“It’s time to look back. Not too bad a year it was, this 2018” I told Lulu, my parrot, as he flew in through the window.
“That’s good. You seem to be happy with the turn of events in 2018.” Lulu flipped through the photo album.
“True. The year began with a bang. As the President of my Rotary Club, I constructed two check dams, drilled two bore wells and constructed a toilet block for a village school.”
“Wow! A check dam transforms the village economy.” Lulu hopped near my laptop to see the photographs of the project.
“They can take more than one crop, and migration also stops. I felt I had done something worthwhile.”
“You surely did. Was that all that you did in 2018?”
“No. I did a project which gave one hundred bicycles to girl-students in three village schools. They say it helps them curb the dropout rate of girl-students.”
“Why did you do these projects?”
“Oh, come on! What do you mean by why did I do those projects? I did because I was the President of my Rotary Club.”
“Ha, ha! I used to think you were more reflective, but you have proved me wrong.” Lulu was nibbling chillies. The punch of chillies had entered his words. “It’s okay. Let me ask another question – What does that work mean to you? Take a deep dive in your psyche and answer.”
“Hmmm…… Let me think…… I mean…… How does one discover the meaning? All I can say is that it was important for me. It gave me tremendous satisfaction. I know I have not answered your question, and I am …. kind of…. groping for an answer.”
“When we search for meaning, we must ask ourselves two questions. Here is the first question: ‘When was this work done? What was happening in my life then and also around me?’”
“Okay, so let me think aloud. When was this work done? It was done during my year as a President; between July 2017 to June 2018 to be precise. And now to the next question – What was happening in my life then and also around me? Wow! That’s a tough one. Hmmm….. I was bored with my consulting work though there were several assignments coming up. There was no excitement in my life.”
“Go on… Tell me more about what was happening in your life then and also around you?”
“Following my retirement, I had started interacting increasingly with contract workers. I was pained to see their plight. And Polio Pulse program of Rotary took me to the slum areas. I had visited slums earlier too, but I had more time to observe and look around. I noted the way people lived. Very inadequate spaces. Unhygienic. Not their fault. Children played in dirty places, dirt everywhere, poverty everywhere. That some people lived a life in such terrible conditions left a deep mark. When you see people living in such conditions you feel helpless.”
“The origin of work, like art, is always in the mind.”
“But for your questions I would not have introspected. Thanks Lulu.”
“It’s okay. Here is the next question.”
“Why did the you create this work and what is its meaning to you?”
“Now I guess I know how to search answers to your questions, Lulu. My mother wanted to donate some money for providing water to a village. She had said so. So, the thought of building check dams excited me. And so did the thought of drilling of two bore wells.”
“You were fulfilling wishes of your mother. That’s why it was rewarding.”
“Oh yes! Now that I look back, things suddenly fall in place like a jig saw puzzle. On another note, I blogged about the life of the exploited workers. I would not have been happy if I had not brought it forth to people.”
“Nobody works in a vacuum. There is always a context. We place meaning on our work based on our life experiences. It is more satisfying when the personal connect is strong. Like your mother’s wish, in your case.”
“But remember always – you did what you did because of the meaning it held for you. You did not do it to oblige others. Never take that position.”
“Remember always that work is value neutral. You must introspect and give it a meaning. How you work is important, but why you work is more important. Got it?” Lulu looked at me and pointed to the picture on my laptop. It showed green fields around the check dams.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”