Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a talk at ISB Hyderabad by Dr. Ganesh Natarajan on the digital transformation India is experiencing. He made a great point that if every techy Indian just makes two people digitally literate, we might soon live in a different nation we all like to dream about, blame others for, and discuss in big conference rooms etc! I couldn’t agree more!
I have employed a lady, Mary, who helps me in cleaning my house. She is too young to be a mother of two daughters. The elder daughter is about six years old, very smart and dedicated to studies. The younger one, 3 years old, is a naughty package. I wonder sometimes what it will take for them to get a jump in the family income, and for their daughters to dress up nicely, read and write well, and become leaders themselves. And once I identify the way, can I play a role in that journey, no matter how little or big that role would be?
I asked her to bring along her kids in the evening so I can teach them. Thanks to Teach For India for giving me a peek into the amazing potential these kids behold and my own learning in their journey to leadership!
It has been already a month I see them from my balcony, playing in the street, studying in group, and dressing up for school etc. But only when they formally started coming to our house for tuition, I noticed that they don’t have slippers. It’s not really an economical problem to afford a pair of slipper for them. It’s more of a priority, or the need to have one. I asked Mary to buy them slippers, otherwise I won’t teach them. Period. Next day the kids appeared in slippers.
Then I realized their hair were not properly oiled, combed or tied. I did their hair for couple of days myself, now they come nicely dressed, well combed and in slippers! Now, I am planning to give them mobile training (a similar session I have taken in my community last year with my school kids and their parents!)
This thing hasn’t costed me a penny, but has done a huge positive outlook change for them. The impact is as small as I never even thought of it, but when I heard Ganesh talking about the same thing, I realized that instead of waiting for doing great things one day, abusing government to do it always, and not doing anything at all, taking small step yourself might make a difference – in your life and in others!
Ganesh also beautifully answered when somebody in the audience asked that why at all we should do things that otherwise government should do. He said that we all owe something to somebody in different parts of the world for who we are today and how we live so comfortably. Just today while I was travelling in train and writing this piece, I took a natural break.
After doing my business in the great India toilet in the train, I got reminded of the fact that someone still cleans the human shit from their bare hands in our country. What I am doing to change that? And by the way if you think that by paying for the train tickets, you have taken care of everything, you’re wrong. No amount of money is ever justified for cleaning human shit from bare hands. Would you ever do that for even the most ridiculously high pay-cheque?
I hope you get the message clear – the future of our nation lies in your hand, right here!
Appreciate your thoughts on this.
Swati is the General Manager of Social Venture Partners (SVP) Hyderaad, where she builds powerful partnerships with non-profit organisations to tackle India's most pressing social challenges. SVP is the world's largest network of engaged philanthropists, with over 3,200+ investor-donors across more than 40 cities worldwide. Swati is a Teach For India Fellow - she has taught 100 girls for two years in a slum community in New Delhi. She has previously worked with Hedge Funds for four years as a consultant in New Delhi and New York. Swati holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science from the Institute of Engineering and Rural Technology.