My America Tour -11

Telugu Original : Avula Gopala Krishna Murty (AGK)

English Translation: Komala Venigalla

Social welfare

In America people only do and achieve  many things in the private sector more than their government does. In such a set up we don`t really need to talk about their social sector. In each village, town and city they have a number of organizations who work together or separately doing research in social welfare sector and take up the issues for solution.

          These organizations are locally established, they donot have any constitutional binding. They have nothing to do with municipal and village charters. But there is no place where they don`t have these welfare organizations to work in various areas.

          As part of these organizations there are  `Guest  service organizations ` in major cities. These organizations help the foreigners and Americans who come to those cities in finding accommodations and take them round whichever place or institutional centers they choose to visit. They help the new comers to have travel facilities . They do a lot of such service still they apologize that they could not do much more for them. There are many ladies who are famous for their hospitality – they are  `ANNAPURNALU` as mentioned  in Peddana`s description of Pravara`s wives. their willingness to host the guests is adorable. The guest service center sent Ms Janet Griz Bank to show me Murewood. She had to pick me up from Canterbury hotel in San Fransisco.

          It is a tradition in America and England that the hosts who are going to show us round don`t come to our hotel rooms. They telephone to us saying that either they wait for us in the guest lounge or at the gate at the appointed time. We have to meet them there and they take us out in their cars.

          In those cities car parking is a problem. One should not park car more than specified time. If any car is parked  beyond that time, traffic police will  leave a ticket in the car showing how much the owner has to pay as penalty and by what time. If it is not paid in time that car is seized by the police.

          Getting such a ticket is considered as a humiliation. Mr Devabhaktuni Rama swamy who took me round in Chicago told me that he never got a ticket . That means he is a careful driver.

          I waited for Janet Griz at the hotel gate. She came and  we started in her car. While driving she told me  many  things about  San Francisco. We passed the ` Golden Gate Bridge`. That is the biggest Bridge in the world without the support of any pillars in between. They built that bridge connecting the mountains on either side. They call it `hanging bridge`. It is 17 mile long. We passed the bridge  and Richardson Bay which is a part of pacific ocean. After  showing me Mure wood she took me to a village in Maria county and there we went to a small beautiful hotel built over the ocean -length being 60, 70 yards. I don`t smoke or drink like her. But I shared snacks with her while discussing many things. She is very shrewd, her husband is a doctor and she has a son.

          That evening is memorable . We sat over the ocean in pleasant atmosphere, and cool breeze. Many boats were seen sailing  competitively as though they were scating on water. People at different tables were busy talking but no body was disturbing the other.

          It is good opportunity to know American women. They discuss things deeply and with care. Janet was cool and steady in our discussions.

          A similar experience I had in Tennessee. Miss Leefish took me to a dinner in a village at night. Till 12`o clock we were discussing various issues. She told me that she never wanted to marry. She appreciated my ideas and opinions saying that I have strong views and if I stayed in their country I get a lot of support to propagate my views. She even said  that she even likes to join me in my effort. Even Janet Griz expressed a similar agreement with my views.

          I offered to pay the bill for dinner but she vehemently protested saying that I was her guest and she would not accept my offer. The Americans show us round driving long distances, pay for our dinners and finally they express  that they are sorry to part with us that soon. That kind of hospitality  is one of their traits.                

          The American women are mainly responsible for the American social life to become meaningful and fruitful.  They not only give beauty and joy but also  excersize  the best influence on it.

          Little Rock is a small city. Fresno is bigger comparitively. Milwaukee is a big city. There are social welfare organizations every where in small as well as big places. I quote Little Rock in Arkansas as an example. In 1957 the Blacks faced many problems due to Governor Faubus. Arkansas is a Southern State. I observe one whole day those social welfare centers there. They are functioning in 123 sections. For each section there are two representatives. They elect a Board of directors. Those directors run the activities of the centers with the advice and cooperation of the representatives.

          The social welfare organization collects funds from the people and other organizations. There are many who voluntarily contribute their  mite annually. Nobody  is forced to contribute. Individuals come out willingly to pay big amounts. In 1962 various organizations were able to collect  5 lakh rupees and 7 lakhs in 19 63. The Board decides how much  to allot for various activities. They keep some amount as the capital . They make use of it if they have to bear additional expenditure for  some works.

          In those 123 centers they  allot amounts to  health, education, child support, senior citizens and student  scholarships and to disabled dealing with other problems.The Blacks problems are treated as human relations. Aid is given for the development of  backward areas. People become members of these various organi-zations depending on the areas of their  interest. Let me give an example of how  these sections function . I attended a meeting of one of the sections n in  Little  Rock. There were 25 members present- half of them are ladies. That day`s problem for discussion was ` why some children are leaving and running away from schools in the middle of the academic year?` They call this problem `Fall out`.

