In May, 2020, in the peak of Corona, a 70 year old non-descript woman called Kamalamma from Mysuru made headlines. Social media was agog with her selfless gesture of donating Rs. 500 out of her measly monthly pension of Rs. 600 towards a food distribution programme. As is the nature of Mysoreans, she handed over the amount very sheepishly and apologetically to the volunteers group and requested them to accept her humble contribution. She made headlines all over. Many of you will recall the cartoon that depicted the generous Mother on top of the Corona donors table, way above the corporate czars – George Soros, Azim Premji, Bill Gates & Jack Dorsey. Why not when she had donated 90% of her earnings ? At a time when she herself was eating out of distributed food, having lost her house-maid job thanks to Corona. That 500 rupees was truly a precious, premium donation indeed ! Over the last 9 months, many people across the world have responded in different ways demonstrating their humaneness.
This reminds me of something I read years ago, post the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster caused due to the earthquake and tsunami. To keep the emotions intact, I am reproducing what was written by a policeman Ha Minh Tanh about a 9 year old Japanese boy and his generosity, a true lesson in sacrifice :
“Brother, there was a really moving incident. It involves a little Japanese boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to behave like a human being.
Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts.
It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the line. I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn’t be any food left. So I spoke to him. He said he was at school when the earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was driving to the school. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he saw the tsunami sweep his father’s car away.
I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and that his mother and little sister probably didn’t make it. He turned his head and wiped his tears when I asked about his relatives.
The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him. That’s when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it up and gave it to him. “When it comes to your turn, they might run out of food. So here’s my portion. I already ate. Why don’t you eat it?”
The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away, but he didn’t. He took the bag of food, went up to where the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be distributed.
I was shocked. I asked him why he didn’t eat it and instead added it to the food pile. He answered: “Because I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will distribute the food equally.”
When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn’t see me cry.
A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of sacrifice for the greater good must be a great society, a great people.”
Both Kamalamma and the 9 year old Japanese boy demonstrated what is CSR – no, not Corporate Social Responsibility but Citizen Social Responsibility !! I am sure they knew nothing of such jargons constructed by people like you and me. It came straight out of their heart and into the hands of the people. There was no compulsion, no mandate, no direction, no nothing. It was a genuine response to the need of the hour made way beyond their means. With Republic Day just behind us, it is a good time to remember our duties under the constitution as well. One of them is “Spirit of common brotherhood”.
Talking of our great nation, this is what the well-known American author Mark Twain had to say “India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”
First issue of the month, year and decade for Samhita. That too after a tumultuous 2020 that has left us all shaken. I am tempted to look at only pleasant things in life but can I close my eyes to something happening within my precincts, my backyard ? There is so much of pent up frustration, so much of angst, so much of indignation amongst the professionals dealing with compliances (read Company Secretaries & Chartered Accountants) – for their own self as well as for the clients they are serving (read MSMEs & Startups). There is enough and more said about the non-functioning of the MCA portal, technical glitches leading to late hours of working for the professionals, loss of precious manhours and heavy penalties / additional fee for the corporates beyond 31st December, 2020. While corporates would do well to put their compliance systems in place that ensure correct and timely flow of information to professionals who ensure filings for them, can we request the Ministry to also ensure a glitch-free portal please that fails as we come closer to the due date, completely crashes on the last day but surprisingly starts functioning perfectly from 1 minute past midnight ?? I do not want to dwell more on this since the problem is clear – at least to people on this side i.e. professionals & corporates. It has been extensively represented too directly, through chambers, institutes, online and offline media (just google Extend CFSS 2020 & LLP Settlement Scheme). The question is – is it clear to the one to whom it matters ? Ministry of Corporate Affairs ? Do they recognise it as a problem to be solved ? Does not seem to me considering the inadequate response or lack of it received so far.
I have some perspectives to offer from two very mundane domestic chores. It matters from what distance you see something. How close or how far ? Today as Jaya was standing outside the bathroom, she noticed that the tiles below the mirror were stained with dirt and watermarks. When she pointed out to the maid, she argued that she cleans it everyday. Jaya asked her to step out of the room, stand at a distance and watch for sometime from different angles. The maid sheepishly admitted that yes, it is not clean enough and indeed she was not cleaning it. Jaya realised, from a close distance everything looked perfect but as she got farther, the actual stains started showing up. She learnt that if one becomes too involved with some activity, it is difficult to appreciate if it is carried out well enough or not. It pays to step aside, disengage for a while and watch from a distance to understand if anything is broken and if it requires some fixing. But once it is clear, it must be handled with a sense of purpose, with a sense of urgency before the issue gets out of hand.
A similar lesson I learnt from the everyday chore of plucking jasmine flowers from my garden. As winter steps in, the number of flowers reduce. I bend to my right, left, forward, backward and all angles that my not-so-flexible body permits me in different postures, to reach out to the creeper that is leaning more towards the neighbour’s plot in search of the sun. I feel disappointed that there aren’t enough flowers in the basket but each time I step back or sidewards and watch from a distance, I see the gentle sunrays falling on the white petals. And lo, a flower seems to appear from nowhere, from the same branch which had nothing on it a little while ago. A whole new bunch of jasmines seem to taunt me to find them. I feel stupid wondering how on earth did I miss them earlier, when I was so close to them, when they were literally under my nose. But I soon realise, both the sight and scent of the fresh jasmine is better experienced from a distance and not when I am too close. It pays to detach yourself completely from certain situations, step aside, stand apart, watch it, observe it keenly, take a bird’s eyeview and then discover the obvious unfold.
Now, which of the above will the MCA adopt ?
Will it develop a keen hawk-like eyes of Jaya, the homemaker to find the stains proactively ? or
Will it continue to bury its head in the sand, like the proverbial Ostrich ?
Will it continue to be like the stubborn maid who refuses to recognise the stains until pointed out ? or
Will it accept that something is broken and requires to be fixed urgently ?
Will it stand close to the creeper and continue to look for the fragrant jasmines randomly ? or
Will it step back, find the right position and watch from a distance to spot the elusive flowers ?
Will it realise that it needs to shift its stand ?
Perhaps, the other side (represented by professionals and corporates) needs to adopt a similar strategy too. Then and only then the atmosphere of mistrust and angst will die down, opening up channels of communication and purposeful action. Ease of Doing Business calls for this and more, not just climbing up a few rankings for World Bank !