Sunday, August 30, 2009

Does India Give Enough?

That is not a rhetorical question, but one that we need to ask ourselves as we move further towards the Joy of Giving Week. If one were to go by the number of homeless, by the number of starving children, by the number of children at signals- peddling books, flowers, begging; by the number of those seeking alms and food outside places of worship; we would say Indians do not give enough. But yet consider this: our major temples have more money today then they did a decade ago, our Gods are adorned with gold, diamonds and precious stones, in fact there is a temple lined wih gold in Vellore in Tamil Nadu. Is not all this a pointer to the fact that we do give?

We are a country that likes to give, whatever the religion we follow, the majority of us give, both because we want to and also because our religion asks us to. The trouble however lies in this that we do not follow up either before or after our giving . We assuage our conscience by making a contribution to a local NGO, or dropping some money in temple hundis, or collection boxes at places of worship, and feel we have done our bit. We neither have the time nor the inclination to wonder whether the money has been put to good use or to wonder if that was what was needed.

It is important to ask this for the answer to this can and will motivate further giving. We are not just talking about monetary contributions here. Our time, skills and other resources also need to be put to good use. After the tsunami we indulged in what can only be described as an orgy of giving. We gave so much and some of it so unsuitable (esp. clothes, we forgot that the rural areas do not dress the way we city dwellers do), that a lot of resources went waste. More recently, after the terrorist attack in Mumbai, doctors at hospitals in Mumbai went on record asking eager donors to check what was needed before donating. A very sensible and practical viewpoint and one that we need to remember as we commit ourselves to being a part of the Joy of Giving Week.

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