Covid-19 and the Joy of Giving

It’s six months into the Covid-19 crisis and we have managed to survive, despite India now recording the second highest number of cases in the world after the US. We are a tough, resilient nation, which never bends in times of crisis, because our people have been blessed by God’s abundant grace and compassion,

If you go out into the city streets, it’s the normal hustle and bustle, except for the protective masks that everyone wears. Masks should have become a leveller of class distinctions, but even they have become a status symbol, with the more privileged wearing fancy made-to-order ones to reflect their so-called class.

The economy is at its lowest and people have lost their jobs, while those who have retained them are working at big salary cuts, ranging from 30 per cent to even 75 per cent imposed by employers, who have been not-so-benign, to say the least. The Human Resources Department (HRD) and the Heads of Departments (HoDs) have risen to the occasion, axes in hands, on behalf of the companies. Favourites and sycophants have been spared the guillotine and the independent but efficient ones have been axed.

It’s undoubtedly true that revenues are down and profits have been hit, but the drastic measures taken by India’s entrepreneurial class shows that they are guided by only one motive ― the profit motive. An entrepreneur is supposed to take risks and bear the brunt in downturns, for doesn’t he retain most of the profits? He is regarded as an innovator, a source of new ideas. The fact that entrepreneurs in various businesses have crumbled poses the question whether they fit that glorious description.

The most dramatic collapse is that of big media houses in the business for more than a hundred years, which have crumbled like a pack of cards within less than two months after the corona pandemic. The malaise of these empires lies in their genes. They have always thrived on patronage of the powers-that-be and hence their capacity of risk-taking or entrepreneurship is in grave doubt.

Let’s face it. The mindset of the business class is less of entrepreneurship and more of exploitative feudalism. Employees who have retained their jobs and are working online complain that their working hours have been extended. They are working harder, putting in upwards of 10 hours of work, with salary cuts. The common message conveyed by HRDs and HoDs is that they should be thankful to be working in Covid times. Isn’t this attitude unfair?

Each one of us ― the entrepreneur and the working class ― has a role to play or work to do in the world and it’s our dharma to do this well. As the Bhagavad Gita says, “By performing one’s natural occupation, one worships the Creator from whom all living entities have come into being, and by whom the whole universe is pervaded. By such performance of work, a person easily attains perfection” – BG 18.46.

The Bible speaks about us doing the tasks assigned to us in life by God. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” – Ephesians 2:10. And, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” – Jeremiah 29:11-14.

God has promised us a future with hope. But we can’t take this promise for granted and we all need to work together for a bright present and future. In these Covid times, the most pressing task is running our households. This can be done very joyfully ― simply by applying the principle of the Joy of Giving.

The working class is willing to give its labour, joyfully, and earn their livelihood by the sweat of their brow. The business class, too, must be willing to give ― and more importantly ― to give up their need for only profit, and think of welfare. Business houses, especially the bigger ones have a lot of money, sufficient for generations of their kin to live on, even if their enterprises close down. They have received generous gifts by way of concessions and incentives to grow their business. It’s time for them to give some of it back to the people.

Yes, there is hope for the world of tiding over the Covid-19 crisis. The hope lies in each one of us adopting the Joy of Giving as our philosophy in life. The more we give the more we will receive. Try giving: the joy it will bring to you as a giver and the joy of receiving by the other person will boost immunity so much that soon Covid-19 will become an impotent virus, buried in the ashes of oblivion.

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