Friday, July 4, 2008

You have donated: 10,000 grains of rice

I saw something online that really freaked me out. It was chilling.

On the right, theres a ticker updating the number of hunger deaths in the past hour, and it was increasing by 1 every 2 seconds. Pictures included. Trishaka Trivedi. Iniaka Diop. Chaiyo Seow. Shasmecka Bonita. All children. They look like any child you would meet on the street, not so different from you and I. Who am I kidding? 

We're poles apart. We're born into privilege. They're born into a struggle for survival. I want to go to the latest movie. They would do anything for a bowl of rice. At 17, I hang out with my friends and laze around doing nothing. At 17, the boy is responsible for his mother and seven younger sisters, for their daily subsistence and survival.

I'm pretty sure that for most you of (me for sure), guilt sets in, and you wish you didn't blow so much on something so stupid, because you could have...what? Exactly. You not spending any money on yourself is not going to help a family 3000 miles away survive. They're not going to eat your abstinence. Ok, you could donate to charities (there are SO many of them, chief among which is the UNFP - UN Food Program, but how are you going to donate enough money to make a difference when your only source of income is pocket money?)

You can't exactly convince your dad to donate much money either because he's too busy working to keep your family in comfort, and who can blame him? There is something that a lot of us have now, however. Time. Time to learn and time to give.


“Web game provides rice for hungry . . . FreeRice went online in early October and has now raised 1 billion grains of rice [by November 9].”

- BBC News

“Addictive, yes. But . . . each correct answer results in the donation of rice to help feed the hungry around the globe. Perhaps that qualifies the game as a good addiction . . . one with redeeming qualities, something that’s, oh, didactic and edifying.”

- Kansas City Star is a vocabulary building game that donates 20 grains of rice to the UN WorldFP for every word meaning that you get right. Its gets harder as your Vocab Level goes up. So you learn new words, which is a MAJOR plus point - vocabulary being a primary measure of intelligence, and you donate rice to the UN WFP.

The rice is sponsored by the ads on the game page, the logic being the more you stay on, the more exposure the company gets. Obviously they don't courier 560 grains of rice to Uganda! Instead, they wait until the rice grains accumulate to the level that they can send them off in sacks with freerice in green emblazoned on it. 

Want proof that its real?

Go to the World Food Program Website,, and click on How to Help in the blue tab on the left. In the orange tab that springs up, click on Give More Rice. There's a link for a video. Its called: 'Video: FreeRice for Bangladesh' in red bold font on the left of the picture. Watch it. I'm not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears while watching it. 

And for an added feel good factor, it lets you keep score of how much you've donated in the past. I got addicted. I learnt that full family needed 7200 grains of rice for one meal. I reached 10,000 recently, not enough for more than one family. Why bother? 


Its a game. You have fun and learn something.


Where would the world be if we all asked that? 

The hunger deaths have reached a thousand from 400 by the time I wrote this post. Start playing. 

Change of Style

On the advice of a friend whose counsel I respect a lot, I'm changing the focus of this blog from being a description of everyday events in my life to being a platform for thoughts, ideas, opinions, views, people, things or anything that I feel need sharing, with the occasional description of a mega event - like Board Results, me getting my visa or Prize Day -  thrown in. 

The last post is an example of the new focus and style that I'm adopting. I hope I don't disappoint. 

The Strength of the Everyman

You know, I read something the other day. Its one of the few books I've finished at a single sitting. Its by Randy Pauch, called 'The Last Lecture'. Now most Last Lectures are held when professors or lecturers leave a university or retire from teaching. This one is something different. 

Randy has 3 children, 2 boys and a girl, and an awesome wife. He's a full Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, teaching Virtual Reality based courses. You'd think he hit the life jackpot. He has Pancreatic cancer. And its terminal. Doctors have given him five months. 3 kids. Life can be cruel sometimes. 

After all the crying and getting to terms with whats happening : you can never fully understand why, but you can, eventually, accept that it has happened, and deal with it. In my case, I had a relatively easy to cure type of Cancer. I lucked out on the life stakes. Randy (and all the people who go unrecognized but fight the same battles in some form or the other every day) didn't. 

There are a few people who have the fortune/misfortune of knowing exactly when they're going to die. Fortune or misfortune? I know where I stand. I'd rather die hit by a bus than sit a hospital bed waiting, watching the clock tick your life away. I've had that unpleasant experience (at least at the start of my treatment, when the prognosis was grim, later it got a whole lot better) and it really, really sucks. Its like being on death row but in a very comfortable prison. 

Anyway, reading his book made me realize what true strength is. Some of my friends tell me : Oh no, I don't know how you were able to do it. I wouldn't have been able to take it.

You're WRONG.

All of you. You're all wrong. Randy's strength, it's there in all of us. It's the Strength of the Everyman. Some of us are called upon to use it. Some aren't, and because they aren't, they think they don't have it. They do. Everyone does. 

Randy actually has the courage to compose a book and do a Last Lecture, his legacy to his children. He is trying to spend all the time he can with them before the end. I've heard many quotes about why people die so early, why life was so cruel to them. The one I liked best was:

God loved him so much he took him for his own. 

So Randy, instead of wasting away the precious last moments of his life in a bed, is filming himself with his children, creating a legacy that will assuage the children and their mother in their massive grief once the inevitable happens. They can say : 'My dad did this! He was a Professor! He was a brilliant man! I'm so proud of him.'

Randy Pauch is a slight man, but his is a deeper strength, much, much more than the superficial strength of muscle and sinew. It is a reserve that is called upon when we need it the most. And reading his book, and watching him on YouTube, I was struck by how he thought about the effect of his death on everybody else, when, in a few months, he would not be there to see his sons and daughters grow, live the joys of a parent and become a grandparent. All this was denied to him. Yet, his only thought was for others. He accepted his fate, and worked to make sure that he would still have lingering impact when he was gone.

We worry and worry about marks, the right college, the right hairstyle, being cool. Its only when you face up to the much larger matters of life that you realize how petty all those matters are. Some of us are lucky enough to endure an experience that opens their eyes to this truth. It is because I believed in the Strength of the Everyman that I made it through that ordeal. It is because of the Strength of the Everyman that Randy Pauch can roll with the punch. Its because of the Strength of the Everyman that you find people ravaged by disease, hunger and age still able to smile, to appreciate life as a gift. 

Hundreds of millions of people live a life of such abject poverty that they have a square meal every two or three days. Yet they endure. They bear children. They have a dream for their children, that they live a life much better than their own, and so, in a hope of a better future, if not for themselves, then at least for their sons and daughters, they linger on. This is the Strength of the Everyman. 

All of us have it. I'm not special at all. I have no superpowers. I'm not especially tall or short, not handsome or ugly (opinions differ on that :P), I'm average at studies. I'm good at some sports, ok at others and positively HORRIBLE (8-0 guys!) at some. I've had a little more than my fair share of bad luck in life. I've missed out on one of life's greatest gifts, something a lot of people take for granted. Then He decided to test me some more. I'm still here, and I'm looking forward to a great future. I'm a living example of the Strength of the Everyman. 

Look within yourself, and believe. I did, and I won.