Friday, 24 February 2017

Altruism: A Myth?

A  bejewelled dowager stepped out of a fashionable hotel in London where she had been dining and dancing all evening at a Charity Ball for the support of street urchins. She was about to get into her Rolls Royce when a street urchin walked up to her and whined, " Spare me sixpence, ma'am, for charity. I haven't eaten for two days." The duchess recoiled from the kid. " You ungrateful wretch!" she exclaimed." Don't you realise, I've been dancing for you all night?"
 

I get a great kick out of serving you- but I still insist that you be grateful!!

Aren't we all like that obscenely affluent woman longing to be recognised and acknowledged for our 'services'? Is anyone of us really altruistic? I'm reading a fascinating book, " Missionaries in Africa and the Muslim mystics on the sub-continent " by Edmund Bringe. He writes, "The very idea of service has a motive behind it and even if there's no concrete motive, there's always a mild desire to receive gratitude. There has never been completely nameless, selfless and desireless service in the annals of mankind. The Christian missionaries in the first half of the seventeenth century (Christianity arrived in Africa in 1652)  brought the native Africans out of their feral existence and Christianised them.


The missionaries 'served' the Africans and served their god. The Muslim mystics from Arab and Persia came to the sub-continent. They helped the poor with a view to making them Muslims. All had an agenda. No service is above self."    The Urdu adage, "Neki kar dariya mein daal" ('Do good and forget for good' as a Biblical advice) has a lofty philosophy in it but how many of us follow it to the hilt? Man never wants his services to go unacknowledged and in vain. He wants his service to be converted into tangible returns or at least a fleeting mention of it.

 Please don't get me wrong or call me a cynical but let me ask you, how come we get to know that a very rich man or a celebrity has donated a certain amount for the 'upliftment' of a village or an underprivileged section of the society? Their spokespersons 'reveal' the exact pieces of their charity information because the 'donors' somewhere want their 'noble deeds' to be acknowledged. We all hanker after publicity and want recognition.

Angelina Jolie, Madonna and other Hollywood celebrities are on an adoption spree (with some Indian actresses like Sushmita Sen following suit), adopting destitute children from Africa and third world countries as 'an act of 'selfless' parental' love.' Then why so much fanfare? Go and adopt without the glare of media. Some may say that our charity needs no public acknowledgement. It only requires god to acknowledge it. The bottomline is: Someone must recognise, whether people or god!  Dr Martin Luther King Jr used to say, " Service without an iota of any kind of expectation from man and god is the most sublime service."               
                   
                                                                      -----Sumit Paul

   
  


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