Friday, April 07, 2006

From rags to riches

Last week I went to the Digital Print guy at Koramangala to take a color printout. As I waited for my turn I saw an expensive SUV driving into the parking lot. Three guys and a girl got out. The guys wore expensive clothes and gold bracelets on their hands. They walked in with an air of familiarity and greeted the graphic designers (GD) sitting down next to them. One of the guys was practically showing off his expensive lighter, cigarettes, mobile phones etc. I saw a Rolex in one of the guy’s hands.

Then they gathered around the GD and started giving him some instructions in Malayalam. It was a brochure that they were making. From their conversation I could gather that they were into some sort of NGO or charity organization helping the rural poor. The brochure was being made for the many people abroad who had sent money to the organization.

"Put a photograph of a smiling child. The whites like to see that."

"And put some nice background for the village from those sceneries you have. We do not want the vellakaars (white man) to think we are doing nothing."

"Yes. These guys like to see all that."

"And put a 'before' and 'after' picture of that little boy. The ‘before’ picture should look thin and the ‘after’ picture should look fat. You can do that in Photoshop right?"

This was the conversation that was flying thick and fast as they ‘directed’ the making of the brochure. As I sat listening to them and peeping into the monitor while pretending to be impatiently pacing around I saw a con job happening right in front of me. The finished brochure made from scanned photographs of the village and some images from photo libraries looked spectacular. In fact if I hadn’t seen the making of the brochure I would have been tempted to make a donation for the yeoman service they were doing for the poor.

These guys had found a unique way to get rich quick. They had created a 'Charity' organization, made a few impressive ppt's for the consumption of charity funding agencies and got funds to look after the welfare of the poor. A part of the funds are actually put into charity, the rest they appropriate. It is a win win situation. During the nineties I had heard of the rush to do “charity’ work. And I have seen many people, some of them even my own relations making it big. Then I heard there was clampdown with the government bringing in certain legislations to check the misuse of ‘charity’ funds. But I guess our intrepid Indians will find a loophole everywhere. We are an ingenious people indeed. We will even make a living out of the poor.

(An aunt of mine who works with Oxfam informs me that a percentage of money that come from abroad are donated by old people who do not think twice about donating a pound or a dollar or a few pennies from their pension towards the poor in India.)


Immigrant in Canada said...

years ago my mom told abt this Christian preachers in Kerala who were collecting money from the Americans for the souls they were saving in Kerala.. One trick was to release helium balloons in to the crowd and everyone would reach out to gather the balloons.. In the photograph it would look like people raising their hand singing and worshipping.. I guess nothing has changed..

Mind Curry said...

oh my god!! i really cannot believe that such things happen in the open..its terrible. i wonder if these people have a conscience or not.

in some ways i have grouse with the church as know all our bishops and priests also capitalise on emotions such as faith and belief. anyway, if i get into that its never-ending.

the simple fact is that the world has become a place thats lost its trust and purity. you have to doubt everything and everyone, even something as pure and sacred as kindness and trust. that makes me really itself becomes pointless for these people.

some instructions in Malayalam.
there lies another sad truth.

Matter of Choice said...

interesting...and reaffirms my faith in human failings :)...even the most well-run NGO's have such a huge administrative structure which eats up a lot of the donated money!!..and the pay in NGO's arent bad at all!!!

Tells me that charity (atleast the organized ones) is never the answer to problems in the long-term. It just attracts its own set of bureaucrats and becomes yet another organization!

injinuity said...

hahaa.. smart buggers.. actually one of my uncles is the MD for a major charity organization in delhi.. seein his lifestyle, I can understand what you mean...

pssttt I am impressed baby, you actually noticed the rolex on the guys hand, atta girl

Jithu said...

no reason why india is still poor country even after 60 years of independence. these are things which create the great divide btn the rich and the poor.

Jiby said...

what do i say to this...felt really sad reading this...i saw small kids hardly 5-8 years old hard at work in shops, homes and hotels when they should have been in school like us and i try to give them a smile...they look back with such a vacant expression that pained me...their childhood had been robbed...if you think the money these men siphon away could have helped these kids out then these men have no idea of the degree of the sin they are committing. we indians are ourselves robbing our poor helpless india...

silverine said...

@immigrantincanada: How ingenious!! It's money making at the end of the day.
@mindcurry: The church doesn't get any funds at all since it was stopped by the govt. some time back. And the orphanges and shools run by the Catholic church are in dire need of finances.But the so called NGO's and Charity Organisations make millions because they are registered. It is easiest way to make a quick buck.
@MoC: Very true but then is there any other way out? Some of these NGO's do good work.
@Jinu: I dunno if it was a genuine Rolex :) Yes these people are smart in spotting the opportunity but heartless in their choice of the opportunity.
@Jithu: Very true, the divide can never be bridged unless the poor get the funds meant for their upliftment.
@Jiby: It's so sad to see small kids cleaning tables in restaurants while we able bodied adults sit and enjoy the food he will never get. In fact since it is his growing years he needs the nourishment more than any of us. Once I left my umbrella in a restaurant and went back to get it and saw one of the kids sitting under the table eating our leftovers. It was heart breaking :(

Sachin R K said...

I had a conversation on similar lines with a colleague from TN recently. He described the "now rich" owners of a charity for orphans running purely on foreign donations. The facility is spruced up once a year when these "furriners" come visiting. Really makes one sick to see people can stoop to such levels for making money.