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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

This Kind of Charity...

As I wind up for the long weekend some thoughts visit me uncalled.

One morning [long long ago] after the assembly prayers, the school's principal announced about the importance of helping people who are less privileged.  'Let us all collect money for CHARITY'. It was the first time I heard that word. The girl who stood behind me in the assembly line was a compulsive speller. She spelled it out in my ears see-aich-aye-aar-aie-tee-vai. [I suddenly remembered my class teacher from the previous school - Miss Charity who was Mercy Daniel's mother. They had the same face, also same earrings - shiny white pearl studs held by golden claws].

The assembly was dispersed and we all came back to our classes without making a noise as there were line monitors, floor monitors and others watching us as we marched, back to our seats. After attendance, class teacher Miss Malini gave us a packet each. 'You all know what you have to do. Let our class win. And the child who brings highest donation will get a surprise gift from me'. Her eyes twinkled!

Actually I didn't pay attention to what the principal said as I was probably revisiting Ms Charity's pearl earrings [and wasn't sure if the pearl in her earrings were slightly bigger than her daughter's].

The packet had 'Helpage India' coupons. Each of us were handed 10 booklets. Each booklet had 10 leaves. One leaf was for Rs10. [Ok, you do the math please!]. The girl who stood behind me [the spelling expert] was also the class topper and sat just behind me. Anytime I was confused I could just turn around and she would make sure the world made better sense. She pressed her fingers on the forehead and said in her all-knowing-wisper - 'Didn't you hear what Principal sir said? The class that collects the highest amount will bag a special price.' She continued spilling knowledge generously... spelling out the two words that sounded the same - principal and principle. I wrote a sentence using the two words and showed it to her. She giggled and continued in her all-knowing-wisper 'You should have told you want to be a writer yesterday, when miss asked about careers. see-aie-aar-eee-eee-aar-ess.' In my little head, I thought everyone knew to write so that did not qualify as a work/job/profession etc. I was confused. I still am! [ahem!]

That was it! Our lives changed. Competition ran in and the act of kindness just got weird.

Back home each child had to convince parents to pay or allow them go out to collect money. My apartment building had two more children who joined me in the school bus. There were 10 more apartment buildings in the society and we were 11 kids who went to the same school. The bus stopped at every society in that row. There were about 5 of them from where children climbed in. The girl who knew everything came in another bus else she would have told me how many leaflets would be collected from Bus no 13 alone!

Children stopped playing after school... bullied by teachers and peer pressure went on a collecting spree. Parents spread it further to their workplaces. I remember a child in my class donated 50,000 rupees. A big amount. And our class won the price. [Honestly I don'y remember my contribution... I think mother tore off few leaflets and paid me whatever its worth was... and told me to take this off my list to wander about ringing calling bells of neighbours. I was doing it a bit much - just about anything was important enough to stay out of the house playing!]

Principal announced the winning class and the child was called to join him on the podium. Everyone clapped. A voice from behind whispered - 'Does the Principal have any principle?' She remembered the sentence constructed the other day. ;)

PS: I completely forgot why I started writing on charity today. Honestly it bugs me when this kind of stuff is done for just publicity/fame or to bag a price/scholarships/other benefits. Today so many are standing out from the crowd that they are a crowd on their own. It is tough to be ordinary ;)

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