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A mockery called social work

July 29, 2010

conversation between two middle aged ladies from the upper strata of the society—–

“Now that we have crossed 50 years it’s high time we started doing something worthwhile for the society.

“Let us join that  group of ladies (all from a residential area where only the crème of the society hobnobs)  and we will have to just just take out  Rs.500/- per month each and then go to some orphanage/old home/hospital and give the money for some good cause.”

A real genuine noble gesture from the part of the haves of the society.

But here comes the punch “Now that we will be meeting every month we will have to buy so many new dresses. After all we cannot repeat the same dress”. And as everyone wears designer clothes even we will have to invest in some new dress every month.“After the visit to some welfare institute we will go to some restaurant and spend some quality time there. This way we will have at least one outing every month. We will also  go to far off places—this month we will go to —- (a place just two hours from where they reside) .The weather is no nice It will be picnic cum social work” “ everything is so meticulously planned.” 🙂

So now just imagine the scenario “a group of ladies in their designer wear( all new ones bought specially for the occasion) meeting once a month, going to some orphanage/hospital/ institute/old age home in their sooooooo very fancy cars, donating either money or some articles and then after wards going to some posh restaurant to get rid of the tiredness and spend time with friends and then return home with a satisfactory smile on their faces that they have done some good deed and some good social work for the society. After all it is their duty as human beings to help others. 🙂

Are they doing some social work or fooling themselves?

I have seen the so called social workers visiting such welfare institutes at all odd hours and donating things which are not at all required in such places.

The store house of one of these institutes was overflowing with tooth pastes, soaps, powders. Even the staff of the institute had complained about the uselessness of such unwanted and useless donations. The so called social workers very grandly and with a magnanimous gesture donate articles as per their wish and not as per the needs of the inmates. not only that they take out old clothes from the cupboards ( make space for new ones) and with a great deal of show off donate them to such institutes and call themselves as social workers.

In one of the cases one of these groups distributed fancy imported colours to the children of slum– which the kids did not even know how to use.

Instead of spending money in the shopping for each meeting, or to pay the bill of the hotel if this amount is also added to the pre decided amount and then given to the inmates – won’t it be a better gesture than going in big groups and then giving negligible amount or unwarranted things?

I wonder would any one of these so called social workers will actually sit with the residents of the institutes and spend some time with them, or play with the children or read out to the inmates of the old age home or help them in their daily chores?

Even some of the international organizations having hundreds of branches in India carry out service projects for the needy section of the society.

But the story is the same there also. Organize big meetings , book venue, arrange for snacks , call some chief guest and then give measly amount as compared to the expenses incurred on the show off.

These days everything comes under the umbrella of most misunderstood word social work

The ones who are actually and genuinely involved in contributing to the welfare of needy are often ignored and overshadowed by this lot who believe in glamorizing this profession for the satiation of their own ego.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2010 11:01 am

    I have seen this too, but won’t say all are like this. Once I started a school in a room for little girls who I grew very fond of and an well known organisation offered to take over – and now I realise they would have been good, they had a system, syllabus, trained volunteers and funds.

    The classes ran inside our residential complex and if I had handed it to them it would be working till today. I refused and after a while we had to move to another part of the country, and a very enthusiastic but horribly misguided person took over – she believed all the girls needed to study one single syllabus, starting from ABC! There were drop outs and at all levels and I had been guiding them at whichever level they were – they would have given class 10th boards as they reached that level (NIOS). Soon afterward this person decided the school was a waste of space and got the room converted into a Gym.

    I was misled by the fancy clothes and fashion shows they organised – the organisation was doing a great job but also living their lives tot he fullest. I asked the person who took over to at least get the girls in touch with this organisation, but she didn’t even let me know what happened after that.

    I later worked with these people (not in the same city) and came to respect them. They do buy clothes for outings and some of them see this only as an outings – but they also create openings for those of us who are interested in doing our bit. And those who wish to do more – do more, those who are wasting time, only do that – in the same organisation.

    • July 29, 2010 1:06 pm

      IHM even I am involved in the so called social work, I even have a professional degree in social work 🙂
      the last portion which I mentioned about international organization is true as i represent one such. and it is a common practice in all the big organizations to follow the same path.
      I don’t say that all social workers or all those who are involved in doing their bit for society are just doing it for the sake of doing it.
      if it was so then various organizations who are actually doing meaningful work would not have been there.
      what pains me is the show off in the name of social work or the so called chiffon and crepe clad ladies, with imported bags in their hands, big sun glasses and oozing with perfumes in their big cars going to slums ( with handkerchief on their nose ) or visiting orphanages or other such institutes and making a big hue and cry about the donations they give and immediately disinfecting their hands with sanitizers.
      what they fail to realize is that many a times such gestures gives complexes to the receivers and ofcourse this lot comes out with smug smiles on their faces and as Varsha said pose for page 3 photos.

