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"Be happy with what you have but never be satisfied with what you can do for others."

Mr. T.K. Mathew,
Secretary & Chief Executive of Deepalaya

There is no substitute to ethical behaviour

Today Mr. T.K. Mathew, Secretary & Chief Executive of Deepalaya-the largest operational Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Delhi that primarily works for the welfare of underprivileged children-is a popular name in NGO circles. How has that been possible? Bhuwan Sharma and Sunaina Baghla of Amity Edu Media got an opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Mr. T.K. Mathew at his office and learn more about the man who is known to almost all for his unflinching adherence to honest conduct. Here are the excerpts.

The seeds for the establishment of Deepalaya in 1979 were, undoubtedly, sown while Mr. Mathew was still a young boy growing up with his mother in a remote village in Kerala. “I was born in Cochin but the entire family, excluding my father, moved to our native village while I was still very young. Since my father stayed away and visited us occasionally, we were brought up under the strict discipline of our mother. My mother was someone who would not tolerate anything, which was not right or ethical. So in the whole village, people used to cite our example for the way we were brought up and the way our family used to be managed. We belong to a particular Christian community so we had a church. As Christians, our day used to begin with the Morning Prayer. Besides prayers, we used to regularly read our Bible. We used to be regular in the Sunday school, church and other fellowships organised in the church. So bringing up has made a difference and inculcated certain life skills and religious values. Deepalaya is a direct result of my value system.”

Natural disposition towards social work

“You should be for others. It means that if I have two, then let me not try for the third until the man that has none gets one. This is a very difficult situation because when you have two, the situation you are into makes you go for three, four and more. That does not mean that you should not work hard, earn or build your lifestyle or career. None of these things are to be taken negatively but you should always allow others to have an opportunity. So you tend to do sacrifices in order to help somebody else. It is a very socialistic thought process that was not told to me by anyone. I acquired this through my own philosophy.”

“I started smoking in college. But soon I gave up that habit and it was not difficult for me as I have a lot of will power. Then, I said to myself that it is not enough unless that money goes to somebody. So I used that money for awarding a scholarship to a college student. I supported a student with very poor means to do his three years B.Com.”

His natural drive to work for the welfare of others translated into action in many other ways. As part of the youth forum, he joined hands in constructing village roads, thatching the roofs of the widows whose resources were limited.

Mathew’s natural inclination towards social work also played a pivotal role in shaping his career. He says, “One of my values is that you are not just for yourself. There is something that I did when I was very young. In the church, we have to go empty stomach on Sundays for the communion. I thought this starving or fasting would have some meaning when the money I saved for not having the food was used for some purpose. I calculated the cost. During those days, breakfast did not cost more than two rupees. So, I gave Rs. 100 to my parish priest. I asked him to help some woman to find employment with this money. The response to this step was such that today my church runs a self-employment programme. So, whether it is money saved through giving up smoking or through fasting, it has gone into some kind of work which has a social and livelihood orientation.”

It was such ground-solid value system built on the foundation of his Christian upbringing coupled with his own tilt towards social welfare that led him to join hands with six other like-minded people to start Deepalaya. Today the organization that was begun by collecting Rs. 2500 from each founding member “has an annual budget of 5 crore rupees and an asset of rupees 12 crores” Remind Mathew that Deepalaya is known for its “clean image” and he is more than happy to elaborate that transparency, accountability and credibility are synonymous with Deepalaya. “We don’t hide anything, the more you hide, the more trouble you face.”  

Words of wisdom for the younger generation

“I would like to ask the younger generation to study well, work very hard and always use fair means. Uphold your values and let the family, society appreciate them. If your values are good, nobody can put you back. Your faculties have to be diverse. It is not enough that you specialize in one aspect. Your aspiration should be related to your capacity. Your aspiration should help you to build your capacity continuously and reach the top. So it is a cumulative affair.” As someone who has devoted his life to the service of others, Mathew is, however, saddened to see the mindset of the younger generation. “The new generation is becoming selfish,” says he. “Today people say: Why should I suffer? Why should I lose? Sometimes when you hold on to certain values, you have to suffer. But people are not ready for that. That is why the whole system is becoming corrupt day by day.”

A satisfied person

At the end of it all, is he a happy man? Says he, “Deepalaya has been cumulatively growing and becoming bigger since the last 25 years. Until now there has not been a single year when there has been a dip. Today we are in larger number of slums, rural areas, and three-four states. So the growth has been very phenomenal but at the same time one could have grown much faster if we had not stuck to a certain value system. One could have left aside certain values and grown at a much faster pace in terms of numbers, spread and reaching out. But there is no dissatisfaction. Whatever we did, we did well with stability, sustainability and self-reliance. Today, Deepalaya may not be so very popular but it is known to many people. It’s known for its values, ethics, systems, procedures, etc. I am fully accomplished and I have no sore experiences.”

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