A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Are you doing your bit to give back?
A few weeks back, a colleague’s daughter was diagnosed with a critical illness. Saving her life requires several lakhs, his savings don’t quite match up. Some of us got together to raise funds through social media appeals for crowd funding. Several well-meaning influencers helped us spread the word, and we managed to raise a fairly large amount for her immediate treatment, in record time. I slept that night thinking that all’s well with the world. The feeling lasted till the following morning.
To be honest, it wasn’t a surprise to see requests in my inbox from others who needed help to save the lives of their loved ones. I was charged up for it, having seen success just a day before. I simply went around asking everyone I knew, to donate for the next worthy case. And then it struck. The cynicism, the helplessness, the reality. It was good to indulge in fancy appeals once. It was a task to sustain it even once more. It was a nightmare to even think of following it thereafter.
Here, the things we say when someone asks us to donate money to help. The use of ‘we’ in the preceding sentence is deliberate, it includes me.
—I’ve already done my bit for another cause.
—I don’t make enough to fund charities, I’m barely meeting my needs.
—I pray every day for the good of this world. Prayers work more magic than anything materialistic.
—How do I know if this money is really even reaching the needy?
To be honest, all of the above are valid arguments. But so is the fact that there exists an enormous gap in what we as a society are giving back, and how much is needed merely to ensure that people don’t die when they don’t have to.
A March 2019 report by Smarinita Shetty, published in Bloomberg Quint, mentions that as of 2017, there were 101 billionaires in India, whose wealth in one year increased by ₹20,91,300 crore — an amount equal to the total budget of the central government in 2017-18. However, as analysed by the Hurun Indian Philanthropy List 2018, only 38 men and one woman made it to the list of those who donated ₹10 crores or more in a year.
Actually, I just spoke about the rich for effect. It is not the Azim Premjis and the Mukesh Ambanis that one needs to debate over here. They seem to be doing their bit to give back, and if they weren’t, there’s precious little this rant would achieve to correct that. In fact, a friend, who is among the country’s most well-respected socio-economic behaviour analysts, tells me, “The marginalised lower class in India is doing way more charity than the middle and the upper middle class.” He adds, “Even if an auto driver earns 10,000 bucks a month, he is far more willing to donate ₹500 than a mid-level corporate guy, who is making thrice the amount.”
The more intellectual we think we become, the more caught up in mind traps we get. This is realistic, but interesting behaviour to ponder over. We are okay spending 500 bucks on a pizza evening, but we are not okay giving that amount away for a cause because we have the option of hiding behind arguments such as ‘NGOs who ask for money are mostly frauds’. Maybe some are, maybe the others aren’t. But it suits you and me to have the pizza in peace, thinking they might just be.
A report on societal behaviour by an American collective states that a majority of people in the US – a country that has people donating twice as much as individuals in other ‘rich’ nations – still think that their contribution is too small to make a difference. It’s too ambitious then to even think about India, you say, right? Wrong. We, in India, actually have a very intrinsic, spiritual trait to give ‘daan’, the Hindi term for donation. It’s a bit ironical that a majority of it still goes in the metal boxes kept in temples, mosques, churches or gurudwaras. Nonetheless, we have the capacity, the heart, the will, bigger than any other race, to help others. Here are a few simple tips to ensure that you utilise yours to the max.
—Don’t overthink. You want to help someone that your gut says needs help, go ahead and do it without dissecting it too much. You are doing your bit with the right intent, and that matters more than anything else when it comes to helping out.
—Don’t overdo it. Not bragging, but I have already given out two months-worth of my home loan EMIs in spontaneous moments. It’s all great if you can brave it out, but if, like me, it’s gonna give you sleepless nights later, do not do it. Donate as per your capability, not as per your emotions.
—Have faith in the fact that most people in the business of helping others are not doing it, well, as a business. Too much of questioning has ruined our trust in the fact that it is in our basic nature to give back. Someone may be doing it by feeding the pundits, some by feeding the needy. There’s no questioning anyone’s intent or ways. But do decide to give back a certain amount of your earnings to any cause that you feel deserves it that month. My choice for this month is Uday Foundation’s ongoing drive to give a decent meal to each of the thousands of homeless attendants of the patients that are admitted in New Delhi’s AIIMS. Your calling could be something else. But doing it, nonetheless, would guarantee you good sleep. It’s a good investment.
Sonal Kalra donated a lot last two months. She’s now a subject on some crowd funding sites. Help her, if not through money, then through your feedback at sonal.kalra @hindustantimes.com or facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra