Let him that would move the world, first move himself.
India Friends Association is a Non Profit organization based in Camarillo, CA. I have been involved with them since 2009 through my husband Nitin. It has been a significant life changing event.I have not become an activist all of a sudden and do not intend on becoming one. But I will not subscribe to the hype, the lies, the spin in the words of Tarun Tejpal. There has only been one, single change in me. I have opened myself to the truth of the world.
Many of us have accepted status-quo due to lack of imagination or simply out of laziness; I have decided not to do so. Some take pride in apathy; I find it silly. Many have found happiness in self indulgence; I find it to be a narrow perspective of life. Development is being defined by ability to earn or create more and more luxuries; this may be a lovely dream created by those who profit out of it, but by no means a reality.
Dibaker Banerjee, director of Khosla ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Love, Sex Aur Dhoka said in one of his recent interviews ” If you think you are not a part of politics in the post-World War II democracy era, you are a fool. All of us are a part of politics; which means either you are a part of the reasons or consequences, or you are the victim or beneficiary. The success of a citizen in a politically-defined society depends on how much s/he can be a part of the reasons, rather than being at the receiving end of the consequences.”
I fully agree with him.
You are lying if you say that you really cant do much; the one thing you can surely do is become an aware individual.
In only a few Google searches, you will find that….”there are more poor people than rich although there is enough money for all to have a satisfactory life; hundreds of hungry people can be fed from the food you throw away; when floodlights are turned on for playing ‘cricket’ at night in the stadiums of metropolitan India, electricity is taken away from thousands of villages for several hours which results in people not getting proper treatments in hospitals, or they not getting work due factories having to shut down.” The ice at the poles is melting, global warming is real and it will impact you. There are several wild species at the verge of extinction today due to urbanization. Food is becoming more genetically modified than ever before and it is not healthy. We can not ignore these realities.
Gandhi had said, “there is sufficiency in the world for man’s need, not for man’s greed.” The world has become global not just because of internet and ability to fly across the globe in less than a day, rather because for every action in your life, there is a reaction in someone else’s and vica-versa. This earth, this nature, all the resources in it, are in our hands. We do indeed have the power to influence the future.
At IFA, the founders decided to use their valuable time and money to support Projects and Fellows in India on two fronts: 1) At the Grassroots level, working directly with the marginalized poor, educating them about their rights and empowering them to improve their lives 2) At the Top level, influencing the Members of Parliament in India to bring about strategic Policy changes and introducing new bills that will bring about greater common good.
They provide assistance and cooperation in building self sufficiency, not charity. They support projects such as rural healthcare, supporting women’s rights, at risk children, educating people about their rights through Acts such as Right to Information, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, halting Illegal mining to preserve natural resources and many others.
Every year, for past 18 years, IFA has held an annual Fundraiser called “Archana and India Festival” which is a colorful extravaganza of India’s culture, dances, songs and stories at the respected Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks. There are more than 1200 people in the audience. More than 100 volunteers perform at this event. IFA could have easily hosted outside professional performers or a Black tie event for the fundraiser. But in keeping with their philosophy of Community development and Personal involvement, this 2-3 hour professional program is fully performed, managed, and hosted solely by local community volunteers. And it is a super hit. I had never thought that sitting in Southern California, I would enjoy children’s performances on Indian songs, Kathak, Bharat Natyam, Odissi – Indian Classical dances, and Drama on Indian folk tales, etc. It engages individuals of all age groups (from age 3 to 60+) and makes this event an unforgettable part of everyone’s lives.
In May 2011, Nitin & I were highly inspired by this Event, by the Founders and by the Intellectuals and Change-makers of India whom we met through the IFA Speaker series such as P.Sainath, Jean Dreze, SR Hiremath, etc. We felt the need to do something out of the ordinary. We believe that this world can become a better place. We have a responsibility to give back to the society what we take from it. Hence, we began the IFA Young Professionals (YP) chapter. In May 2012 we complete our first anniversary. Hence I am posting this article this month.
We have, since then, felt enlightened through our experiences and journey of reading, discussions, debates and sharing of thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Life is no longer the same; we can not undo what we now know. Perception of life has changed forever. The beauty lies in the fact that we have barely scratched the surface of knowledge pool available to us. So we have a long exciting journey ahead of us. The quality of time spent has remarkably improved.
There is a constant realization that everything and anything we do in life has an impact on someone else in the world (whether visible to us or not). This has brought about some sort of accountability towards the world. It is a wonderful feeling of liberation.
Below is a beautiful article on IFA-YP that Nitin wrote for the Archana Booklet of 2012.
India Friends Association (Young Professionals) or IFA-YP is an experiment born out of hope to extend the extraordinary ideals shared by core IFA members. Sure, the team ran half marathons to raise funds for IFA, hosted public speaking events, debated over bills & regulations proposed in the Indian parliament. But, more importantly, YP group today symbolizes that increasingly rare tenet of commitment to community and a deep curiosity of an engaged citizenry.
IFA-YP team met for the first time in Woodland hills in May 2011 with a group of 8 like-minded individuals & quickly turned into a full-fledged chapter (monthly meeting) with 8 to 12 members each assigned a unique task as per his or her liking & proficiency. Our clarion call to encourage new members revolves around creating awareness that most of us unmistakably possess X amount of disposable income & time. One simply needs to find avenues to share that valuable asset (volunteer time more than monetary commitment) with our community. IFA-YP offers that opportunity and we invite anyone interested to attend IFA team meetings to further this process of contribution to community.
Another constant theme in IFA-YP meetings is the willingness to learn about the world in general and India in particular. All members seek to understand the activities of IFA supported fellowships and projects and critically analyze how they are impacted by new bills and revolutionary changes occurring in post-liberalization India. Others are more engaged on US domestic policy in the light of 2008 financial crisis. Some were active participants in occupy wall-street movement acutely aware of the sharp income inequality despite their own privileged financial position.
It is not only the cerebral side that we engage with; many of our members are proud owners of a passionately creative spirit. This has resulted in development of concise and snazzy trailer-version of longer, detailed documentaries showcasing IFA activities in India, designing of new newsletters, development of website or painting and coloring of banners to encourage marathon runners.
That brings us to the physical commitment shown by youth members in order to support IFA. 14 runners, bikers & walkers came together to train for 3 months for half marathon (13.1 miles) or bike race (26.2 miles). It is noteworthy that most participants were first timers and came from as disparate locations as San Diego to Santa Monica and Woodland Hills to West LA. We would track our progress on Google docs & fancy phone apps during the week and then run together at Santa Monica beach on weekends. One member made creative videos of runners to assist in fundraising while others came down as cheering squads for the race day. This remarkable synergy resulted in vigorous fundraising and tenacious racing. All runners and bikers completed their race, many in record time. In that moment of accomplishment, lifelong bonds were formed. The group had forever integrated. India friends association – Young Professionals group had veritably come into being.