Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting and giving

Here in Vellore, we are in the middle of the Teaching Mission week. And by the grace of God, I am here and get to listen to Dr. Sam Kamalesan expound the Word with anointing - what a blessing. The theme for the teaching mission is Godliness with Contentment and yesterday, one of the things which struck me was a story he told about Kiran Bedi, our first woman IPS officer. When she was passed over for promotion, a reporter asked her if she was upset. She said she believed in transformational leadership rather than transactional leadership and hence was not too concerned. In contrast to a leadership style epitomised by the 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine' mentality, she believed in one where you give, and give, and give and keep on giving. And then after a pause she said, "Like a missionary...."

And as Dr Sam told us medical professionals in the audience to give our skills away, I was struck by the fact that it is so very difficult. Rather like the camel going through the eye of the needle. Our human tendency and practice is to get rather than give. And not just take what is our right, but grab everything that is in our reach and fight bitterly with our neighbour, who, of course, is trying to do the very same thing. And as I thought about this, I remembered one of my experiences on the train ride from Ranchi for the EMFI conference.

The rail gaadi that transported me to and from my old haunts in Jharkhand is probably the slowest 'express' train in India. The Alleppey-Bokaro express, that has now been extended to Dhanbad stops literally every 15-20 minutes especially in some parts of Andhra and Orissa. Of course, there is great improvement in 7 years since I last took the trip. The train was only 2 hours late (in comparison to days..!!) and we had electricity and water the whole way!! But one thing hasn't changed much. The second-class compartment used to transform into an unreserved compartment the moment we reached North Orissa and Bihar. This time, as the conference was in the Dassehra holidays, there were a huge number of people returning home from their work in Kerala (where it is generally considered below a Malayali's dignity to do manual work and hence there is a large migrant worker population - of course, in the Gulf, a Malayali will do anything, but that's another story!!). So when I boarded the train in Vellore, the compartment was already full. And there was no question of anyone moving. We all enjoyed the archetypal Indian custom - Adjusting!! At one point there were 10 extra people in our coupe (in addition to the 8 who had reserved tickets). Believe you me, I counted!! Surprisingly, once we realised there was no alternative (one of the add-ons told us that the Ticket Collector had already been paid off!!), we adjusted quite well and slept 2-3 per berth. Interesting experience...

But the story I am referring to took place on the return journey (the previous paragraph was just to fill up space!!). This time, it was quite comfortable as there were very few extra people walking around. Now in my coupe was a family with a small boy for whom a ticket had to be bought, but who preferred to sleep with the mother. That meant one berth was vacant. The first night, some lucky soul saw the berth empty and slept on it. On the other side of the coupe was a gentleman whose pastime appeared to be aggressive bargaining with every trader who passed by. I remember one old lady selling peanuts or in Railway brogue, 'timepass'. She was offering a good amount for Rs.5, but even here our friend could not help but say "4 Rupees"!! The lady left in a huff!! Towards evening on the second day, this gentleman had a long, hushed conversation with the father of the small boy. And sometime later I heard him tell a passerby that he could have a berth for Rs.100. And there it was - the typical human tendency taken to the extreme. This gentleman had his eyes open at all times seeking an opportunity to grab something for himself. Even if it meant selling something that was not his and for which he had paid nothing.

As I listened to Dr. Sam begging us health professionals in one of the biggest hospitals in the country to give our skills away, I understood exactly what he was talking about. And I had the sinking feeling that it would be very difficult for us..... Because of our innate human tendency to get rather than give.... Because, like the rich young ruler in the Bible, we health workers have great wealth, great learning and great pride..... How hard for the rich man to enter the Kingdom.....

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you are back at the computer Arpit. Was missing your spicy inputs. Keep them coming bro!

    How blessed to be able to hear men who serve a great God speak!