Sir! We are going to die in the next two hours!”
These were the words of a thirty-year-old husband who came with his wife and five-year-old daughter to see my friend in his office a couple of months back. My friend, who happens to be a columnist in an Urdu daily, felt a shockwave in his spine when he heard these words.
“Why, what happened? What do you mean that you will die?” My friend questioned disjointedly in utter surprise.
“Because we haven’t eaten anything for the last two days while our daughter hasn’t had milk since morning. We have no money left so we have decided to commit a combined family suicide.” The husband said in such a calm voice as if he was planning to go on vacations with his family.
“But you seemed to be quite settled a few months back, what went wrong?” My friend asked. Obviously, by now, he had become pretty confused by the statement of the young man whom he knew since many years. In fact, that guy used to work in a company on a monthly salary of Rs. 35,000. However, a few months back, the company closed its operations in Lahore as a result of which he lost his job. The next three months were really tough for him. He tried almost everything but failed miserably and ultimately became penniless. Now, as a last resort, he had come to visit my friend to seek help.
After hearing these awful details, my friend first ordered some food for them and a few pack of milk for the baby and then promised to write a column narrating this whole episode of misery. The couple left with a ray of hope. Next day, the column was published. Since it was written in a very impressing manner, a number of people responded positively. In three days, a sum of one hundred thousand rupees was collected through donations of the readers which was given directly to the needy family immediately. They thanked my friend and told him that this amount would be sufficient to end their troubles. However, the story doesn’t end here.
Yesterday, that needy family again visited my friend, this time in his house. My friend thought that probably they had come now to share some success story but he became totally surprised when that guy said, “Sir, can you give me Rs. 500, we have run short of money.”
Hearing this, my friend lost his temper. “Look man, you asked for hundred thousand rupees which I raised by making an appeal to my readers. Now you should have made wise use of this amount but unfortunately you haven’t done this. Instead of setting up some small business, you have spent major amount in buying useless grocery items and changing your cell phone. But in any case, I am not in a position either to help you or to again write a column for you. Please excuse me.” Despite repeated requests of both husband and wife, my friend didn’t budge an inch and showed them the door saying “Please don’t come to me again for this purpose.” The couple left in a bad mood.
Since then, my friend is also in quite upset. He narrated the whole story to me and said that instead of being thankful, these people would now consider him the cruellest person on earth just because he did not give them five hundred rupees. “And they were also hinting at the fact that I hadn’t given them anything earlier, rather it was other people who donated hundred thousand after reading the column.” My friend seemed to be real angry and rightly so.
We are a thankless nation; we tend to forget when somebody oblige us but remember tiny details when somebody regrets to accommodate us even for genuine reasons. My columnist friend went out of the way to get that column published in his newspaper, he gave telephone number and bank account of a renowned welfare organisation so that money could be accounted for in a transparent manner and then finally that amount was transferred to the poor couple. Unfortunately, all this went down the drain in less than two months. I don’t know what you guys would think about all of this but I support my friend completely. Had he raised one million, he would have been condemned by that poor couple after six months anyway. Well, that’s the way we behave.
PS: The purpose of this column is not to discourage people to help the needy people in any way.
The writer is a columnist, TV anchor and playwright and can be contacted at email@example.com