Stephen Covey, the much celebrated author of "Seven habits of highly effective people" had talked about the circle of influence concept.

In our lives, we can also enlarge our own circle of influence, through meaningful action.  Let us examine how this could be done, in some small way or the other, so that the society is able to develop to a new level.

One first and very straight way of doing this is to show some small concern for the people in our own family.  Today, this is no more a choice but a very big imperative, where the men also start doing the household chores, hitherto considered the sole preserve of women alone..

Once this is done, we would have done some justice to the saying "charity begins at home".  There are enough reasons why we need this extra amount of care, so badly needed in today's conditions.  The main reason is that the expectations of our wives or husbands and of children have gone up exponentially.  For instance, it is expected that the father or the mother will help the child in doing his or her homework, after doing some searching on the internet.

Secondly, we need to look around in the first circle of social relationships -- neighbors and the immediate society in which we live.  Any small need for improvement can be highlighted, any small help that should be done, can be rendered and some concern should be shown for the society as well.

Today, many hundreds of students descend on the world-famous Marina Beach of Chennai, and clean all the plastics, regularly.  This has now become very common.  No one pays them a pie for their efforts.  The students want to do it, because they are nurtured that way, by some college managements and teachers.  When the general public see the college students doing the work, they also chip in, with whatever little help they can, and this becomes a big circle of influence, at a group level.

Thirdly, if we can refer some people to some meaningful activities that make a huge difference to their lives, it is inevitable that our circle of influence gets enlarged.  In South India, a whole lot of people are engaged through self-help groups.  These groups of ten or fifteen women, are helped with bank loans at reasonable rates of interest, and they also contribute their might, for the initial capital amount.  Hundreds of small eateries have come up.  They are also trained in the art of making small plastic bags, through the Government and with the active support of some Non-governmental organization.  Once this is done, they start their living, with products that mostly have buy-back arrangements. 

Such arrangements have helped thousands come out of poverty.  It should be noted that the initial spark came from socially minded individuals, who thought of the idea and then told the women that training in the art could help them to help themselves. 

Fourthly, a very good idea of doing something to enlarge one's circle of influence is to just go to the nearest Government school and handle free tuition for the poor children.  When this happens, the society starts to recognize our services, and we would have done a great deal of good work in the process.

Fifthly, it is wise to invest our time and efforts on finding out how the society's problems could be solved.  In Chennai, there is one famous person called "Traffic Ramaswamy".,  His job is simple: he would file public interest litigation to ensure that traffic in some critical parts of Chennai are regulated.  He is also so much concerned about the fact that the Government is least bothered about crowds that gather in just one street in the busy area of T Nagar, a posh commercial area of Chennai.  This narrow street unfortunately houses many huge textile jobs that do roaring business throughout the year.  In fact, it is a picnic spot as well, for the North Indians, who spend the whole day shopping here and then board the late night trains to their destinations.  What really happens, is that on any single day, there are some eighty thousand people who throng this street for shopping. 

Nearer the festival days, it is nightmarish experience to even enter this busy street, that would be flooded with a see of humanity.  What happens is that this area lacks sufficient fire arresting arrangements and in the case of one major fire, the stampede will result in huge losses of lives.  Traffic Ramaswamy has now cases in the courts, trying to analyze the problem and recommend solutions.  

He has no political background.  Yet, he carries on regardless, in spite of the fact that he is now more than sixty years old.  We should try to learn from such people.  Recently, when a huge eleven storied structure under construction came crashing down, killing sixty odd people, the entire public of Chennai, stood out as one man, condemning the corrupt officials who cleared such construction. 

Yet, the interest has to be sustained, so that similar disasters do not happen again.  Mercifully, the Judiciary is acting in favor of the common man.  It is extremely gratifying to note that the Judiciary has even passed strictures, in several cases, and the executive has been forced to take action.  

The next thing is to do our bit to save our environment, by planting hundreds of thousands of trees.  It is becoming increasingly clear that unless we take urgent action, the entire society will simply disintegrate, at the present rate of environmental degradation.  It is extremely dangerous to see the plastic menace go out of control.  We need to use jute bags to the maximum extent possible, and also convince as many others as possible, to just avoid plastic to the maximum extent possible.

Now, there is a new interest in anything that is organic.  There are hundreds of acres of land, that are grown organically, without the use of chemical or nitrogenous fertilizers.  We need to understand that unlimited urea and chemical usage is the root cause of many of our diseases.  We need to be very careful in this regard, and take the organic movement forward.  

We can make the organic movement go far beyond the limits of small commercial considerations.  For instance, terrace gardening, which is catching up, should be encouraged even more.  Not a single bit of urea is needed and kitchen waste, it has been proved, is enough to grow the best of vegetables.  Such encouragement, will effectively bring down vegetable prices, as they now tend to shoot through the roof, thanks to decrease in production of vegetables all around.  

It is our duty to reach out to social causes and enlarge our circle of influence.  Every single person can do his or her bit, and the world will become a far better place to live in.

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