Charity Needs Clarity
Should charity be a calculated move or a selfless spirit of generosity?
(A short story based on the true events in the life of Anubhav)
It was a Monday morning and as usual, Badami was late again. He was already running late for his office. ‘’Badami just do the bartans and leave everything else. I have to go.’’ Anubhav told his housemaid in the how-many-times-do-I-need-to-tell-you manner!
‘’Ji babuji.’’ She replied meekly and miraculously washed all the dishes within ten minutes.
Anubhav always wondered how the total time spent by her in the kitchen never exceeded the 10-to-12-minute range. You place ten dishes in the sink or place one hundred, she would come out drying her hands on her dupatta within that time range!
As she was crossing the main lobby to go out, Anubhav’s gaze went to the Mixed Fruit Jam glass jar which he had purposely kept there so as not to miss it.
‘’Badami, yesterday my daughter bought it for you and your children. So please take this.’’ She picked it up with both her hands and the deadpan expression on her face did not betray any emotion. And sadly, this did not give Anubhav any inner peace of sharing and joy!
A few days later, he just forgot this little transaction completely. Later, on a Sunday afternoon, Anubhav’s old schoolmate Jaiteg dropped in. He was a senior police officer. He had just finished his cup of coffee and was telling him how unsafe the environment in the city had become when the long persistent screeching sound of the doorbell almost muffled his voice. Immediately, Anubhav rushed towards the gate. There stood five or six dark-skinned men in shabby clothes and in the middle of this motley group, stood Badami with her face half covered with the veil of her dupatta.
At first glance, he thought they were there to ask for some donations. But their aggressive body language and angry eyes suggested something else. Something was wrong. Seeing him flustered, soon enough a man with a big and thick moustache, who was apparently the group leader, came forward.
Pushing Badami’s son towards him, he said, ‘’Bauji, what was the stuff you gave to this boy? Do you know the harm this has caused? Look at his swollen face and red eyes. It is all because of that sweet chutney you gave to Badami. Why did you do it? This is how you treat the poor like us who work for you to make your life comfortable?’’ Listening to this Anubhav was taken aback. He could see clearly the boy had a swollen face and his eyes were red shot. The boy was looking bewildered and scared. Now, Badami was also accusingly staring at him.
Before Anubhav could respond to these wild allegations, another group member, older in age, spoke loudly and in an intimidating tone, ‘’Bauji, you will have to pay for it. We will not spare you at all. This is cruelty! You rich people, what do you think of yourself?’’
Listening to the commotion, his friend Jaiteg came out. Pushing Anubhav back, he moved forward to face the group. Seeing this heavily built tall police uniform-clad officer, the group fell silent.
‘‘Ki hoeya…What happened?’’, he asked in his assertive police style. There was complete silence. He repeated the same thing.
Now Badami spoke in reply, ‘’Sahabji, see what has happened to my boy?’’
‘’Hmmm, I was listening to all this. So, the condition of the boy is due to this fruit chutney? Hunh? Or is it a drug allergy? Tell me,’’ he asked, while twisting his moustache with his right hand. The faces of all the people in the group, were now as white as chalk.
‘’Sahibji, my son does not take any drugs.’’ Badami said without any conviction in her voice.
Jaiteg looked intently at the boy and his facial expression showed that he had understood everything. He said, ‘‘Is it so? See, we the police are here for the protection of the public. If anything is wrong, we will look into it. Tell me, when he gave this jam to you what did he get out of it? Did he charge anything for it?’’ He asked in a friendly way now, ‘‘Answer me, don’t be afraid tell me the truth.’’
‘’No sahibji, it was a kind gesture on his part’’, said Badami. Her entire countenance had undergone a change by now.
‘’Right! We will take your son for a medical check-up. If anything has been caused by this jam your sahib will pay for the treatment and also adequate compensation, I promise. But if it is because of some drug, then I will put you all behind the bars for drug use and for harassing an innocent person.’’
