Daughters of Destiny

daughters of destiny

I am one major sob queen and I am not ashamed to admit it. Any piece of media I consume makes me super emotional and cry like someone just died. As expected, the new documentary on Netflix, “Daughters of Destiny” made me weep like a baby all afternoon yesterday. This documentary is about children from socially and economically backward families being provided with an equal opportunity to education and basic quality of life, all thanks to the vision of one man, Abraham George, and the contribution of several generous donors. It is an attempt to break poverty at the most grassroots level, one child at a time.

The one thing that stood out to me from that documentary, which has been shot over 7 years, was how fluently these children spoke in English. It doesn’t feel like India. It feels like the West, where everyone including a homeless person speaks English with the same accent and it’s hard for you to know what their social or economic background is. This is so powerful, especially given that these children would have otherwise been social outcastes given the castes they come from and the stigma attached to it, till date.

To put things into context, one of the kids, was born to a woman who works in quarry and lives in a tiny thatched hut roof by the same quarry. She lived there until the age of 4 before she received admission into “Shanti Bhavan”, a residential school for the underprivileged in South India (near Hosur). She is now a corporate lawyer in Delhi, after having graduated from NUJS in Kolkata. Her two worlds are strikingly different as her family continues to live by the quarry in the same old tiny hut. I cannot even begin to imagine the level of maturity this girl has to be able to cope with the differences.

I have a lot of admiration for people who give their precious time for the betterment of others, especially at the grassroots level. We are all so caught up in our own lives that we don’t have a minute to pause and reflect on how lucky we all are to be born to our parents who could afford to provide us with opportunities to dream, and then go chase those dreams, let alone help others have those opportunities. We think it’s not our problem that these kids are born into poor homes and to each their own fate because there are people who are much richer than us and they don’t make our lives any better.

Helping someone who could use our help enriches our lives as much as it enriches theirs.   It’s impossible to know who has how much potential without being given the opportunity to explore it. All we can do as having had the privilege to explore our own potential is to be able to help one other person explore theirs, because who knows, one day, this person might become the president of our country and you’ll play a huge part in it. Just saying, in case you are curious about what’s in it for you.

I myself had the privilege of enriching the lives of close to 200 such kids that came from various parts of rural Karnataka while I ran civic education program for them over 4 years at Toyota in Bangalore. I benefiting from the experience as much as any of these kids since I learnt a great deal about life in different parts of rural Karnataka I’d have otherwise never known first hand and this made me grateful for the life I had, growing up in a city. That’s when I realised that opening yourself up to give, allows you to receive as well.

Market for renters

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For most of my life, I have lived in owned houses and the few times that I have rented one, I’ve been super fortunate to get some great landlords who haven’t been “Ramanamurthys”! They’ve always attended to all requests quite promptly making the renting experience quite comfortable. Having said that, I am a fairly decent tenant who will go to great lengths to get my full deposit back. Twice, I’ve had landlords tell me at the time of exit that the house looked better than when they had given it to me making me nervous about landlords who doubt my credibility of maintaining a property.

I recently moved to a new home in London. While laws, attitude of landlords, etc. vary by region, my current renting experience had a rather stiff start with a detailed check in inventory being carried out before I moved in and the landlord not providing an awful lot of appliances/ utensils. I wondered why the landlord was more uptight compared to my previous landlords given that the market for renting is not favourable to landlords in London, given Brexit, etc. While some bits can be attributed to culture, there was definitely more to it.

I live in the first floor of an old victorian styled house with my landlord staying downstairs, a house he probably inherited from his parents/ ancestors. This essentially means that any additional income he receives from rent is fringe benefits only. So, even if he didn’t receive any additional income, he’d probably be okay. So clearly, he has little incentive to make the renting experience super special unlike in my previous experiences, where I stayed in flats that were investments of my previous landlords. If they weren’t occupied, the investments wouldn’t yield and hence, incentives of landlords were super aligned with tenants unlike in this case.

With a tenant living right above, rental price is usually a function of pain the landlord is willing to endure since having the landlord downstairs makes a tenant more likely to complain about little things. I find myself being more fussy than usual about silly little things just because I can. Now, in hindsight, I get why my parents are so reluctant to let out their house upstairs. The additional income hardly compensates for the pain of attending to a tenant’s infinite needs, let alone the high cost of damages a tenant could possibly cause to the property, given the power balance between a landlord and tenant in India, unlike in the west. But I realise that in India, very few landlords are softies like my parents.

The initial deposit in the west tends to be 4-6 weeks of rent, which is quite insignificant compared to the deposit charged in India, which is usually 10 months of rent. When you compare the absolute amount in dollar value, they are probably comparable but its not typical for landlords in India to claim the entire amount against damages, cleaning, etc unlike in the west where you can easily be penalised for the smallest of wear and tears. So, financial incentives are designed for tenants to take better care of properties in the west as compared to that in India, making landlords in India somewhat more hostile like Ramanamurthy in Ganeshana madhuve.

P.S – I know a friend who fought a 3 year court case in Germany just because a leak in the dishwasher had caused some dampness to the woodwork around.