The festival of giving
In the year 2009, a bunch of like-minded people came together to celebrate the joy of giving by organising a festival called DaanUtsav (originally called ‘The Joy of Giving’), which kicks off every year on October 2, (Gandhi Jayanti) and concludes on October 8. A few selfless individuals come forward to coordinate this event. There are no rigid guidelines to follow. One can give anything — one’s time, money, knowledge, skill, things, or energy. “The philosophy is simple,” says Umesh, a volunteer. We want people who are already giving to become committed to giving, and help inspire people who are not yet giving, to reinforce the pleasure of giving.”
Several schools, corporates, NGOs, and other individual groups hold events of their choice to celebrate this festival. The only restriction is that they cannot indulge in any kind of smoking and drinking activities. Now, the efforts of the volunteers have started paying dividends. Corporates follow corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan and execute seven days of seven different activities with their employees for DaanUtsav. In 2016, one crore people from 70 towns and cities participated. From free fairs, anti-plastic and environment protection drives, and camps of all sorts to the painting of walls, bridges, and railway stations, activities are undertaken by the groups and volunteers.
In Badamba, Odisha, few people got together, announced a free fair, and did publicity on cycles and other media to encourage people to participate. A group of doctors came up with a stall for free check-ups. A near by chaiwala (tea vendor) came to know about the event and decided to participate by distributing free chai (tea) for all. A childless man happily provided food to many children for free.
While this was happening in Odisha, 25,000 volunteers from various art schools happily participated in the painting of 36 railway stations in Mumbai with the slogan ‘Hamara Station, Hamari Shaan’ (Our Station, Our Pride).
Isn’t it heart-warming to know that a rickshaw union in Bhubaneswar ferried senior citizens for Puri Darshan (Puri Sightseeing) for free during the festival week? What’s more, when the journey became arduous, they arranged a bus service with their own money!
We can all contribute by giving something once or twice a week. As Umesh rightly says, “Giving is the most humbling experience one can have. No amount of money can buy you the happiness earned thereby.”
Converting plastic waste into a free meal!
Often, portions of our food end up in bins and become garbage, but, in a first, garbage turns into food in India’s first Garbage Cafe in Chhattisgarh. It isn’t magic that turns garbage into food but the policy of the Ambikapur Municipal Corporation. The Garbage café, which runs from the city’s bus stand, aims to curb the plastic pollution nuisance and also solves the hunger problem amongst the poor in the city.
At this cafe, any person fetching one kg of plastic waste is offered a full, warm meal, while those collecting 500 gm get a substantial breakfast. Ragpickers and the homeless people benefit from this, as instead of collecting waste for little money, they now have the option to sell the waste or get decent daily nutrition. Many residents have also opted to exchange the plastic waste generated in their homes for a delicious meal at the cafe, whose tagline says, ‘More the waste, better the taste.’
Interestingly, the initiative is not just aimed at collecting the city’s garbage. The garbage collected does not end up in landfills or dumping sites but is systematically and strategically recycled to improve the city’s infrastructure. In the pursuit of discouraging the use of single-use plastics as promoted under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, this initiative uses the plastic waste collected for the construction of greener roads. The plastic is shredded and converted into granules. Mixed with asphalt, the combination makes the roads more durable because water does not permeate it. In fact, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, authorities are mandated to utilise hazardous plastic refuse for road construction, and the city has already constructed a road utilising eight lakh plastic bags!
Manoj Singh, the Municipal Commissioner of Ambikapur says, “There are two reasons why we have started this scheme. First, the growing rise of plastic, particularly carry-bags, has become a serious issue despite running constant checks on various commercial establishments. So, through this, we are trying to address the plastic problem. Second, there are around 100-odd homeless families for whom we will at least provide meals.” Besides offering food, there is also a definitive plan to provide shelter to over 100 homeless people in the city who collect plastic waste.
This scheme is a part of the city’s cleanliness campaign. Under the Central government’s Swachh Survekshan 2019 rankings, Ambikapur was declared India’s second cleanest city, following Indore in Madhya Pradesh, jumping 15 places from last year. Interestingly, the city has no open dumping sites.
Don’t panic. ITs OK.
Sensing the need of the hour, Sumatha Nayak from the Samyak Disha group, along with her colleagues, decided to start the ‘ITsOK Support’ website, a digital platform where people can be helped, counselled, and treated for any kind of mental suffering.
Lockdown has come down on the masses heavily, especially on the population which is influenced by mental stimulation from the outside world. As a result, millions are undergoing stress, anxiety, and depression of some sort. Furthermore, many Indians live with various types of mental illnesses and mental problems, such as social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, personality disorders, etc. No matter how modern we have become, our society still carries the stigma of visiting a psychologist. “Yet many of the mental health issues can be resolved through right communication, listening, plus medicines in select cases,” says Dr Shamala. “At ITsOK, we believe in a holistic approach to any such issues, which will bring a lasting transformation within individuals, families, and our society.”
This group of all-female health experts, professionals, and caring human beings are committed to spreading love, compassion, and healing with professional expertise. Sumatha Nayak says, “Mental illness conditions affect how you think, feel, act, or relate to other people or your surroundings. They are very common. Many people have had one or know someone who has. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and vary from person to person. In many cases, it makes daily life hard to handle. But when an expert diagnoses you and helps you get treatment, you can often get your life back on track. We have done this in the past, and to help more people, we have come up with the site.”
For a young girl or boy, it is extremely difficult to deal with a break-up. It may take years, or some even get into drinking or addiction to overcome the pain. Timely contact with the ITsOK team of experts and careful counselling helped a young girl come out from the trauma of a break-up within a month. In another case, a traumatised young student, who was the victim of ragging in a hostel, was provided help by the ITsOK experts to deal with the situation and move on positively in life.
If you are really in need of a change in your life, want to neutralise your past traumas; want to transmute emotions such as guilt, anxiety, shame, depressive moods, or thoughts; want clarity to life situations; or just want to be heard, then go to www.itsok.support.com, and register yourself. Based on your condition or situation, you will be directed to the right expert who will handhold you through your journey.
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