Sumanti Sen is an English Literature graduate who believes "there's just one kind of folks. Folks.".
Sathya Natarajan from Pune was an executive council member of a Boston based MNC in the city, where he worked by night for 15 years. A common citizen, he is a volunteer by day.
We are all common citizens. We all follow a similar cycle in life, but what distinguishes us from Sathya is that he lives not just for himself, but to selflessly serve society to make it a better place for all of us to live in.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Natarajan said, “Night shifts have always been a challenge, not just for me, but for a lakhs of people working in call centres, BPOs and KPOs. They have to support the different time zones and geography of customers right from India to the US to Australia to Japan and all over the globe. It is not just the biological sleep cycle that goes for a toss, but due to the busy schedule, one is hardly able to spend festivals or holidays with family.”
Natarajan’s family being very cooperative and supportive, improper sleep cycle was the only ordeal he had to battle. A question, however, pestered him day and night.
“Should I quit the night job I like, or should I do something to nurture my passion to help society in spite of all these odds? This is the question I asked myself over and over again. Another billion dollar question that I asked myself was, ‘What else would I do to make my life’s journey enjoyable and impactful if the situation does not change for another 50 years in my life?’ I have always believed that if we cannot change our situations, we must change the way we view them. That was the attitude that helped me perform what the regular day job couldn’t help me with,” he said
Natarajan began counting the blessings he had. He decided to forgo two hours of TV/reality shows and two hours of commute between office and home by avoiding peak times, to have proper sleep every day. Saving time, he knew, would help him do wonders by volunteering for social causes. Lack of time to follow our passion is something we all deal with, but not many of us put an effort to fix the problem.
“I didn’t want to start another NGO as India had at least 31 lakh NGOs — more than double the number of schools in the country, 250 times the number of government hospitals, one NGO for 400 people as against one policeman for 709 people. But I found a role for myself as force multiplier rather than starting on my own,” Natarajan said.
Today, a decade of volunteering work has passed by, and now that he has worked with 60 volunteering social, Facebook, WhatsAppp and NGO groups, it gives him immense satisfaction.
“Sometimes, we joked saying that I upgraded myself from being a weekend husband to a weekend father. That’s the time we had breakfast or dinner together, on the road where I did volunteering work with my kids. Some days I attended seven events in the day, so I could hardly find a way to spend time at my house. The chai walas and Vadapav vendors were my sole companions, apart from peer volunteers and my kids who used joined me,” he said.
Natarajan said that over a period of time, keeping up with the motivation to volunteer is also a challenge. When regular volunteering gets monotonous, he suggests trying something adventurous and different.
“I have been volunteering in various capacities with 60 different social groups and NGOs around various social causes. I am a core member of Plan Action committee of Swachh Pune Swachh Bharat and Area Sabha Association of Pune (Policy, Citizen pressure group of tree preservation and Protection). A national iVolunteer award finalist, I personally spearhead two main campaigns like Maharashtra Urban Trees Preservation and Protection Act of 1975 and Red Dot (Dignity of Labor) with more than 100 sessions. I spoke to 4,000 women to spreading awareness and helped seven societies adopt segregation,” Natarajan said.
He arranged scores of events and initiatives along with Pune Municipal Corporation and other NGOs. Apart from that, he contributed to field surveys and preparation for riverfront development projects and helped save hills and rivers of Pune. He has been working in an advisory capacity to communicate awareness on the Tree Act with various societies of Pune through the Pune Administration.
“It is a delicate and tough balance to attend to various causes, keep up the brand image of your company in every activity you do, and at the same time try to be yourself and fight for causes that matter to a common citizen,” Natarajan said.
His work on weekdays includes teaching underprivileged students in night schools and conducting food and stationery drives. All that Natarajan does is centred around human beings and their well being and protecting them. His weekends include various volunteering causes around new LAW-related (Land Air Water) issues dealing with nature and the environment. From lightweight activism around issues related to air and water to keeping land and air clean by way of Swachh Pune Swachh Bharat, he has been acknowledged as a Change-Maker by his ex-CEO.
“Apart from weekday and weekend volunteering, I also institutionalize and promote ‘desktop volunteering’, wherein people instead of travelling a lot can use that time to plant a tree using a google map location and get an E-tree certificate from Grow-trees.com. They can also raise funds by sitting at their computers to serve workers who are in remote villages by way of Rangde, which is a crowd-sourcing platform for eradicating poverty by sustainable fund generation. Technology can often do wonders,” said Natarajan.
Apart from this, Natarajan leads his own hygiene and sanitation group that promotes the usage of sanitary pads, disposal and alternatives such as menstrual cups.
Natarajan said, “Nowadays, I utilise my skills and time giving lectures on individual social responsibility to various youths so that it inspires them to do their part in nation-building.”
According to Natarajan, to enjoy volunteering, one must focus on making an impact and enjoying the journey. He says that there are three essential things one must keep in mind. First, we need families and friends to support us when things go wrong. Second, it is important to carry on with our day/night job to ensure stability. Third, it helps to have like-minded NGOs/social groups who invite us with open arms, with whom we must tag along to grow as an individual.
The Logical Indian appreciates Sathya Natarajan for his tremendous effort to help society become better.
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.
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