Friday, April 24, 2009

On Sweeping Dust and Just is it that is Growing in My Nose?

One of the things that is most notable in New Delhi is the dust. It’s everywhere as no road seems truly finished, as there is a lot of building taking place for not only the 2010 Commonwealth games, but for completion of the Metro, flyovers and various other building projects. Roads are covered in dust, buildings are covered in dust, mangy dogs and cows are covered in dust. When I take an evening shower I can feel the layer of dust rolling off of me. I think that my feet will never again be truly clean.

Some people wear masks over their faces, most don’t. As I walk to the bus that will bring me to the Metro station, I notice many people sweeping the dust to get rid of the garbage that accumulates along the side of the road. So why would someone sweep dust which fly’s into the air and then lands back on the side of the road? I’m not really clear about this, except it does seem to get rid of the garbage. The dust is still there and doesn’t seem to go away as there isn’t much rain. But yet, people keep sweeping the dust.

All of this of course leads to quite strange things growing in my nose. Hopefully my nose hairs are filtering out all of the dust and whatever else I’m breathing in these days. It does make for very interesting people watching. I must say that I’ve gotten into it myself, that is trying to determine what exactly is growing in my nose. As you can imagine the mornings are particularly interesting, never knowing quite what will turn up in my tissues after blowing my nose. Use your imagination or better yet, just come for a visit.

As I’m learning from my two weeks in my job, the amount of need in India is huge. I think on some level I will be able to help, to make a small contribution, a dent, to help build some capacity, to teach some fundraising skills, to develop some strategic plans, to maybe help with some exporting opportunities. Then, of course is the other side.

Yes, we have poverty in the U.S. and it is horrible. In India, poverty stares one in the face whenever one is out walking about. As I was walking home tonight after the metro bus dropped me off, I noticed for the second time in a couple of days a man sitting in the dust. His legs seemed to be fairly mangled and he seemed to be very small. He wasn’t begging but I couldn’t just walk by without giving him a rupee. I haven’t made a practice of this because I have a small salary and I just don’t have enough to give out a rupee or two to every person that I see in this predicament. This entire act of giving this man even one rupee made me think about how I could really help, is anything actually possible?

Children ask me for money all of the time, bringing their hands to their mouths, indicating that they need food. If this doesn’t work they bring their 5 month old sibling to show me this as well. Mothers are not shy about this type of begging either. Am I helping by making a donation of a rupee or two?

It’s not that I can’t help out, but in the long run is it doing any good or causing a dependence and do those people need this money to live on? I don’t really know the answer to this.

If I can rationalize I am actually helping out by being in India and working for the National Trust as I have the opportunity to touch many lives through the 800+ partner NGO’s. Can I really help to develop sustainable infrastructure for some of those partner organizations and to the National Trust? Of course I have to believe that I can, otherwise it might be much too overwhelming. In fact it is overwhelming and is very difficult to imagine. I haven’t seen the full impact of poverty, pollution, too many people and not enough resources, but I may get the opportunity as I will be traveling in my job in order to help build capacity.

Maintaining a great deal of positive attitude is always helpful, no matter what one is doing in life. Letting negativity slip in, even for an instant, can have very detrimental effects upon how one approaches their job and their life. Is it naïve to think that one can really make a difference? I wonder why this question keeps popping up?

Let’s see how it all works out from a very pro-active perspective. This morning as I was hanging my sheets out to dry, I noticed a person with a broom sweeping the garbage from the dust which went into the air and settled back down to its home in the alleys of New Delhi.

1 comment:

Mark Takefman said...

You do make a positive difference Mike, some of which you will never know about, but in the end, even though you can't supply all the beggars, that one rupee now and then is a part of the butterfly effect.