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Community as social capital must not be taken for granted

Community as social capital must not be taken for granted

It is so easy to take community for granted. During festivals we can get free food, lovely entertainment and relax in an atmosphere where we can meet our friends and relatives. The work is done by others, donations are given by others, and we can enjoy the benefits of their sacrifice. What a nice gift to have! 

I was therefore most surprised to experience our annual Dhaja Din at the Jain Oshwal Centre in north London, where 3,000 people came together over the weekend to celebrate the end of the Paryushan festival. Several hundred volunteers were involved in the whole event, all smiling and cooperating joyfully. None of them had taken community for granted. They were deeply immersed in the joy of giving and sharing. 

When I arrived, the parking volunteer was a senior medical doctor, Nihar Shah! The President of the Association, Rumit Shah, is a Chartered Accountant. Prakash Shah is always the last person to leave after all the utensils have been washed and cleaned, and he is a retired man with huge selflessness and courage. Mrs Jayu Shah, who is the Chair of North West area, is a marathon runner and excellent motivator, and she was conducting the whole ‘Seva Orchestra’ effortlessly. Shandip Shah as Chair of Religion and Jayeshbhai, our Minister of Religion were there to ensure the spirit remained as high as the flag.

As a social scientist determined to help Dharmic traditions get the respect they deserve, I was simply overwhelmed to see four generations in total harmony, without any theatre or stage management. For me this is a sign of a living community moved by spirit, and a profound understanding of the science of interdependence. I know that very few leaders or academics have ever experienced a shared community festival with more than three hundred people, let alone three thousand. They ought to study the Jains for their sustainable science, rather than keep belching about Net Zero. 

Whilst the world may struggle to even spell the word Jain, I was confident that the UK diaspora with such visionary leadership will not give up easily to modern day selfishness and materialistic independence. Here was public health, camaraderie and well-being at its highest. This is open mindedness, generosity and resilience at its very best. Long may it earn the highest respect from the country. 


Community as social capital must not be taken for granted
Fasting awakens the soul

Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.  

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