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December 2004 - January 2005


The Lady in the ‘Golden Fish Bowl’ - Supporting Charities that Support India

by Krishan Ralleigh

We dedicate this issue to various charities that have been supporting India in a variety of worthwhile causes. India is no longer the begging bowl it once was immediately after independence from colonial rule. The problems, nevertheless, are still enormous.

Educating the poor, helping the disadvantaged, widows, street children, animals, and those suffering from periodic calamities of nature and man-made disasters, all need immediate help from the Government of India. But funds are hardly ever enough. That is where the charities make an invaluable contribution. India Link International, from its inception, has been supporting various charities to pay tribute to the dedicated volunteers who devote their time, and the philanthropic businessmen who unhesitatingly dole out large amounts of money for the worthy causes.

In recent years, the first-generation Indian immigrants who made good in Britain have founded many charitable organisations in the name of their parents, wife or other members of the family who have themselves suffered disadvantage or disability of some kind. In any vibrant society there is always a need for charitable organisations which either complement the work of government or take initiatives which, later, may be taken over by the government of the day.

After all, what emotions impel someone to donate to a cause which is hardly a part of their affluent living? One wonders what inspired someone like Margaret Hassan to work in war-torn Iraq where death was always a few inches away. It must be the love of the country. Many rich Indian businessmen settled in the United Kingdom donate to a charity which helps the poor of India. They also support local charities as a token of support for the local community of their host country. Some may seek fame or recognition in society by supporting worthy causes. Or it may be an award from Buckingham Palace which is also coveted through this route. At the end of the day, if the worthy cause gets enough moolah, it is not a bad bargain.

In Britain, the Charity Commission keeps a tab on the activities of innumerable charity organisations. But in my experience, it is a toothless body. There are various so-called charitable organisations which are nothing more than an ego-trip for some. When a public figure - be it a writer, an actor, a sportsman, a politician or the wife of a prime minister - agrees to be the patron, he or she is duty-bound to inspire volunteers working at the grass roots, and also protect the organisation from any undesirable elements, including the trustees whose absolute integrity is vital. This, indeed, is a great responsibility.

Cherie Booth’s love for India and her association with those charitable organisations that are working to mitigate the miseries of poverty, ignorance, deprivation and disadvantage in Indian society deserves praise from all strata of Indian society living in Britain. Life in a ‘Golden Fish Bowl’(her own description of 10 Downing Street) for the wife of the Prime Minister of Great Britain can be inspiring, valuable and spiritually satisfying if she guides as well as guards the interests of charities from any unscrupulous elements.

Charitable work should sublimate the egotistic tendencies of human beings towards a higher spiritual plane where ‘giving’ rather than ‘taking’ brings joy. Then the society as a whole gets enriched.

All great religions prescribe charity as one of the sacred duties of human beings. In these months of Diwali, Eid and Christmas, we would like our readers to give a thought to many millions of our fellow Indians for whom these festivals bring little happiness. If we, through some of the charitable organisations such as those described in this journal, can bring knowledge, food, health and happiness to even a few thousands out of these millions, our support will be worthwhile. Let us remember the favourite hymn of Mahatma Gandhi:

‘Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye jo preet prayee jaane re’
A true man of God is he who feels the sufferings of others.

Why wait! Take the chequebook out and make a donation, however small, to any charity of your choice mentioned in this journal.

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