I was always inspired by men and women who had been working selflessly at the grassroots level for the welfare of the poor and the marginalized. Many of them had launched several innovative welfare programmes for the deprived children, women and farmers without any political patronage and support of funding agencies. Their simplicity, sincerity and above all their determination to make a difference in the society always fascinated me. I had invited them to speak to groups of young people and presented them as role models. I felt honoured to be in their company who had a vision for the society.
During the last three decades I had taken a policy of not inviting any political leaders, ministers and celebrities for any programme on the basis of their popularity. I don’t believe that popularity is the sign of one’s greatness. Before inviting anyone as a speaker I always verified the authenticity of the person. I have turned down the proposal of inviting Chief Ministers, popular celebrities and big business people whenever we organized national and regional events. Only people with authenticity and credibility were invited to speak in our functions. Often organisers of events go behind the politicians and popular celebrities for getting media coverage and publicity. In this process they not only compromise their values but also disturb the order and discipline of the programme.
During the last thirty years I had the opportunity to honour many budding celebrities and genuine social workers with credibility. Their presence and sharing of testimonies have motivated hundreds of people. What disturbs me is the change in the attitudes and values of many of these genuine social workers as they get recognition and publicity. They develop a desire, even greed, for more recognition and publicity. Once this lust for popularity enslaves them the quality of their life and work gets affected adversely. They start dreaming of entering into the galaxy of celebrities and look for further recognition and awards. They spend more time to publicise themselves through Facebook and WhatsApp neglecting their dedicated service for the poor and the marginalized. Gradually the poor and the marginalised for whose welfare they were working are used as a ladder for further publicity. Their innovation and dedication get lost in their rat race of lobbying for awards and rewards.
The genuine people on the contrary become more and more passionate about their mission of building people. They are not bothered about the publicity and recognition. Many of them even refuse many honours which are offered to them. They remain firm in their convictions and priorities. Inner satisfaction and fulfilment which come from the growth of the people for whom they work are more valuable for them than all awards and publicity.
A few years ago newspapers and TV channels were eager to publish about the genuine works which the social workers and NGOs were doing. Today it is told that stories and reports are published only when they are paid. Our activities were getting good media coverage till recently. The reporters of newspapers used to visit our office to know about our new activities. We received much media coverage about our work. However I refused to pay anything to any reporter. We always send the reports to all newspapers. Some are published and others get rejected. “Don’t worry if our story is not published. We continue doing our work with the same enthusiasm and commitment. Media should not determine our commitment”, was my frequent advice to my team members.
I have some friends who are in their seventies and eighties hungry for publicity and recognition. They never go for a public function unless they are given a seat on the dais and opportunity to speak. They take their photograph and put in the Facebook page and WhatsApp. Some of them spend all their time sending their long profile to various organizations to be selected for awards for ‘distinguished’ service. There are many organizations that run lucrative business of awarding people by collecting money from the awardees. Many happily spend money for getting these ‘awards’. Then they publish the report in the local newspapers to increase their status. After ‘purchasing’ each award they throw a party to all sycophants and unemployed partygoers in a cheap hotel.
Persons who are aware of their personal dignity and identity will not go after cheap publicity. They distance themselves from all sycophants and unproductive meetings and parties. They spend their time to reach out to those who are rejected, lonely and suffering from various ailments in the society. The smiles on the faces of these rejected people are more valuable for them than these ‘purchased’ awards and flattery of the sycophants.(Published on 23th April 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 17)