Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fifty for Four.....

Fifty for four –Not a Cricket Story.

Now if you have come here thinking that is a post about cricket sorry to disappoint you it is not. The one about cricket is actually going to be my next post. This one is about more mundane matters like the shenanigans which goes on in the name of social service. I know, I know, I keep harping on this same topic again and again, driving you away, but bear with me, I need to de-tox a few festering thoughts from my mind and let go of the angst and anguish I feel. And what better way to do it then to blog about it. So here goes.

Yesterday I was at an orphanage for a free medical camp. There were four of us on the medical team - two children's specialists, a general medicine specialist and me. When we introduced ourselves to each other the other doctors said, only half-jokingly, that I would be the one with the least amount of work to do- just to check the kids and write the prescriptions for unlike them I didn’t need to deal with the sort of diseases which all kids carried. But in that they were mistaken as I ended up getting more and more patients than the others simply because the kids were very bright and as soon as they realized that I was the only one who was actually glad to be there for them while the rest had come for mere formality's sake, the kids started lining up in front of me even for diseases I was not supposed to treat. This did cause some muttering and murmuring among the other doctors but in the end they just let it go because after all it was less work for them.

So dealing with the large crowd of kids in front of me was a satisfying but tiring work and took all day till I finally took a break for lunch. When I enquired among the orphanage people for nearby restaurants- it was a new area for me and I had no idea where to go for lunch, the man in charge made, I suppose, a half-joking proposal that I could share their noon meal with them. To his surprise (horror?) I immediately acquiesced enthusiastically and went down to the common dining hall where all the kids were lined up with their plates. I grabbed a plate too and joined up the line in the back while the other doctors made faces of disgust and signs of vomiting at the quality of the food served to the orphanage kids and went away to a nearby "decent" restaurant to have their lunch after advising me to start antibiotics immediately for the umpteen number of diseases I was likely to get after eating that food.

I disregarded their prejudiced advice and stayed on with the kids and soon I was served with the same one scoop of lemon rice and one scoop of curd rice with lime pickle the orphan kids (all my patients) were being served and I sat down to eat with them in a sama bandhi bhojanam style. I didn’t do it to make a point to anyone else; I did it simply because I felt that for that one day at least I should share with their lifestyle, Oliver twist style. We take many things for granted in our lives and bitch about silly things all the time and it takes such occasions to open our eyes and show us the truth of the privileged lifestyles we lead. I was happy with that simple meal mainly because of the enervating company all around and I went back in a fully recharged mood to the auditorium where we had arranged our medical camp for the post lunch session. 

Meanwhile the group of three doctors who had gone restaurant hunting had returned in quite a bad mood from the local restaurant they had selected for their own lunch. They came up to me and asked me "hi did you eat that slop only from their kitchen or did they give you anything else?” I answered truthfully bewildered at this line of questioning "I only had what everyone else had". Then one of them piped up "Did you know that the volunteers from the NGO who had arranged this camp had ordered fifty full meals (packaged meals) from the Adyar Ananda Bhavan (a costly restaurant) for the camp participants and the food had been delivered here while we had gone away?". This was a surprise to me too and they could see it on my face so they started giving me more information "The cost of the food has been added to the camp expenditure account says the orphanage in-charge which means that the food has been written on our account- as if we had eaten it". I was perplexed at this creative accounting "but even so why? Why fifty meals for just four of us? And that too without informing us about the meals being ordered?” The child specialist was livid with rage "Exactly my point, why should we spend our own money to have our food when we are just doing charity work for free? Shouldn't they have given us food for the service we do".

I started to argue with them regarding the absurdity of this statement - given that what they earn in fees for a month would probably run the orphanage for a year but on reflection kept my mouth shut as I was sure they wouldn't understand the fine distinction between doing something with expectations and doing it for gratis. Anyhow the main point of interest here was where had the fifty meals gone and to clear it up I requested the orphanage staff to ask the two lady volunteers who had arranged the camp to come up to us so I can ask them what was going on. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the two lady volunteers from the NGO had taken charge of the food parcels and had already left the orphanage for their office concluding their business here for the day.

Well, I accept that given my limited knowledge I don’t really know what goes on behind organizing these kinds of camps and how accounts are written and settled but it seems to be a bit farfetched to write down fifty meals for just four of us and meals which we hadn't even seen too. If they had needed fifty meals for their home office why hadn't they ordered it to be delivered there directly? Why wait to take delivery here and leave with them? Or did they just write down the number in their accounts without ordering anything? Mysteries more puzzling than my limited imagination can give me answers for.

But what I can’t digest is that the money which such ngo's spend for these kinds of charitable events is our money - the common mans money which people like you and me donate for the needy. It’s not throwaway money but money which we could use too for our day to day life to make our lives better but instead we make the conscious decision to donate it to someone who needs it more than us. And money is not earned easily (not unless you are a politician) for I have known people, like my friends from the it industry, who work twelve straight hours a day not counting the two hours spent on commuting up and down the OMR corridor from their homes -who donate their money (as they have no time to donate) in the hope that some good may be done to society from their hard work and sweat.

To take that kind of hard earned money from unknown goodhearted individuals and to misuse it like this seems a betrayal of the worst kind to me. Nowadays social work seems to be a code word for eating off the rest of society. The kind of people who are involved in social work are mostly crooks and misfits who cannot earn an honest living anywhere else. And they seem to come up with creative plans for tugging at our heartstrings to fill their bellies with luxurious foods while poor little kids starve. I know it’s not fashionable to have a conscience nowadays but I wish such social cheats who champion the cause of the unfortunates with sweet words and make use of gullible people like you and me- just for once look in the faces of those kids- kids as young as five and six with no parents, no roof and no food before they steal the food from the mouths of such kids.

On the other hand if they had even a little conscience they wouldn't be doing social work would they? They would be doing some honest work, earn money and then do social work with their own money, not go around with a begging bowl asking for others money. So what do you think?

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