How Not to Do Charity and Still Be a Noble Guy


How Not to Do Charity and Still Be a Noble Guy

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Iam a self-proclaimed noble guy.

A Self-Proclaimed Noble Guy (SPNG) is someone who thinks about doing noble things. Less action, more thinking. To be precise, no action, only thinking. This defining trait of just thinking about noble causes doesn’t just help the SPNG in not being guilty about his privilege but also allows him to believe that he’s superior to anyone who doesn’t even think about these things. The SPNG’s breeding ground are lavish parties where the topics of discussion invariably revolve around different NGOs until the Chardonnay kicks in. After that it’s all about “Kal raat toh PUBG mein tere bhai ne gaand faad di; gyarah kill thhe gyarah!”

Take me, for instance. My philanthropist thoughts vary from helping old people and differently abled children to supporting conservation of animals. I want to save everything and everyone. Of course, I don’t actually save them… I just want to. And I’m not alone. In this day and age of social media justice, everyone wants to be a noble guy. Or at least want themselves to be seen as one. I’ve even seen friends who were suspended in school for violence become Twitter warriors and help street dogs.

My self-proclaimed noble thoughts come with a catch. I am also a miser. This trait of my personality, isn’t self-proclaimed, it’s verified by a cross-section of friends and family. That makes me a Self-Proclaimed Miser Philanthropist – a combination as rare as the animals I want to save. The only time someone like me might be tempted to donate would be on 31st March… to save taxes.

I fully realised the dilemma of my peculiar traits when three volunteers rang my doorbell a few days ago. I was almost offended when I opened the door and found out that they were from an old-age home. Agreed that the age of my body is above 50 because of never having lifted a single dumbbell in my life, but I am still a healthy 25. Just as I was about to protest, the volunteers informed me that they were here to collect funds for old people who needed a cataract surgery.

Before the philanthropist in me could appear, the miser in me blurted out that my salary hadn’t been credited yet, so I wouldn’t be able to help. Sure, I had savings but they didn’t have to know that. Besides, my savings are only enough to plan my seventh Goa trip. Unfortunately, one of the volunteers quickly suggested that I could write a post-dated cheque. Checkmate. Now if I made another excuse, I’d sound like a guy who didn’t want to help and no Self-Proclaimed (Miser) Noble Guy would ever want to sound like that. So I offered a “That’s great” while feeling absolutely not-so-great. I welcomed them inside my house and started hearing whatever they had to say while trying to hide my complete disinterest in whatever they had to say. #JustNobleGuyThings.

In the next few minutes, I was shown a brochure that made a note of all the donations that people had contributed before me. I suppose the idea was to make me feel competitive and go, “Oh look, this stranger donated 12,000. Let me donate 13,000 and beat this anonymous guy, who by the way, has no idea that he lost to me in a totally imaginary one-sided competition.” And if I were just another SPNG, this move may have even worked, but I fielded a volley of questions to the volunteers: I asked them how they were going to use the money, whether I’d get a tax-saving receipt, and what was the acceptable minimum amount of donation. I was informed it was 2,400 for two eyes.

My self-proclaimed noble thoughts come with a catch. I am also a miser.

Now that I was convinced that they weren’t scammer volunteers who’d seek donations to save some dog but go and buy Classic Milds with it, I had no options left. It was time for me to bring out the big guns: buying time. It is, after all, the SPNG’s most trusted weapon. When someone asks me if I’d be interested in an NGO that saves the soil in Vidarbha, my default setting is to say, “I’d love to but the cat that I saved in Koparkhairane is dying. I have to go feed her the milk of a goat, which by the way, was also saved by me.” In this case, I took all the time in the world to find the cheque book that was right beside my bed.  

I didn’t just stop there. Before writing the cheque, I also offered, “I wonder why an old guy would need an operation for both his eyes; it’s not like he is a sprinter or anything. Should I write the cheque instead for 1,200?” Sure, it was in jest, but I was 90 per cent serious. I had to fake guffaw at my own “joke” when my eyes met the volunteers’ faces. They looked at me with such disgust as if I’d just admitted to signing off on demonetisation.

Before I could get any more embarrassed, I swiftly wrote the cheque for 2,400 and asked them to leave. As I shut the door, I realised that I’m no longer a Self-Proclaimed Noble Guy. I’d actually transformed into a noble guy, who walked the talk. But being noble didn’t feel good. Possibly because I’d spent 2,400 on an old guy who may not offer an appropriate return on investment.

That day, I learnt that even self proclamations comes with a price. So I opened Instagram, put up the receipt as my Insta story and urged everyone to donate to the old-age home I’d just been forced into donating. My caption read, “An eye for an eye makes an oldie’s life. #Donate #DoNetra”. I got a lot of appreciation from fellow SPNGs and 40 extra followers. Not a bad deal at all: 60 bucks per follower with a bonus of an old guy being able to see clearly. I patted my own back but also decided not to be a philanthropist for at least a year. My quota was done.