Bringing Light In The Lives Of Children

Source: Source: Deccan Chronicle
March 18, 2012

I met Meera after several years in Hong Kong. The last time I met her before this was when she was hosting Cherie Blair over lunch in Delhi, a couple of years ago.

Completely outspoken and somebody who speaks her heart without too much thought, she asked me half accusingly and half expectantly, "Queenie, did you buy my book Giving Back?" I smiled (she had not changed since school), "Not yet Meera, but I intend to."

"You are in it," she said.

Meera Gandhi started her contribution towards Giving Back when she was in high school. Every Saturday morning she would go to Aasha Daan (A Mother Teresa Charity), to spend time interacting with the children there. "I used to like to go and talk to the children and feed them," she said, adding, "I have always felt a desire to reach out to children who are less privileged than ours, so that they experience and get more out of their life."

Her husband was posted in India. Her son was little and she was having a tough time finding a good nursery school for him. "Having had experience with children since I was a child, I decided to start my own pre-school." She bought the curriculum and began her pre-school, in the compound of her own home. A lot of expats enrolled their little ones into Meera's school. She affiliated her school with the American school, and after she left the country some of the teachers joined it. "We made a substantial amount of money and donated it to Aasha Daan and 'Happy school for the Blind' in Worli. At Christmas, children from the blind school would come and sing for our babies," she recalled.

"Blindness was very hard for me to fully comprehend. Not to see all the beauty, this planet and life offered, made me very sad," she said. "I always wanted to support them. It amazes me to see their heightened intuition and their intelligence."

Her book Giving Back is a result of Meera's journey through four continents with interviews and vignettes about her friends, and those who have devoted their lives in deeply personal ways in humanitarian causes. Ms Blaire has written the foreword for the book.

The humanitarians highlighted are Kerry Kennedy and her brother Robert Kennedy, Bono, Hillary Clinton, and fashion designers such as Donna Karen and Narcisso Rodriquez. Hundred per cent of the proceeds from Giving Back will be donated to charity. "I would have got you the book if I could, but I guess you have to buy it," she shrugged nonchalantly, while telling me that it is available in Mumbai. I commented on the list of famous people in her book. She replied, "My mission is quite universal and global. It is not restricted to famous people, but generally to friends and like-minded people whose desire is to give back in their own way."

"I feel the need is universal, however, in Asia it is more need-based and in the west, aspiration driven," she said, talking about spreading the awareness globally. I was looking at the "very social" Meera in a different light.

I knew about her charity, but had not known about her need to do it to achieve her own sense of happiness. "We all need to find our mission in life and quite simply, this is mine!" she said happily.

Meera looked content with the path she was on. "Kindness begets kindness, respect begets respect and goodness is a great way to go," she said as we said goodbye and promised to meet again soon.