January 24, 2010
Water woke me up that night. I saw my things floating in my room like many little boats in a lake. My bathroom slippers were not at my bedside, where I had left them the night before. Even if I could have found them, where was I going to put my feet? For the first time in my life, my mind was bewildered beyond limit.
I have always believed God gives too much to some people, and deprives the needy.
The monsoon of 1995 in Sohana (my village) was my first time experience of a real flood. Everybody wanted rain, but nobody wanted this much heavy rain. After the extended dry summer, people prayed to God for rain to save their crops and lives. God listened and tilted his water-tank on our village, pouring all the water in just one night instead of a month.
Gathering enough confidence by the afternoon, I was able to descend from the roof and walk around my house. There was water everywhere; in the far north, only a few rooftops of two storey buildings were visible like faraway lighthouses in the ocean. Many people took shelter on the roofs of those high, sturdy government buildings. By the evening, I saw a few helicopters in the sky, throwing food packets for the people trapped on roofs. A few motorboats were transporting the sick people to temporary shelters.
On the third day, the floodwater receded, leaving a watermark on the walls of high-rise buildings and revealing the single storey houses. There was a layer of mud with a special fishy smell left all around. In addition, many animal carcasses were lying dead in the streets. It was time for the clean up and resettlement operation. That late afternoon, Raj - my school friend asked - me to join his school group to collect food, clothes, medicines, and donations to help the poor people.
The next day, after getting instructions from our schoolteacher, two of us (Raj and me) were walking upstream toward a village unaffected by this flood. We had four cloth bags hanging on our shoulders. We asked the residents for donations. Everybody contributed whatever he or she could.
Soon we had two and half bags full of things like wheat, corn, dry beans, used clothes, dry fruits, pickles, jams, salt, sugar, cooking oils and about 35 rupees in cash. However, we wanted to collect more (like an always-thirsty fish) that day aiming to proudly carry back all four full bags back to our school.
We asked the villagers, who could donate more. One villager told us to visit the moneylender’s house far away in the fields. Soon, we were walking towards this lonely mansion standing high like a triumphant commander in the battlefield.
On arrival at the mansion, we found a impressive big wooden gate wide open and no one in the courtyard. I shouted “Anyone in there?”
Soon we saw a tall, sturdy man walking towards us. He wore snow-white creased and ironed clothes, muddy shoes, and a thick yellow metallic chain around his neck and a small brown colored shawl on his left shoulder.
“You are not the kids from my village,” he said. “Why are you here?”
“We are collecting donations for the flood affected, and we live in Sohana downstream,” two of us replied simultaneously.
We just stood there, speechless, wondering if we would get any donation.
“What have you collected?”
Hoping for something, I replied. “Sir, we collected these food items, used clothes and 35 rupees in cash from your village.”
He thought for a minute and then gave his small brown shawl and yellow metallic chain to us.
“I hope my contribution will make you happy,” he said. “Would you like to drink some water?”
He pointed his right index finger to a hand pump in the corner of the courtyard and said, “Help yourself!”
We drank some water and got our bags on our shoulders, ready to march back like soldiers returning home.
“Thank you, Sir!” we said and waved goodbye to him.
At some distance from that mansion, I murmured, “I don’t think we can get these four bags full today.”
“We did our best. Let’s go back. I am exhausted,” Raj said.
At seven in the evening, while depositing our collected donations with our schoolteacher, I said, “Rich people never donate enough back to society.”
The teacher asked, “What made you think like that?”
“Today, we visited a moneylender’s home. We hoped to get at least one full bag, but got only this small shawl and metal chain; of no use to the flood affected,” I said.
“So, you went to Mr. Dara’s home in the fields?” teacher asked while looking at the shining chain.
“Mr. Dara already donated every single grain he had for the flood relief, but he wanted to remain anonymous. Probably he possessed these last two things to donate. This gold chain he gave you is at least 10,000 rupees or worth about 300 bags of donations – more than what we have collected till now.”
“Wow!” Both of us jumped with joy.
While walking back home, I was thinking. “People wanted some rain, God gave them too much. We wanted one bag of donation - Mr. Dara gave us too much...”
”Who is good for humanity, God or Mr. Dara? People doing very little asking glorification or the people who do a lot and want to remain anonymous?”
This small incident changed my view about donors: especially rich, disguised donors.