Sensing things were going wrong, the group leader hurriedly said, ‘’Saab Ji, we don’t want anything. We are uneducated people! You are right. We did not think this way. We were misled by this boy. Who gets hurt with a fruit chutney? We cannot guarantee sir whether he uses drugs or not! We are sorry for all this!’’ His hands were folded and his gaze downcast.
‘’Very well! Ask forgiveness of this gentleman, otherwise, all of you are going to thana (police station) with me,” he said firmly. Immediately, the entire group stood before Anubhav and pleaded for forgiveness. Disgusted, he immediately dismissed them. They sped the scene at once as if they had seen a cobra.
Inside, back in the drawing room, Jaiteg said emphatically, ‘’See! That’s exactly what I meant when I was telling you about how risky and unsafe the world is now! How they planned to snatch easy money from you! And you were doing charity for these people! How come your maid did this?’’, he asked, his police mind still working.
‘’She is in fact not our regular maid,’ he told Jaiteg. ‘’Our maid, who has been working here for the last ten years, came down with some serious ailment a few months ago. She sent Badami as her replacement for a few months till she recovers fully from her illness.’’
‘’O my dear Anu, as far as I remember it was you who told me once about determining the ‘patarta or apatarta’ (competence or incompetence) of a person while giving any charity or donations to anyone. Anything given in the wrong hands or for the wrong purpose makes you a culprit too. You forgot? You need to re-learn this lesson yourself now.'
‘’I understand your concern, dear. But how can we be so calculating and shrewd while doing any act of charity or kindness?’’ Anubhav asked.
‘’Okay, let me narrate an incident from my own family which will open your eyes forever.’’ Jaiteg looked into his eyes directly. He was touchy now; Anubhav could feel it.
‘You know my sister who runs an NGO for the old people?’
‘Of course, I know.’ Anubhav replied.
‘Two months back, she took her immediate neighbour to a historic temple in Himachal Pardesh. Now, this neighbour aged 67 years had once helped my sister years ago when she was newly married and was facing some problems with her mother-in-law. He used to treat her mother-in-law as his own sister. So, because of his influence, the situation was resolved quickly and positively. My sister had always felt indebted to him. So, when he requested my sister to take him to a temple for prayers, she could not refuse his request. My sister took her car, drove for three hours and reached the temple along with him. There she came to know that despite the availability of the rooms, the people of the organising committee of the temple refused to allow any night stay in the temple. Resultantly, as you know her nature, she fought with them, threatened them. Talked to some NGO people of influence on the phone and finally, at the end, they opened one room for him. Satisfied, she came back the same day thinking that she has paid her old debt and had helped a true devotee in completing his long pending sadhna.’’
Jaiteg stopped and paused for a few seconds; his eyes were watery now. He continued again, ‘’What my poor sister did not know was that he was diabetic and a heart patient! During the night, he suffered a massive stroke and passed away in his sleep. All his family turned against her and the people at the temple also held her responsible and gave statements to the police against her. She was charged and arrested. There was a thorough investigation and obviously, nothing could be proved against her. My dear friend, you won’t believe, despite my position and contacts how I ran from pillar to post to save her but could do nothing because of the serious nature of the charges. She is in a state of depression now. All her life, she has helped the poor and old, ignoring her own family. But now her faith in doing acts of charity is shaken badly. She has learned a lesson; she will never forget. That’s why I am telling you Charity needs proper clarity. It’s the time you learn this.’’
He stopped; Anubhav could see he was not able to speak further. He gave him a glass of water. There was pain in Jaiteg’s eyes and all Anubhav could think was that if doing an act of goodness and charity too needed worldly wisdom and clarity of a calculative mind, emotions like compassion and pity would peter out. How can a man always live in an atmosphere of distrust? How can he view everyone around him as an enemy? Does that mean man should live selfishly and only for himself? What then was the difference between a man and an animal? There was no simple answer to this question, Anubhav mused.