Philanthropist Alka Bangur is the proverbial fairy godmother to the less fortunate
With diamonds dripping from everywhere, she is the dazzling Ms. Moneybags, for sure. The list of posts she holds can well leave your ears buzzing. But, that social service is her dharma and karma can well be gauged from the way she celebrates a gamut of festivals. Alka Bangur, president of the All India Marwari Mahila Samiti, is a businesswoman on account of her Marwari lineage but a selfless and passionate social worker by choice.
Recently felicitated with Rashtriya Sevaratna Samman by President Pratibha Patil, her joy is childlike. If Rakhi is celebrated with injured soldiers, children from night school are part of the Diwali revelry. New Year is ushered in with orphanage kids, Sankranti with mentally challenged children and Holi at an old age home. “We don’t believe in celebrating birthdays. They are a time for giving and sharing with those less fortunate and privileged,” she smiles. For her father-in-law’s shraddh, she gets a tubewell sunk or a water reservoir dug.
On the move for more than 15 days in a month, she traverses the country from north to south, east to west, attending meetings for various industries owned by her husband. She is on the board of temples and parks, is the first woman to be president of the Agri-Horticultural Society of India. She irradiates chambers of commerce in various capacities. She also has a village in Rajasthan named after her.
The fiery lady, who confesses she has to be a motor mouth giving interviews and speeches, practises maun vrat from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. “Silence gives immense strength. I draw sustenance for the entire day from those two hours,” she reveals.
This is one lady who seems to have dipped her hand in the horn of plenty and come up tops with everything. She makes it a point to put the leadership, organisational and communication skills at her command to good use.
“The girls we were helping would not finish the course as it was free of cost. We thought of asking for a nominal deposit that is refunded after the completion of the course. This is working,” she reveals with a twinkle in her eyes.
In the aftermath of the Kargil war, Maharaj Gaj Singh asked her to do something for war widows. “Some of them were so young and had spent such little time with their husbands, they did not even remember the husband’s face. The mahila samiti organised funds and we gave them fixed deposits of Rs. 25,000 each.”
When she saw heaps of cattle bones during a drought in Rajasthan, she gave six months’ fodder to the affected cattle owners and bought cows. During her travels, in fairy godmother fashion, whenever she comes across water and power woes in any village she’s ready with a solution. An application, pulling a few strings, and, hey presto, the lady makes water flow and electricity light up the lives of the underprivileged.
“Jeeyo har pal. That’s my motto. My life is a gift from God. The most heartening moment is when a mentally challenged child plonks himself on your lap and calls you mummy,” she smiles even as the tears spill out of her eyes.
KOMAL VIJAY SINGH