I donated blood on my 18th birthday for the first time.
My father was the force behind this start. For his contribution to the blood donation movement and having donated blood 104 times, he was felicitated as a Star Blood Donor by then vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in 2003, and by Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki in 2014. I was in the audience to witness the event five years ago.
Unlike other award ceremonies, that evening of felicitation is imprinted in my mind not only because I saw my father go up on stage to a thunderous applause but also owing to a unique vibe I felt. There was a distinct warmth and connectedness among the gathering – the commonality being – all of them were blood donors. Every person sitting there had a heart that wanted to make a meaningful contribution to society. The smiles greeting each other, the body language after being felicitated, the energies of the awardees’ families, was humble and calm. I felt I was part of one big family threaded together by joy rooted in voluntary acts of selflessness.
Today, I understand that the sense of achievement that comes from donating blood, a part of your body, is very different from a reward one receives on coming first in something or being at the top of a batch or levels in an organization. In the latter, one achieves recognition by ‘outshining’ others, by surging past peers, by being the best among competitors. In contrast, a blood donor’s felicitation is awarded when one does good for others without defeating anyone, or proving to be better than the rest. I believe the only thing one really has to defeat is one’s own internal fears or lack of empathy, one’s own unfounded biases or ill-informed beliefs.
For example, I had to overcome my morbid fear of needles. I had always panicked at the sight of injections. Even when I was in Class 10 and had to get the Hepatitis B vaccination, I remember how I howled. It was quite a sight. Such a big girl so scared of a prick, while children got on with it without a whimper!
However, the day I made my maiden donation for the Blood Bank at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, even as the needle entered my vein, something snapped inside me. Nibbling on a banana post donation, I realized that my little act will save someone’s life one day!
Knowing something and acting on it are two different things. The surge of satisfaction was so uplifting that my fear of needles simply disappeared. That’s the power of blood donation.
We celebrate National Voluntary Blood Donation Day on October 1. What began as an initiative in 1975 through the Indian Society of Blood Transfusion and Immunohematology led by Kanta Saroop Krishen and Dr JG Buoyant, it is today a nationwide celebration.
So, if you’re between the age of 18 and 65, here’s your opportunity to make a fresh start, or refresh what you started years ago. Take an hour out tomorrow, visit the nearest center/camp, get yourself checked, and enjoy the contentment of good karma that will come from donating someone the gift of life.
This article was published at Hindustan Times.