Are you well?

“How are you?”

When was the last time you answered truthfully, thoughtfully?

When was the last time I asked sincerely, curiously?

This most civilized of greetings, it could be argued, has become nothing more than a marker of a privileged society in decline.  The meaning and function stripped from the habit and tradition.

Nalamdana means “Are you well?” in Tamil and is the name of an Indian based NGO I learned about the other night.

On an unseasonably cold June evening, we gathered in a Salem garden to talk about sweltering Chennai and learn about the work of Nalamdana.

Non-political and non-religious, Nalamdana does not distribute supplies or fund research.  Its sole purpose is to educate.

Drawing on diverse media — from community based street theatre to cable radio — Nalamdana’s programming is designed to address simple, fundamental issues: how to use a toilet, when to say no, how to make friends.  None of it’s particularly sexy or sophisticated, but it does save lives and transform communities.

US dollars go a long way in India:  $2,500 will endow a scholarship, $1,400 will pay for a two week working holiday, of which 60% goes towards innovative programming.

So often I’ve felt that “the ask” for these sorts of charitable opportunities on the other side of the world, are predicated on the understanding that if “they” were a little more like us, not so backwards, we wouldn’t have to help.  We’ll do our part this time, but it’s their own fault we have to.

This presentation was different.  The organization is Indian based and founded by an Indian woman who happened to go to college in America with several other in attendance this night.

“The ask” was less begging for our privilege, than an invitation to participate in good, effective, transformative work that doesn’t cost or demand all that much.

Indeed, it starts from a foundation we all should already share and practice: engaging with and caring enough about our neighbors to ask with sincerity and curiosity “Nalamdana?”

To learn more, click the link below:

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