The Spirit of Giving

If you’re gonna choose one charity donation site at which to throw down your hard-earned, choose GiveIndia. This was hastily posted so that American donors could get tax breaks by donating before the end of 2010; nevertheless, it’s the most impressive charity site I’ve come across.

I injected myself into the story by recounting my meeting with a friendly, unassuming Texan in Subway.

Don Iverson was tall, bearded and topped by an impressive wide-brimmed hat, but from the moment he introduced himself, ‘cowboy’ was the last word on my mind. He told me that he was a businessman and artist, visiting India from Tennessee, and listened intently to my story of what I was doing in Kerala.

After some time, he somewhat bashfully revealed that he and his wife have established orphanages in south India, and that is his main purpose for being here – and what keeps him coming back.

Read more at The NRI…


The rendezvous point was Barista on MG Road, so I took an expensive (by Indian standards, about $4 for a 15-minute ride) autorickshaw there and waited patiently for P, a friend of a friend, who with E was to make my experience in Bangalore a memorable one from the outset. Here’s me at Barista, fresh off the train:

After a blackcurrant smoothie and some sort of crushed ice/tropical fruit beverage, he turned up and we started a conversation that was really only interrupted by sleep and work during the three days I stayed with them. It’s such a great feeling to be made to feel immediately welcome in a new environment. Granted, they’d heard a lot of positive things about me from our mutual friend and as a result were more willing to greet me with warmth and openness, but it’s still something very rare to be allowed into people’s lives and hearts without fuss or the standard amount of obstacles that are usually put up in your way. It’s unfortunate that this is something worth commenting on because it ought not to be special – it ought to be the norm – but that’s something to look into another time.

We talked about our respective pasts, the places they’ve brought us to now, and where we want to be in the future as people. We talked about trust, how it’s so easy to scale back in your life depending on how much you let yourself be affected by the times it’s been betrayed. We talked about respect, something so fundamental in our nature that our Western (or Westernized) cultures are leading us further away from. And we talked about communication, which takes so many forms and the improving of which is so vital to our relationships, be they familial, intimate, or friendly. None of us were entirely comfortable with how we live these aspects of our lives – is anyone? – but we all felt a deep desire to better ourselves, and if we didn’t hit upon any concrete maxims to follow, we did agree how positive it is to be around people who care about these things and won’t coast through life without making some effort to grow.

In the meantime, Bangalore was quite different from the small part of Delhi I experienced. Many more smiles and friendly interest, and a feeling that people want to help you, not fleece you or exploit you. Still, the gulf between India’s burgeoning middle class and those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale is apparent everywhere you go. There is a hierarchy and clear structure to begging here, for the most part – for example, amputees are more likely to gain charity, so some people choose or even are forced to lose a leg or arm so they’re more profitable – but still… these are people who have virtually nothing, whether they’re acting cynically or against their will or whatever as they bat at your arm and hold out their hand. One has to remain somewhat hardened and view it as an industry just like any other, but it’s impossible not to let one’s guard down once in a while and give a few rupees to a starving woman and child.

So there’s that during the day as you go out for groceries, then at night you can go to a bar which looks and feels just like you’re in England or America with leather couches and all manner of cocktails and great food. Really good places, really good atmosphere, and you do forget about those less fortunate than you. They are right outside the door, though. I don’t have more than a tourist’s understanding of, let alone any solution to, this ongoing and very visible dark side of India, but I sincerely hope that as the economy continues to boom and money keeps rolling in, some of it trickles down and that middle class expands to healthier levels. This may take many decades and a complete overhaul of society, and I don’t even know if India needs that.

Anyway, I’ve made Bangalore out to be this horribly poor and depressing place when it’s actually one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, so please don’t get the wrong idea. I had a great time there, met a good few fantastic people and would go back any time. At the very least, it’s no more poverty-stricken than any other city in this part of the world. As time went on, however, my mind turned further and further towards my next port of call, my destination (for now at least), the rumoured seaside paradise that would fulfil all of my dreams. The place I am now. Varkala. Very soon, the Jdanspsa me will finally catch up with the real me.


My online diary dried up at this point, for various reasons; for a poor segue into my life having settled in India, take a look at some of my posts for The NRI under the category ‘India’ or the tag ‘The NRI’.