Volunteering with Akanksha

I volunteer with Akanksha which is an organisation that provides supplementary education to underprivileged kids. Volunteering there taught me to be satisfied with my lot in life. The kids I met had so little, yet they were happy. They were always smiling. And I guess that’s what Smiling Planet is all about!

By Sadia Zafar



We just tried to make them smile

Tsunami 2004 took place to devastate parts of South -East Asia snatching away lives, families, children, homes and smiles of plenty. For the next two months, the media publicized it until they found another juicy story to run after. There were plenty who from a distant place could only contribute towards getting the victims’ lives back to normal by sending those cash or kind. I, then 16, could only pray for them as helping them in any other way didn’t seem possible.

Since I was in a boarding school, it was routine for us to go on a school trip with the rest of our classmates after every final exam. The senior most class always went to ‘GOA – The hippest place in India’. However, like me, most of my classmates felt guilty of reveling in joy when there were so many unfortunate ones who lost out on everything because of the tragedy the Tsunami had caused to them. Hence, we decided to go on a Tsunami Relief Trip to the most affected areas of South India.

It was a 7-day trip in which we had to cover 4 villages and two cities. We didn’t contribute hugely but it was the feelings which made the difference. The language was a barrier which was broken by us with our smiles, actions, hugs and moments one craves from time to time. We saw babies who were months old to mothers who saw their sons being pulled away from them by the devil wave. Talking to them made us feel fortunate for what we had. It made me reflect on how I lucky I have been as a person.

Our school had adopted two of those villages and since then, they have been the school’s responsibility. Over those 7 days, we planted around 1000 trees and distributed new clothes, books and food packets to the children and families there. Holding those kids and having them look into your eyes in search of hope is the best gift anyone can get.

Sometimes we just don’t realize the worth of the things we have and end up asking for more whereas there are those who are happy when they have nothing at all but just strangers who have come to speak to them and made them smile.

By Saiyona (@saiyona) 

Some of the snippets from our trip:





Love for the stray

“Seek and thou shall find.” This line seems very philosophical but easily applicable in almost all day to day life experiences. I too had my share of learning of this thought, when i found her. Ahem!!”Her”, well she is my sweet Pomeranian, who was all over Chennai when i finally adopted her and she has been my daughter ever since.

Jab we met

Like they say, it was instant love from both sides. She clung to me as soon as she saw me. One fine evening, when on a usual stroll i reached my friends house, i saw her. Sitting and alone in a dark corner, she was weak and timid. A child of only four months, but yet not playful. This was pathetic. And soon as i sat there, she came dragging anyhow, to me, as if pleading “Take me from here. I ll die”. It melted my heart. I was confused. My friend had got it from one of his seniors who had purchased the kid as a valentine’s gift for his love. But with the Valentine way past over, the love and care for the little one also went for a toss. What would i do? I stood there, playing there with her, trying to think of the possibilities to take her with me. Nevertheless, I had to leave her. I came back to my room but something was burning deep inside my heart. I was restless. Nothing felt easy, not even talking to my love. I shot back to my friend’s room. And I almost blurted as soon as I entered  …”Oye Ankur! I am taking her with me. She will die here if u keep her like this.”He was too confused to say anything. With jaws wide open he said…”Haa!! Ok. i too was searching for someone to keep her. She irritates a lot yaar”. “Wtf…Screw you”, that was my reaction almost immediately. I took her in my arms and rushed out. She grabbed a seat almost voluntarily in the car.

My roommate, who was driving said…”Wow!! Too cute yaar.”There was a glitter in our eyes. We were definitely happy. She too was.

The Homecoming

The next morning, unusually, everyone was awake by 6 in the morning, just to watch her sleep. Everyone was so excited and busy in her. By 7, her sleep-bed, a permanent place on everyone’s cot and other comforts’ were ready in place. The Queen was lucky. Everyone was arguing of a different name to give to her. Some said lily, others Betty, and Indian names like lalli.Finally the ball came to me. Everyone asked me.

I almost announced “Tissue”. Unanimously, she was named tissue. And as soon as the stores threw open their doors, Pedigree, dog soap, shampoo, a beautiful latch and all came knocking for the princess. Of course, female help was also taken by my roommates from the respective girls. And all accompanied the boys to our flat to see the new kid. She was suddenly the centre of attraction. And I was loving it. She was playing with everyone like she knew all of them since ages. Nobody ate till four in the evening in excitement. Time really flies when you are having fun.

The black Past and the bright future

Tissue had a black history, marred with incidents that made me feel like why I did not get u before. She was purchased by a senior for his girlfriend as a Valentine’s gift. But soon as the week was over, the sweet little one found herself being transferred from one room to another since no one was ready to keep her. Everyone took her in excitement, but once responsibility haunted, everyone backtracked. She was kicked, abused and not given proper dog food by the nut heads. And when my friend brought her to his own room, the conditions did not get any better. Even he said she irritated a lot. And so, as was destined I believe, we met and she came over to my house.

