When was the last time you thanked someone for their existence?
In a world full of stress, it is only natural that we spend most of our time worrying about how the next day is going to roll out. In our pursuit to find happiness, we hardly consider making others happy.
A 2018 report revealed that about 89% of India's population say that they are suffering from stress compared to the global average of 86%.
A number of studies point out that it is because we have forgotten gratitude. We do little to nothing to bring a smile on the faces of people who care for us.
33-year-old Abhinav Malhotra from Delhi decided to do something about it.
This is his story.
Abhinav would often take a stroll around his place and wonder what goes in the minds of the scores of on-duty traffic policemen, standing on the streets despite the harshest of weather conditions.
"Common people are mostly rude with them. I have seen people snap at them, even slap them for their mistakes. No one deserves such treatment," Abhinav tells The Logical Indian.
"There's so much misery in the world. People are cruel towards each other, a number of people suffer from depression and anxiety, so many people die of heart attack caused due to stress. There's so much intolerance. I wanted to do something to make the world a slightly happier place," he adds.
A year back, in 2018, Abhinav and around four-five of his friends made a few 'cards of gratitude'. These cards had a small handwritten message on them - 'You are doing a wonderful job. We are thankful to you for making our lives easier. We know life can get difficult, but that's okay. Every time you feel low, just look at this card and know that we are grateful to you for who you are.'
"We made these nice, colourful cards and went out on the streets of Delhi, handing them to traffic policemen, and reading it out for them. Their reaction, the happiness in their eyes and the joy in their voices are what led to me founding 'Rab Shukran', an NGO that now has over 25,000 volunteers," Abhinav says
Abhinav says that they coined the name Rab Shukran because they believe in spreading joy to one and all, irrespective of their caste, gender or religion.
Rab Shukran - Little Words Of Gratitude
"'Rab' is a term we use to address God in all religions, and 'shukran' in Arabic means 'gratitude'. We want to spread the message that God is right in front of you, in the form of people who make your lives easier. Take your house help for example, or the sweepers, the auto drivers, the doctors. Just imagine what might happen if any one of these groups of people stop working for a day. Life will stop for us. Yet, do we ever really thank them?" he says.
Rab Shukran spreads positivity across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, and are planning to expand to other cities soon.
"We go out on our drives every weekend, distributing cards, flowers, food among different people. What keeps us going is how they react. Both their smiles and tears have moved me to work better," Abhinav says.
Narrating an incident that left a mark on him, Abhinav says: "I was passing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's house one day and I saw about 10 BSF soldiers standing outside the gate. I gave these cards to all of them. A few days later, one of them called me up and cried over the phone, and told me that he has been shifted to three different cities for work but never has anyone made him feel so special. He told me that he sees the traffic moving every day, but no one even cares to look at him. "
Abhinav says that although we talk so highly of our military, in reality we don't even smile at them while passing by.
Abhinav and his team note down phone numbers of all these people, and make sure to call them to wish them on their birthdays.
Narrating another incident with a security guard, Abhinav says: "This man is around 65 years old and has been working for 35 years now. Upon receiving the card, he broke down and said that in all these years, he has never felt so special. These reactions are our return-gifts."
A majority of us suffer from mental health issues, but we are afraid of talking about it because we might be judged. We keep these issues huddled in our hearts, they pile up and make our everyday lives difficult.
To address these issues, Abhinav's team holds gatherings where people can come and speak their hearts out - a meeting that has no medical experts but people like you and me, who are good listeners.
There is also a helpline number for the same purpose.
What Are Other Members Saying?
The Logical Indian also reached out to some other members of Rab Shukran to know how these drives affect them.
"In the times when hate is overpowering love, Rab Shukran reminds me how important it is to spread love and positivity around. Rab Shukran makes me realize how important it is to be grateful to little things and to people who touch our lives in some or the other way," Varsha Jadhav says.
"Rab Shukran has taught me how a few words of encouragement and gratitude can change someone's perspective towards life and how it can bring about the best in each person," Vartika Sharma says.
Abhinav says that the cards serve a dual purpose.
"There are traffic policemen who do not do their job well. There are security guards and other such people too. But these cards, they instil a sense of guilt in them and they try to work harder and become better human beings," he says.
He adds: "An auto driver had confessed that he refused to drop people off late in the night. A few days later, he called me and said that every time he sees a woman alone at night now, he feels that it's his duty to drop her off safely. Such is the power of gratitude."
In a world where there is so much intolerance, where people find it hard to get along with each other and appreciate each other, Rab Shukran restores our faith in humanity and goodness.
The Logical Indian lauds Rab Shukran for doing its bit to spread joy across the country.
Rab Shukran's helpline number: +91 98999 61187.