It's a give and take world

LET'S GIVE

It's a give and take world

It’s not why you give or what you give that matters, but that you give, reckons Radhika D Shyam.

One need not have a large bank balance to make a positive difference. In this world of glaring inequalities, those of us endowed with the comforts of life often pause to ponder over our luck and want to share some of it with the less fortunate. Social responsibility projects are now a common feature of large corporate houses and big companies too. The reason for it could be anything, from expressing our gratitude to the Almighty, to simply gratify our souls or mark some occasions – joyous ones like birthdays/anniversaries or grievous ones like death of dear ones. There need not be a time or occasion to be generous. The motive could simply be the feel good factor. Or, it could just be to strictly follow the doctrine in religious texts. The underlying motives for “giving” are as varied as its forms.

The busy lives we lead has made time the one luxury we lack. So, giving our precious time to bring about a change, however small, in someone’s life is certainly the most supreme form of giving. Honorary teaching in schools, giving a patient ear to the inmates of an old age home, spending quality time with differently-abled children or cheering up a terminally ill patient in a hospice has its own unmatched rewards. Sponsorship of education or a vocational course has a stronger and longer impact than many other forms of contributions.

Naina (name changed on request) is part of an organization run by a trust started by a famous spiritual Guru. They do story telling and theatre sessions at remand homes and schools for special children. They arrange for or volunteer to act as scribes for blind students during exams, teach in village schools and help in sites of natural calamities. It is against their principle to reveal their names or that of the organization, to uphold the purpose of doing genuine charitable work. A far cry from the fashionable, publicity seeking, ultra rich who attend charity events to be featured on Page 3!

One very good example of an NGO that triggered multiple effects is Goonj. Its founder Anshu Gupta realized that women of rural areas were victims of serious ailments because of the lack of good sanitation during their menstrual periods. He was shocked to discover that due to ignorance, unavailability, and high cost of sanitary pads, these women often used gunny bags, sand, ash jute, pieces of rug, rice husk, plastic or old clothes with rusted hooks that could prove fatal. Besides touching on other related social causes like constructing toilets in villages and providing counseling, his NGO converts the donated cotton clothes to make sanitary pads for such women.

This one solution not only reduced occurrences of uterine, urinary, reproduction, and maternity related problems and cervical cancer in women, but also improved the poor attendance in school that hindered little girls’ education. Besides generating employment on a small scale for a formidable number of people, it maintains the ecological balance by making pads from bio-degradable material – a big blessing in rural regions where proper sanitation and disposal facilities are big challenges.

Milli, a trained therapeutic clown who brings smiles and laughter to children in hospitals says, “When I distract the little sick and tired children from their woes for a while, I go through a gamut of mixed feelings to see them laugh through their pain”.

52-year old Susheela, a high school teacher since 26 years, single and with limited means, was greatly troubled by the travails of single mothers who struggled to make ends meet. In 2008, she opened her home and heart to four children of single parents.
Over the years, some orphans and destitute children joined them to increase the present strength to 40. Besides giving them shelter, coaching in studies, and basic needs with a little help from donors, she goes all out in trying to get funds for the education of the meritorious among them.

After taking VRS from her banking job, Suchita Honnavar volunteered at the city based NGO ‘Helping Hands’ to help ill-literate cancer patients from villages to fill forms, translate doctors’ instructions and guide them around in big hospitals. Seeing them up close, she admired the children’s spirits. Many years later, when she fell ill, she drew strength from these very experiences to combat with her own health issues.

People who give donations or services to animal welfare organizations – catering to strays or wild-life, express love and concern for the poor speechless creatures by helping them in several ways, expecting nothing but happiness in return.

As heartwarming as such acts might be, the act of giving isn’t steeped in “selflessness”. Some business centric communities collectively do a lot of philanthropic work. The contributions made through their projects are mostly out of benevolence and camaraderie or even competition. But the ulterior motive for some could be popularity among the clan and a bonus of seeing their names etched for posterity on granite slabs in the hospital and schools/college.

Helping our maids during some crisis or contributing towards their children’s education may have sourced from sympathy but it could stem into making them indebted to us with the favour. As soon as their work or attendance falters, we accuse them of being ungrateful and insolent.

Donating old clothes, toys or books could merely be the outcome of wanting to clear the clutter in our house – no doubt the fact that it will benefit someone may add to our brownie points.

Successful businessmen who have treaded many a crooked path to reach there need to appease their guilt pangs or perhaps avail of tax exemptions.

Nowadays colleges and universities also stress on their students inculcating social responsibility. Compulsory internships at NGOs during the shorter holidays are common.

Students might play along only because they know that a mention of such things in their CVs will be impressive, but such experiences slowly nudge them towards awareness and compassion. A final year degree student Shloka Sachdev is thrilled because of her online voluntary work for the United Nations. A quiz that she prepared for them will help raise funds for a school in Ethiopia. She feels proud of having contributed to the global society in her own small way and is particularly ecstatic at the distance the impact of her kind gesture has travelled.

Neither can the importance of cash contributions for initiating social service activities be undermined, nor the labour of love belittled. Both have their ripple effects. Even the most benevolent of contributors gain happiness from giving - happiness, the ultimate craving of all humans. What we really need to understand is that the act of giving and taking is a symbiotic one. Our understanding of “self”, “selfless”, and “selfish” is rather too narrow; reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead might do us some good. Because as long as the needy truly benefit from donations and contributions in their myriad forms, irrespective of the motives, who is to complain?

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