Thursday, 29 October, 2009

When joy of giving turns sour ...

The Joy of Giving week was celebrated a little before Diwali. The students from Akanksha’s Lower Parel centre (an NGO involved in teaching less privileged kids) decided to experience the joy of giving this Diwali instead of the joy of getting. They celebrated Diwali in a home for cancer-affected kids. As the students performed dances and distributed gifts, the faces of those tired-looking kids brightened. A warm hug from all of us added to their joy.

For me, Diwali is the time to get out of the city. If possible, I would like to spend every Diwali in Kerala – the only state that does not celebrate Diwali in a big way. Or has it changed? I am not sure. Though I don’t celebrate Diwali, I happily accept the sweets and gifts offered by friends and neighbours. To counter the joy of getting, I give some money (Diwali baksheesh) to the people who do some service for me regularly – the security guards, milkman, cleaning woman, and so on. This is a usual practice; I am not doing anything out of the ordinary. For a housemaid, usually one month’s salary is given, while there’s no fixed amount for others. If I don’t give, they will come and ask for it. Anyway, I do not wait for them to ask. Before getting out of the city, I make it a point to meet each of them and give the baksheesh.

This year, however, I refused to give baksheesh once and another time, I had to give it without any joy of giving.

For the past one year, I complain regularly to the newspaper agent about non-delivery of papers, late delivery, missing supplements, excess billing, and what not. But there was no improvement in the service. One or two days after Diwali, two boys, whom I’d never seen in my life, rang the bell at around 8.30 in the morning. They claimed to be the newspaper delivery boys and wanted Diwali baksheesh. I refused saying I’d never seen them. One of them said the other boy had just joined as a delivery boy and he was teaching him. Both the trainer and the new recruit wanted baksheesh. I asked if the trainer was teaching the new boy to deliver the paper late and then ask for money. Sorry, I don’t pay for regular bad service.

After a week, two postmen came asking for the same, equipped with a notebook. I can’t say their service is bad, but very rare. But to think of two central government servants, who take good salaries home, doing rounds with a begging bowl (figuratively)! It looked like they were noting down the amount paid by each house in the notebook. I imagine that they would decide the quality of service for the next year based on the amount! I paid them sourly, without the joy of giving. Some time back, there was a newspaper article about postmen’s complaints – that they are no longer welcomed with warmth as it used to be. How will I welcome them happily if they come and ask for money for delivering a letter or two in a year?

Now I think I should’ve given the baksheesh to the boys. They earn less and maybe they would have wanted the money badly, not like the government employees who get regular salary and bonus. I’ve not seen the boys again. Paper delivery is as bad as ever.

This is where we went during this Diwali – Nannaj Bird Sanctuary, near Solapur, Maharashtra. The image at the beginning of this post is also from Nannaj.

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