Thursday, July 24, 2008

Who is a Community Worker?

‘Who is a Community Worker?’, was the topic of conversation among the Mothers yesterday.
The school most of the kids I know go to had given its mothers three days to think of an appropriate ‘community worker’ costume for their Senior K.G. kids. The mothers of the girls were reasonably happy – a white pleated skirt and white shirt could approximate a nurse’s uniform, or a saree-spectacles combination would produce a caricature of the typical teacher of imagination.
But what of the boys? Postman, policeman, fire-fighter – all wore specific uniforms. A white coat and stethoscope could produce a decent doctor, but nobody had a white coat that size. “How about a social worker”, I asked – after all, they don’t really have any specific costume. But nobody seemed to know what a social worker really did, and the mothers were hesitant about getting their kids to understand it enough to be able to describe it to the class.
“A politician?”, someone suggested. All they would need is a Gandhi topi (I had one which I was more than willing to lend) and a kurta-pajama combination.
“But are politicians community workers?” The dissent came in a chorus that took me surprise.
“Of course they are. Or at least, they are supposed to be”, I clarified. “In fact, a good politician should be the ultimate community worker, because he is supposed to dedicate his entire life to improving the lot of the community.”
The snigger was almost audible, and I grinned too. “Well, I AM talking about an ideal case”, I said. “We all know that almost the entire current crop of politicians is anything but selfless, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that politicians too are community workers.”
One mother agreed, perhaps because it ended her quest for a costume. But today, her face was a long as it had been the previous day – she had checked with the school and had been categorically told that politicians were NOT community workers.
She is planning send her son dressed as a dabbawalla – the Gandhi topi would serve his as well in that guise – and I had to agree that it was a great choice. After all, dabbawallas hold Mumbai together like few other people do.
But, I can’t help reflecting on the sad state of affairs of a country where politicians are categorically deemed NOT community workers. It is true that the fruit vendor and the gardener at the municipal park serve the community much more than politicians do, but to totally remove politicians from the list of community workers is to snuff out all hope for a better crop of leaders tomorrow.
Or is it?

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