T h e most i m p o r t a n t q u a l i t y o f a daani (giver) is to do so with no expectations whatsoever. Shubha Srikanth ruminates on how this virtue has become a flaunt-worthy act with technology to its aid.

The act of donating, or of generosity, termed daan in Hinduism, is an act of relinquishing ownership of a commodity and offering it to another person. Likewise, in Christianity, Islam and every other religion ‘the act of giving’ is a virtue to be imbibed and practiced; a dharma or responsibility that purifies the soul at a spiritual level. At a more mundane level, perhaps the act imbibes the quality of sparing a thought for a fellow human being; and, may be, a sense of pure, lasting joy that the other’s agony has been alleviated, even if by a quarter, rather that assuage the ego.

This is the era of broadcasting. There was a time when only media broadcasted. Along with that was the one aunt or uncle in every family, who was the official gossipmonger, nicknamed the ‘broadcaster’, who ensured that every secret, stealthily made its way out to every other family member and beyond. Today, we don’t need that aunt or uncle, whom we all resented, to spread news of our deeds, good and bad. Because, today, most of us are ‘broadcasters’, and narcissistic ones at that. Every little, insignificant detail of our lives we share as if a major achievement on social media. Every like, thumbs up and heart catapult our sense of self-worth by a hundred-fold,further boosting our infinitely elastic egos. If narcissism is Dr. Jekyll, then voyeurism is Mr. Hyde. With the exception of course that the proverbial Jekyll-Hyde pair was a binary opposite. Each feeds the other. What a fine pair Zuckerberg and his tribe have morphed humans of the 21 Century into!

Particularly loathsome is us sharing pictures and details of how we ‘helped’. Helped a wounded bird, a lost pup, or someone in need. Whatever happened to the Kannada adage, ‘Balagai en madide anta edagayige gottirabaaradu’? (The left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand has done.) I heard my father say this often to my mother, when she found out from a third party about some sort of help extended by him to a relative or friend in need, and confronted him with, “You never told me. I had to hear about about my husband’s generosity from someone else!” To which my father would say, “You should never talk about how you helped someone in need.” I would hear her exclaim in bewilderment, “Someone?! But, I’m only your wife!” And then, my father would chant his mantra, “The left hand…”

It used to be the rich and famous, especially from tinsel town showing off their ‘acts of kindness’, to push under the carpet, their other ‘not-sokind- acts’. Not to mention the netas grinning in camerafriendly demeanor, clad in crisp white shirts and topis, notwithstanding that the conscience is safely tucked away behind their goggles, handing away a cheap saree or pest-ridden rice, especially as elections neared. I particularly remember how my domestic help and her neighbours refused to be served ganji (gruel) that the local politician wished to serve himself, saying they could afford a better meal! Nevertheless, his PR team ensured that pictures of him holding a king-size ladel were splashed in the newspapers and on television!

Ironically, now, this need for shouting out from rooftops has percolated into the psyche of us commonfolk. Particularly, during the pandemic-induced lockdown, Facebook and Instagram were replete with photographs of people handing over a few kilos of rice and dals and other essentials. Whatsapp statuses too flaunted these acts of philanthropy. Beaming, conceited faces posing for the camera as some hapless chap receives the measly bundle, captured with fancy filters and frames, captions and quotes et al.

Perhaps, we spare a thought for the sense of dignity and selfworth of that less fortunate soul; he, who was until a year ago earning his three-square meals by sheer hard work Perhaps, we realise that we are the privileged ones, with education, power and money and find contentment in offering gratitude to the almighty for all his blessings

I wouldn’t imagine anyone of us, going about blabbering tales of bravado in the real world that we so easily do in the virtual world. Nor would we lap up these tales with equal enthusiasm.

What lack is this need fixing? Can the lack be fixed thus? Is this need symptomatic of a greater angst? Or, anguish? Loneliness, perhaps, from, diminishing connection with the real world?