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Anshu Gupta. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Anshu Gupta. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Anshu Gupta: Give with dignity

Feel grateful to the person who is giving you an opportunity to feel great about yourself when you give something to him or her

As I sat down to write this piece, I came across news of actor Nana Patekar giving out cheques to widows of farmers who committed suicide in Vidarbha, Maharashtra. It’s difficult not to be moved by such news. He is a celebrity you may say, but there are thousands like him—bigger, richer, more influential maybe. I think what distinguishes him from others is that one step that he took after he felt something so intensely that he couldn’t but take some action.

The issues that we feel for may be different for each one of us. For me, when I see a little child playing around naked, it bothers me. When I see a homeless man struggling in winter, with only a shirt on his back, it bothers me. Giving helps me in addressing my need first to feel good. I certainly get a good night’s sleep.

I read somewhere that “It’s not giving till it hurts". I have my own version of this. “It’s not giving till it’s done with dignity." Any giving—of one’s time, money or material—done with a sense of superiority defeats the very feeling of gratitude it’s meant to evoke in the giver.

At Goonj, we have come across different kinds of giving—some people give us ironed clothes while others send their blood-soaked or used undergarments. It takes all kinds to make this world, but one thing I have realized working through some of the most devastating disasters is that one doesn’t know when life takes a U-turn and makes you a receiver instead of a giver. Feel grateful to the person who is giving you an opportunity to feel great about yourself when you give something to him or her.

The important aspect is to give mindfully whatever you give. I remember in Chennai after the tsunami of 2004, we came across hundreds of monkey caps and sweaters lying on the roads. People hadn’t faltered on the desire to give; it was simply the lack of time spent in understanding what the recipient needed.

I am also against demeaning words like “donor" and “beneficiary". To be honest, the very concept of calling old clothes and other material “donation" needs a serious review. I often wonder that after using something for a year or two, if I am giving someone my used material, is it donation or discarding?

If the so-called financially poor people were not a reality, I would have had only two options for my material, it would either be kabari (scrap dealer) or kachra (garbage). Should I not be thankful to the person who is extending the life cycle of something on which I spent my hard-earned money? Should I not thank him or her for having saved it from going to the kabari or in kachra?

At Goonj, we believe we are all stakeholders and need to put whatever we have in the process of progress.

It’s time for charity to be converted into giving with dignity.

We should shift focus from the “donor’s pride to receiver’s dignity". After all, we need to accept that as a nation we are in a mess and we need to clear it. We need to make sure that we don’t just project it, but in real terms make poverty take a back seat. We, as a nation, have enough resources—from skills, time, energy to money—but being self-centric and accepting the status quo is not allowing us to act.

It’s time to act to do good. Not for others but for ourselves, as we all want to live in a clean, nice, respectable and secure nation. Sounds unreal? It is possible if we understand that “doing good is not someone else’s job, doing good is a collective responsibility".

Anshu Gupta is the founder of Goonj.

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