          They received report from teachers of various schools. Social Welfare organization writes letter  to the parents of `Fall out` students saying  `your child` is not attending school, the reason is not known, to us. We have to discuss this with you. Can you kindly come to our meeting?`

          The parents come to the meeting, the problem is discussed. They talk to that particular child and take necessary action. They discuss whether a child has not got enough food and clothing, or does he have problem with parents, bad habits or the child has any bad company or does the child have any mental problem. Having found out the reason they help economically to redress the child`s problem. they create suitable situations for the child to come back  to school. They don`t hesitate to spend money. They care for good outcome.

          Let me take another example. If in a family the man or the woman is suffering from ill health and can have  no reasonable means to get good medical help, the social  welfare center sends expert doctors to that family to examine the patient and arrange good treatment in the best hospital till the person recovers totally. Thus the family is saved, their children get good support and thus the painful story of the family ends.

          If a particular locality is found dirty and backward the social welfare team makes inquiries and sends its report to the municipality to act. They also allot some fund toward the betterment of the locality. Thus the problem is solved immediately.

          If they find  that in some schools there are no better families for students they come to rescue and help the schools.

          In the year 1963  they allotted one lakh rupees to tackle the problem of  the Blacks treating it as a human relations problem.   They help to mitigate discrimi-nation towards Blacks, help their children taking care of their needs.

          Through special programs like play, dance, sports, they try to educate children and make them scientifically oriented.

          I mentioned to them about Children`s art academy (Bala Kala Parishad)  in Tenali (the town from which I came) and explained to them its activities. They came forward with certain suggestions for its improvement.

          The people in the society seek help from those social welfare organizations and don`t depend much on the government. People don`t expect the government to do everything. They do things they need by themselves. They are  self reliant and  hence don`t criticize  the government for not doing many things.

          This kind of social welfare activities have been going on  over years and that system got rooted in the American welfare society. They are able to achieve great results for the benefit of society.

          The social welfare organizations are responsible for bringing unity among people  whom they meet several times and hold discussions regarding their needs. They plan  for more and better activities  and better future.

          In small cities there will be  one social  organization  with different activities but in big cities they have area wise organizations that function separately.

          In   the small cities  the representatives of those organizations try to find out if there is any problem   and try to take action if they find any.

          The representatives are familiar with small and big issues in the small cities and they convey the report to the concerned people. A kind of social discipline is automatically established and there by creating the atmosphere of ethics or morality in the society. This kind of influence exerted by the social welfare organizations is to be highly appreciated and recognized as it is worth  emulating.

          But in the bigger cities their work and influence is not enough  in certain areas which are turning to be indisciplined.   Even the youngsters are going off the track getting drawn  to bad ways of life which are harmful to society.

          A kind of slackening in the family life is observed in America. There are almost seven crore children under 18 years . Out of them 30 lakhs belong to divorced parents. Two lakh children are in the foster homes. One lakh are taken care of in private and public institutions. But every year almost four lakh children  are being sent to juvenile courts.

          Looking at these figures I feel sad. Private and public institutions which  give protection to children are  2500 in number. This is one of the major activities of the social welfare organization. Apart from this, they have family welfare organizations. It has 350 centers working with it. I have keenly observed those organizations . They have good arrangements. Children get all facilities. But they miss the love of their parents and the family life.

          This is going to be a major future problem in America. Parents are slowly realizing the need to take proper care of their children and have a better family life.

          In American society divorce is a major issue. In such cases  children may suffer. The parents leave their children freely once they reach the age of 16, or 17 years. That system is leading to social problems. They have money and facilities which could divert their children to uncontrolled freedom and bad habits.

          Divorce is a major problem among the poor and the richest families. Of late the middle class families are steadily maintaining the family unity. I came to know of it in my discussions with various people. The Americans started realizing the import-ance of the unity and strength of a family life.

          All those issues are discussed in the social welfare assembly. Eighty voluntary organizations which work at the national level participate in it. Federal agencies are also there. They discuss the welfare projects and plan of action is decided upon. This assembly plays a significant role in American social  life. Major share of work is done by women members.

          I participated in the meeting of these social workers in Little Rock. I was invited to the discussions after dinner at the house of Fletcher Miller. The meeting is scheduled at 7.30 pm. Americans usually have their dinner by 6 pm. I had my dinner at the hotel and was ready by 6.30 p.m.

          Fletcher Miller took me home. There were 10 women and 4 men in the meeting. There are poets, lawyers, writers and ambassadors in that group which is small but  powerful.

          Jane, a poetess asked me whether we have divorce in India. I said that we have. She asked me whether the divorced women get married again. Another writer wanted to know how our society treats the divorced women.

          My answer was–` In our country there are very few divorces. In our state divorces were legalized in the year 1949. Nationwide divorce law came into force in 1956. Is that  so?- they wondered.

