DOING GOOD IN A WORLD GONE BAD
Do-gooders, self-starters, game-changers. Twenty-one men and women who have broken the rules to make a difference to their own lives and those of others.
Agroup of youngsters who combated state apathy and searing conflict to win big at a martial arts contest in Bhutan. A young woman who gave up a career in software to provide a low-cost funeral service for dignity in death. An heir to a healthcare empire who wants to be a catalyst in re-learning ancient Indian wisdom. A young tea-seller in the Dooars who funds and coaches a football team because few things generate as much confidence as brilliance at a sport.
In a world beset with darkness, the few sources of light need to nurtured. The special issue of india today, filled with stories of those who have combated the odds, is a tribute to the human spirit of endurance, excellence and endeavour. It celebrates altruism, the art of giving away. It marks empathy, the ability to feel the pain of others. It honours kindness, the quality of mercy that is increasingly lost in us.
Think of the men and women in the next few pages as participants in The Happiness Project. It is the perfect antidote to the Age of Anxiety we live in now, full of selfhelp manuals and better-life coaches. These men and women have sometimes triumphed in challenging circumstances, to achieve seemingly impossible goals. Their story can be compelling and inspiring. Then there are others, who go beyond their brief, to provide opportunities for others. These are not just the Bill Gates and the Azim Premjis. It could be the young single man who fought the system to be allowed to give an orphaned, mentally challenged child a home. It could be an IAS officer who offers subsidised meals to starving migrant labourers. They are the dispellers of darkness, the harbingers of hope, the counters to cynicism.
Yet in a post-truth world, their importance is not merely that their existence makes us feel good. As the world moves towards increasingly responsive leadership, the kind that can harness disruptive technologies and recalcitrant humans, it is clear that new skills will be called for—among them creativity and people management. The 21 do-gooders and self-starters did not wait for the gun to go off to race towards their goal. They often created their own. In a culture that tells them who they are, they are their own story.
In doing so, they have set a new benchmark for individual experimentation and civic evangelism. Their causes, says Veer Singh, one of the young men quoted in the following pages, are not one-night stands, but long-term relationships. Their work doesn’t find itself in the spotlight or in neon on the marquee, but it does make our democracy richer and our universe more soulful. Complete engagement in democracy needs us to be fully involved in the lives we and our fellow citizens lead. Because as the late great Leonard Cohen wrote in the iconic Anthem: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
Torchbearers in the Age of Anxiety, they embody individual excellence and collective generosity. They are the light that gets in through the cracks.