There are experiences you derive pleasure from and there are experiences you are bound to treasure for the rest of your life. The visit to the National Association for the Blind (NAB) facility in Hauz Khas as a part of the ‘Swayam’ community service volunteering program as a part of Coca-Cola Founding Day celebrations was one such unforgettable experience for me. This residential center in Hauz Khas imparts vocational training to visually impaired women with the purpose of making them financially independent and secure. Our plan for the day included a set of activities to familiarize us with the life of the impaired, followed by a cleanliness drive. The first task we were entrusted with was perceptibly a simple one – walking out to a nearby park, taking a stroll and returning to the center. Only, we were blindfolded, were given a walking stick and had a visually impaired buddy assist us.
Neetu, my buddy, was quick to take charge, steering and guiding me past the many obstacles that peppered our path. This proved an eye opener in more ways than one. In that moment there was nothing that stood between my guide and me. She wasn’t a girl and I wasn’t a man, she wasn’t a visually impaired student and I wasn’t a Coca-Cola executive, we were just two souls bound by the uniformity of the void that surrounded us, struggling to walk barely a few hundred feet. I was clutching her elbow, frightened and nervous, and she, like a domain expert, was comforting and encouraging me with her kind words.
It was during this walk that I realized the real value of some things, like walking, that we take for granted, and the meaning it holds for the visually impaired. I understood the futility of fault lines we so tediously create to divide one human being from another – class, caste, creed, religion, gender etc., which, in the embrace of total darkness, proved to be just as insignificant as a fly on the windshield of a moving car. I was inspired to rise beyond the trivialities of my problems as they had suddenly lost their entire sting. Life, I realized, was too precious a gift to be spent chasing materiality. In that moment I understood the meaning of true happiness and found myself empowered to spread it. The cleanliness drive too, despite the many challenges it posed for the uninitiated, proved to be a thoroughly rewarding experience. It was a sight to see my colleagues, who one would normally picture discussing strategies in a conference room, climbing rickety ladders to clean grease-laden fans, scrubbing floors and polishing glass panes. The passion and dedication with which each person approached his/her assigned tasks was palpable, and in the end, the result of our toil was there for all to see. Our achievement went on to prove that the conviction behind the purpose of a task that individual members share is responsible for a team’s success and not just the capabilities that reside within it. This, to me, was far more insightful than any lesson on teamwork and collaboration that I have ever attended.
The day eventually came to an end and we retreated to the lives of ease, comfort, ambition and colour that we are accustomed to. But each one of us, you could tell by a quick glance at our faces, was leaving a part of us behind at the NAB center. This one experience had transformed us from detached sympathizers to engaged empathizers. And I am certain that for many of us this was simply the beginning of a relationship that will stand the test of time and help us become better human beings. The stream of my thoughts would however be incomplete if I don’t thank my employers for providing me with this once in a lifetime opportunity. A great brand, favourable working conditions or substantial pay packets are easy for others to replicate, but organizations that have their heart in the right place aren’t too many. I am truly fortunate to have found one to work with. So, thank you Coca-Cola for bringing this and many more such wonderful moments of joy into my life. I am glad we were all able to celebrate the legacy of the wonderful brand in such a special and unforgettable way.Anurag Anand is an employee of Coca-Cola India and a part of the Coca-Cola University team.Note from the Editor: The Coca-Cola Founding Day is marked on 8th May. This year, the world’s most ubiquitous brand celebrated its 129th Anniversary. In order to mark this special day, Coca-Cola India associates, as part of the company’s Employee Volunteerism initiative. ‘SWAYAM’, contributed their bit towards the community by visiting and spending time with the specially abled and undertaking several activities to appreciate their way of life.