Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I have been there, I have done that

There are several selfless things that one can do to pay the zakat on their time, knowledge, physical and human resources.

I know the first idea is to try to teach an uneducated child, usually the child of the masi (maid). Avoid this at all costs if you want to retain your motivation. Start with something that is limited to yourself and to which no one else is privy, because the first and often the only "help" you receive is criticism and a treatise on why something can neither be done nor started. At any rate, educating an unwilling brat is often the first selfless act most of us want to do. I have plenty of examples of why this should be avoided. Seriously. There are economic arguments (unbeknown to the child's parents, but emplohyed by them nevertheless) on why education for the poor is often resisted by them. Second, many of us are not qualified. In our zeal to unload centuries' worth of knowledge and wisdom on the child's delicate shoulder, we often scare them away. Be careful; this is a traumatic experience for some of these children. Do not try at home until you are a trained teacher!

It is better to start with animals, plants, and inanimate objects and achieve a degree of success with them until we establish ourselves as persons of authority. The masi will herself be inspired to give her child into our esteemed care - after which it is an easier task to impart our moral duty.

This is a tongue-in-cheek digression from what I wanted to write on, which was actually a note to self on what may I do with my time, but believe me, this is good advice for the misguided philanthropist. I have been there.

1 comment:

  1. Well said grasshopper. :-)

    Forcefully feeding one's order of education upon someone is like America thrusting its version of democracy on the world in hopes of making it better.

    I came to this conclusion years ago that instead of forcing your good deeds on anyone let that person come to you and ask for whatever he or she wants and then do that if you agree with it and have the resources to grant it.

    Till some years back I had the habit of always parceling food for my driver where ever I went. If I went to McDonald's and got myself a Big Mac, shake and fries I'd get the same for my driver. I used to actually feel quite proud of myself about doing this, that equality-amongst-men shit and all! But [as you'll guess] I learnt an important lesson one day when the driver actually came out and said to me that not only did he not "prefer" me getting him this food he actually did not like it.

    He said firstly the kind of food which was normal for me didn't agree with his "desi" tastebuds and he forced it down at times just to oblige me; and more than that he did not quite like these "ferengi" joints for the rich and spoilt strata of our society. He said he would like it much better if I simply gave him a fraction of what I would spend on him at these joints so he could have his daal roti at some Khan-bhai's hotel.

    Just because you and I place value in Western-style education doesn't mean that our servants also think the same way. In fact they may downright despise us for that very education. It is a mistake to think that everyone thinks as oneself does. Even people's definitions of good and evil, bane and boon also vary. So despite your inclination to do good don't force yourself on anyone. Whosoever desires something will come to you then decide what to do or not.