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A Discussion That Changed a Part of Me

By Pranav Sukhija

On the face of it, it was just an ordinary day. However, as I witnessed a not so ordinary conversation between two opinionated gentlemen, and was inspired to change the way I think, the day became worth remembering. The lunch break was on and the three of us, I and these two guys were sitting in the office sipping chai. 

Guy 1: Hey, did you have a look at the new organisational policy document?

Guy 2: Yes, I did yesterday. They want us to work even harder and report each and every detail, isn’t it?

I: Yes. As if we were not slogging our asses off already.

Guy 1: I was surprised to read the volunteer policy. They are giving letters of 
recommendation to them after their projects.

Guy 2:  Yeah, what’s the big deal in that? I had told my volunteers on day 1 itself that they’d be receiving letters. I think it’s a smart move.

Guy 1: Really, no actually this wasn’t the case last year. The volunteers came at their expense, worked with full dedication and never got anything in return.

Guy 2: They would have probably realized that people would work harder if we promise them something concrete, something that will stay with them.

Guy 1: Wouldn’t that be a drift away from the purpose? We want to promote the spirit of volunteerism among college students. If we tell them they’d be receiving certificates for their work, how can we tell if they are really dedicated?

I wondered if it would be better if they changed the topic of discussion.

Guy 2: See, this is management. You are making these kids miss classes and work for you at their own expenses. You need to give them something. Since money remains out of question, a simple letter will keep them motivated. And how does this question their dedication?

Guy 1: My point is that we should only take in those students who actually support our cause. We don’t need those who are doing it for their own selfish reasons.

At this time, I was sure the conversation had drifted into another deeper level. I was afraid the conversation would soon turn into an argument.

Guy 2: We are all selfish in that sense, right? Are you a free labourer?

Guy 1: Let’s exclude ourselves from this discussion.

Guy 2: See, whether someone is coming to us with selfish motives or not, if they are helping us in our work, and helping the organisation by spreading its work among their networks, why should that be a problem? I overheard Maitree saying that the number of volunteers and interns combined has jumped this year, and they had to reject many applications. Almost all start-ups and non-profits are hiring youngsters these days and giving them certificates as a reward for their hard work.

Guy 1: What I am saying is, let’s promote volunteerism in its truest sense. This looks like a win-win situation; the firm is getting its work done for free, these kids have something concrete to mention in their CVs. But then how different are we from the others? It’s like being selfish and smart.

Guy 2: I have always wondered why people are so quick in labelling acts or people as selfish. Is it criminal to be selfish? Is it no good to think about yourself? I strongly feel that we are all selfish in many ways, doing things we want to do. And why? Because we derive something from those acts, isn’t it? Why are we here? Because we enjoy our work, we are respected and appreciated, we are earning good money. Aren’t we being selfish in that sense?

At this point, the first guy seemed short of words. Suddenly, we heard the bell rang and it signalled each one of us to go back to our work. I wished we could continue the discussion. But then the point had already been made. I don’t know about the other guy, but I became less judgemental about other people from that day on.

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Pranav Sukhija
Teacher of primary school children, counselor for many, perpetual thinker, voracious writer, avid (not greedy) reader, crazy dancer, joyful singer, wannabe guitarist, wannabe actor, wannabe chef, comfort food lover, nature lover, self-proclaimed photographer, ingenious explorer, Delhi boy who doesn't fulfill most of the assumed 'typical' Delhi boy qualities.


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