A new experiment is completely changing lives in the rural areas of India by bringing luminosity where there used to be darkness.
The New York Times published a piece named, “Husk Power for India”. Power, which is common in the lives of most in advanced countries, is a rare bonus in far-flung areas of underdeveloped countries. What was once cattle feed is now used to generate power – rice husks.
Being brought up in the pastoral Bihar State, Manoj Sinha knew what it was like to be without light at night. Being an engineer with Intel Corporation he had all the competence to bring a lifelong idea to fruition. He led the creation of his power generation equipment from rice husks and other wastes from farms and now he sells power to rural areas across India.
Sinha is what could be called a social entrepreneur because he feels business is a solution to key social issues. “Business leaders must realise that the world’s poor need investments more than handouts,” he says, adding, “these are customers, not victims.”
The article motivated me to think about offering things in a different way that made me ask myself, “what is the most perfect form of giving?” Is it edification, commerce or disaster aid? There are so many ways to create a difference. One way of giving can seem more productive or practical than other ways depending on the way it is given expression, viewed or put into practice.
I then came to define there were eight parts to giving as a way to look at this. So, let me map out the eight distinctions; which in effect are often ‘stages’ of giving as well.
Stage one: Necessity – saving and helping others who are afflicted by natural catastrophe, contagious diseases or other unmanageable conditions.
Stage two: Relief – providing relief from long-standing hunger, poverty, diseases, handicaps or discrimination which otherwise would continue or worsened because of the lack of information, education or resources.
Stage three: Healing and protection – mentally, physically and emotionally. Many people carry traumas that may be invisible but severely limiting their lives. Giving the healing to release the deep-rooted pain creates more opportunities for them while giving suitable protection gives them a sense of security.
Phase four: Edification – giving better edification, awareness and skill imparting to create empowered and innovative solutions to generating resources while helping people to discover their exclusive talent to succeed.
Stage five: Creative investment – lending a hand, money or resources to those who have great potential to make a difference. This gets leveraged many times as the resources increase and passed on to many others who again make more out of the opportunities given.
Phase six: Maintainability – working collectively involving the people in the local surroundings, creating maintainable society – ecologically and communally.
Stage seven: Empowerment – empowering and inspiring the people to unleash their true potential and motivation to make a difference. In this group of giving, the aim of giving changes from ‘giving to the people who are in need’ to ‘giving people opportunity to give to others’ and to the community.
Stage eight: Cherishing – just doing whatever we like to do to tend and care for others. No approach or expected upshot exists in this stage of offering. ‘Giving’ does not even exist here in the physical sense of the word, as there is no sense of owning or decision or craving to modify things. This is where we do not even have to consider anything, we give out of a sense of our own fulfilling sensations.
What we also perceive is that at each one of these eight stages of giving there are distinctive things that the donor gets back.
One: Sense of connection
Two: Sense of comfort
Three: Relief from pain (our own)
Four: Gratitude for our own knowledge, skills and circumstances
Five: Long-term sense of contribution and satisfaction for our own life
Six: Improved environment for our own life and for the lives for all those we love and care for
Seven: Soul gratifying encouragement and devotion to our own purpose
Sharing has many stages and sensations based upon the donor and getter. And the ‘phases’ do not detail which one is of more importance than the other. All are mandatory.
I was lucky to have an experience early in 2008 while journeying with a group of devoted entrepreneurs across India to see how we could be more productive in our helping. I was particularly happy to have one outstanding encounter that led me to think about what ‘actual giving’ really meant.
We were in a small town one day. Four of us had just called a taxi to take us to another town in the vicinities. We bargained with the driver with care as our hotel staff had told us beforehand that we could be duped since we were not local.
We chose to stop in front of the local train station for a short interval en route to the town. While the others went to use restrooms, I struck up a conversation with the driver of the taxi, standing nearby. With his limited English vocabulary and a smiling face that showed his black front teeth to advantage, he told me that he lived in the outskirts of the town and that he had a young wife and two kids who attended the local school – I began to feel a relationship with him.
I congratulated him on having such a loving family and told him that I also had two children similar ages to his. When the others returned he spontaneously invited us to come to his house for lunch. I thought it was just a friendly courtesy he wanted to show at first. However, after dropping us off in the town centre, he insisted that he would wait for us until we finished our exploration in town. And he did. I was actually quite surprised to see him still waiting at the side of the road standing next to his taxi more than hour later. We jumped back into the taxi and he zoomed off up the road to where his family lived.
When we landed there we were quite surprised to see the way he was living. It was in fact quite similar (if not worse) to the existence of the slum dwellers we had visited before that. From the bright new taxi he was driving, who could have pictured this
As he drove into the narrow unsealed street between small houses that were made with roughcast concrete blocks and mud painted walls, we almost regretted about saying yes to his invite. For a brief moment I felt pangs of guilt. “How could I go to this man’s home who didn’t seem to have anything and I didn’t even bring any food or gifts for his family”, I thought.
As we got into his house, we saw a small pot and a stove on the mud floor. His shy sweet wife smiled and blushed at the sight of visitors and vanished into the cupboard sized storeroom of the house. As I looked around, I saw the man’s neighbours giving the woman a few cups over the crumbling concrete walls. They simply didn’t have enough cups in their house. There was just a single small room that had a lone cot and an old galvanised trunk adjacent to it.
The cab driver swiftly took out three hand-woven rugs from the galvanised box and placed it neatly on the small space of the mud floor keeping one on the bed.
Hot cups of tea came pretty fast and so did some snacks. His kids as well as all the little ones in the neighbourhood came to see us and stood around near the door. All six of us were totally wedged into the small room. I asked him with surprise where all his children slept. I thought they might be having another space somewhere. To my utter surprise, he pointed the chest and happily said that it was their sleeping space.
He happily told us that he was an amateur dancer in the town and showed us some plaques on the sill above the bed. Enthusiastic to show us his dancing proficiency, he ran outside all at once. From somewhere music came flowing into the tiny room. He had no apparatus for music within the house, it was coming from outside. Surprised, I looked around to see him reversing his vehicle towards the back of his house keeping the doors open with the radio of the car blaring forth!
The time quickly passed (dancing together and having more cups of tea) and it was finally time to say thank you for their great hospitality and head on our way. As we stood up to leave and thank him and his wife, he reached to the best looking rug on the bed, rolled it up and handed it to us. It was one of the only few things he had. I could not believe he offered it to us.
We all politely declined his gift and walked out saying goodbye to all the people waving at us. We got confused about this whole thing. Should we have given some money to the family as their life obviously looked very limited? Should we have accepted his prized gift?
As I was thinking about this awe-inspiring experience after a few days, I considered our begging off his gift. He looked crest-fallen that we didn’t accept the gift. It wasn’t only the rejecting of the gift that remained in my mind.
I realised that the feeling of restlessness I felt was in reality the result of seeing him as less privileged. I was feeling that I couldn’t probably receive anything from someone who owned too little.
But did he actually have modest means? Maybe he had other things – a lot more.
Maybe the perfect gift we could have given him then was to accept his gift in total surrender and gratefulness.
Every act of sharing and taking are indispensable for us to fill our world with profusion and satisfaction in equal measure for both sharer and taker. We can start doing this instead of evaluating and validating one over another. The beautiful act of sharing and taking requires no additional elucidation.
Manoj Sinha’s words resound in my mind once again, “these are customers, not victims.” I can visualise the eager faces of the village people who are now thrilled to have current in their hamlets and their little ones who now can now read and write and learn even at night.