Muslim leaders should learn strategy from Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary


There is a comfort in emotions that is difficult to deny. And the succor that a camaraderie of emotions provides is indisputable. If you are happy, your pleasure is intensified when someone shares that happiness with you. If you are unhappy, being able to share the unhappiness and pain with others helps comfort you. If you are angry, venting anger as part of a group that shares your emotion, helps provide cathartic relief. That is what perhaps accounts for flash mobs, anti-corruption protests, et al.

We are better off when experiencing an emotion– good or bad — rather than at times when we are indifferent and so, bored with everything. And, the most pleasurable of all emotions is romantic love. Extra-marital relationships are also the result, more often than not, of finding the comfort of emotional attachment beyond home and the acceptable.

Time was when we dealt with our conflicting, tumultuous emotional states all by ourselves, or at most by confessing to a parent, a dear friend or sibling. But today, a generation that has been brought up to believe strongly in individualism and to value themselves, their goals, their own feelings and their idea of right and wrong, sees nothing wrong in hanging its innermost emotions out to dry in public spaces. And social networking sites ensure there is no lack of such spaces!

Years ago, when as a child, disturbed at my emotional response to a handsome star of the time, I confessed my mixed feelings to my mother, she told me censoriously, “You must learn to control such emotions.” For quite some time I believed I was some kind of an emotional freak and prayed to be infused by purer thoughts and feelings. Today all you do is sign into any social networking site or forum and find hundreds of others echoing the same feelings. You not only realize you are no freak, but your feelings are actually reinforced!

When I stumbled across the facebook page of Mohnish Bahl who is currently playing the lead for a popular television serial “Kuch to log kahenge…”, I was amazed at the outpouring of young emotions there. Followers of the actor openly talk of their love for him and confess how they cannot wait to watch him again, how they worry about him, pray for him and even advise him on the serial! And Mohnish is no youngster — he is a married man with a 20-year-old daughter!

What amazes me is the passion these people bring to play upon a serial that is so obviously fictitious! They react to characters as if to real people and all thoroughly enjoy the interaction. Housewives, professionals, students – all bond emotionally on the same page, finding it addictive — as is proved by their multiple daily visits to the page!

There’s indeed comfort in being part of a group that wallows in emotions!

When I mentioned this obsessive group emotion to my friend Dr Deepak Raheja, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director, Hope Foundation, he said, “It is symbolic of regression. People tend to regress when they are very emotional. They let the conscious mind get synchronized with the heart to feel emotion that brings a surge of feel-good chemicals. In past this state was reserved for a very special person you loved or perhaps an idol. Today people have become frivolous in relationships –the resilience, coping strategies and mechanisms that are required to balance emotions have come down. People are more demanding and want to change the loved one. When that doesn’t happen, there is sourness and relationships break. “

Devoid of gratification and contentment of relationships because you find such few idols and idealistic relationships in real life, an emotionally immature generation transfers its moodiness and starved emotions onto idols and stars. People get carried away on a wave of emotion and when they find themselves part of a like-minded group, they find that high emotions help them bond better with others. This gives them a great sense of comfort. They start romancing the idealistic scenarios found on the screen, believing they can live that life too, even if vicariously.

It can be a scary scenario because emotions run fast and furious here and the landscape changes in the blinking of an eye; the dwellers of this land hate as quickly and as intensely as they love, and they transfer reel emotions into real life as effectively as real emotions get entangled with reel ones. Rather than considered and few, relationships tend to be indiscriminate and many, rather than caring and nurturing, they are demanding and destructive… both in reel and real!

Charity as a salve for your soul, or to save your taxes — does it really matter why?

We all know someone or the other who takes out time for voluntary service and charity. Inured as we are to the daily grind, running around handling various responsibilities and fighting against time, we wonder what the incentive of the do-gooders is. For those of us who do not spare time for the less privileged, it is convenient to dismiss others who do so, as people who have plenty of time on hand, or those who feel a vacuum in their lives.

Giving of course doesn’t just imply financial aid — time, energy and skills are just as relevant and sometimes more difficult to spare. Do people who indulge in charity do so because they are more evolved and understand that this is the path to salvation? Is it because they believe or know through experience that the more they give, the more they receive? Or, is the act of altruism actually unrelated to any selfish reason?

A common refrain is that the rich indulge in charity and dole out donations to save taxes. That may be true to some extent, but it is certainly not the entire truth. In fact, the rich would end up with more money despite paying taxes if they were to keep their money rather than give it away. Some banks and charitable institutions have conducted surveys where they have asked their donors if they would stop giving if they were to get zero tax deductions. In almost all surveys, at least 50 per cent donors replied that tax deduction was not a motivator for them at all.

Another theory propounds that people give away to deal with their guilt of being born privileged even as they shudder at the possibility of having been born the other side of the fence. It is commonly perceived that philanthropists who made wealth did so at the expense of rest of society, so giving back some of it is the done thing. Giving away some of what they have been lucky enough to get makes them feel they have atoned for being the privileged ones!

Some say that charity that hurts you is more worthwhile and holds more equity with God than that which is easily given. For instance, a rich man parting with his money isn’t entitled to as much credit with God as a poor man parting with the cash and goods he can ill-afford to spare. When you give away something you have no use for, the act of giving is less relevant.

However, I do not agree with that. What is given must be more relevant to the receiver rather than to the giver.

I asked a lady I met the other day what her incentive for voluntary work was. “What do you get out of it? What is your driver?” I asked. It was interesting to see the mild surprise followed by a look of bliss on her face. “I do it for very selfish reasons,” she admitted candidly. “I do not volunteer to help others, but to help myself on my path of salvation. My journey gets hastened.” This lady in particular is the disciple of a guru who inspires her. Apart from her office and home, she is able to find time for meditation, visiting her guru’s ashram and conducting voluntary yoga classes. How does she find the time? And doesn’t this interfere with her home life? How do her husband, children and in-laws take it? “Of course, there are bound to be some problems. We all have options, each one of us makes a choice. If you set out to do things to please others, be it your husband or wife, children or in-laws, there is no end to it and, take it from me, you never can totally please anybody.

But the fact is that if you are following the path of godliness, no harm can possibly come to you…” “Take the instance of flowing water,” said the lady. “Till it flows, it is the purest form, the moment you build a dam and try to store it, water loses its purity. Similarly with the wealth we have — be it money, our energy, our skills or time.” I liked her confidence and wondered if it is really “selfish” to want to hasten your journey to salvation? Is it a selfish act when you give because you know the act of giving will give you happiness? I would say not. If giving happiness to another makes you happy and liberated, what greater good than that? And yes, charity is not the sole prerogative of the wealthy; it is the rich in spirit and heart who give away much more than those who own great wealth.


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