Mar 15, 2009
It were those days when slumberness had set straight.A seemingly monotonous three month long vacation laid ahead.For all those hotshot career consultant guys i had read at the forums, to be engineers of worth and substance, treat your vacations as your semester and your semester as your vacations.To put it in a more 'engineered manner',make sure in your vacations you stick your heads in something that will make those impatient neurons in your brain to wringle up some nerves.(Brain they say needs exercise, as every other muscle does).
So unquestioning,as engineers have been of late,i decided for a programming course at a place called baijnath,some 16 Kms.from Palampur.Not that i hated the course.Sunil sir,the instructor at the course,was a candid and a witty man.I enjoyed every bit of his teaching.But what pinched straight across,was the fact that there were no challenges,no adventures,no highs and no lows beyond those daunting source codes.But fate,they say,isn't too obvious to guess.
One day when i was travelling to Baijnath,there was a bike lying on the road turned upside down with stains of blood on the road.A lady from abroad,sitting right behind my seat asked the driver to stop to check whether somebody was lying there injured.But he was unwilling,due to legal hassles and due to their awckward time charts that they boast of following as if they were the Ambanis of roads.Call it an impulse,i stood up with the lady and asked the driver to stop.We got down and fortunately there was nobody.i picked up the bike and parked it on the corner.
Back in the bus,I got to know more about the lady.She was Valerie'O Neal,a californian who had served as CTO at blackberry at Ottawa and later as Head,Sales at Motorolla at Manhattan(New York).Fed up of the directionless pursuits of hers,she and her husband set out on an enriching voyage to India where they would serve those in need.They were in India for the last three years and lived at a place called Sidhbari on Palampur-Dharmsala road.
And then i told her about myself,my family,my education and about my boring vacations.Upon hearing the vacation part,she told me i can work with them if i was interested.I was,for heavens.And when i had to get down the bus,we fixed up our next meeting.the next day,at a small village called Sansal,where she was holding a blood donation camp.
The same day i told sunil sir about my meeting with valerie.He was kind enough to equip me with all the geography and the travelling facts that i needed to know about Sansal.So the next day as he let me off 30 minutes before the class, i set off for sansal.The 45 minutes drive from baijnath to sansal,beleive me, was truly worth it.It was a tiny village situated at a height of 1850 metres.The misty clouds descending upon the carefuly carved mustard fields and the elegant triangular rooftops in the backdrop of snow cladden himalyas were nothing less than scintillating.As I reached the temple adjoining the river,there she was ,with her husband,busy with the camp.
During next three weeks,i regularly went to Sansal and various places in the vicinity with valerie and Rudolph(her husband who used to work as a lawyer witha lobbying firm in New York).They were not alone in their noble pursuits.There was Kim smith,who worked at International relations office of UN at Geneva.(Due to our inclination towards politics we instantly became friends,often discussing political scenarios at length while we travelled.)And there was a sweet South African couple who came here to participate in a Paragliding world cup at Billing near baijnath when they met Valerie and rudolph and decided to stay back.
They taught children at schools,organised freee medical check ups,distributed blankets,undertook massive awareness campaign in the villages,brought in finances from NGO's to undertake upliftment programmes in villages,started microfinancing initiatives to finance SME's(small and medium enterprises),helped them create SHG's(self help groups) to create a resource pool in the village,took their problems to administration and virtually everything to transform the lives of people.
They all have dedicated their lives to people of foreign lands because back in their working schedules in their own country they were fed up of their unspiritual existence.But now they are less interested in their past than in an enriching experience of helping those in need who line up to say a humble and soothing namaste every time they turn up.For them serving is bound up in distance-a strange country,a foreign language,but an easingly simple relationship with the commoners-a relationship of love.Distance from their busy schedules offers them the space to cultivate real intimacy with the people.
As i sat down with Valerie,Rudolph and Kim for a small farewell party they had thrown up for me,i cannot help but appreciate the boundless enthusiasm and positive energy they have dedicated to people of foreign lands.They never question political system,nor do they offer any solutions,they do not beat women going to pubs nor do they stand stand for illogical fanatism of religion.
Yet in a small and unheard corner of the world,they are doing their bit.They,if any body is,are true indians.