          When I said that divorced women do not enjoy equal right-  they exclaimed — ` What a terrible social system?`

          I said that very few divorced  women get married again . But that situation is likely to change in future. They looked at each other without further remark.

          Miller`s wife asked whether we have any  institutions to take care of the children of the divorced parents.

          I said that such institutions are not there but in recent time the government has started some child care centers.

          One writer wanted to know whether English is our national language. My reply– ` No. There are 14 languages accepted as national languages according to the constitution. We are going to accept Hindi as official language  putting English aside.`

          `The English people had left your country. Why are you still angry with them, why can`t you continue with English as your official language ?`- one writer posed the question.

          `English is treated as foreign language not the national language. So they want to bring in one of our languages to replace English. That is essential to bring back honor to our country. This is the argument of the majority of Indians.`  I explained.

          One lady said that it may not be right even though many support it.

          I replied that majority opinion counts in a democracy.

          `Yes, but -` stopped half way one gentleman.

          One lady writer wanted to know whether Hindi is going to replace English.

          I said  `Yes. That is the constitutional decision. But in south India and in the state of Bengal there is severe opposition. I told that the language issue should not be decided by the mere majority but the people`s acceptance should be taken into account. They all agreed with me.

          One gentleman wondered if it is not English what else will there be  as the international link language.

          `I questioned ` What do Russia and China have ?`

          One friend asked — They do not have . But why should you give up one which you already have?

          I told them that  English should continue as the official language for a long time to come. All looked cool with this remark of mine.

          One writer said `You have several languages in your country. How do you understand writings of other languages?

          My reply– `It is a difficult job. We depend on translations which are not coming out in required number. We have to put in more effort to translate great number of good books of different languages.`

          One remarked -` Indians write good English. Why can`t they accept it as their own language?`

          My response- ` English is not our language. We have 14 mother tongues. Ours is a country of many languages, sates and many races. English is the official language to keep all of us together. English is the link language for a long time to come.

          They all agreed that the task is going to be difficult.

          In such meetings there is the possibility of our knowing them and their thinking  about us.

          I went to Mr Fender`s house in Los Angeles. The couple have two sons and one daughter in law and all are lawyers. I was the sixth lawyer there. The dinner at their place was enjoyable that day. There were artists, poets, doctors.And there were ladies and people from T.V. Fender`s mother who is  87 knows many things about India. She listened to my English, asked me whether I think in  English or in my mother tongue.

          I said if I speak in English, I think in English and I think in my mother tongue when I speak in that language.

          They made me recite some Telugu poems. I let them listen to the  recorded songs of Modukuru Johnson, poems of Attota Ratna Kavi. They appreciated them and  said that our language is very sweet.

          When I told them that Telugu  is called the Italian of the East one Italian agreed with me.

          I wrote a poem, recited it and wrote it for them along with English translations. One or two of them read their own English poems but members present gave me more marks for my poem.

          An artist asked me about our  arts and Ajanta, Ellora. He asked me the reason for the arts to prosper in Buddhist era.

          My reply–` In our country Arts , architecture and sculpture prospered in Buddhist era and the muslim rule. In the Hindu era poetry and philosophy flourished.

          They expressed surprise. One lady asked me whether such prosperity was ot there in the British era. I said that they were not there  in the British  era.

          I said that there was prosperity  then too. education was given priority more than arts and architecture. Not only many ancient sanskrit writings were  brought out to the people with easy explanation. If that did not happen India should not have become this famous.`

          They were all very much surprised with the information of mine.

          Some said that we were benefited by the British rule.

          My reply–`Like you , we also benefited and incurred losses. Both of us got freedom from the British imperialism. But our ancient literature is known to be world language..

          Then our discussions turned to social problems.

          I said-` Our people think that -you people lead a fast life and not slow and steady. That is why here youngsters  lose self control, due to too much freedom and elders ]resort to divorce.`

          Some of them started attacking me like ferocious dogs. Some moved their heads in agreement to what I said. Some kept quiet. On the whole they saw the point in what I told them.

          I remarked that the divorces are more among the poor and also rich people.

          Fender`s mother said- `yes.’

          Fender said `no`.

          Fender`s wife and another poet said `yes`.

          One lady asked : how I got that information.

          `In course of discussions in Fresno a friend gave me that information- I said

          One lady said that all our conversations are being electronically recorded.

          I said: only the essential ones.

          I spent a day with Irving Stone, the famous writer. He has a small house on Beverly hills. We talked about the writings in America which have social relevance and also the style of Stone`s writings.

          That day being very hot, Stone and his wife, Fender`s wife and myself spent quite some time in their swimming pool and felt refreshed.

          We can grasp their social attitudes  in such occasions in course of conversations.

          Such private gatherings and  discussions play key role in social welfare programs. The issues and problems raised in their private meetings will be discussed in the social welfare  sector. Their welfare activities are the beacon lights leading to progress and perfection in their social life.


(to be continued…)

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