A state of charity, caritas or dearness, comes with claritas, clarity or divinity.

April 14th, 2016

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

Charity comes from the Latin word caritas, which means dear. It is by living inside out—investing dearness in oneself that you can serve others. When your philosophy encompasses one that restores respect and dignity, the gravity of your intent becomes powerful. My thirst to serve humanity started from childhood; I felt my roots entwined in caring for animals, nature, and people. It was but natural for me to contribute to humanity.

Recently, I was adding to a box carrying memorabilia, and as I leafed through precious photographs and gratitude notes sent by children and organizations, I reminisced moments of our shared excitement, hope, and eagerness, which prompted me to share a handful of moments from my 20s with you. In the past, true to my private nature, I wouldn’t have (it is important to protect aspects of my life that are precious to me), but life’s trajectory has encouraged me to divulge just enough to influence your thinking and perceptions positively.

This facet of my life will come as a surprise to those of you who are solely informed by gossip and who choose to believe an image antithetical to who I am. The unfortunate part is when your diet is composed of skewed information you remain in the loop of resentment and hopelessness. What is telling is the extent weakness of character will go to shame and damage women (not just me, women in general). For instance, toxic elements, on black money payrolls, will protect an actor who in his drugged out and drunken stupor streaks in the middle of the night, threatening suicide if a woman refuses to entertain his demands. And then, to portray a wronged woman in a bad light, they will weave a story (and morph images) with their poverty ridden (and limited) vocabulary—sex, skin, cleavage, crotch, affair, thighs, expose, fast, dumped, secret, and source. This violence on my character pained me as a young adult (as I did not understand what was happening), but I never felt compelled to clarify with an interview (they were fabrications written as though I spoke those words).

First, I didn’t see low-life skanks as worthy of my dignity and intelligence, and second, age and knowledge have taught me that people whose inner world is assembled with poverty get acclimatized to their decaying inner landscapes. Thus, they are repulsed by goodness and strength of character. Loving themselves is an alien concept, how will they extend dearness?

I kept the focus on my dearness. I am incredibly grateful to my situation that allowed me to serve in a manner I wanted. Along with my full heart, I had a roof over my head and food on the table. On receiving my salary for Idayam (1990), my first movie, I was keen to invest it wholeheartedly. So I got in touch with Dr. Sheela Julius, head of the psychology department, Women’s Christian College, India. She worked with gifted children and helped me place an order for wheelchairs for children. On the day of delivery, to experience the uninhibited emotions of the children was balm to my soul.

Thereafter service took on a different level, albeit quietly. It took me from orphanages to schools and hospitals, and from old peoples’ homes to organ transplant foundations. I also saw it fitting to promote campaigns, whether they were health related or public messaging like the anti-drug trafficking campaign for the Governments of India and Singapore (I take my commitment seriously—to this day I refuse to carry anything for anyone or for that matter I do not engage with people at airports.).

There is a downside to giving constantly—it can fatigue you. Empathy is a double-edged sword—it works wonders when you invest mindfully, on the other hand, it can harm you substantially when you pander to the wants of others. Sensing your kindness, people will come in droves to exploit you (especially parasites; a handful of them pillaged my life). And chances are you will oblige, and go from a gushing river to a meager rivulet. This is a sign to conserve your resources. It took me decades to work on my empathy resolve; I want you to get here faster than I did. Walk steadily toward your empathy gates, bolt and padlock it; better still, seal it with a stamp that reads ENOUGH and handover the key to a trusted one. Your energy will be restored steadily, which is paramount to your relationship with caring for yourself. With time, and being securely anchored in your person, you can serve more efficiently.

Genuine caring comes with fostering vital components of kindness and respect. To be involved, you have to pencil in time to educate yourself. For example, if you are going to engage with children in orphanages, educate yourself on trauma stemming from abandonment, lack of food, and sexual and physical abuse, which affects brain development and alters behaviour. At every moment you have to come down to a child’s level to aid in their psychological nurturance. Once you commit, please be consistent in their lives to the best of your capacity.

