Sunday, August 9, 2015

Raise the standard of giving

Tangy Tuesdays
(This post has been selected by blogadda for its Tangy Tuesday Picks on August 11, 2015)

Read a wonderful quote yesterday, popping up on my Facebook page -
"When God blesses you financially, do not raise your standard of living, raise your standard of giving." - Mark Batterson
Having gone through the first part of the quote just a few days back, I thought some recently acquired cognitive capabilities by Facebook were on display here. Because last few days have seen me switching from thoughts around "the blessing", to "standard of living", to "standard of giving".

After sharing the good news with my wife, one of our first few statements was - "Let's start a new SIP." Bang came the reply - "Yes, let's increase the amount we put in our Gold Fund. After all, the yellow metal is at its lowest in five years now." As soon as the higher figure hit my salary account, the first big debit was towards the first EMI of the new car loan I have taken in anticipation of the "blessing". There are already plans lined up for next few months, all the way till December. Some pending for long time, some just about waiting for the right time, or shall I say, the right trigger. Then the BIG credit card bill as a result of the visit to the BIG SALE. These indeed are obvious next steps coming out of such blessings. After all, why else would you spend 80% of your days away from home? Why else would you agree to revise and send the umpteenth version of that presentation, slogging yourself during the weekend? How else in the world would you justify being a part of the "rat race"? However, such a blessing should have a broader meaning than just acquiring these material possessions, or so I think.

Going back to the first conversation back home, I believe there is much more to it than those cognitive capabilities. I am still perplexed what made me go for a billing amount that was almost equal to, if not more than, my take home salary a few years back. I remember I could just manage a sheepish smile when I saw the bill. No, retail therapy was not working. Deep down, there was something that was pinching me. I can still feel the pain rise up my left hand. Either the impact of the quote, or the actual guilt getting accumulated, has made me ponder, yet again, - "Is their an end to this madness? Aren't there other responsibilities I have? Do my responsibilities end by satisfying the needs, wants and desires of my immediate family? Or shall I be satisfied by taking care of the education of that maid's child back home? More importantly, how did my practice of donating a certain sum to the identified NGO on every birthday and anniversary die a slow death, and got converted into a higher sum going into purchasing that extra ounce of Gold on the same days?"

As a matter of fact, my thoughts are meandering in an altogether different direction. We feel we have fulfilled our duties by ensuring we have provided for certain things to someone close. One day, we are on cloud nine when we "sponsor" someone's yet another luxury sojourn, as a mark of love or respect, or for some other unknown reason. Some other day, we give an expensive gift to someone, may be because we want to be different! Yet another day, we feel elated that we will be able to pass on one of the material possessions to someone else. Floating in this sea of megalomania, we nincompoops forget that by making people feel in ways more than one that we have provided for "the thing", we end up increasing the principal amount of our debt. If we ensure the trigger of one particular action for a particular set of people remains under wraps, shouldn't we be thoughtful about "the provided" folks as well? If we stretch ourselves to prove that the expensive gift was indeed a tribute to a certain relationship, shouldn't there be a similar attempt to understand the reason for "being provided"? If we are today in a position to think freely, live independently, behave as we wish, shouldn't we strive hard to make someone else follow the same path? Do we need to be practical even while giving? Shouldn't emotions be the one overwhelming factor?

Giving need not necessarily be through monetary means. Bringing a smile on an old man's face by "bending back a little bit"; having a conversation with a lady just because she may not have anybody else to talk to; sharing your happy moments with someone because you may be the only reason for someone's happiness (or lack of it, whichever way you look at it); being unquestioningly happy about someone finally trying to enjoy life - can't these be the ways and means to raise the standard of giving? Why do we keep on waiting for a "blessing" to come our way before we decide to emulate the lady next door who finds reasons to be charitable to everyone around? Doesn't the occasionally self-proclaimed, higher level of spiritual consciousness make us follow this path?

