Charity and uncharity

Charity is flowing in the Indian blood for ages. It is being part of the life, philosophy, and culture, of the Indian society. There is no separation of charity from the everyday living of Indians. Before eating, rest of the world thanks the God for giving food but Indians offer food  to crows. Many more examples can be given for the top most charitable order of the Indian society. In these difficult circumstances, bottom of the society cares and shares their fellow poor people in a better way. They have large heart and offer immediate help when there is a need by anyone on the street. Only rich people differentiate between classes when there is an urgent need for intervention. Eye witnesses and experience galore in this regard. All these facts apart, no one can deny the contributions of Americans for charity. Especially Warren Buffet, the octagenerian American who is lucky and superb human being. May be because of his large heart he is garnering billions after billions.. Whatever it is, charity publicized is unchartiable.

 

 

Warren Buffett exhausts me.

I’m sure he exhausted several other people on his virgin trip to India.

At 80, he is still at the crease, batting away… and going by his energy levels, he’ll hit his century effortlessly. It is just not natural for an octogenarian to be jetting half way around the world at such a hectic speed. He described his quickie chakkar to India as a “better late than never” trip.

And came up with a booklet-full of quotable quotes, starting with philanthropy being much harder and riskier than business.

At around the same time, another American billionaire buddy of his, Bill Gates, was also floating around the countryside, telling us what to do with our money (earn it — and donate it!).

Why do I get the feeling India is being sent on a massive guilt trip by these two guys? And why do we need to take lessons in charity from anybody? Least of all super rich Americans who have made their pile. One of whom has an established business here, and the other wishes to establish business in India?

Declared the Oracle of Omaha in Bengaluru, “We want to be where the action is, and the action is here”. No kidding, buddy! Someone obviously forgot to tell these two guys our approach to philanthropy is different.

Daan has always been an intrinsic part of our culture. If the present generation has callously ignored the message from the shastras, that’s their business. The thought of being lectured to by people who represent the land of milk and honey and scolded that we are not doing enough is a bit much. I think it is condescending and patronising in the extreme for anybody to preach charity.

To each his own. And decision to give or not to give, or even how much to give and to whom, is a very individual one.

We keep hearing wonderful speeches on corporate social responsibility, and there are enough people cashing in on the glory attached to it. But give me a break. Mr Buffett is obviously a very, very generous chap (he has pledged 99 per cent of his fortune, mainly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).

Well, good for him. And I am sure the angels in heaven (where his seat is guaranteed) will compose a special song for him when he gets to the pearly gates. But right now, what he is doing in India is scouting around for fresh opportunities to make still more money.

He has his “brother or son” Shri Ajit Jain to help him invest in the country via Berkshire Hathaway (more chewing gum, anyone?). We are cool with that. We are also cool with more fizzy drinks (thanda matlab…?) hitting our stores, what with summer around the corner and over a billion parched throats to quench.

Mr Buffett says he hasn’t come her with an “elephant gun” loaded for acquisitions, but hey, we are cool with that, too. India is original elephant country.

I am confused. Perhaps I am too “retarded” (Mr Buffett’s word to describe the delay in his coming to India) to get it. But the man is here to make even more money — right? And after he has made it, he will donate it, right? Meanwhile, his shareholders will be a happy lot, since Mr Buffett has assured them he is scaling up and looking at big markets like India, China and Brazil.

He also told overwhelmed, gushing reporters that he feels he has more money than he needs — he eats well, takes vacations, watches movies… the regular stuff lesser mortals indulge in even without those billions and trillions.

So, the logical question to ask him is this: “Why do you want to make more money, sir?” His answer will be: “The more money I make, the more I can give”. Noble.

Our Mr and Mrs Money Bags are being prodded into following the Gates-Buffett pattern of giving. They are being coerced into parting with large portions of their wealth because they are told it makes them look good. Heaven knows how convinced they are about all this giving-shiving of their paisa, and God knows what their children think about it (“Grrrrrr… Dad! Mom! Ab mera kya hoga?”).

But “giving” is the new a la mode statement to make. And all these “new” and “improved” charity drives amongst loaded desis have a lot to do with keeping up with the Buffetts. How can you hope to sit at the high table in Davos if you haven’t announced a humungous donation to a pet cause?

Without knocking these magnanimous gestures of our do-gooders, it is amusing to note the publicity machine that goes into overdrive when these grand donations are made. There’s nothing quiet or discreet about charity these days.

And perhaps Gates/Buffett will argue the more you talk about it, the more it inspires others to reach for their wallets. I dunno. I have seen some high-profile charity auctions at which dodgy millionaires have crept out of the woodwork for the all important photo-ops… only to creep right back again… zero follow-ups, zero money. Where does all that lolly go? Any answers?

The second and third richest men in the world doing zabardasti with the 55 desi co-billionaires featured on the Forbes 2011 list are definitely pushing their luck. Coaxing these guys to sign The Giving Pledge followed by a public statement and letter is really a bit much, as pressure tactics go. The Chinese are smarter.

After a similar initiative in China last September, not a single Chinese billionaire who showed up for the banquet bothered to sign the pledge. That’s what is called the ultimate Oriental snub. Let’s see whether the multi-course Indian buffet piles on more on the table than the Chinese one.

Or else, the world’s most famous philanthropists may go home hungry and disappointed. No such thing as a free lunch… perhaps India is not the moveable feast Bill and Warren expected it to be!

 

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