Of Pallam and Philanthropy
It has been a while since I wanted to write about this man in my office. His receding hairline and philanthropic ways. Mostly the latter because the former is obvious to all, at least to those who get to see him daily.
I will begin with a story that was one of the many stories I read while growing up. And then Pallam narrated it one day. And since then, this is the Pallam story.
Once upon a time, there was a man walking on the beach who saw a boy throw the starfishes washed ashore back into the sea. The old man was very amused. He walked towards the young lad and asked, ”What are you doing, kid?”
“I am throwing these starfishes back into the sea. The tide has washed them onto the beach. If they remain on the beach, they will die from the heat.” He replied.
“Young man, the beach is full of starfishes. And this happens daily. I have been coming here for years now. I am afraid you will not make much of a difference.”
Unfazed, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the sea. He turned towards the old man, smiled and said, “It made all the difference to that one!”
I can understand how Pallam relates to this story so much. We are all like the old man. A tad bit cynical and too used to all the crumbling ways of life. Occasionally we might complain of a pothole on the road. Or how government schools have dilapidated infrastructure. But, Friday night booze makes us forget all that can be fixed with just a little effort.
Karthik, was working in Bangalore when he found the condition of the roads very disturbing. He came back and shared it with his friends. But they brushed it aside as another common man’s rant on all that’s wrong with the country.
Soon enough, Karthik moved to Hyderabad. Here too, the plight of the roads was not much different. He discussed with his friends about these potholes and how lethal they are. He looked up ways to fix them. When he shared this with his friends, they were very encouraging of the idea.
Soon they set out to fill their first pothole with cold asphalt.
Karthik confesses the first time he and his friends had to fill a pothole, they felt awkward standing in the middle of the road and filling it. Soon they shifted to filling potholes, late into the night. But soon enough they discontinued with these activities in the dark to avoid road accidents and moved to filling the potholes early in the morning when the traffic was minimal.
“Two of the volunteers stand on the road to take care of the traffic. We first clean the pothole and then fill it with cold asphalt. For the larger potholes, we communicate it to GHMC via the ‘My GHMC’ app. They are extremely receptive and have filled several potholes which we had escalated to them. We ask people to send us pictures of potholes over our Social Media handles so that we can fill them.”
This weekend on 15th June, 2019 WCMC filled its 265th pothole in Hyderabad. Potholes, much like the starfish in Pallam’s story are a perennial issue. He just hopes that with every pothole that We Can Make A Change — WCMC, the NGO he formed fills, somewhere they are able to save a life and avoid a mishap.
The Bangalore Team has consistently over the last twenty — three weekends participated in raising awareness on the importance of following traffic rules and regulations for the safety of everyone on the roads. Karthik feels that if even one person on seeing those reminders of road safety is pushed to follow the rules then it is their biggest achievement.
In 2018, with the funds that WCMC raised, they funded the potholes activities and renovated the government schools in Siricilla, his hometown. Renovating government school is a concern too close to Pallam’s heart. Having studied in one of them he understands how improving the infrastructure could go a long way in facilitating education for the children. Perhaps, this is why when WCMC was in its nascent stage, Karthik worked for Anganwadi along with the local community in Jillea. WCMC has sponsored the education of three children this year and if need be, we will continue to do the same.
“We have dabbled with multiple activities. While potholes and traffic awareness are primary if someone reaches out to us for something and we see that we can make efforts and help them then we never hesitate before putting our best foot forward.”
It started when WCMC conducted a menstrual hygiene week where a gynaecologist spoke to the women folk in Siricilla about using the sanitary napkin and the dos and don’ts when on their period. They organized relief fund for the neighbouring state of Kerala when it was hit by the devastating flood in 2018.
They find blood donors for the numerous requests that are brought to their notice via social media. WCMC has organized food drives to share the joys of a sumptuous meal with the less fortunate.
In the last two years, Pallam who is often bothered by how our public spaces look dirty, has under WCMC led to cleaning government schools, water tanks, bus stands and other places in the city, in a bid to make them look beautiful. These places are first cleaned and then painted, to make the city clean and cheerful.
WCMC participated in the Swachch Bharat Internship Campaign under which they cleaned the city’s streets and lakes.
This weekend We Can Make A Change will celebrate its second year anniversary. As a part of their celebrations, the volunteers are going to come together and make seed balls. Another attempt by WCMC to take up a new and pressing cause, this time of environment conservation and create a cleaner, greener and better world.