Anna daanam, the gift of food, is a common feature in many homes in India. The Sarvodaya (kindness to all) program based in temples, where you put aside a fistful of rice everyday when you cook and give it to the temples for poor feeding, soup kitchens in slums run by Church and temple devotees are events that are happening all over cities. The Muslims give food every Friday and all through the month of Ramadan.
There is a lovely story…Once a Guru and his Sishyas were on their daily Biksha route. In a home where the lady usually gave them biksha they knocked at the door. After sometime a five year old girl with mud on her hands opened the door. She said that her mother had gone out and she did not know what to give. The Guru asked what are you doing and she replied, “I am making mud pies”. He said “Please give me oner of those” and accepted it in his bowl. The sishyas were upset and questioned him about accepting the mud pie. The Guru replied, “I am just inculcating in her the habit of giving”.
Mahatma Gandhi went all over the country collecting funds for the Charkha Sangh. In Orissa he addressed a meeting. After his speech a poor old woman, bent with age, greying hair and tattered clothes began to press forward through the crowds towards Gandhiji. “I must see him,” she insisted to the volunteers who tried to stop her and then went up to Gandhiji and touched his feet. From a knot in her sari palloo, she took out a copper coin and placed it at his feet. Gandhiji picked up the copper coin and carefully put it away.
The Charkha Sangh funds were under the charge of Jamnalal Bajaj. He asked for the coin to add to his kitty but Gandhiji refused. “I keep cheques worth thousands of rupees for the Charkha Sangh,” Jamnalal Bajaj laughed “yet you won’t trust me with a copper coin.”
“This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands,” Gandhiji said. “If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn’t mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a crore of rupees”.
The Joy of Giving Week (JGW) is now a national movement. It is sandwiched between Dussera and Diwali a well-known period for opened purses and gifting. The JGW is targeting at least one crore Indians to get involved in different “acts of giving” that could be money, time, service, resources and skills. The movement hopes to rope in corporate, NGO’s and government sectors, schools, colleges and the general public.
This movement hopes to motivate every single Indian to give back something to society from which he/she continues to receive support and succour and above all an identity. The movement has already signed on 35000 schools, hundreds of colleges, famous personalities like Sachin Tendulkar, actors, politicians, media and society people, activists, sports persons and celebrities to show the way to the common man. South Indian Director, Jayendra has shot an ad film free of cost to popularise the Joy of Giving Week!
There was a news item in the NY Times that Indians are not great givers compared to their other counterparts in the West. In India giving is a way of life that is not an ‘in your face’ gesture. Indians give food, money, services on a daily basis. They do not mark out a percentage as such but just share from their own resources. In fact it is not even thought off as ‘sharing’ or ‘giving’.
The gesture of giving food, clothes and money or aid to the needy is automatic. Children are taught from babyhood by parents, by religion and by society to share resources. This indirect philanthropy is not easily perceptible.
On the other hand there are any number of educational, medical, social organizations that have been set up and continue to flourish through philanthropy of a single person (Pennathur Subramaniam Iyer, Raja Annamalai Chettiar, Sir Gangaram), or family (Birla’s, Tata’s) or community (Parsis, Marwaris, Gujarathis, Chettiars) or religious institutions (Ramakrishna Mission, Christian Missionaries etc.). Tourism has flourished in India at all times thanks to the free choultries (guest houses) set up by generous people.
In the West Christmas is a season that means giving. In India giving has been a quiet perennial activity. Today it is being given front page importance and is an effort to make it into a large and visible movement.
Finally the focus of the word ‘giving’ is all about the giver. The act of giving is not about donation, charity or philanthropy. It is about sharing, empathising, getting involved and communicating.
When giving becomes a habit, and not merely money but time and spirit, it comes back to you manifold. It helps us remember that whatever our own situation we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves.
I ‘give’ this topic to Rohit—hope he gets to read it!!
Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Akanksha, Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, Gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie11, Nema, Noor, Ordinary Joe, Paul, Maria the Silver Fox, Rummuser , Will Knott, and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get seventeen different flavours of the same topic.