Friday, February 23, 2007

Help or Business? (Please suggest an apt title)

Last night when I went Gachibowli, Hyderabad for dinner, I found two women in front of the mess – one was a young mother around twenty (probably less than that) carrying an infant and the other was an old woman (around 50, probably her mother) holding another 1-2 years old girl.

I saw her pleading with the people around and came to me – she told her story (donno whether made up or real) – that her husband came to city to work as a construction laborer and she came to city the previous day morning in search of him (the only thing she knew was he got work in Gachibowli as told by him to her) – that they hadn’t had food since then – I would have taken it as a routine patch up story by the routine beggars except for the last sentence she had told – that she was pleading not money, but food! I asked her whether she would like to have roti or rice – she said anything to feed her children. I went to the counter and asked the proprietor to pack two meals (he was watching this all the way; since I have been taking my dinner for the last 1.5 years, he and I enjoy some rapport). He was shocked and reluctant to give saying they would eat in front of the mess and spoil the premises. The bearers and other customers were staring at me! I promised him that they would leave as soon as they get the food. I gave them the packs and told them to go back to their place.

While I was having my dinner, he came and complained, rather tried to educate me that – they were regulars in this – that he had seen them quite a few times in the nearby local railway station (not sure he did!) – that they were there right from the evening - that they would go and repeat the same story in front of some other shop/hotel – that they cheated me and I should be more careful about these people.

I gave him a spot reply: If they had cheated me, I would lose nothing, probably half of my weekend multiplex movie ticket. But if they didn’t, then I would have tried my part to solve their hunger for one night.

Well I haven’t done any good deed, probably I am not ready to take them to my place and help them either find the man or escort them to the bus station or rail station and send them to their native.

But the whole night, I couldn’t stop thinking, why people have become so materialistic, thinking everything from the point of money; including me, I calculated that it would be only 40 if I buy them food, but more time and money if I try to really help them (of course, if her story is real).

This has also rekindled the questions that always ponder on my mind when it comes to philanthropy and service to the society –

1. To what extent one should indulge oneself in helping the society and country – more than the life like a soldier does? Or dedicate full time like a Vinobha or Medha Patkar does? Or donate a meager part of the salary to a social organization or trust and shrug off like a reasonably good person? Or think only about my life like an average and selfish person?

2. If at all we help some one, should we expect something in return – My opinion will be – NOTHING personally to me, but to the society that helped the person. For instance, if an orphan is brought up with the help of some good people and if he achieves a better position in life like a Software engineer or an IAS officer, I feel he/she should at least try to help some other people who are suffering like he/she did (a principle similar to Stalin, a Telugu movie).

I had a discussion on the second question with my friends during lunch today and one of them opined that “One should expect nothing while helping – Otherwise, it should not be called as HELP, but BUSINESS”.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dignity of Labor?

The other day I was chatting with my elder brother who works as Gazetted Officer in a remote town in State Govt., but salary is 11K even after 3 years.
After the usual chat, our discussion went on Job satisfaction vs. compensation. We both are in sync with the opinion that job satisfaction is more important than compensation.
I am currently in a stagnant position where I feel restless and sometimes fear to end up my career as an average person spending hours before a dummy machine, nothing different from an accounts clerk. On my train journey to home during the last Sankranti festival, I found myself in a bogie of 250-300 passengers (the capacity is 90) out of whom almost 200 were youth in the age group of 18-25; but I observed that bulk of them are not SEs like me, but working as small time employees, salesmen,etc., some are unemployed, who have had the privilege of going home twice/thrice a year as against twice a month like me (I enjoy holidays on both Sat and Sun).

That had made me realize that at least I am in a better position, something neither to crib nor become frustrated. I described these views to my brother and our discussion went to ‘Dignity of Labor’. I told I believe in this principle and that as long as some person is doing a moral, ethical and legal job to earn his livelihood that is acceptable.
Then, came the spontaneous remark from my brother that hit my face and shook me up –
I believe in Dignity of Labor. Cooking, sweeping the roads, watchmen and even cleaning the toilets and any job. But I don’t want to become any of them. I will become SE, earn 30K per month and I want somebody to do all this stuff to me when I throw some bucks to them. I still respect their work and believe in Dignity of Labor – So, is this your essence of life?”

p.s.: This is not the word-word translation, but a summary of our discussion.