would you give away 50% of your wealth to charity whilst alive or in your will?

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:

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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.]

blogging workshops with me: evolve your blogging skills

Four years ago I was forced to re-evaluate my life. My father was in hospital and I ended up spending a lot of time waiting—waiting for visiting hours, counselling meetings with the doctors, test results. Times like these force one to look within and ask questions.

A seemingly simple enough question asked of me by my sister, over a coffee in the hospital cafeteria, triggered it further: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I did not have an answer. And that scared me. Like shit. It made me realize how disconnected I had become with my own self.

On the surface I had a fancy job in a fancy office. I worked from 9 to 9. But I had become so engrossed in the minutiae of deadlines and meetings, wrapped in the trees I had stopped looking at the forest aka myself and my journey.

A series of soul-searching questions later, I left my job, moved to Bombay and set up The Communique. I just knew I had to live out my purpose.

Purpose is a funny thing, wouldn’t you agree? Once we find it, it is hard to let go of it. I was lucky I discovered it—yes, it was in the same hospital. My dad was discharged, declared weak but on the road to recovery. And I walked by his side, with clarity in each footstep.

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while would have surmised I love blogging. It is a deep seated love which goes back 19 years. Building capacity in communication is the purpose which brought me to Bombay in 2014. A commitment to share my learnings in communication acquired over two decades of experience and study. Rather disparate, you will agree. Blogging and capacity building in communication. And for quite a while I accepted them as separate facets of myself where the twain were unlikely to meet.

Till three months ago. Continue reading

about me: in a bit more detail

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Compliments of the New Year! 🙂

It is already the 7th of January, and it seems just yesterday that I was contemplating the closure of yet another year and what all it had meant for me even as it paved the way for a sequel. There was a sense of déjà vu in the air.

Except for one thing—a chunk of my holidays was taken up in finalizing my personal site. Tweaking it and polishing it to ensure it was perfect, for me at least. You could call the site my fancy online business card, for a better word. But why a personal site, you may ask? Is a blog not enough? Continue reading

i am a registered organ and tissue donor. are you?

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Every year, in India alone, 250,000 people need a kidney transplant, 80,000 a liver transplant, 50,000 a heart transplant, and 100,000 a cornea transplant. These statistics keep growing as a result of the increasing number of organ failures that are rampant in the human life cycle. Please note these are only estimates, based on known requests, since there is no organised data available in India.

So you reckon that you’ll register yourself as an organ donor, and even if some of us do, the numbers can be met. After all in a 1.336 billion strong nation, it is not impossible. Wrong. Continue reading

a pan-indian carrom board match: volunteering in mother teresa’s hospice

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“Show me your pass. Monthly or weekly volunteer?” A grey, wrinkled guard looks at me quizzically as I stand at the door drenched in sweat, my backpack weighing down on my shoulder.

“I don’t have a pass. I am not a volunteer.”

“Then why are you here?” At this point I am convinced I am going to be turned away and the thought of going back into the sweltering heat is a miserable one.

I am at the Mother Teresa Kalighat Home for the Dying in Kolkata on a day long halt on my way to Bhutan.

I look at him half pleading, half self-righteous: “I have come to visit.”

He points me to the door leading inside with a dismissive wave. That’s it? I feel I have just won an unnamed yet crucial battle. Grinning ear-to-ear with relief, I tiptoe past him and enter a huge hall with scores of low beds arranged in neat rows. It is empty save a couple of destitute too near to death to have the energy or will to rise. The rest are all in the dining area, taking a break. Continue reading

3 takeaways from arfeen khan’s ‘Make a Fortune Teaching What You Love’ seminar

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I am in a hall full of 250 odd trainers at Arfeen Khan’s ‘Make a Fortune Teaching What You Love’ train the trainer seminar. The advert had popped up on my Facebook feed.

Facebook’s research team knows I am in the training business, like all my other online activities it tracks. 1,400 people clicked and enrolled on Khan’s advert. A subsequent telephone call and form screened the 1,400 down to 250 who now sit around me in the hall in Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai on an early Sunday morning. The seminar is free. He is confident that 5 percent of attendees will sign up for the one year paid program based on conversion rate number rules.

There is a buzz in the hall. Khan is a celebrity coach, and the gimmicks are full blast on. Music, dance, fans and the related jazz. But it’s not all fun and games. There are three priceless nuggets I walk out with at the end of the day. Read on if you would like to know more. 🙂 Continue reading