Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
          Volume 10 |Issue 48 | December 23, 2011 |


 Cover Story
 Current Affairs
 One Off
 Food for Thought
 Photo Feature
 Human Rights
 In Retrospect
 Star Diary

   SWM Home


The Joy of Living for Others

Shah Husain Imam

Bill Gates – stands out for his multi-purposeful philanthropy.

There is creativity about how some people live their lives. Or precisely, use their lives. Though 'living' and 'using' lives may sound as interchangeable words, a line can perhaps be drawn between them. You live life for yourself, and family while you use life for others.

In changing the course of life from being purely self-centric to be of service to 'others', some people can prove splendidly imaginative and remarkably ingenious.

Take Karl Rabeder, 49, in Austria. Two years back, he realised that for all his bank balance worth hundreds of millions of dollars, luxurious houses and flashy cars, he felt he was an unhappy man. So, he decided to unburden himself of the wealth and acquisition and put his money into a charitable institution that works for the welfare of the developing world.

Now he lives in the wooded village of a township called Telfs in Austria. Awash with the pure joy of freedom, breathing in fresh air and bathing in lots of sunshine and unpolluted environs, he is a much happier man today. Karl lives off a monthly allowance of 1000 pound sterling; his sheer act of giving plus the quality of life making his new lifestyle doubly pleasurable.

Karl's transformation is a touch personal and individualistic. But Bill Gates stands out for his mega-purposeful philanthrophy the Melinda Gates' Foundation, is one of the biggest charitable trusts funded by the private fortunes of one of the world's richest couples. His transition from a hyperactive Microsoft tycoon to operating a trust has come at a price to his sons who have been asked to fend for themselves, a much-known story, yet to find followers though. Their Foundation assists child immunisation campaign to vaccinate 250 million children against preventable diseases. Bill is funding development of a tech hub at Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi's impoverished constituency. A backward village in Bihar has been 'adopted' by him. For Bangladesh, he has pledged support to meeting the MDG goals.

Of altogether a different class is Tony Benn, the octogenarian socialist in Britain, a respected politician and a veteran witness to highs and lows of British politics. He has renounced his hereditary peerage to the House of Lords and dedicated himself to social service, not with riches but with wealth of mind. Almost sage-like, Tony wields considerable influence on the British public mind. His words of wit and wisdom have left him a sought-after public speaker. Here are two samples:

Businessman Karl Rabeder unburdened his wealth for the good of humanity.

l "Being in my 80s is such fun – if only I'd known, I'd have done it years ago."

l "Love thy neighbour as thyself – that's an aspect of Christianity that hasn't reached the White House."

Make, however, no mistake that these individuals are not entirely unselfish in taking the sacrificial plunge; they are after all propelled into altruism by an instinct for self-contentment. Only so much the nobler for the self-indulgence being for the good of others. Of course, it is opting for the spiritual in a healthy drift from being possessed by the genie of materialism.

With age, material desires dwindle. After all, you have had good meals, stayed in idyllic tourist spots many times over. The same goes for other comforts of life you are wallowing in. Yes, living is habit-forming, but it is also boringly repetitive; more so, in a condition of surfeit.

Years ago, an economist with a philosophical bent said at a Bangladesh Bank seminar on perspective economic planning, 'there is enormous potential in Bangladesh to garner wealth from private sources'. He argued that a rich Bangladeshi -- there has been many a super-rich since then -- is stung by a spiritual bug at a certain stage of his life. He takes a pause and thinks of utilising his surplus money for society's good. That is where the government should come in to offer him a window for a worthwhile utilisation of his money. If there was plenty to reap then, you simply extrapolate the amount to arrive at a whopping figure that is sitting idle into the closets of banks or otherwise stashed away in unmonitised forms.

A present-day economist with a passion for data puts the figure of tax-evading money at Taka 50,000 crore, at the very least. You can't legislate recovery of such money, the possessors should volunteer to use it in public-private partnership to root for the country of their birth.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2011