"A society grows great when old men plant trees the shades of which they know they will never sit in." Ahmedabad Alumnus Dhairya Mazmudar, currently pursuing his Masters in Health Administration at Columbia University, recounts while speaking about his family's association with the Indian Red Cross. "It has given me first-hand experience of seeing what giving means. Seeing the difference you can make in someone's life is a truly enriching experience."
What is it about selfless giving that triggers positive emotions? Is it gratitude that prompts giving? Is it an exchange of happiness? Or is it a sense of deep satisfaction? Dhairya, who completed his BS (Hons) in Life Sciences at the School of Arts and Sciences and was part of the graduating class this year, reasons that life cannot be transactional. "When people give or do things for others without expecting anything in return, it is a statement of character. And I feel that it brings about a sense of gratitude and happiness, knowing that you are contributing to changing someone's life. And that, to me, is important; sometimes, people are simply dealt a bad hand in life, and when your efforts bring about a change in their life, it gives you satisfaction of the highest order. For me, giving has always been a value practised, not preached."
Ashwin Kumar, Director, Centre for Learning Futures at Ahmedabad University, who has over a decade of experience in teaching and research in Cultural Studies, says that each of us seeks to be a part of a larger reality. Professor Kumar says, "Any disability, bodily, material, or mental, is traumatic to the extent that it cuts our access to that larger reality. A blind person is denied access to an aspect of reality. A sufferer of trauma is denied access to another aspect. Work is a way many of us connect to the larger reality of our world. Another way we can do that is by giving. By giving away to others what we think of as ours, we partake in a larger reality." He states that understanding that a thing is not an end, but merely a means to an end is vital. "Children sometimes get so attached to their playthings that they don't share them with other kids. They fail to understand that the play is the end. The plaything is merely the means. And we sigh at children's inability to overcome this blindness."
This thought resonates with Arham Pincha, Alumnus of 2022. For him, giving is driven by the urge to pay forward to society. The BCom (Hons) graduate says, "Giving makes one more empathetic and gives you a fulfilling feeling that no other activity can. The knowledge that access to the right resources can change another's life prompts one to give. Sometimes it's neither gratitude nor happiness or satisfaction that prompts the act of giving. It's solely the feeling that a minor change I activated might create a domino effect."
Guided by these thoughts, Ahmedabad Alumni Yashraj Kakkad and Raj Shah undertook the task of creating The Circle of Giving Alumni Fund for Scholarship to Students pioneered by the Class of 2022. Yashraj, BTech in Information and Communication Technology, says, "Unfortunately, there's a huge divide in this world. Most of us here in Ahmedabad belong to the privileged section of society. Giving to the less fortunate reminds us of this privilege and fosters an often-forgotten sense of gratitude. Apart from what the beneficiary receives, giving can have multiple effects such as giving us a sense of satisfaction, inspiring others to join the cause, and creating an overall positive impact on the society."
Himself a recipient of Ahmedabad University's merit-based scholarships on three occasions, Yashraj, who now works at Google, says he knew that Ahmedabad University generously sponsors a considerable amount every year and how this has impacted the lives of innumerable students. "Securing a merit-based scholarship to fund my higher education relieved my parents of a huge responsibility. Hence, when the idea to initiate a fund supporting education at the University arose, I was immediately hooked and wanted to take it to execution." Yashraj loves contributing to the cause of education. "Through my lens, giving, whether monetary or otherwise, must add meaningful value," he says. That is the reason he donated to the Education for Children in India fund when he had to pick out an organisation to donate to.
Raj Shah, MBA, Class of 2022, who also drove the The Circle of Giving Alumni Fund for Scholarship to Students, says that his giving is inspired by watching people extend themselves for others despite their limitations. "An old-aged woman sells snacks on Ahmedabad's busy CG Road daily. She walks around the street with her bag of snacks, which appears quite heavy. But her spirit of being independent and helping her family with whatever circumstances they're facing made me think that if she can, why can't I? It's really not about transforming one's own life but also about helping others. So I make sure I buy those snacks for her. I wouldn't want to give her money; she's a self-respecting woman working hard for it. I can help her in this way, though."
Professor Kumar adds, "By using a thing to secure something we desire, we use it appropriately as a means to an end. But by giving it away to the appropriate people for the appropriate reasons, we use it even more appropriately. It frees us from the prison of our private and small lives and makes us a part of a larger reality that consists of other beings and other needs, more pressing than ours, more significant than ours."
How does one instil selfless giving as a value? Ahmedabad Alumna Shailly Akhani, Integrated Master of Business Administration, Class of 2022, says, "Giving is something that comes naturally. You can't force everyone or anyone to give. What you can do is inculcate those values. And you do that by demonstrating. You give, and the young learn to give. And giving is contagious. You involve them in periodic acts of giving. Once they start giving, there is no going back. The pull is magnetic. Nothing matches that feeling when you see the receiver smile." Raj Shah concurs, "Whatever you are and all you have is because you have got it from someone and somewhere. The feeling that I am ready to give more than what I have received triggers positivity within and outside. Giving makes me happy, brings me closer to others, and builds empathy within. After a certain point, I believe that material goods do not increase happiness — but empathetically giving to others does."