When it comes to the newspapers The Hindu is my favorite. I have started reading it at a very young age while I was in school, so I always associate that childhood aura around it. They say no, Chottayile Sheelam Chutala Vare. Something like that. And I am always eager to read the Sunday Magazine - the suppliment that comes on Sunday along with the main paper. There are columns by people like Ramchandra Guha, Harsh Mander, Sevanti Ninan, Usha Jesudasan, Mark Marquesee and till recently it used to carry column by Shashi Tharoor too. Nevertheless to say I always enjoyed reading the Sunday Magazine.
Usha Jesudasan writes a column - The Ahimsa Way - on every alternate Sunday. This weekend's magazine had an article from her about To feel compassionate or not. This is actually a reaction article to her earlier article, A heart that can feel. While 'A heart that can feel' explains about the need to reach out with compassion to help people who are suffering, 'To feel or not' ponders on the question whether we are just being used when we try to be kind and compassionate with others. She also gives the answer to it. She explains about the role models in her life and also gives out a great message in the story of holy man. When a scorpion, which he saved from drowning in the river, bites him he just says - "I did what I had to, according to my nature: rescue it from drowning and give it life. The scorpion did what it had to do according to its nature: sting me".
Most of the times, it is the heart that responds in such cases. But sometimes even when it responds, the head pokes out and asks "Are you getting cheated?", "Will they do something else with the money I give?", "Will these donations go to the correct hands?". We never know, and so most of us are skeptical and that is why we shoo away the people selling items at the Traffic Signals. I am not here to support the majority, but to mention a few things happened to me over all these years.
The first incident happened while I was working in NIT Calicut during 2002-03. One fine evening I was waiting at Calicut KSRTC Bus Stand for the bus to REC, Chathamangalam, and this old fellow approached me. He was dressed in a gray plain slack shirt and black trousers. He introduced himself as one George, who is a teacher or lecturer in some college in Wayanad. He told he came to Calicut to attend one conference and then went to meet his relative and while coming back he got pick-pocketed and now have no money to go back home. He asked me if I could give some money for his travel expense. He was of my father's age, but I was skeptical. When he insisted, I asked him how much he will need. He said an amount that was less than hundred. I was confused, to give or not. His age,and the manner in which he asked me; all persuaded my mind to give it. And I gave him two 50 rupees notes. He thanked me very much and promised me to return the money in the form of money order. For this he took my address. I wrote him down my office address in the diary he gave me. The moment I gave him back the diary, he thanked me again and walked away. I thought he was eager to catch the bus, but in a split second I couldn't spot him in the crowd. After a while I boarded my bus to NITC. Later that evening, when I explained this to my roommate he told me - "Da, there are more chances that he might have gone to the nearest BAR fro a drink or two, rather than catching a bus to Wayanad, but still I appreciate your act." The money order never came, nor did any letter.
Was I cheated here? I don't know. I hope he utilized those 100 rupees for this travel rather than for his spirits.
The second incident happened last year, when an NGO representative contacted me, through a friend of mine, asking to sponsor education for children, who were taken care by them. I agreed for that and asked him to come over to office. Initially I agreed to sponsor 1 child's education expense for a year which came around 2000 rupees an year, but then he persisted for 2 children's education and he explained me about the things they do, I got impressed and agreed for 2 children's education. Also when I contacted my friend earler he said that they are reliable and had approached him through the counter they had setup in his office. So I went ahead gave my credit card details and he gave me the acknowledgment slip and all those stuff. He also told me I will be getting a certificate and receipt for my contribution. After a few days, money was withdrawn from my credit card, in the name of the NGO. But the certificate and receipt never reached me. My friend on the other hand received the certificate and receipt.
Was I cheated here? I don't know. I hope the NGO has utilized the money for those two children.
What do I infer from these experiences? Usha Jesudasan tells us that Ahimsa people are not just people with hearts, but are those with hearts that ask for nothing in return. Karma Yoga, based on the teachings of Bhagavad Gita also says:
"Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme."
But is this all feasible in today's world? I do not know, rather I am unsure of having a heart that seek no return. I never seeked any returns from my earlier incidents, but the feeling that I might have got cheated still lingers in my mind. Only thing I can do when I act compassionate again, is to hope that it serves the purpose. Rest is not in my hands. And I hope things will be done just the way I think it would be done.