Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Small & Silent is also work

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love” —Martin Luther King

There are hundreds and thousands of silent workers the unsung heroes with limited or no resources working under great adversity with just grit determination & self less zeal as their tools. They are all around us, but, we fail to notice. Unfortunately we tend to look for brand equity to serve or associate with a development project.

I am happy to enumerate at least two examples of individuals or group of individuals working tirelessly to bring about transformation in the living standards of the populace& sacrificed their lives to save precious lives. Names of the individuals and groups have been deliberately blanked out so that the focus remains on the work and impact.

Live bombs do not deter this man from his commitment to save innocent lives.

Panna Lal ,who saved hundreds by defusing bombs ,dies unheard, unsung
Braver than film heroes, in real life

There were no official words of condolence nor were any wreaths laid as the body of “Chacha Bomb Squad” was consigned to the flames.(cremated)

The exploits of unsung hero , Panna Lal , or “Chacha Bomb Squad” as he was popularly known among his former colleagues in the Punjab police, will not find mention either in history books or in the numerous books written on terrorism in Punjab. However, those who worked with Chacha still carry vivid memories of this lean man bending over a live bomb and studying for some time before snapping at the circuit of the device in order to defuse it.

When bomb explosions by terrorists were a common occurrence in this Punjab state in India, the one member bomb squad of Chacha helped save hundreds of lives by defusing the devices. Panna Lal must have defused at least a dozen bombs hidden by terrorists in the busy lanes and by-lanes, in vehicles and in trains. But he received no laurels for these acts except for the occasional letter of appreciation.

The services of Chacha, Who had retired as a subhedar from the army, were sought by the Punjab police in the late 1980s as the department was hampered by the lack of a bomb disposal expert here .He rejoined the police in 1989 as a special police officer (SPO) and left the organization three years, let down by the attitude of his superiors who were always on the looked for an opportunity to berate him.

At the height of terrorism when unidentified objects were detected, the wireless sets would frequently blare “Chacha Bomb Squad come here quickly”. Shopkeepers of the busy area in a Punjab town in India cannot forget that fateful day in 1991, when disposing a bomb in pouring rain,he himself sustained injuries which led to his arm being partially disabled .

Due to his army background, Chacha could handle complex bomb circuits as he proved in 1992 when he defused a bomb planted in a compartment of the Frontier Mail minutes before it was to explode.
But recognition eluded him .For all his acts of courage, Chacha’s name was never considered for any bravery award and neither was he compensated for his medical bills.

Senior police officers often took the credit for any bomb that Chacha defused .On the plea of certain well-meaning local citizens however, Chacha’s name was forwarded to the state home department for the shaurya chakra but his file continues to gather dust in the department.

Note .
Chacha – means uncle (father’s brother elders are fondly addressed like that)
Shaurya Chakra It is a gallantry award instituted by the government of India

How Grit determination & perseverance pays for james, and his community

James ( name changed) is a 47-year-old Bolivian with a wife and eight children. He is a skilled, gifted leader and tenacious about seeking solutions – solutions not only for himself and his community of Jatun Pampa, but for his children as well.

Problem (Growing tree,balancing the ecosystem)

He knew something had to change. Once, the rain and sun provided good growth of crops and residents maintained their families on crop income. But lately, they were besieged with drought, and then flooding. They had little rain, new growth dried up, there was ice in the summer, and strong winds blew where trees once stood. It was the result of natural disasters, the need for firewood and climate change.

Making the Connection

Residents agreed it was a problem, but felt alone or resigned to their struggle. So James travelled to Wayrapata, Bolivia, where an International organisation was working with another group. James was persistent in requesting a facilitator come to his community and soon after, he was in Jatun Pampa.
“Trees neutralize the strong winds,” James explained to Marc, the facilitator. “They hold the ground from erosion. We call the trees the lungs of the earth because they restore and replenish it. And when the ground is not eroded, we can also plant gardens.”

Through the process of authentic participation, a community group was organized of 16 families. Which acquired small trees from a Bolivian forestry organization. But the trees were delivered to the valley and had to be transported by donkeys because the mountain road was not maintained. It was difficult work, and after planting the tiny saplings, many were eaten by animals.

So the community group petitioned the government for a better road and, once built, 9000 pine trees were delivered to the top of the mountain and 18 acres of the Jatun Pampa village were reforested with new trees.
Families then sought seeds for vegetables and apple trees for their gardens.

Now, after only a year, the trees have stopped erosion down the mountain, helping even the vegetable gardens to succeed. There is a surplus beyond feeding families, and vegetables are sold in nearby communities.

The greatest growth

But the greatest outcome of planting the trees has been on the children.

“I planted a pine tree with my children,” one mother says. “And I believe they will continue planting trees when they are older.”

“My children take the initiative to care for our trees. They are the first ones motivated to give new ideas, too,” another says.

“When I was a child, we didn’t have gardens and I didn’t know how to plant,” a proud mother says, “But my son Rodrigo is eating fresh vegetables and already knows how to plant. It is a good thing.”
And James, who helped to initiate the transformation in his village? He just smiles and watches his own children watering the trees.


This recession, has however brought a welcome change in the mindset of the people, It seems to have nudged the pendulum a bit in the other direction. Incredible acts of generosity are occurring — often between complete strangers. Helpful communities and support initiatives have sprung up on social networks with people freely offering time, advice and encouragement to get others through difficult periods or job searches. Individuals are engaging in volunteer work.

I realize that the giver also derives benefits — both karmic and tangible. I do my share of charity, but that has to remain anonymous for the present. I hope this article will motivate people to do their bit, within their resources to impact a few lives.

Best Wishes,


Please also read by the same author. The WikiHow article

"How to How to Fight Against Poverty in Developing Countries as an Individual"

1 comment:

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