  2. July 29, 2010 12:23 pm

    Very good post, Anju. People are such fakes, really. It’s all about themselves and maybe get their picture in the papers for the good deed they are doing.

  3. July 29, 2010 12:43 pm

    True Words Anju!
    I see this first hand everyday-it is the pet pastime of bureaucrat wives.The thing is they never set up sustainable systems which require efforts as well as time.They just use sarkari money to give handouts to some selected people.
    Their payoff is a photo-op in page three and a chance to show off their dresses and jwellery.

    • July 29, 2010 1:08 pm

      Varsha and Saroj you are right a photo in Page 3 is more important , most of the times these people make a big thing about taking the photographer with them and clicking the photo is more important to them.
      if the gesture was genuine and straight from the heart then where is the need for the photos ?

  4. July 29, 2010 12:56 pm

    this is a comment from Tushaar Mehta

    “”hey anjuji,,, so if 1 really wants to do so called social work thn shd do it alone which gives lots of satisfaction,,,nt getting into any show business,,hey me really very happy as i don,t have to buy designers wear,,,hehehhe but i design my social work to gve them new life,,,,”

  5. Jack permalink
    July 29, 2010 1:20 pm


    Caught up with pending posts. Change of heart is thought provoking but we can not compare it to change of mother board of PC where all stored memory gets erased unless saved specificly. How does one feel after change of body organ is what we need to hear from those who have undergone it. Out of your painting, may I request for one of Lord Krishna or Elephant Head, if you can spare. These are good ones and I am sure if you continue with this you will make your name well known. On Social service, I fully agree with you. It is more of a TAMAASHA by and large. I can say it with experience as I was associated full time with a NGO and now on part time basis. I have had occassions of attending seminars organised by big houses but to what end is anybody’s guess. It was as you described visit to good resturant after social work. My own thoughts are that we need to do something in two sectors – Education and Empowerment of Women. There are lots of ideas I have had and some are being followed by NGO I was with.

    Take care

    PS : Do not be too hasty to think of responsibilities being over. You have just stepped into the world of those. Let your children get married and then I will ask you what keeps you busy. Again my own experience. LOL.

    • July 30, 2010 9:46 am

      you are welcome to take any painting you want. as i said at this stage I am quite generous to gift them to any one who appreciates my work. Can’t tell about future if I become famous :-).
      regarding change of heart — it is a nice research topic. I wonder if any research scholar will take it up

      I am dying to see that day when my children succumbs to the continuous pressure from us to get married. I am looking forward to the day LOL

      • Jack permalink
        July 30, 2010 7:22 pm


        How do I take those from you? Look forward to your reply on my mail. And how old are your children? I do not think they are yet of marriageable age.

        Looking forward to your visit to my space too.

        Take care

  6. Jack permalink
    July 29, 2010 1:22 pm


    You may visit me at
    or email me at

    Take care

  7. July 29, 2010 6:13 pm

    May be, those who are genuinely involved in social work get ignored.So what?If they are serious about having contributed, they wont be bothered about any attention or press coverage.
    The class of ladies you mentioned are in it for fun and time pass.It only adds to their bio-data.
    Trust me, no one takes them seriously.

  8. July 30, 2010 3:09 am

    This is a thought provoking post. Every industry has its good and bad side. It is true that in India, social work has also become a brand that needs to be endorsed. Do we need Amitabh Bachchan telling people to attend pulse polio campaign? No. But looking at the appeal of cinema and the fact that many people in the country are still not literate, this is a strategy to generate awareness. Perhaps the high society people (and lets not talk about women alone – there are also several pretentious men around) are looking to boost their image and get mileage out of it. But lets ignore that for a moment and think of the issue they are endorsing. In a country where there is so much apathy to issues of poverty and deprivation, any endorsing is fine by me. Does Celina Jaitley really care about gay rights issues? Who knows. But if she attends a gay pride parade-the issue gets attention. And that is important.

    I don’t know which international org you are speaking about. I belong to this fraternity and have been in social work for over a decade. The ones that matter and which do important work prefer to maintain a low profile and highlight the issue. And as one other reader rightly said: the ones that make a tamasha, people can see right through them.

