It was my mother-in-law’s (MIL) turn to get a ‘hawan’ done at our place. After pleasing all the deities and the Gods, my MIL’s friends sat down to discuss the next “good deed” they should do. After an animated discussion interrupted by “ooohh-s” and “awwww-s” the aunties decided to help Akhilesh, the office boy who worked in the residents’ welfare association office. They felt sorry that the poor guy could not afford microwave for his home and that all of them should contribute Rs. 1000 each to help him in his trying times.
After the total money was collected and counted, the oldest aunty looked at me and said, “Beta, you earn so well, you should also learn to donate some money. Why don’t you also contribute for Akhilesh?”
“But aunty, mummy-ji contributed for him. It’s the same thing.”
“Same thing?” she looked bewildered. “Sweetie, don’t be a scrooge, I see you getting a fancy haircut for not less than a grand, and here you are refusing to help a poor man”
Aunty started with her divine discourse of how God will help you if you help the poor. After the excruciatingly long lecture where I was made to look like the smallest, most skinflint person on this planet, I tried to gather the little self-respect remained in me.“It’s not about 1,000 rupees. It is just that my idea of donation is a bit different.”
“Your idea of donation is different? And what is that my dear?” she smirked.
All the aunties in the room started nodding their head in agreement and clucked their tongues at the ongoing argument. They shot sympathetic glances towards my MIL for having such a miser bahu.
“In my opinion, donating money to someone who needs microwave is not helping the poor. Microwave is luxury, we should donate to people who are in more desperate need”
“Oohhh… did everybody listen to that? This Madame is saying that we are not helping the poor? Tum hi bata do beta, hum kaha paise de?” she continued in a tone to humiliate me.
Unable to take the insults anymore, I was determined to get back at the old dame, when finally, my defence struck me! “Like I had suggested during mummy-ji’s birthday that we should donate in an orphanage or a blind school or an animal hospital. These are the places where they struggle to make their ends meet. But everyone thought I was a fool and cash was distributed to the helpers. Our regular helpers get decent amount of help from every house they work and paying for their luxuries like TV etc. is not helping the real poor.”
“But why should we donate to someone whom we don’t know? People like Akhilesh help us with the arrangements of ‘hawan’, kitty parties and other events of our group. Without the helpers, it would be so difficult for us to manage. If you keep them happy, they will never say no for work!” she was exasperated.
I cocked my head, raised a single eyebrow and smirked, “I didn’t know that one should expect some benefit for oneself while donating!”
The aunties all looked down and the room fell silent.