By Zubin Driver
Group Creative Director, Network18 and CEO, Cell 18
Sometimes you walk out in the morning with a new zeal in your heart and a purpose to serve the larger need of mankind.
It begins as an abstract self-righteous thought and slowly morphs into an action plan. One such morning, I decided to invade Asha Daan, the famous home for the underprivileged run by Mother Theresa’s nuns. On my way there, I collected old clothes, sundry items and lots of stuff that I believed would result in happy smiles and immediate good for the inmates. Filled with the anticipation that precedes a dramatic event, I strode into the home and asked a nun where I should place my gifts. Her answer was a cursory hand gesture pointing me towards a small table.
I unloaded my wares and looked at her expectantly, like a dog that needed petting and affirmation.
I was disappointed to see that she had walked off to cater to some more pressing matters.
I was alone with my gifts, one of the three kings of yore, with no holy manger in sight.
As I strode out of the home chastised by a false sense of philanthropy, it occurred to me that perhaps I had approached this all wrong. I had assumed that since I was walking into a shelter for the marginalized people of this city, I did not need to ask them what they needed, much like a middle class brat doling out loose change to a beggar at a signal or gifting away the dregs of a meal half eaten.
I turned around.
The sister in charge of the shelter looked a bit perplexed, especially when I asked “What do you need, sister?”
In a moment of clarity, I had realized how much we take marginalized people for granted. We spend our lives chasing moneyed consumers, romancing them with goods and services, but assume that people with no money have no priorities in their consumption needs. I had assumed that my friends at the shelter were incapable of exerting choice, because they were poor.
“I need toilet cleaning stuff,” said the matron, and that set me out into the market again, looking for the right products.
As I walked back in with a large box full of phenyl and soap, I expected no applause. I was happy that my petty mind had been taught a lesson.
Choice was every human being’s birth right, and money had nothing to do with it.