I just did. That is, I pledged aloud to give away 50% and more of my savings to philanthropy. And no, I am no billionaire. I am just an ordinary, working woman. This pledge is my birthday gift to myself. It is my birthday today. 🙂
It was not a spur of the moment decision. The idea to give away my hard-earned money was made subconsciously many years ago. The fact is, life has been pretty kind to me. I make way more than I need and so I figured I owed it to life to be kind in return. To pass on the blessings. What better way could there be than to pass on what I have received. But it felt nicer to acknowledge it publicly. Like I was setting myself free.
What made it doubly right was that I was not alone in my decision. I was joined by a score of others, all professionals like myself, guided by a desire to give back. Many more are giving it a serious thought as I pen this article—fighting both inner and outer battles. After all, it goes against the very grain of our social fabric to give away half of what we own.
The promisers so far:
The inequality of wealth distribution globally, and in India is no secret. Oxfam’s recent study makes the differences even more ugly. Of the total wealth generated in the country last year, 1% of Indians got 73% whilst 670 million citizens received just 1%. And the gap just keeps getting wider and wider. And more repugnant.
It is easy to demand the uber-rich should give away their wealth to the poor. It is in fact expected. But why wait for this group to be the torchbearers. Why can’t we, those who have slogged to amass our savings into a respectable pile, be those who bring a semblance of equality back into the equation? Don’t each one of us also have a social responsibility? Why can’t we be the change we keep talking about?
Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge initiative in 2010 was designed as a philanthropic initiative for the super-wealthy in order to create a more equitable world. To be able to make the pledge one needs to be a billionaire and be willing to pledge half of it to charity. Which excludes 99% of India’s population, namely, you and me.
Inspired by it, and more within one’s reach, is Bangalorean Tanu and Girish Batra’s #LivingMyPromise, ideated around Daan Utsav, India’s week-long festival of giving. One needs to have a crore [10 million] Rupees to qualify for this, and like Giving Pledge be willing to commit half of that wealth to charitable causes whilst alive or in one’s will.
Remember, when we were little and we pledged to serve our country? Somewhere down the road we forgot all about it and decided to just fend for ourselves, pass the buck, and turn a blind eye. Nothing wrong with that. It is what we all do. The charm is when we do the opposite. Go against the current. When we care. And give. Not bits and pieces, but large chunks. Reconnecting with our country and its people. #LivingMyPromise is the ordinary Indian’s pledge, turned real.
So, we have an Amith Prabhu, a reputation management specialist who pledges because he has come to believe, “We come with nothing and we go with nothing. We are merely custodians of materials that we either earn or inherit.” And then there is a Venkat Krishnan, a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, who gets a literal kick out of giving and thinks giving is a complete “no-brainer.” Sridhar Rajagopalan, an entrepreneur, on the other hand states it is luck, and the hard work and benevolence of others which plays a large part in our success that we can hardly call it “ours.” Pledging is, thus, only fair.
Wrapped in my dead-end questions, my decision to pledge my wealth was a natural one, like those of many others. My decision to go public with it, in the hope it may inspire other ordinary folks like myself, is where #LivingMyPromise fitted in.
May I ask you again, fellow Indians. Would you give away 50% of your wealth to charity? And if yes, do say it out aloud. Our country needs to hear it. ❤
Oh, and yeah, happy birthday to me! 😀
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[Note: My above post first appeared in Business World on 26 September, 2018 in its online edition. The original article can be read here. This post forms part of my blog’s Giving Back series which explores giving back initiatives in India.]