Making a difference

Making a difference

There is a parable about a little boy walking on the beach after a storm. All around him were thousands of starfish that had been washed up on the beach, beyond the reach of the tide, all gasping for water, without which they would die. The little boy picked the helpless fish up one by one, took them to the water, and threw them in. Watching the boy, an old man laughed at his efforts and said, "Can’t you see how hopeless your task is? There are thousands of fish on the shoreline and your efforts are not making any difference at all." The boy picked up another starfish, walked to the water, threw it in and said, "It made a difference to that one." Last week, three friends from Thane decided to make a difference in a similar way, when they decided to visit the Tsunami-affected villages in Tamil Nadu.

On December 30, 2004, when Vijay Shetty from Kolbad, Bharat Parmar from Tembhi Naka and Mahesh Madkholkar from Kopri Colony watched Barkha Dutt’s account of Tsunami and the extent of devastation on TV, it stirred them into noble action. On New Year’s Eve, the three practising chartered accountants left for Nagapatnam and adjoining villages, which are among the worst hit by the tragedy.

The experience of carrying out relief-work first hand has affected them deeply. "When we saw the ruins, we were totally shocked, and were literally trembling," said a visibly moved Shetty. Of the five villages they visited, Tharangambadi, located 40 km from Nagapatnam, was the worst hit. Here, out of a population of about 3500, only 1000 or so have survived the calamity. Almost all the houses are washed out and the village has become totally deserted. Wherever they went, they saw the horrible outcome of the catastrophe: hundreds of dead bodies, many lying deep inside the debris, large-scale wreckage, frightened people who were not ready to go back to their villages, and little children, clueless about the tragedy annihilation around them. With only 12 men and three earth moving machines allotted to this village, the relief operations too were just a namesake.

After cremating two bodies, one of which was of a five-year old child found in an abandoned house, the three volunteers decided to do something for those children rendered orphan by Tsunami. Shetty recounts, "We saw little children who have lost both their parents, but are so innocent that they haven’t even understood what calamity has struck them." This heart-rending experience prompted the trio to shortlist eight children who have lost both their parents. Each of three have decided to take up the responsibility of two orphaned children: They will pay for their education, clothes, food and all other necessary expenses up till such time that they become financially independent.

When large calamities strike, most of us tend to become overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem. At such times, we must recall the parable of the little boy and the starfish and remind ourselves that our efforts do make a difference, even if they seem trivial compared to the magnitude of the problem. Imagine the difference the good samaritans from Thane are making to the lives of the six children they have decided to support.

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