An Altruistic Approach By Mousumi Gupta

This Women’s Day we are celebrating our member, Mrs Alta Ahmed, and her empathetic contribution to people around her.
Mrs Alta Ahmed is an exceptional woman with an empathising attitude and an eagerness to help the people around her. She was with her husband Mr Kaisar Ahmed in Hong Kong in the early 70s. Since her husband was quite busy with his official assignments and tours, she thought of doing something charitable to keep herself engaged. She joined “The Samaritans” as a volunteer, in Hong Kong. This is a non-profit, non-religious organisation giving confidential emotional support to people who felt at bay in an alien country and culture. Hong Kong was still under British rule at that time, so many British families used to come and stay there. The women often felt lonely and depressed because of the cultural and environmental shock. It was the responsibility of a ‘Samaritan’ volunteer to listen to their needs and give them a feeling of companionship. The opportunity to talk about what they went through and how they felt listener helped them to deal with their problems. Mrs Ahmed helped many such people by giving them her time and attention and acknowledging and respecting their feelings.
After her husband got transferred to the US, she again started searching for a similar kind of engagement, as it had given her immense satisfaction. It was then that she came in contact with an organisation which educated prisoners to enable them to get a job and be a part of mainstream society once they were out of prison. She joined there as a volunteer teacher to the female inmates.
Mrs Ahmed reminisces, “I still remember my first visit to the prison…after handing over all my belongings to the prison guard I entered through the first gate and the gate dropped down with a huge bang. There was only one gate between me and the prisoners then, with some of them being there for something as terrible as murder. But in my very first meeting all my fear dissipated, when I saw how eager and hopeful they were to meet their new teacher—who would help them to learn something and make a life on the other side of the wall.” Twice she brought some of the girls to her house for lunch, with permission from the jail authorities. She said, “I was extremely happy to see how the girls enjoyed a normal family life. My husband helped one of them to get a job and she is happily settled in her life thereafter.”
In Mrs Ahmed’s words “Often people commit crimes because of some unavoidable circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that their right to lead a normal life should be snatched away from them.”
We want to observe this Women’s Day with all the women who have transformed the lives of other women so selflessly.
Down Memory Lane

Priceless Memory

Sukhwant Singh, our CGO – Kolkata Branch, shares a precious memory of this day.
26th January is a day when India celebrates and honours the momentous event of India’s Constitution came into force in the year 1950. For me, this is the day when we showcase to the world our military strength, our rich cultural heritage, our achievements as a nation, and our unity in diversity.
In the year 1989 I had the privilege of participating in the Republic Day Parade at Rajpath in New Delhi, as part of a marching contingent of the Sea Cadet Corps. We left Calcutta (as it was called then) in the first week of January, filled with excitement and joy and somewhat prepared for the harsh and cold winter weather of New Delhi. We were provided lodging in the Single Sailor Complex near Chanakyapuri. To add more spice, our camp beds were neatly arranged on the 9th floor balcony of the building, with adequate insulation and heating arrangements to cope with the zero degree temperature conditions. The administration had taken special care to ensure that the dining area was on the ground floor, so for each meal we had to go from the 9th floor to the ground floor and back. And since there were were no elevators, all that climbing up and down made sure that we had enough exercise to keep ourselves warm and fit.
Every day we would get up around 4 a.m. and post our morning routines and a quick cup of tea, we would board the Army 4 tonne truck to reach Rajpath. We would practise marching from 5.30 a.m. to 7 a.m. We would then return to the base by 8 a.m., have breakfast and take rest. We would have another round of practise post lunch, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. This was the routine for two weeks to gear up and be ready for the big day.
The dress rehearsal was on 23rd January and it is on this day that the winners in the various categories are judged and finalised. Finally, after weeks of rigorous practise, we were all ready for the D-Day, and on Thursday 26th January, 1989 we proudly marched down Rajpath, while synchronising our steps with the beat set by the band. All the VIP and dignitaries present in the gallery applauded and cheered loudly as we saluted President R Venkataraman, who was accompanied by the Chief Guest, General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh from Vietnam.
This day will be forever etched in my memory as the beat of the band, the music, the marching boots and the cheering crowd reverberate in my heart whenever I think of this day…. JAI HIND!!