In school, I was told that as a boy scout, I was expected to do one good deed a day. Hence, I discovered a lot of things that would be considered good deeds. But what if we didn’t do the good deeds? We could just write imaginary stories in the notebook. Soon, I learned that many were already doing it. Some of us may have improved our handwriting skills and even ‘creative writing,’ but this certainly was not the way to perform the good deed. I don’t know what happened to my classmates, but as I changed the school, I didn’t remain a scout anymore. I didn’t have to do 365 good deeds in a year compulsorily. Nowadays, I find a lot of people doing a lot of good deeds. Lesser mortals, celebrities, film stars, and the Richie rich.
They all are doing good deeds. I too agree that visiting old people is a good deed because you are lonely when you are old. You can be in your home along with half a dozen others, but they become indifferent to you and your needs. A visitor, irrespective of age and gender, can turn that day into a festival. And if you’re in an old age home, a visitor, even if he is the son of the crabby old man, four beds or rooms away can provides some excitement if he/she stops to crack a joke with you. But if he has by come only because he wants to do a good deed and go back feeling nice about it, it is not a good deed. Ditto for a visit to the cancer survivors, giving alms to beggars, helping a visually impaired person to cross a road, donating notebooks to needy students, visiting orphanages, and giving them breakfast or lunch. They are all good deeds, but not if you end up feeling that you are a jolly good fellow.
Not when you feel good, take some pictures, and post them on your Facebook wall. Not if you get a PR freelancer to get coverage in the media. And this brings me to the wannabes and celebrities. The good deeds remain the same, but the coverage (paid, certainly) is more. I consider this to be the worst kind of good deed.
You open the papers over the morning cup of tea and with a mock surprise to show your wife (or husband) the media coverage that can really be called advertisement and say, “We really got good media coverage!” Now, you cannot proudly tell your spouse that you’ve got good advertisement coverage or that every newspaper has published your advertisements.
If you’re a bigger fish, the arrangement is more discreet. Only your secretary would know why you released an ad for a paper whose demographics don’t suit the product your company manufactures. You can continue to pretend to your spouse over the pictorial report of your good deed.
If you really wanted to do a good deed, you would have transferred your secretary’s ailing mother from a Municipal hospital to Breach Candy or helped her daughter get an admission in the medical college. But nobody would have been wiser. It is only when you are a Bollywood star that even a contribution of a lousy Rs. five lakh for the family of a stuntman who lost his life as your double, riding a motorcycle at a maniacal 160 km/h would get you a four-column headline. Why, if you’re still a bigger star with a bad image, you can hire an entire PR agency that would transform your image into that of an angel, the God’s Gift to the world – a great name for a trust and NGO, no? – By writing long articles and ‘news-stories’ about your, mostly imaginary, good deeds.
They would get old women in the wheelchairs or young boys on crutches to your drawing room or if you don’t like it, to your sets. You can have a battery of photographers shoot you with them as you wonder why you are doing all this shit when you can shack up with another starlet. Let’s not talk about the politicians in the same breath, not even the ministers, who don’t do good deeds. Their signatures are considered good deeds whether they gift you a parcel of land to build a hospital or a school. Nor are the Indian businessmen doing any good deed when they build temples after their family name or donate to build an entire ward in a hospital and get it named after their mother.
They are not Boy Scouts.
The hospitals and colleges named after industrialists or their parents are not acts of philanthropy. These are business organizations where the aim is to have huge profits.
Let there be chains of hospitals with state of the art equipment that are free to citizens. Let there be groups of schools and colleges (even medical and engineering colleges) with the same quality education that you sell for premium fees and donations for the citizens. Our Kaamwali wouldn’t have to borrow money from every house she cleans to pay for her daughter’s admission.
This will be a big bloody good deed. You won’t need media coverage for this. Your name will be etched in the memories of the people, the real people.
That there were dirty wars, being fought by two directors (Karan Johar’s ‘Ae Dil, Hai Mushkil’ and Ajay Devgn’s ‘Shivaay’) is obvious even to the dumbest watcher of Bollywood and Kamal R Khan, who talked about having received Rs. 25 lakhs from Karan Johar to trash Devgn’s ‘Shivaay.’
All I can do is to quote from a chapter of my ‘The Five Foolish Virgins’ entitled, ‘Operation Sabotage.’ The fictional sabotage of a film in my novel ends in the total destruction of the PRO who does it and a scrawled message on the wall: Destroying is easy, creating is difficult. It takes hundreds of people thousands of hours and millions of rupees to make a movie. Sabotaging a film as it releases is like killing a child before it is born – don’t ever do it. Remember, instead of fractured wrists, you would be crippled for life.”
One of the things that worries me is the tendency of unthinking people clamping on the freedom to even crack jokes. I haven’t read the entire article but just read the headline. An interview of a young actress, it read: People must not be allowed to have loose talk.
Now, I don’t want to argue with the young lady but everything inside me that loves freedom of expression, and values the fundamental right with all its restrictions and limitations, burned with anger.
Young lady, what the hell you know about ‘loose talk’?
It is the loose talk that becomes the seed for the big stories that shake the governments and throws out the tyrants.
It was the loose talk around Indira Gandhi that she had used Yashpal Kapoor, a government servant for personal election related work that finally got HC Judge Jagmohanlal Sinha to set aside her election – the first ever time an Indian Prime Minister was convicted – that led to emergency within 13 days.
If I wrote about all the incidents of loose talks, it will end up into a full article and will include Watergate and stories about the alcoholism of one of our most respected Prime Ministers who would be picked up and carried to his bedroom by his SPG team, one of the martyrs who wasn’t able to climb the steps to the gallows and was helped up and many more.
I love loose talk.
(Mohan Deep is an eminent novelist and Bollywood biographer, based in Mumbai.)
– Mohan Deep