Ever since I was a young boy, I remember being surrounded by a few people who made a lasting impression on me. Chief among them were my own Nana (maternal grandfather), and his brothers. Why? Because while they were staunch businessmen who had come from rather modest circumstances in rural Bihar and made it big, in the big city; they never once forgot their roots, their humble beginnings, and their community.
While they amassed great fortunes in trading and liaison with a slew of foreign countries, their hearts and their minds were firmly planted back home. So what did they do? They made time, put in effort, and spent a good deal of their own money to further the cause of those, less fortunate.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this isn’t any glorious achievement in itself. Perhaps you’d be right. There are however a few key differences that made them stand out, back then, and even today. See those were the days when CSR (corporate social responsibility) was neither in vogue, nor mandated. Despite that, they happily gave back to the community. THAT made it special. Second, they never did, and never have until this day, EVER, in the slightest, displayed, advertised or publicized their contributions, monetary or otherwise, to any social cause. And that to me, is the key difference. That’s what makes these men, truly great. That’s what makes them the very embodiment of the word ‘Karma’ as I understand it.
Today we seem to be inundated with stories across the media and on various platforms of the charitable accomplishments of individuals and organizations. That’s all well and good. But isn’t the point and true meaning of social service, service (and not publicity)?
My Nana runs an absolutely free Hostel in the middle of Calcutta where scores of young students from his village back in Bihar, for over half a century, have come, lived, eaten, studied, all for free, and gone on to make wonderful lives for themselves. And NOBODY even knows this place exists! Likewise, his brothers have sponsored able, meritorious students to various institutions the world over, including paying their entire Ivy League Tuition, and again, not a peep out of these greatly generous men.
Benevolence to me then has always meant service with humility, subtlety, and a certain amount of restraint. Else, it dilutes the essence of true giving. It becomes a hedonistic, self-centered endeavor. Service ought to be silent. Service speaks for itself!