Ladakh News

Ways to serve society

By Dr Spalchen Gonbo, Stawa 01-20


By and large, Ladakhis are a generous people. Not only generous, they are altruistic and always ready to help others in need. There are many tsogspas (associations) and groups ready to help others. Many people regard this as a way of helping others and contributing to society. However, I have always wondered why people need to form a tsogspa or a group to help society. Why can't they help society in their own way by doing the job for which they are being paid? I can help my society best by being a good doctor. A teacher can help society best by teaching and by being a good teacher. A builder can help society by constructing a good road, bridge or building. I often get confused when I see people coming together to form a tsogspa and then doing something else altogether! The doctor often takes leave from his or her hospital, the teacher from his or her school and the builder from his or her job to 'help' society!

I was recently invited to an alumni meet. The meeting ended with members deciding to 'do something for society'. Everyone agreed that we all have jobs that give us a salary and that we must now do something for society. It is time to pay back. I could not help wondering that the best thing for us would be to do our jobs to the best of our ability. For instance, teaching is one of the noblest professions in our society. Why should a teacher pay back in some other way? A doctor can do the job by attending to patients in the most professional way. If you have more time on hand, then attend to more patients. You can go a step further and see poor patients for free or even give them free medicines. Similarly, a builder can serve society best by building the best structure possible for a hospital, school, office, or bridge that makes him or her feel safe and proud!

In my opinion, each of us can serve society in our own different way. When I was posted in Nubra, I would eat bread and curd for breakfast. My wife would send bread and curd from Leh as they were not available in Nubra in those days. Then, a local entrepreneur started manufacturing them in Nubra. To me, this was not just a business venture but a big contribution to society. He made Nubra more live-able for me! I was also indebted to local businessmen who offered cable TV services and provided wi-fi services at a nominal rate. Although these are business ventures, they are providing facilities to people and helping them. In fact, till a few years back, social life in Ladakhi winters was particularly difficult. I remember a time when no restaurant in Leh offered dinner during the winter. In fact, we still don't have a theatre or a private hospital in Ladakh.

As a doctor, I don't think there is any point in sponsoring the education of a child if I am not doing my job properly at the hospital. If a doctor does his or her job well, this is his or her biggest contribution to society. The same goes for every profession. We must first perform our job and responsibilities as professionally as we can, before we think about donating money to charity.

I remember a speech given by Magsaysay award-winner, Sonam Wangchuk when he received one of his early awards. He spoke about people talking about giving one's life for the country. He argued that the country doesn't need your life but that it's better that you live your life for the country. Famous lyricist Javed Akthar was in the audience and he elaborated further on this point. He spoke in his own unique style on the difference between 'Jam' and 'Zindagi'.

Most people think that joining a society or being a part of an NGO is a good way of helping others. In my opinion, we must decide how much time we can afford for a cause, before we join an NGO or society. In fact, many people join more than one NGO. In my opinion, before we join a tsogspa we must ensure that it does not impact our primary job.