Work builds, charity destroys.

Our car stopped noiselessly beside the road. We were delighted to see huge pelicans. They sat spreading their huge wings. Other bright birds preened themselves, oblivious to human presence. My cousin and our family visited this amazing place recently; we were busy capturing every bill and stork in our camera when two little boys distracted our attention.

This quaint little getaway, which is inhabited by our foreign feathery friends is Kokre Bellur near Maddur, between the cities of Mysore and Bangalore. The uniqueness of this place is the bond between the aves and homosapiens. People believe these birds are harbingers of good fortune.

The boys were dressed in shorts and a shirt and were aged about 12 or 13. One of them chatted enthusiastically with us. He was eager to guide us through the village and give a detailed account of the birds. He added that as we moved further into the village we would find many more variety. We moved on and there were at least 25 species to be found. This little chap’s knowledge enamored us. Finally, he directed us towards a lake where we could find many more birds. We were thankful to him and asked where he learnt all this info from. “School” He answered. “Our school provides us with additional books exclusively about these visitors “He said.

We were totally enraptured by the government run school which filled the little heads with so much knowledge about their privileged surroundings and how to appreciate it.

The kid wanted to take leave as he had to run an errand so he bid goodbye. His friend stopped him and told us to help him buy a few stationary for school.

I didn’t react or give in as ‘I’ being a teacher do not find it appropriate to hand out money to kids. But the others around me were fishing the handbags already. My cousin, a software engineer, handed a 100rupees note. Putting decency to the wind I snatched it from his hand. The others glared at me with daggers in their eyes, I was outnumbered and I reluctantly let go of that note.

Even in that embarrassing moment I just voiced that the kid was begging, kids should never be given money.

We moved on and forgot all about this. We thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the vibrant aves. By now it was evening and we were inside the village. A group of boys were playing marbles. Suddenly, two boys fled the scene. My son and I recognized them as the ones who had taken money from us. We enquired the others who stood sniggering there. They said the biggest bet that day was a 100 Rupees note.

I didn’t feel triumphant but just disheartened that I wasn’t vehement in stopping my cousin.

A few days after this, my friends and I handed some money to an old man who could hardly walk. That very evening we saw him drunk on the road and understood why he couldn’t walk. I would like all of you to think, on how many occasions we hand out money in charity, thoughtlessly. We all end up encouraging begging, hoodwinking, cheating and worst of all gambling. These incidents hung like an albatross around my neck

A few days later I was reading the paper about ‘Anandwan’ – The forest of bliss. This is Maharogi Seva Samithi – a home for lepers, founded by Baba Amte in Kolkata in 1951. Anandwan houses many lepers. Orphans and people ostracized by the society for various disabilities. The inmates here walk together from womb to tomb. Such castigated and helpless people produce everything on this barren land except salt and kerosene.  The mission of Anandwan is to help people help themselves. Baba Amte believed in the motto ‘work builds and charity destroys’. He imbibed this motto in all the inmates of this place. Now, he is no more but his ideals and vision live on in the welfare addicts in Anandwan.

If such so called cripples and terminally ill people can create a paradise on barren land imagine what the children who are smart and alert can be capable of.

These kids or people in majority do not need money, food or books. They are not poverty stricken. we extend our hand to give alms to the children who harrass us in the signals and at junctions. After much thought my cousin and I emerged with few ideas which we feel may offer solace.

  1. From stealing to healing: they need holistic education apart from school. So, we can volunteer and organize street plays or puppet shows which inculcate the right values.
  2. No cash only kind policy is always better.
  3. Earn not burn: people need to be educated about savings and concept of banks.

So, I’d like to reiterate that do not encourage or indulge in unnecessary ‘charity’. Always remember the words of Baba Amte ‘work builds, charity destroys’.

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