Happy Birthday – a true Santa !

I called him up after seeing his interview in a neighborhood newspaper way back in Dec 2003. I had just joined Aon Hewitt and wanted to collect warm clothes in the office and was wondering where to give them for further distribution and that’s when I came across this article. When I spoke to him, the first thing that struck me was this air of “no nonsense”, deep warmth and a genuine interest in making a difference.

I finally met him, his wife and daughter a couple of years later at Gandhi Mandap during the “Pratibimb” event and it was like meeting a friend, because that’s just what it was. No nonsense, simple, and so genuine. He started his organization during the winter of 1999 and it started just with the warm clothes in his house and from a few friends… And today they redistribute a million kilograms of clothes every year across the country. Have you started to guess ? I wish you try and hopefully come up with “Goonj”. Today Goonj is a lot better known than when I first made that call 11 years back … But Anshu has remained just the same man inside – no nonsense, genuine and warm. He takes the criticism and praise in his stride and doesn’t let either deter him from his calling in life – mitigating the various disasters that NOT having clothes bring on the lesser privileged.

In the Delhi winters before Anshu started Goonj, there were many many people who died yearly, not because they contracted some deadly disease but just because they didn’t have enough clothes to cover themselves :(:(. There were many people before Anshu who did try and address this problem, but Anshu and Goonj are the first organized effort against this avoidable yearly disaster.

Every project that Anshu has focussed on through Goonj has been about avoiding “predictable” disasters. The fashion trend of this winter may say “Red” is the in thing and many people who have “green” colored warm clothes from last year’s collection, will now put away the green and buy red colored warm clothes. Wonderful, please do. Just don’t put away that green set of warm clothes … Drop it off at a Goonj centre and they will give it to people who have no fashion sense and dont really cares if red or green is in vogue. You will also get their blessings for a long life because you helped save their life !!. Those who can afford it, please splurge, but also purge regularly and that way, you stay current and help someone else live another year.

Goonj makes giving easy, because they take what you DONT want and just take it to the people who do want it. Just the simplicity of the thought is brilliant. Not that Anshu hasn’t had his share of brickbats and criticism, he is battle hardened and sports enough scars – but he isn’t backing down. And now Goonj is a movement, that WILL not back down or slow down.

Today is Anshu’s birthday and it’s a cosmic coincidence that he was born a day before Lord Jesus, who walked the earth embracing the lesser privileged and giving them even what he didn’t have. For those freezing in the streets of Delhi and elsewhere now, Anshu is the real Santa. And every one of them will wish him “many many many many happy returns of the day”. Krishnan and I are fans and admirers of Anshu, and also his friends so we wish him too, a long, healthy life and someday we will be in the audience at Stockholm when this noble soul gets his “Nobel”.

God bless you Anshu, it’s people like you that make the Earth spin around on her axis, because otherwise with all the inhumanity that we see around us, she would have given up long ago. Happy birthday friend.

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