“I’ve had all this good fortune. It starts with being born in this country. It starts with being born a male in 1930.”
Waiting to know which Indian celebrity said this? Don’t. These are words of the world’s third richest man, Warren Buffett of the US. He donated 99 per cent of his $45 billion for charity.
Warren Buffet had a worthy model to follow — Bill Gates — the Microsoft man who donated all his $58 billion fortune to charity rather than to his children.
The two are the world’s first and true revolutionary-duo who have set a benchmark in philosophy of living — you made it from the society; give it back after you have enjoyed it. Then followed a series of Pledge Giving including Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, who have committed to donate the majority of their wealth.
The US has 403 billionaires according to Forbes, the world had 1210 in 2011 and India 57. Doesn’t it sound grotesque that India with barely 2 per cent of the world’s GDP houses nearly 7 per cent of the world’s billionaires? More ironical is the fact that India with 30 per cent of its 1.20 billion people in poverty saw its millionaires doubling in the recent past, from 70,000 in 2005 to 1.26 lakh in 2010 (World Wealth Report).
Internet, where all the intellectuals and the arm-chair revolutionaries have migrated to, is full of discussions on why the land of Buddha sees growing billionaires who stick to their wealth like leeches. Have we lost all the ancient Indian catholicity? Most voices say, yes, we lost it.
Not by a jarful. We may lack a Gates or a Buffett but we have hundreds and hundreds of people whose life and living do not attract the flashbulb. They are unsung, undemanding and silent. Only, we must have the will to see their innate good and imbibe their spirits.
I have seen in Gujarat and in Nagpur millionaire merchants serving travellers with buttermilk by themselves. They personally serve food near a temple or a mosque once a week to the poor. When I asked one of them why food and why not money, he said one of the greatest truths, “Because food is the only thing a man will ever say, “enough, I’ve had my fill, no more please.”
Nothing else in the world is enough for man — weather it is wealth or comfort or sex. And, if you want to find how stark honesty still prevails in the home ground, visit one of the Rythu Bazaars here. Those poor women and men who bring home-grown vegetable can’t be persuaded to take an extra rupee. They sell cheap and yet will not accept a few paise more. They are what the poet called, poor in wealth and rich in heart.
Thus there’s hope yet. While there are said to be 4,000 deposits of ill-gotten money by Indians in foreign banks, there are also some Azim Premjis, GM Raos, Shiv Nadars and Chittilappillys. Azim Premji made the single largest philanthropic gift in India in recent memory — a share transfer of $2 billion to the Azim Premji Foundation.
But he did it with great care. Premji travelled extensively to organisations and places where actual work is being done, from Mumbai’s slums to the interiors of Andhra Pradesh. GMR pledged Rs.1,540 crore to the GMR Foundation, Shiv Nadar gave Rs.580 crore to the SN Foundation, while Chittilappilly, worth Rs.700 crore, donated something far more valuable than money — his healthy kidney to a poor man. Studies have proved that people who have made money by their hard work and luck are more willing to give away than those who inherited it.
Now, there are those who ask whom should they give to. They would not give to the governments, the robber barons. Then to whom? Well, if that is stopping you, here’s a solution: GiveIndia, a platform that provides donors a choice, has put up a list of 200 NGOs that have been screened for transparency and credibility and are absolutely trustworthy.
About the Author (Author Profile)
PK Surendran is senior editor at Postnoon.