By Debjiban Mukherjee
On 1st August 2018 I completed an eventful decade at Apeejay. The opportunities to contribute to society are amongst the prominent memories of my eventful journey. Born in a middle class family with the middle class value system deeply entrenched in me and my supportive family as a strength, I am naturally inclined to involve myself in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. The fact that Apeejay has a tradition of encouraging employees to volunteer their professional skills and had an employee volunteering program (called Individual Social Responsibility ISR®) brought opportunities I could take up and which added to the company’s generally vibrant environment of various sports, cultural and other events. These opportunities have provided excellent encouragement and nourishment for my endeavors as I was always eager to involve myself in various activities. Whenever I got a chance to contribute in a social cause, I, in my small way engaged myself in those activities as much as I could while also staying committed to my work. Doing so has brought me immense satisfaction in the last ten year.
The challenge is to balance my work engagement and my commitment towards a cause. The first opportunity that was sent my way by the Employee Volunteering Program, ISR® team, was an offer to visit the Dignity Foundation for a companionship event. Dignity provides active and constructive engagement with elderly people who in the autumn of their lives feel the pangs of loneliness with their children stationed away from home on work related commitments. I remember conducting a story telling session on my first visit and having a vibrant interaction with the members. This perhaps paved the way for further future interactions which cemented my bond with them.
Buoyed by the initial experience and the warm reception received I volunteered for the ISR® – e-Vidyaloka Initiative in which I was among the many volunteers across our companies Pan India who were brought on board to conduct classes over video conferencing facility provided to us for children in schools in a remote area. The whole experience was fascinating as aspects of the world of the less privileged and their daily struggles unfolded right in front of my eyes. Teaching those kids on Skype made me realize how life really triumphs over all adversities. Their infectious energy, untainted innocence, unbridled joy at having discovered the “novelty” of being able to see their teacher seated far, far away in Kolkata and interacting with that ‘speaking image’ as a manifestation of the physical self of a teacher in a physical classroom. The illustrations and course material we used in the course of the teaching also appealed to their imagination. Taking the classes were no doubt an enriching experience but the challenge to manage time out of my work to meet the class schedules. It was where the real fight lay and I suspect same is the case with every single employee volunteer in Apeejay. Now the experience of ten years behind me as an active volunteer for our Employee Volunteering program I can say that it was my passion to give back to society brought with it valuable lessons on time management and multitasking.
When Dignity Foundation came calling again and requested us for a big quiz session at Kolkata’s Lake Club accepting that was a big deal for me. It was a big hit paving the way for more such quizzing sessions thereafter in all of which my colleague Satyajit Chakrabarti ably stood by my side.
Thereafter I was offered the chance to educate staff members of Iswar Sankalpa, an NGO, doing commendable work on computer literacy. The whole process of interacting with “students” who are of an advanced age and mostly older than myself was enriching and a novel experience. Over the course of a month in classes together my “students” learnt computer use. How they developed professionally and opened up and got comfortable around me was nothing short of a revelation to me on how effective I could be as a teacher with no prior teacher training experience!
Over the course of these journeys in the past 5 years I have learnt a lot personally which has aided in the evolution of me as a person and I have picked up a few important nuances of interpersonal interplay. My efforts seem worth it when I see the satisfaction in their faces at the end of whatever period of our association has been and the precious moments of their touching gesture coming up with small but very endearing gifts and more importantly acknowledgment of my contribution to their development. I consider my job done when I see those whom I have had the opportunity to interact walk away with more dignity and self-reliance.
I have felt privileged to associate myself with various organisations – UNICEF, Diya India Foundation, Iswar Sankalpa to name a few apart from my personal limited endeavours , or my contribution by way of donations- cash and kind – both within Apeejay’s ambit and otherwise.
But no matter how much one provides help /aid, the real difference is made when the value addition is sustainable, irrevocable, something that those I can engage with as a volunteer, can use as a stepping stone to a make a better life.
As a product of the missionary education system I always feel that as a human being I ought to be sensitive to my fellow members of society and I must give back in whichever way it is possible for me.
Unfortunately disparity ails our society, an ill I feel obliged to join the fight to eradicate because every person has a right to a dignified life unless squandered away. Each of us must not let another person face the hardships that we may have once faced and in doing so each of us can stop the cycle that pushes the underprivileged away from the mainstream. Imagine if everybody in India helped another person with their professional skills, all Indians would be empowered. The vision of a gentler more compassionate India is what I look forward to contributing more to while at work through Apeejay’s Employee Volunteer Program that allows me to volunteer during office hours and outside of work in my own personal time !
Debjiban Mukherjee is a Manager, Finance, Apeejay Surrendra Management Services Private Limited. Debjiban has been volunteering for the Group’s 10 year old Employee Volunteering Programe – Individual Social Responsibility (ISR®) since 2012.