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Sunday, 19 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 19: Giving of a different kind....

The door bell rings. My son opens the door and I can hear him speaking to someone. I’m in the kitchen, rustling up an evening snack. Within a minute, he calls out, saying someone wants to talk to me. I switch off the gas stove and walk out to see a smiling young man standing in the doorway. He tells us his name, says he’s part of a campaign that has tied up with the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan and asks if I have time to listen to what he has to say. 

I invite him in, get him seated, and ask him to go ahead.

He pulls out a booklet of a particular NGO and tells me about how they are working to build homes for the poor, in rural and suburban areas, in order to provide them with sanitation. He says this is an attempt to ensure the hygiene and safety, especially for women.

I listen to him as I flip through the booklet, and casually ask him if this is an Indian organization or a foreign one. He says, “Indian” right as I turn to a page where there’s a picture of an American politician who started this cause. He immediately modifies his answer to say how that guy started it, but now it’s got offices all over the world and shows me the Indian film celebrities who are supporting this cause.

I’m a little wary of donating to these NGOs that have a foreign hand. Because after researching this topic, I know that quite a few of them are in the business of religious conversions of poverty-stricken, gullible Hindus. I haven’t yet come across the name of this particular NGO and so, I decide that I want to look into its activities a little more in detail before I make a donation.

And so, I use the time-worn excuse that most Indian women do – I say I must ask my husband about this and can’t decide on my own. He’s currently busy with other things, and so, I’ll be able to say a yes or no only after a few days.

The guy has been trained well, I can see…because he immediately tells me, “Madam, I really appreciate that you wish to take a joint decision with your husband – it shows you have a good relationship. But there are so many other housewives I’ve already met and seeing what a good cause this is, they have independently contributed although their husband wasn’t there. Do consider donating now itself.”

Many years ago, I was a volunteer with a spiritual organization and as part of service or seva, we used to solicit donations from corporates, businesses and the general public. So, I know for sure the limits of how much money housewives would be willing to contribute without their husband’s involvement – and Rs. 2400/- (which is the minimum amount the guy’s brochure lists) is definitely far beyond those least for most middle-class Indian families who're likely to donate.

Indeed, it is that past experience of mine that makes me give a patient listening to anyone who knocks at my door – except at times when I’m in a real hurry. I know how it feels to be turned away with a door banged in your face, a smirk, a sarcastic comment, an insult, or just pure indifference. And if it is indeed a genuine cause, I do end up contributing whatever small amount I can at that point of time. Because I am a firm believer in the concept of what the poet-musician-saint Purandaradasa sang in his famous krithi – 

“Kereya neeranu keregey challi, varava padedava rante kaaneero, Hariya karunadolaada bhaagyava Hari samarpaney maadi badukiro.”

“Pouring the water from the lake, back into the lake, be seen as blessed persons; the good fortune you’ve received by Hari’s grace, live your life by offering it back to Him.”

Coming back to this volunteer, when he insists I consider donating right now, I tell him about my reservations. About how I want to find out more about this organization he represents, because I do not want to end up indirectly contributing to convert one of my fellow-Hindus into Christianity.

His face falls. But he graciously seems to understand what I’m saying and gives me the website details where I can get more information. I ask if there’s an option for an online transfer of funds and first, he says yes. A little later though, he tells me that even if I pay online, I need to fill in the details of that into the form he has. I don’t say anything to him, just nod, but I have a feeling that maybe he needs to show his superior that he has been instrumental in getting this donation, maybe they have targets to meet and it counts for a rating of his performance as a volunteer.

So, I ask him to come next week and say that by then, we will have made our decision. To be very frank, “we” have mutual trust in each other's judgment when it comes to making such contributions. We may differ over some things, but those differences do not spill over into this area.

So, I will study this organization and its work, ask a few friends who are in the NGO field, and then, if all is well, make my contribution. Because the world needs people who are comfortably placed to reach out a helping hand to those who’re not so fortunate. 

As Swami Vivekananda so wonderfully conveyed, 

“Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, ‘Here, my poor man’; but be grateful that the poor man is there, so that by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.”


  1. Awesomely penned ....
    I too encountered a similar situation where two well educated young men approached me in my home and spoke about these kinds of donations but the min amount of donation was far too high to immediately take a call for , so I had to refuse them and clearly told them not right now but definitely next time when I am ready for that kind of a money . Rest all similar to wat you hAve said , called them in made them feel comfortable and gave them water all but finally it was a refusal coz of the kind of money that was involved in it .

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Archana. Indeed, it costs us nothing to be courteous to such fund-raising volunteers.


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