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Time To Celebrate DaanUtsav!

DaanUtsav for me is a chosen road. Meeting fellow travellers whom I learn from all the time. I wonder if I will ever get to thank all of them personally, the numbers ever increasing

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This happened to me four years ago. I was vaguely familiar with Joy of Giving /DaanUtsav, but had never linked the two, so curiosity got the better and I accepted. I must confess, for months, the Corporate-type me could never really attend any of these meetings. Because, I had not digested the ‘non-structured’ ‘non hierarchy’ concept of DaanUtsav, now popular across geographies in India.

My first meeting was all about friendly conversations, people creating connects joining the dots and planning a better future. Not for themselves, but for others. And of course, lots of good food on the table to munch. Courtesy another volunteer. Soon I became a volunteer too. The rest, I believe was history.

Soon I was a regular and led to the memorable Hamara Station Hamari Shaan. Beautification of 36 stations, across 7 days of Daanutsav by over 25,000 volunteers of Mumbai and supported by close to 100 institutions. In October 2016, HSHS was conceived in one such early May Saturday meetings when action was yet to pick up and attendance was voluntary. The pressure to attend has to be internal. Meetings get more intense and rigorous closer to the countdown September onward.

At this meeting, I met the MAD Foundation team and Haresh Shah. What we all shared around the table (apart from several cups of chai made out of water from a questionable source) was positive vibes and infectious energy.

They had beautified a few Mumbai stations in the past, and planned a few more. As discussions peaked, I remembered offering to lead the project, upping the number of stations, from an initial 41 (22 on the Western Line and 19 on the Central) settled at 36, as some stations required no touch up.

Within a month after that, my phone had nothing less than 44 WhatsApp groups (the best outreach mode) for the HSHS project. Station teams, Sponsors, Designs, Leaders etc. Friends volunteered, so did Strangers offering money, time, passion, energy, skill, advice and support. That among many is the spirit of DaanUtsav.

Volunteer response was like an avalanche. Everyone, someone and their relatives wanted to be much of the countdown week zipped past. So much materialized, so much fell through. Many of the committed sponsors opted out. Many new ones came on board. While there were those who said it would not happen, there was Haresh and I who always believed it could. 

October 2-8, I recall every moment slogging volunteers, paint falling short repainting defaced art work, the feeling of being one, everyone had a story, of joy, of agony, of frustration, anger and then satisfaction, of ego crushes, of applause, of joining the wave as strangers and of departing as friends.

In the end, we had pulled off the unthinkable. 36 stations, 7 days, over 6000 volunteers on day one and 5000 on the last. Young, not so old and the not so young, abled and differently abled.

But this piece is not about the station project. The HSHS initiative is similar to hundreds and thousands of such initiatives across India, during October 2 to 8. A week, which, I have marked in my diary this year and for the years to come, as time to Celebrate DaanUtsav.

As DaanUtsav 2018, nears, happens and gets done, I will remember the meetings and the networking, the joining the dots and the excitement, the hits and misses, the laughter, cups of chai and warm water, the food for thought and thought of food. This was how it was four years ago, this was how it was the year after that. This year and this is how it will be year on year, only growing.

The effort that would go into meeting scores of people, in places low and high, explaining what exactly DaanUtsav is (They would seldom refuse a meeting). Of course, in some cases, it would be the first and the last meeting, but the world is full of Good Samaritans, only if you choose to look.

DaanUtsav for me is a chosen road. Meeting fellow travellers whom I learn from all the time. I wonder if I will ever get to thank all of them personally, the numbers ever increasing.

The least I can say here is Thank You, not just for reading this piece, but for taking the time to go on to www.daanutsav.org website and planning to attend the next Saturday meeting of great food, fantastic ideas and amazing people.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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DaanUtsav philantrophy the art of giving

Shishir Joshi

The author is a DaanUtsav volunteer. He is also co-founder of ProjectMumbai.org, a think tank for Mumbai.

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