The day, she came all were over the moon, behaving like kids of nursery who got a new toy to play and adore. The dog too was responding too well and she was very comfortable with each of us. She is a much happier and healthier dog as of today and enjoys plum treats. She loves ice-cream and need one right after dinner. Like other dogs, she too enjoys meat, but after it is well cooked.

And despite all, she is the darling of all my roommates and she will definitely go back with either one of us, who can assure maximum comfort to her when we finish our studies.

By Ashish Aryan 

Lend Your Voice – July 2009

It was a usual July morning. The usual morning rush to catch metro and to punch office card dot @ 8.45 am. Amidst in morning hustle bustle, tuned into FM 98.3 Radio Mirchi.  While shuffling between much-yak yak-and-less-music FM Stations, what caught my attention was the jingle was on Radio Mirchi. As the jingle finished, I was like, “BINGO”. I am going to associate with this.  This was how I come across to know about, ‘Lend Your Voice’ campaign, a CSR initiative by Radio Mirchi.

What is ‘Lend Your Voice’?

  • It’s a campaign for the ones’ who are visually impaired (partially/fully). Where Radio Mirchi has joined hands with NAB (National Association for the Blind). A campaign where a volunteer need nothing but time, a right voice module, reading ability to narrate Hindi/English story books/novels/poetry books and of course, the patience to complete the given assignment (book).
  • Book/Recording material is being provided by Radio Mirchi.

How I started?

As soon as I reached @ my desk, instead of checking MS-Outlook, I sneaked in gmail and wrote to Pallavi (the brain behind this campaign). Hardly 15 minutes, and I got the confirmation reply from her. Grinning like an idiot, I started reading about the campaign and about how I am gonna contribute?

Going by the instructions, I attended the seminar @ their premises at Filmcity, Noida. At the end of the meet, we were being asked to go back, re-think and revert with a confirmation mail.

Result of my keenness to get associated, without any delay, I shot the confirmation mail to Pallavi. Reply came asking, if I am ok with Hindi. I said, very OK. J Saying that, she blocked my time for next day 2-5 pm. Thrilled? Yes, I was.

Next day, started with a Hindi book, (Rabindranath Thakur ki lokpriya kahaniyaan). Was back home with a smile on face and a bit anxiety in mind. A day after my recording received call from Pallavi. Yes, she was happy with the way, I recorded the stuff. And wanted me to narrate another book. An urdu book. I was brimming with excitement.

How does it make a difference?

Ever thought of completing a task blindfolded. Sounds weird. Isn’t? Now think of those, who are facing this weird thing as part of their life.

We, who are blessed with the ability to see/read/speak, how difficult is it to take out couple of hours for them? How big deal is that?  If it’s not enough, imagine a room full of those kids, listening your recorded stories and smiling/crying. Moved? I am too.

Winding up this, wish to say, let’s not just show sympathy. Let’s bring a smile on their faces.  Let’s  make them feel that they are not different. They are part of us. That they also have a right to smile.

With Love,

Masakkali J (@masakkali)

Passion Makes the World Go Round

The previous post inspired me to share my bit with you all reading this.

My school always put emphasis on social service. As a student we underwent a special programme where we had to give less fortunate kids elementary education for 3 years.

So I went to the slums near my house and started teaching 9-10 kids who were more than happy to learn and share my school experiences. I helped 2 girls rejoin school and it was moment of pride for me.

After that, we had to visit blind school every weekend 2 hours a day. It was really awkward the first day.

I felt like i was trespassing in on someone else’s world where i wasn’t allowed to go, had no idea about the decorum that needed to be followed but these people turned out to be so kind and welcoming.

Lack of vision didn’t make them any less of a person. I met scholars there, poets and even actors who depended completely on themselves and their Braille system.

I made many wonderful friends there who would ask me about my life, my school, my family. Some would ask me to read for them and some of the younger ones even raced with me on who can read faster.

All through my growing up years, thanks to my school and supporting parents i had the opportunity of helping society through small acts of kindness like these.

It is needless to say it built my character, brought about a dignity and sense of self-confidence in me. And hence I would like to nudge you all to take that leap and see yourself become a whole new different person. In the end, your actions are all that matter.

Submitted by Sakshi Kumar (@sakshikumar)

Help others to help yourself

I ain’t no social activist. Just a human being who wants to make a better person by helping the needy in some way or the other. I have always wanted to work with some NGO.

I never realized how it felt to help the needy till I went to a BLIND SCHOOL one fine day. It was an all girl school. We, who are blessed with eyes can never feel how it feels for them to be gripped in choking darkness. It was my Birthday. I took some sweets and wafers for them. They aligned themselves. They cannot see you but can feel your presence. I distributed them the stuff, and they thanked me. After I was finished with distributing stuff, they sang a Birthday song for me. The feeling was out of this world! They found small joys in such little things. And the feeling for me was satisfying.

When we help the needy, we kinda help ourselves. It gives a weird pleasure to your soul. I have now made it a routine to visit the BLIND CHILDREN’S SCHOOL just to make them smile and give pleasure to my soul. You can never understand how it feels to help the needy till you actually do. Go on, chose a cause, and dedicate yourself. You’ll be happier and a better human being.

Submitted by Pratiksha Mendiratta(@sukhkarni)