By raksha kumar
There were eighteen young guests at home that Sunday evening. All of them from a charitable residential school run by a trust. Excited, my aunt was encouraging them to come forward and show their talents to the little gathering. For the next two hours they sang and danced and kept us entertained. One thing was certain: they housed vast talent pools. Whether their school is doing a good job of nurturing their talents, is yet to be judged.
These are children from weaker economic backgrounds. They are given many facilities, good education and a strict set of values. It need not be emphasized that values are subjective by nature. The young impressionable minds are preached ‘Hindu values’. They are encouraged to denounce western culture, dresses, food and ‘non-Hindu’ influences.
While such a stream of thought has a rightful claim to existence in the Indian society which swears by free speech, the question is should philanthropy function under certain conditions?
Is it right to preach certain ‘sectarian’ values to a group of children from various backgrounds, casts, sects and religions? The trust is doing a great service to the society by helping to raise 18 of its unfortunate kids. But the values inflicted on them need not be the ones they would learn if they were fortunate enough to live with their parents.
There are no easy answers to this. One way of answering it is by conceding that the charitable institute should be the sole decider of what its students should learn. After all, many schools are run by funds of temples and other religious organizations. Some might do it to spread awareness about their religion, but not all.
When the above argument is accepted, we are considering philanthropy to be a favor to the society. But when all the privileged in the society consider it their duty to help the less-fortunate, philanthropy acquires a new meaning. It will then be accountable to the society. We could point fingers at those not doing justice to their duties. Otherwise we will be happy with a school preaching, what are widely considered, divisive values. A verdict (not in black and white terms) will be needed soon.
In the wake of Bill Gates’s announcement that he’d quit Microsoft in two years and pledge his time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Warren Buffet (currently the second richest man in the world) pledging 85% of his assets to the same foundation, we could perhaps assume that even the market-driven western world considers philanthropy an integral part of the society.
The incident that made me think about this debate that Sunday evening, also left me with sweet memories of those kids and their dance to the tune of ‘koi kahe kheta rahe…hum logo ki tokar mein hai yeh jamana…kis liye hichkichana……gayenge hum apne dilo ka fasana.”
© raksha kumar