Similarly, isn't it far more important for us to target our largesse in a way that it doesn't hurt the self-respect of that person? At the same time, being generous to someone who doesn't require it, or for that matter, being less than generous to someone who requires it, defeats the essence of the deed. Doesn't it make more sense to share your blessings with someone who is not so blessed, vis-à-vis someone who is may be even better off than you when it comes to blessings? Much the same way as the bill amount today is manageable, but was not so inconsequential a few years back, the small amount you end up bargaining for may be a big amount for someone else. Someone rightly pointed out - "If we do not hesitate even once before purchasing that pair of jeans worth Rs. 3,000, why do we bargain for Rs. 30 with the vegetable vendor? If we do not fight for a free pair of socks with the same pair of jeans, why do we force the vegetable vendor to put coriander leaves for free?".

Is it possible to raise your standard of living by raising your standard of giving? And if the "rat race" is the impediment here, why don't we step out of it for a while to make mends?

Friday, April 10, 2015

All it took was one match ...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Be it getting up at 4:00 AM to study for the Class VIII Board Exams in the year 1992, or taking a late night break to freshen up for the more important Class XII Board Exams in the year 1996, sneaking a peak at an over or two of the live cricket match being watched by my Daddy Dear in the next room was always a "thrilling" experience. Of course, this was done while requesting him to reduce the decibel levels on the television, even though he was cursing the Board Exam schedule while keeping the television muted. After all, understanding how South Africa's target got changed from 22 runs from 13 balls to 21 runs from 1 ball in a matter of few rain drops was as important as understanding the impact of acid rain on the soil quality in agriculture-based economies, or for that matter the impact the unfortunate rioting "spectacle" at Eden Gardens had on Indian cricket fan's psyche was as historically important as the impact of the Third Battle of Panipat on the subsequent revival of Maratha domination in North India.

Image courtesy of digitalart
Many of us belong to a generation that grew up believing that there exists only one kind of a ball to play and that it weighs between 5 1/2 and 5 3/4 ounces. It was only later, thanks to Google or Wikipedia, we came to realize that many more people play with balls weighing between 14 to 16 ounces and call the game football, and that a large number of countries play with yellow balls weighing around 2 ounces and call the game lawn tennis. By the time CAT, GMAT, TOEFL started becoming important abbreviations in our lives, the game of cricket also started becoming abbreviated to the currently popular version. However, over the years, for many people of the same generation, interest in the game also started going down, primarily because of "too much" of it. For me, when it came to Junior, it reached an extent where I refused to watch a cricket match with him. I would have purchased all kinds of sports accessories in the last 2-3 years, but I refused to introduce him to this game. Bottom-line, I wanted Junior to realize that there are many more varieties of balls in the world of sport.

And dare I say, I was successful for as many as 5 years. He had started understanding the meanings of diving, penalty kick and perhaps even a red card. He knew Daddy likes Messi, but Ronaldo is better because Mumma likes him. He could tell me the scoreline, and could make out which team is winning the game. I think he also figured out that waka waka was a perfect song to make Daddy dance. One of the proudest moments of Daddy's life was the day when Junior threw a tantrum for that florescent green colored football.

Till the time, Star Sports came up with this gem of a campaign for India's first match of 2015 World Cup. My dearie was hooked. The tension, the energy, the wait, the spirit of nationalism ... basically the impact was sufficient for my efforts of 5 years go down the drain. After all, Junior had always seen Mumma so excited only while watching those big cars on the television. Looking at Mumma, he could sense that this was serious business, much more exciting than the El Clásico. Of course, for him the gentle behavior of the crowd watching Saina overpower her Chinese rivals was "boring" to watch, and Federer vs. Nadal in the whites at Wimbledon was too colorless.

Ultimately, my resistance bore no fruit (I even tried emotional blackmail) and the stone wall crumpled. That day, Junior pulled me to his room, all excited, and showed me a sentence written big and bold on his white board - "I love cricket. I don't love football." I couldn't decipher the meaning of the mischievous smile in his eyes. All it took was one match ...