole Ambulance". It's not merely a name - this car actually has a lot of material on the back seat and inside the boot. I don't know of anyone who would want to spoil the ambiance of their own car for a cause greater than the individual!

This work of uncle was profiled in many newspapers and TV channels - which helped many volunteers to realise the power of an idea. Those who contribute their time and energy towards this never go back home disappointed - because they know they ushered in change. A positive change. 

I finally got a chance to contribute to this cause - a cause that he has named as "Shramadaan". We identified some potholes that are an irritating impediment to our daily journey. After cursing the government for its laxity for about 2 months, I approached him and along with a colleague, we filled in a few potholes. And when I drove past the same road later in the evening, the sense of contribution that I felt is something that has to be experienced. 

Being a senior citizen, he could have easily relaxed at home, and continue to rue about the state of affairs in this country. He did not - he picked one issue dear to his heart, and started doing work. Tilak uncle is the best example of the quote - "A thousand mile journey starts with a single step". If this story is not an inspiration for us to start implementing our own ideas, then I don't know what is. 

However, please remember that this still does not absolve our government of the laxity in its works. Soon, we will aim to explain why these potholes get created in the first place; what can be done to prevent their formation in some places etc. But for now, I think it is time to stand up and applaud the work a senior citizen of this country is doing - ensuring better roads so that we travel peacefully. 


Post a Comment