What if you can’t give monetarily? Charity is not only material; dearness is primarily emotional. Within the parameter that life allows you, you can do what is humanly possible. You can serve others’ in countless ways— listen to one’s story with kindness, extend time, practice patience, share knowledge, reassure a person struggling to express their feelings, laugh with people instead of at them, treat your domestic staff with respect, keep the confidence people invest in you, look at people (not through them or down at them), express gratitude, be kind to animals, be conscious of what you consume, etc. Thoughtfulness executed with pureness becomes effortless.

Similarly, the number you serve is immaterial—the QUALITY of your service is what counts. On a torrentially rainy day, it is far more effective to protect one person than attempt to assist the entire city. Touch one life, your capacity will gradually grow to affect 10 lives and so on.

A life of service is like the journey of a bud—it has to incrementally move towards blossoming. And working patiently, with the right intention, is not always enough—the weather conditions must be favourable for the final blossom.

Life might not always be conducive to practice your dearness but this should not prevent you from protecting and nurturing what is sacred to you. When the opportunity finally presents itself, you will know how to execute your intention. So, no matter the situation, keep the continuity of your positive intentions—this will support you to revive where you had to leave.

Receiving dearness is not limited to orphanages, schools, and shelters; it is inclusive of everyday life. Have you cultivated an inner life that will recognize dearness? If you are accustomed to taking the low road—of chasing a superficial life—a life of greed, pretension, boasting, manipulation, flattery, deceit, vulgarity, and weakness, how can you ever receive truth, sensitivity, gratitude, compassion, wellness, and respect? To receive fine emotions, you have to re-engineer the weft and warp of your internal life—painstakingly replace each inferior thread with one of exceptional quality.

A mature and nurturing framework empowers you to recognize, give, and accept dearness.

Charity may be an impassioned subject today, but the lines are blurred—lifting victims out of their situation and prevention of abuse versus self-lifting and self-promotion. The international business of charity is steadily mushrooming into an exploitive route for people to further themselves. This is not to say that the fusion of wealth and service can’t do wonders, it can when the intention is honourable. But a dime a dozen charity events touting free wine, food, and entertainment have become pitiable jokes. If anything free anything acts as a conduit between greed and lack of self-value. With demolished self-value, a person can at best offer bragging rights on social media about the borrowed designer clothes (to mask their shame), free wine they drank or swam in (to sustain till the next “charity” event) and the influential person they sat next to (who lacks influence on their personal life). At worst such events make a mockery of the lives of others’ by repeatedly exploiting their situation. Where is the dearness?

Genuine caring does not take shape with a conflict of interest; it comes from harmony—of intention and action. Think of the paradoxes—you won’t embrace a person with AIDS in your real life, but you will attend a charity event for AIDS; you won’t support a child of courage in your real life, but you will attend an awards ceremony facilitating courage; you won’t embrace a person who has been sexually abused in your real life, but you will attend a charity event for survivors of sexual abuse. The fact is while processing the suffering of others’, you remain a clown in the circus of your life—undefined, just another flake without substance. By challenging your core and questioning your actions, you align your thinking and intention, evolving into a person of substance.

If you get carried away by the razzmatazz of “charity events”, where the truth is conveniently obscured, you will aspire to mimic the flamboyance, to fit in and to be accepted. And in the bargain you will move away from your soul, gradually transforming into a clone who is sucked into a whirlpool of shame and superficiality. It is vital that you garner respect for yourself. Your inner radar of simplicity and mindfulness will make you steadfast in your caring and you will refuse to sell out. You will rebut approaches by people (including family and friends) who attempt to manipulate you, to make you into a version of them. The more you take independent decisions in life, the more you will recognize how people can be clouded with prejudices, fears, limitations, ill will, and even their own history (of abuse), which might prompt them to dissuade you from your undertakings.

Reaching a state of charity, caritas or dearness, comes with claritas—the Latin word for clarity, which means divine. Clarity guides you to uphold your intrinsic human goodness and apply your intellectual rigor to a harmonious vision.

With divinity and dearness,