DO-GOODER

The Person Forcing You to Sign the Charity Register Lives a Pretty Rough Life

Don’t be mad at them for doing their job.
Anjali Rajesh Singh convincing a passer-by to do their good deed for the day.

Our Do-Gooder series introduces you to the nameless, almost faceless, force helping us, our homes, and our cities survive despite our best efforts to destroy it all.

Anjali Rajesh Singh, 20, remembers it clearly. “It was around 3pm when I approached this couple, but banda bahut drunk tha (the guy was really drunk). I just asked them, “Excuse me guys, can I speak with you?” to which he replied, “Kyon baat karni hai (Why do you want to talk)? Just take my WhatsApp number. Jo baat karni hai woh WhatsApp kar do. (WhatsApp me whatever you want to talk about)'."

Advertisement

Singh meets a lot of aggressive couples everyday at Mumbai’s Bandra Fort, but this guy was different. “He told me to WhatsApp in an unusual way, and I felt very dirty. I told him we (her colleague and she) do it (our job) because we love social work, and it’s not an obligation for us. But then he started screaming at us, “Kya ukhaad legi tu (What can you do to me)?'"

A typical day in Singh’s life looks something like this. She wakes up at 8am and reaches Inorbit Mall in Vashi, Navi Mumbai by 9.30am, where she has to meet her daily target of selling two beauty products at a kiosk. She earns ₹ 6,000 a month for doing this, less than the per capita income of an average Indian. She then travels by local train for an hour and a half to reach Bandra, where she tries to get strangers to donate money for the education of differently-abled girls and boys.

“I started doing social work after my father passed away two years ago. I quit school when I was 18, but now I’m trying to get back to it,” says Singh, who lives with and supports her mother. “This works satisfies my heart and my desire to travel.” The next time you assume that the person asking you for money for charity is surely trying to con you, remember that people like Singh actually exist in the world too.

Singh currently works for two NGOs—Om Sai Education Welfare Trust and BGS Foundation—both based in Palghar, a small town 90 kilometres north of Mumbai. The former houses 260 disabled boys and girls, who Singh meets each month when she delivers her monthly collections. For her trouble, she gets around ₹ 100 a day, which covers train and bus fares. Obviously, there’s no profit to be made here. “If we ask enough, our team leader takes us out to a restaurant once every two months. Last time, I had non-vegetarian Chinese food,” she says.

Advertisement

I watch her try to get people to open up their wallets for a good cause. She’s relentless. “Can I speak with you, sir? Can I speak with you, ma’am? Hello, can I speak with you?” she repeats again and again, pulling out her large register at the slightest hint of a possible donation. She’s oddly approachable, with an inviting smile and gentle manners. Her friend is more pushy, her hand gestures more aggressive.

“Some people ignore us, some ask us why we are asking them anything or who we are. They ask us why they should listen to us at all. Some say bad words also, but we can’t do anything about that,” she adds.

Singh holds two jobs—one for herself, and another for kids with disabilities.

Success is accomplished through smart targeting. You can, after all, ask only so many individuals in one day. So, she focuses on couples. “Couples donate the most. Some donate in their girlfriend’s name, some in their mother’s,” she says. “I don’t know why, but some of them have told me that my communication skills are very good,” she adds.

They want me to donate, but I can't. It’s odd, but it feels like paying for a story, which is unethical. But on the other hand, I’ve taken up about 45 minutes of their prime money-making time, so why shouldn’t I make up for it?

Singh, though, doesn't seem like she wants the money, for she is already off striding towards her next target. The last thing we speak about are her future plans, which sound quite obscure. “I’m happy doing this for some time,” she tells me while walking away. She’s enjoying the bustle of the mall, her hair flying in the long train journey to the suburb, and the Chinese food that comes her way every other month.

I hear her ask someone else in a distance, “Hello, can I speak with you?”

Follow Parthshri Arora on Twitter.