  9. July 30, 2010 7:35 am

    They could have spent more than Rs 500 on the kids if they really look at the actual cost involved in joining the club (saree+ Rs 500 + lunch/dinner + travel expenses). They could easily make a difference.

    You are right about uselessness of the articles donated. You could also talk to the orphanage authorities to find out what they really need before donating.

  10. July 30, 2010 11:55 am

    I too have come across such great souls in life. I have been to an event where the socialites were being honored and presented by shawls and some gifts. You should have seen the scramble to get a seat on the dias. Though as a social gesture I had designed their stuff and created a never ending supply of funds from greeting cards to stationary and I was called to the venue too, I saw the meelee and I decided that henceforth I shall refrain from joining such selfish people who are more bothered about their own gains.I believe- gutter me se gutter ka pani nahi ayega to kya Ganga bahegi kya?

  11. July 30, 2010 12:18 pm

    The fabric of our society is such that this has become normal. If you choose to push the envelop then you will be branded an activist or a rebel.! So the social butter fly has no other choice but to have meetings,that’s the only thing she hears from her spouse after all . If something comes out of it – then good job – if nothing then keep meeting.!

    Overheard at pseudo-party – ‘Social work has to be done, some one has to do it, how else are they supposed to kill time ?’

  12. July 30, 2010 4:21 pm

    You are absolutely right in your observations. Many people want to do social service for name and fame through media but the moment you start EXPECTING from the social service, it no longer remains a service. I can tell you from my experience at a helpline, several people specially house wives take the training and soon get bored and vanishes from the scene! Social Service requires firm commitment.

  13. Neha permalink
    July 30, 2010 9:38 pm

    thats a great post…

    i think even if in lieu of parties and shopping, people are finding ways to give to the society..even the thought of doing something for someone is noble…
    what comes before and after the deed can be ignored if someone is benefiting.but i do agree that things which are not needed should not be donated just for the sake of social work…

  14. July 31, 2010 1:04 am

    This post hits the point very well. Social work is limited to arranging parties and free champagne these days! It’s weird but for some it works well for their advantage!

    Nice post. Bookmarked your page. 🙂

  15. July 31, 2010 11:55 pm

    Sorry to differ with the definition of social work you used. Technically what you are refering to is Social service, done by one or more like minded people to help the underprivilge. Social work is organized, planned and sustainable activity taken to provide skills to underprivileged people or other wise with an aim to ensue a change in social attitude and reality.

    In other words what you mentioned (social service) is like feeding a hungry person one time. The later (SW) is teaching the person to fish so that he/she can feed themselves for times to come.

    The kind of charity you mentioned is prevelant in the upper echelons of any society. They lack understanding of an ideology and grounding in the grassroots realities of those they want to help. These are the people who think of cleaning their karma likewise industrial houses think of hiding their vices by throwing few morsels here and there. For this reason (NGO scams) Britain has decided to curtail foreign aid to India.

    Calling these socialites social workers is like a slap in the face for all those who are dedicated to the cause. Social work in India basically runs on the backs of poorest of the poor who help themselves. Be it the Gulabi Gang mentioned by IHM or Sangtin Yatra, the non literate women of UP or anganwadi workers across the nation. They do not get to attend the book readings and ribbon cutting, all they get it hard work and social hostility of the constituents they are trying to help. Bhanwari Devi is the true social worker. She tried to prevent child marriage and was raped by upper caste men. She was taken to ICPD China in 1995 but she still lives an ostracised life in the same village.

    Please don’t call this social work let it be what it is social service or self service.

    @S.R. Ayyangar,
    Yes, have wasted numerous man hours in training home makers for helplines and other projects. They quit with out notice. So we have started employing a volunteer contract where they have to agree to give X number of hours per month. If they want to quit they have to give proper notice. Voluntary does not mean as I may like it. 🙂 it is hard to get that point through.


    Sangtin Yatra:
    Bhanwari Devi:
    Gulabi Gang:


    Desi Girl

    • August 1, 2010 4:57 pm

      you are right about social service and social work.
      but for a lay man social service and social work is the same
      it felt so nice to know some one talk what actually social work is about. reminded me of my college days when i did my masters in social work and how we used to have long discussions on social service and social work.
      most of the people confuse social service ( which every one does — from giving used, old clothes to maid servants or to orphanages to giving financial aid to poor — all comes under social service ) with social work
      so i used the term

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