the art of giving revisited

I got a mail this morning from Gooj, an organisation I have a lot of respect for and who are doing an incredible work for flood victims in Bihar. The mail was meant to update everyone on their activities on the field and remind one of the horror of the situation. They are doing remarkable work and need to be lauded and supported.

But this is not why I write this blog. Actually a para at end of the long mail caught my eye and made me shudder in disgust: But I would certainly like to send out a word to a few CSR people who call up our office and ask questions like- "how far is Kosi river from Saharsa" and if they don't get the exact no of kilometers they threaten to report my colleagues to me. Or the wife of a CMD of a public sector company who gave us some ration and clothes at a function with a lot of fanfare; three cameras, a speech delivered thrice to get the right flavor; resulting in wastage of precious time of a GOONJ team member. Or arguments on why a truck can't be unloaded at 2.00 am in the night? Please do understand that our team is working round the clock under tremendous pressure and with very limited resources. They are also human beings and without any logical reasoning it's not right to make uncalled demands on them. (The truckwould anyway be allowed to move out in the morning only). A person from a reputed organization told us that they would give us their contribution at a special function organized for the purpose, for which someone from GOONJ would need to be present. When we said that we didn't have an office in that city the person wanted someone to travel out or else threatened to give the money to some other NGO. My humble submission to such demands; kindly go ahead and my humble appeal is not to use this as the only opportunity to show how concerned we are. Good work always shows and one doesn't need banners all around for that. The need of the hour is to spend our time and resources in the most effective manner."

Phew. I can understand how hurt and angry Anshu, the spirit and heart behind Goonj, must have felt when he finally decided to write those words. I also understand how he felt as it is a feeling I share having also been at the receiving end many times. How can I forget the lady from a prestigious club who brought a few sweaters on a hot September morning and her personal photographer in tow. She insisted that the special kids wear the sweaters in spite of the sweltering heat, so that she could have a photograph for the newsletter of her club! Or can I forget the man who in response to our appeal for help for Raju's open heart surgery wanted to know why we were spending so much money for just a poor child. Can I ever forget the big star who wanted Arun another open heart surgery candidate to be carted to a web world center to be part of a media blitz. Charity has lost its meaning and become a bizMess. What was meant to be a subliminal act has lost its spirit and makes a little girl to simply ask a heart wrenching question: is it wrong to help those in need?

The list is endless and points to one simple fact: people have forgotten the art of giving. What transpires from the few examples listed above is that it no more the recipient who matters, the star of the show has to be the donor. What do I get if I give? And if you do not give me what I want I will go elsewhere. I wish we could all say please do so. Sadly we are a still dependent on the few coins cast our way as the price to pay is too big. Too many voiceless and helpless souls depend on our ability keep our faces straight and even mouth the needed words of gratitude.

Today when the world is falling like Humpty Dumpty from his wall, no kingsmen will be able to put him back unless there is a change of perception and attitude. One needs to give up arrogance and embrace compassion and learn to share even the little one still has. Hubris has always been self destructive. I am an absolute dodo in such matters but my instinct tells me that the patch up solutions that seem to be the order of the moment are simply delaying the inevitable as they aim at protecting and salvaging a system gone awry.