Giving in India is not something that is done overtly–it is done as part of the daily routine.

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, DeliriousGaelikaa,  GrannymarMagpie11,  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.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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14 Responses to JOY OF GIVING

  1. Rummuser says:

    From the other side of receiving this is said!

    akShara dvayam abhyastam nAsti nAsti iti yat purA ।
    tadidam dehi dehi iti viparItam upsthitam ॥

    – subhAShitaratnabhANDAgAra

    Long ago, you were used to telling “No! No!” (when people asked for help/alms). The same habit has intensified and is making you tell “More! More!”. Greed grows and times change.

    – Subhashitaratnabhandagara


  2. N.Srivatsa says:

    There is as much pleasure in giving as it is in receiving. We are happy to receive gifts but, often, a bit tight-fisted when it comes to giving. To give something to someone who already has enough and more has little meaning. To help the really needy – to give them food, clothes, shelter, medical help, anything – is like giving them another lease of life. Some good souls are philanthropic to the extent that they do not allow their acts of charity to be highlighted in the media, while a good many see it as an opportunity for some publicity. And then, there are some noble souls like the Late Ravi Chaddha, who was declared brain dead following an accident, but his wife and family donated his vital organs that have given a new lease of life to three people and a few more are in waiting to receive some more of the legacy of Ravi Chaddha. May he rest in peace.


    • padmum says:

      I had missed this news item…thanks to you I read about Ravi Chaddha–not without initial trepidation as we have a close friend of the same name and who had not answered his phone when we called him on new Year’s day!!


  3. Grannymar says:

    I believe in giving time, it might be listening, or sharing something I have made, best of all is showing someone how to make something. It reminds me of a quote:

    Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.


    • padmum says:

      True Grannymar–we rarely have time for listening and touching base with family and friends. Time Management is a real canard according to me. Another cliche I dislike is getting your priorities right—I think that the situation will tell you how important it is or not for that matter!


  4. conhake says:

    There is a parable by Christ very similar to the story of Gandhi in which a woman gives a paltry sum, but she gives it out of her impoverished holdings. Christ deems it more worthy than those who give more, but it is so much less in terms of what they have.


  5. Delirious says:

    I love the story about the mud pies. I do think he did a very great thing in asking her to give. Children who can learn this lesson while young will make much finer adults when they are grown.


    • padmum says:

      Absolutely spot on. I find it unreal that we have to talk to kids nowadays about ‘sharing’…we just did it automatically as kids because we lived and interacted with a larger family structure.


  6. blackwatertown says:

    Very interesting perspective.


  7. cedar51 says:

    I came to understand this giving way via Ramana, recently


  8. Rohit K says:

    Thank you Padmum! I am not sure if you meant me when you said giving it to Rohit but assuming what’s in a name, I will dare to claim it anyway! And if it was me, then well it took 10 months for me to read it but I did in the end. I wonder why this post though…

    This really made my day. Giving/charity is something very close to my heart and I am planning to write more about this in my blog in the near future. Thank you again and excellent post. One story of giving that I am inspired by is that of Akshaya Trust in Madurai. I will write a detailed post later but do look up if your interested ( Its about a chef called Narayanan Krishnan who was set to rule the kitchens of five star restaurants in Switzerland but instead gave up his job to serve and feed the poor and destitute old people who live on the streets of Madurai and surrounding areas. If these things don’t make us change our ways, we don’t deserve a human birth. That’s at least what I keep reminding myself..


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