Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Giving is so much fun"

Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist , who has donated a large chunk of his personal wealth to find  cures for neglected diseases says he wants to have a conversation with Indian billionaires on their views of philanthropy. During his current visit to India, he talked about his " Giving Pledge" programme which entailed wealthy people making a pledge to give away a majority of their wealth during their lifetime or in their will. He says, "I love to tell wealthy people how philanthropy is so much fun."

Philanthropy is not a new name in India. It has been there in the blood of each Individual regardless of the amount of wealth he/she possessed. The inscriptions on the walls of many temples support this view as ordinary citizens also donated to their might. Supporting the poorest of the poor was in their agenda. Childless couples left wills that would serve the deprived class of the society. Supply of Water and food was ensured during hot summer months for those who had to travel by foot. Free dispensaries were created to provide health care when needed.

Philanthropy had yet another route in India which ultimately helped many sections of the society. Emperors set examples in rebuilding Temples which provided employment to artisans and preserved Fine arts from extinction. Agricultural lands were gifted by them to those who served and maintained the temples. Poor vedic scholars were taken care of. The agenda did not stop only at ailing people. It looked forward by rebuilding the Nation as well. Philanthropy,according to our ancestors,  is not disaster management. It helps for the growth of each Individual by providing opportunities.
Our Agama Sastras have prescribed renovation of Temples once in twelve years followed by consecration. One can imagine the number of beneficiaries if this agenda is implemented at every place. People now talk about "reinvent the toilet". If we look at the root cause of the plight, the failure of the Government in improving the standards of the poor should be the primary reason. Had we followed the steps of our ancestors in serving the society in phases over regular intervals, the present situation of 69% of people in rural India deficate in the open would not have arised. The Nation should admit the fact that it kept a blind eye and allowed the problem to grow.

It may be recalled that we highlighted the initiative taken by the members of the family in 2009 to build a Shiva Temple at their ancestral village. Regardless of living at different places of the globe, they united together and funded for this cause. Their ultimate aim was to bring glory to their village. The two year project has been completed and the consecration ceremony was carried out as per Agama sastras to the complete satisfaction of the devotees. The free choultry ,which was in a state of repair, was renovated to feed all those who attended the function. The beneficiaries included masons, carpentors,electricians, sculptors, painters, cooks, drivers, suppliers of wood,vegetables,flowers,fruits etc, servant- maids, Thevaram Oduvars, Vedic/Agama pundits who live without much assistance.Hence the living standards of such people are bound to improve gradually.

Each family should set a pledge in their own way to earmark a portion of their income towards charity. An affordable percentage of the income may be set aside to join holy causes. Let the first spending from our purse in each month go to a good cause. People may call it as "fun" but we prefer just to derive satisfaction out of it. Let us revisit our tradition and redo what had been practised for ages.