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My two year part-time job stint at an NGO in Calcutta during my student days would remain etched in my memory forever for more reasons than for the fact that it was my first job. It was special because it used to make me feel that I was making at least some difference in the lives of poor, needy children, in a very small but sure way. But the one reason why these two years were the most memorable two years of my life was that I believe I met the very best people this world has to offer, from all corners of the world, gathered under one dilapidated roof, united by one common purpose – helping others.
I met a group of high profile executives from Germany, who used to take time out of their crazy schedule every year to fly across the world to Calcutta to bring used laptops and desktop computers to set up (and expand it every subsequent year) a computer center for children who would otherwise have never come within two miles of one. They chose and appointed teachers, and themselves gave special lessons and ran assessments every time they were here.
Then there was this energetic, ‘cool’ college students’ group from New York. About a 100 of them used to put in a box $1 each out of his or her lunch money every day, and at the end of the year, would use it to sponsor meritorious students from the NGO to join mainstream education.
Then, of course, how can I forget the bright-eyed little group from Australia, who ran photography workshops with the children at the NGO and then used the photos at an exhibition back in Australia to collect funds for sponsorships, and to build a new roof for the NGO school when it collapsed under a savage storm one monsoon night.
Then of course, was the man from America all the children thought was Santa Claus, because whenever he would come, he would have a sack full of chocolates and crayons and pencils that he would shower on the children, while at the same time leaving with the NGO box upon box of warm clothes, blankets, stationery, shoes and what not, collected from schools and homes across the USA.
I also fondly remember this beautiful girl from Ireland who came to India on a backpacking trip, fell in love with the country, and never went back. She used to walk around the cities, teaching about hygiene and sanitation to those who needed it, bandaging and providing medicine to the injured, nursing the frail, feeding the hungry, comforting the deserted.
I can think of a hundred more examples of the angels I met there, sent from some faraway land to take care of those who needed them, and who asked for nothing in return. And this too, in a world, which kills, maims, rapes, hurts and injures without any apparent reason or guilt. Though I joined the NGO to help people, in turn, it helped me to look at the world with different eyes, with an optimism I never thought I could muster up. They gave me hope for a future where people would help people, love them as their own, and the conviction that however more crazy the world becomes, a part of this beautiful earth would always be stable and right.