By Sucharita Saha*
On a dull cloudy Thursday evening on 29th October, I came across the Humans of Bombay post mentioning about the plight of Shaktan Ji, and informing people of his pitiable condition. Shaktan Ji was brutally beaten up by his son when he refused to give him money which he had lost as part of a bet. His son, in a rage of anger, broke not just his elbow but also his spine. He and his wife were forced to move to a new settlement, bearing the burden of not just paying the monthly rent of two thousand rupees, but also managing daily expenses of running their tea stall.
This happened four months ago, and come the lockdown, their income dipped as people stopped visiting their tea stall. As footfall floundered, their incomes dwindled.
I decided to pay Shaktan ji a visit after reading the post. The beneficiaries resided in Dwarka, Sector 13. Fortunately, owing to the pandemic, I was home in Dwarka and attending my MBA classes online. I took my sister along for company, since I was unsure as to what to expect upon meeting them. It was heartbreaking to see him cry when he described how his son had mistreated him. To see an old man in such a pitiable condition, exposed to the vagaries of life and left to fend for himself was agonizing, to say the least.
Upon meeting Shaktan ji, I felt morally inclined to help their cause, and decided to start a fundraiser to raise money for his treatment. Initially, I decided to help him with arranging funds for the post-operative care since a good samaritan came forward to treat him free of cost right after Diwali. However, we waited until a week after Diwali but never heard from the aforementioned person. The doctor, who visited the beneficiaries in a shiny black car, left behind no contact details, and so we could not track him for further correspondence.
The limit was initially set to Rs. 25k, however, the final amount raised was about Rs. 54k. Out of this, Rs. 10k was given in cash to take care of his daily expenses such as arranging for warm clothes, blanket, monthly rent and working capital for his tea stall. The rest of the amount was handed over to him in person for his treatment at a reputed government hospital.
Support from friends and donors
I reached out individually to all the people who had expressed a sincere desire to donate money for the cause on the Humans of Bombay page. I wrote to them individually on Instagram, and also sent them regular updates in the form of pictures and videos of my interaction with Shaktan ji. This would not have been possible without the generous support shown by each of the donors, and the way people came forward has restored my faith in humanity.
While the support was overwhelming, I also received flak for starting the fundraiser in light of the recent reports of money laundering to help such beneficiaries. What was surprising was how it was so easy to pass judgements and call out names to people who genuinely want to help others in need. This not only lowered my morale, but also made me have second thoughts of putting a stop to the initiative.
After all, what do I stand to gain from this sum of money? I was beginning to lose my peace of mind while dealing with such elements in the society. Furthermore, I found it utterly surprising as to how despite having a sound familial and educational background, and having submitted all the proofs online, people were still quick to judge my motives. I wondered how hard it might be for people to genuinely do good for others in a country where people have started to fear people themselves! I kept going only because of the support from friends, family and Sandeep ji.
Support from family
Despite the Covid scare, my family supported me unconditionally. My father would personally drive me whenever he found the time after his office hours to not just meet Shaktan ji, but also give him warm clothes and food. There is nothing that is more heartfelt than when your entire family comes together to support you on something you deeply care about.
To conclude, Shaktan ji and I are truly grateful for the love and support we’ve received from the donors and my near and dear ones for this initiative. This has only emboldened me from within and I sincerely hope to undertake more such initiatives to help those in need in the coming future.
*Post Graduate Programme in Management, IIM Ahmedabad. Click here for supporting Shaktan Ji