December 25, 2017, I saw what loneliness looked like when I visited my mother’s 65-year-old aunt, who we call Mai (meaning grandma) along with my sister.
Dressed in an old nightdress on the bed of her shoebox-sized room, a variety of items lay scattered around her. Bananas she carefully separated from a half dozen bunch, some sliced plum cake, a packet of chaklis and old newspapers. This woman had spent Christmas Eve alone. But there she was wrapping sweets she bought with her own money, in newspapers packets for her neighbours!
We helped her pack them, cleaned the home, treated her to her favourite ice-cream and played Ludo (a game she ingrained a deep love in us for as children) for hours.
Looking back at 2017, I would gladly tick off several things off my list. But the happiness my Mai’s toothy grin at the end of that Christmas night gave me will always remain one of the best memories of 2017.
And that was the day I realised, from academics to the ultimate dream job, there’s always such high goals we set for each coming year, right?
But what if we dedicated 2018 to small, doable acts of kindness?
Could you spend only one day from each month in 2018 to help someone or make them smile?
If yes, then here’s the Better Indian calendar to help you:
While eating food might seem like the easiest option all of us have, cooking certainly isn’t. As India reels from the shuddering cold of the winter months, could you spend some time cooking an underprivileged person or family a hot meal?
Don’t have time to rush through the kitchen? Could you perhaps donate ration/foodgrains to suffice a family for a month with like-minded friends willing to pool in?
The month of love, as most people around the world celebrate Valentine’s day. What if you shared one day, any day you choose, to celebrate and share the love with people who need it the most?
Visit a nursing home, sit with an adult and tell them to talk to you about their happiest memory. It could be anything. From the carefree childhood they left far behind, to the first person they ever fell deeply in love with. We always have a lot to talk about, don’t we? But could you spend a day being a listening ear?
Right from the first week until the end of the month, we see all of social media celebrating powerful women from all walks of life. How about you spend some time with women who might not be as famous as the ones the world celebrates but have had a long-lasting impact on your life?
Could you take your mother out for a meal? Write a note to your sister/wife saying how much you appreciate their presence in your life? Tell your daughter she could be anything she wants to be with positive affirmations/self-talk?
If you wish to help monetarily? You could help raise a new generation of more such powerful women by donating to the education of one underprivileged girl.
This month also marks the celebration of the labour of hands. This National Domestic Workers day, could we appreciate the people who make our lives a little easier every passing day? How about a small role reversal? Your driver drives you every day, could you give him/her a ride back home appreciating their work? Your cook feeds you and your family a meal every day. Could you call him/her with their family over for a meal?
Offer a traffic cop a bottle of water or something cold to drink to beat the scorching heat!
If one small selfless act could brighten up a fellow human’s day, imagine the happiness it could bring to stray animals at a shelter? Could you dedicate one of your holidays to volunteer at a stray shelter? If a day is too difficult to spare, could you help stray animals and birds in your locality get through the summer placing water bowls in selected corners of the streets?
If you live in a city like Mumbai, you’d know the enthusiasm that the first rain and the fear of floods the monsoons bring. While most of us protect ourselves from the downpour by the safe walls of our homes, schools, colleges or workplace, most pavement dwellers and street urchins battle to keep their families safe. Could you donate old or extra umbrellas/raincoats to help them?
June also marks the beginning of a new academic year. And while most parents splurge enough to buy their kids new stationery ranging from bags, uniforms and books, many underprivileged students rely on old textbooks, used uniforms and repairable bags. Could you help one such kid you come across?
Living in the concrete jungle may have disconnected us from experiencing nature at its best, but how about giving yourself a chance to experience nature’s magic by watching life take root at its pace? Could you vow to plant a sapling and nurture it?
If you were brought up in an Indian home, you’d know the happiness of selling kilos of old books and newspapers to the raddiwala, even if it only fetches a few hundred rupees!
How about sharing this happiness with a little twist? Could you hold a community newspaper drive in your neighborhood and donate the money raised, to a cause of your choice?
Malala Yousafai once said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
A better part of who we grow up to become is moulded and impacted by teachers we interact with during our formative years. Be it the positive affirmations inked in the margins of your copy after a test or the last words your teacher uttered on your school farewell, preparing you for the tough world ahead, can you dedicate one day in September to get in touch with one such teacher?
An email, a letter, a call or perhaps a surprise meeting, just to let them know how you’d always be grateful.
How much joy could a book bring you if you find it in the unlikeliest of places? Perhaps in a rickshaw, at a bus stop, on your seat in the local train or a bench in the park!
Could you be a book fairy to someone else this month? Leave a book in the unlikeliest of places with a note of positivity inside for the reader. If you want to keep it a secret, ask them to pass it on to someone later? If you want them to connect with you, leave an email ID where they could write to you!
This festival of lights, rather than spending on crackers, could you help children at an orphanage celebrate by donating money or necessities? If not money, could you perhaps give your time? Hold a fun activity, visit them in a group, read to them or take Diwali sweets?
Tis the season of joyful giving. Christmas goodies, sweets, hot cocoa and gifts, one may wonder what more one could ask for? Every year hundreds of people in the coldest parts of the country struggle to shelter themselves and their families from the biting cold. Could you dedicate a night to walk around the city and donate your old sweaters, blankets, woollen caps and socks to help them?
If you are willing to get on board to do these small acts of kindness every month, share pictures, experiences and stories with us! Hope you make the most of 2018!