Sir — Yet another forest fire has broken out — this time in Mizoram. The wildfire has affected at least eight forest areas, and threatens to spread to nearby settlements. As usual, hashtags have begun to circulate on social media, urging people to ‘pray for Mizoram’. While hashtags help to bring such news to the forefront, people must understand that merely praying for a crisis to subside is of little practical help. Offering aid by volunteering or donating money to help alleviate the plight of the affected is the only way one can make a difference.
Sir — An elderly, physically challenged man in Kerala, who lives on pension for the differently abled and small earnings from rolling beedis, recently donated two lakh rupees from his savings bank account that had a total of Rs 2,00,850 to the chief minister’s disaster relief fund to help the state government provide free Covid-19 vaccines to the needy (“Life savings: Rs 200, 850. Donated: Rs 2 lakh”, April 25). He further expressed the desire to remain anonymous, in contrast to many financially stable people who do not miss a chance to beat the drums about their donations or the political class which makes a big deal about every government dole.
The bank official who attended the donor was naturally surprised when the man requested him to transfer the money immediately so that he could sleep peacefully and asked him not to reveal his name.
The chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, has lauded this unnamed donor. He also praised Subaida, a poor woman running a tea shop, who donated Rs 5,000 and Rs 5,510 on two separate occasions for the same cause.
Swami Vivekananda regretted the fact that the concept of selfless charity was disappearing from India and great men were becoming fewer by the day. In election speeches, we hear political leaders of all hues quoting Swami Vivekananda unabashedly for political gain. They would do well to take a lesson from him: “Never vaunt of your gifts to the poor or expect their gratitude, but rather be grateful to them for giving you the occasion of practising charity to them.”
Sir — India is indeed a country of great contrasts. On the one hand, we see top political leaders abandoning their responsibility, gesticulating in front of huge gatherings, beseeching their votes on promises of showering bonanza. All the while, the citizens are suffering from a deadly pandemic. It brings to mind the story of the Roman emperor who played the fiddle while his kingdom was burning. The contrast lies in the story of the self-effacing philanthrope who gave away his life’s savings to ensure the safety of his countrymen. Unlike the political leaders, the man with meagre resources knew his duty.
Such stories make us justly proud of the legacy of the likes of the Buddha — the prince who renounced all worldly aspirations and devoted his life seeking salvation for humanity.
South 24 Parganas