A few years ago I was in India during Christmas. I was there along with my two cousins and a common friend. Since it was our first visit to this country, we had made elaborate plans to capture as much as we could as far as the tourist destinations were concerned. All the major bookings, which included our stay in hotels and the tickets of our different flights and trains, in order to move from one place to another within the country, had been made in advance.
We were in Calcutta, a very culturally rich place in India on Christmas day. We had slept very late that night and woke up late too. When we were out from our hotel rooms for breakfast we found something unusual in the way people were discussing about something that was breaking news. On enquiring we learnt that a mega Tsunami had hit many parts of India and its neighboring countries. Tsunami was a new word for everyone there including us, as it was one of the rare incidents that occurred in the world’s history.
All news channels were flashing news about it.
The next day all the local newspapers were flooded with all kinds of information about this natural calamity and the extent of damage it has caused to mankind. It was an underwater earthquake of the Indian Ocean. We bought a couple of newspapers and flipped through their pages to get as much information as we could. The worst hit places in India were the Andaman and Nicobar islands – the breathtakingly beautiful group of islands that we had visited a week ago. In one of the newspapers I came across an advertisement that was persuading people to step forward as volunteers for helping the locals as well as the tourists who were still stuck there. I immediately decided to go there.
I talked about it to my fellow tourists. All the three of them were very sad with this disaster but were somehow apprehensive about my idea of volunteering. We had 15 days more in India. Though they really felt bad for the sufferers, they wanted to make the most of their holiday as we had spent a lot in the advance tickets and hotel bookings. Also there was a fear in them to loose their own lives or harm themselves or get lost in the whole hustle and bustle and never ever return to their homelands. They tried to dissuade me for being so emotional.
I assured them that I would think over this issue for a night and let them know the next morning. But there was something in that advertisement that was persuading my inner self to be of duty to those who really needed people like me. The advertisement’s heading was – ‘Be where you ought to be’ and it carried a picture of a crying and aged man who looked completely devastated. His face resembled our friendly and gentle guide in the Andaman and Nicobar islands and this was the reason why I was being coaxed from inside to be where I ought to be. I told my cousins and my friend in the morning that I was not joining them for the rest of the tours of the places that were left in our agenda.
They left for Delhi and its neighboring hill stations the same afternoon and I left for my mission that seemed most important to me at that point of time. We decided to meet after 15 days -the day on which we were suppose to board our flights back home. I took the evening flight to the ravaged destination, which was bubbling with beauty; life and kindhearted people just a few days back.
I assisted as a medical carer and looked after children. Most of them had become orphans or were still waiting for their parents to be traced by army men, coastguards and volunteers like me. More than medical care they needed emotional support. They were hungry, frightened, confused and inconsolable. For two weeks I looked after them in the best possible way and tried to bring hope back into their hopeless lives. In some occasions, I also missed my meals to ensure that all of them ate well as the food supply was inadequate.
Before it was time for me to leave, many NGO’s had come forward and taken charge of the children. I left that place with heavy heart. On the scheduled day the four of us met again in Calcutta for our departure flight. They had photographs of the last fifteen days and I had nothing but bruises and sad memories, but I was more satisfied than them. The advertisement had given me an opportunity to be of service to others, which had filled me with immense inner satisfaction and a sense of worthiness.
Arens, W.F., C.L.Bovee. Contemporary Advertising. 5th ed. USA: IRWIN, 1994.