In a sturdy middle income suburb of
Indore, lives Palak Muchal. She is 8. In the last year she has raised over
Rs.750,000. And given it all away!
What is it about India, that amidst all the obvious
acquisitiveness, you also find people reaching out to the deprived around
them? There must be a strong strand of altruism in the tradition of this
land. And you come across philanthropy not only among the well-to-do;
frequently, you find it among simple middle income folk, who you might
expect to save money, rather than giving it away.
Palak's father is an accountant in a private firm and her
mother is a housewife and they live an obviously simple life. And to them
Rs.7.5 lakhs is big money. The reason for this phenomenon, probably lies
in the sense of gratitude that many Indians develop for modest good
fortunes and consider all these to be gifts from god.
Palak's own gift manifested early: she has a divine
voice, and a fearlessness about performing on the stage. Add to that her
'Shirley Temple' good looks! Her light music concerts are a sell-out! She
has a repertoire of 170 songs!!
Soon she was inducted into the Little Star Ensemble run
by the film music directors Kalyanji-Anandji. This was the break this fine
young family came to cherish as their good fortune. It drew them into 'doing something' for
others. When the Kargil war broke out, Palak sat on the pillion of her uncle's
scooter and the duo went shop to shop raising money for the wounded
soldiers. She would approach a shop-keeper, belt out a song and gratefully
accept whatever he was willing to pay. Can't have been much and the Rs.21000 she
raised over several days must have involved several stops and much travel.
Shortly thereafter, her father organised a concert and donated the
Rs.19000 raised, to the victims of the cyclone that devastated Orissa in
Lokesh started her.
By now her reputation began to spread and soon the
connection emerged, with what was to become her mission: raising money for
corrective heart surgery on children with cardiac defects.
It began with young Lokesh Kuril, born with a congenital
heart defect. The surgery was to cost Rs.80,000 and at Rs.60 a day,
Lokesh's father total earnings in an year is about Rs.24000! What then
happened, must warm the cockles of India lovers' hearts. The teachers of
his school approached Palak. A charity concert followed and raised
Rs.51000. Doctors in Manipal Heart Foundation in faraway Karnataka heard
the story and offered to operate on Lokesh free of cost. Lokesh was born
The story gets even better now: when Palak offered the
left-over money to the Kurils, they with the dignity that only the poor
are capable of, refused it and suggested that it be given to another needy
child. That set the course for Palak and her family.
Others pitch in.
They have today a list of 47 children who require
critical surgery. And Palak is determined to raise the money needed for
them. Dr. Dhiraj Gandhi of T.Choithram Hospital in Indore came on board
the project: he would operate free, on all the children sponsored by
Palak. And so they checked up the children and lined them up in the order
of their criticality.
And where is the mission now?
Take this: between April and October, 13 children had
been operated and set on a road to a healthy life.
Palak has been busy as a bee! She has in that time raised
Rs.7.5 lakhs. She asks for a guarantee fee of Rs.51000 for each concert
and passes it on entirely to the mission. She and her parents are also
actively involved in the co-ordination between the child and the doctors,
in the counseling of the parents, in looking up the child in the hospital
and finally, in seeing that follow-up measures are carried out at home.
A child still.
There is a glow of contentment in the small family of
Muchals. Younger brother Palash has also joined the Little Star Ensemble
now and appears on the stage with his sister. His forte is mimicry! The
children have traveled overseas and delighted Indians there. As with many
Indian families education is all important and Palak and Palash are
For all her precociousness, she is an angelic child with
huge eyes and a dimpled smile. She showed off her bicycle and just as I
was leaving, ran in and bought out her pet white mouse: 'Please write
about him too! His full name is Gopichand; I call him Gopi!'
106 Janaki Nagar Extension
Phone: 0731 470708