Fairy Godmother of Hyderabad

The Fairy Godmother of Hyderabad

Leah ✨ Community Manager

Most of us see poverty or marginalized people, and think, “Oh that’s so sad.” Or, “There is just so much of it, what can I do?” Some of us donate to various charities, and, at a stretch, we might give money to a homeless person on the street. Not so for Shyamalatha Devi of Hyderabad, Telangana, India. Since 2017, she has taken on a personal challenge to do at least one random act of kindness for one disadvantaged person everyday in December. She calls it her RAKChallenge.

Every day, for the whole month of December, she is Hyderabad’s Fairy Godmother. She sprinkles kindness all over her community: in schools, orphanages, slums, senior’s centres, on the bus, on the streets, and even in her own apartment building.

Shyamalatha’s favourite thing about the RAKChallenge is how many coincidences she experiences. “There are so many surprises! I plan something, but it doesn’t work out, but then something happens that is just meant to be.”

For the last few years, Shyamalatha has made a point of visiting a particular family living in a slum. This year, armed with a big bag of vegetables, she found their place was locked. As she was turning to leave, Shyamalatha saw a mother holding her baby, the cute little boy waving his hand, trying to get her attention. They were just stepping out to buy groceries. “I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Shyamalatha smiles. 

But Shyamalatha really does plan. For a whole month, she gathers supplies: books, tupperware, containers, school supplies, stickers, make up, purses, plants, clothes, food, and anything else she can get for people (and even animals!) in her community. She plans out 40 or 50 acts of kindness to make sure she has enough for the whole month, and usually does more than one act of kindness a day. She also plans her days around doing acts of kindness between meetings and work. 

She loves seeing people react to the gifts she brings. This year, Shyamalatha encouraged her friends and family to donate gently used sarees to give to women in nearby huts. After washing and ironing, Shyamalatha tried for several days to deliver the sarees, “These women leave for work before 6am and return late at night.” Finally she was able to give the sarees to their new owners. “People are so surprised, they say ‘This stuff really happens?’” 

“I want to reach out to every kind of person,” Shyamalatha says. That’s why she seeks out garbage collectors, sanitation staff, students, the elderly, people experiencing homelessness, people living in huts or slums, construction workers, and people who identify as third gender. “I want everyone to feel a little hopeful.”

She says that she doesn’t want to just drop something off and leave. The most important part to her is getting to know the person. She says she gets far more from the people she helps than the other way around. “When I have personal problems, helping people is the thing that motivates me.” 

Shyamalatha’s advice for anyone who is wanting to take on a personal RAKChallenge? “It’s easy. All you have to do is bring some positivity with you throughout the day.” She’s promises you will receive much more than you give.

Maybe you’re not ready to go quite as far as Shyamalatha Devi. That’s okay. It doesn’t take much to become a Fairy Godparent of your city. Bringing a few small items in your bag that you can give away (especially snacks!), taking the time to smile at strangers, and saying hello to people will go a long way towards spreading kindness where you live. 

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