Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Help Dilemma

How to know whom to help and How Much?

Helping a friend is a universal phenomenon. In fact, as the saying goes, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” And the benefits are not unidirectional; helping a friend also helps us feel good about ourselves. We achieve, what Maslow argues in his famous Pyramidal model taught in B Schools, self-actualization in the process.
But should we help everyone?

Don’t you feel bad when your help is not appreciated? That the efforts you took to help that person, whom you assumed was genuinely in a mess, actually went down the drain; s/he never wanted it!

I, for example, belong to that ‘un-evolved species’ who go hyper to help without properly assessing the case and getting a fair idea of what ‘quantity’ of help would be adequate and most importantly…expected.

I don’t’ have a ready answer to the question – How to know whom to help and how much, but these 3 personal case studies should help you find the answer yourself.

Around a year ago, younger brother of a ‘friend’ of mine met with a serious accident in Jaipur. She asked if I could help her arranging some units of a rare blood-group. What kinda friend would have said NO? Just that we weren’t technically friends at point of time. Few months back, we had a crazy fight over some stupid facebook update where she abused me to the zenith of profanity achievable in English language and then blocked me. As a matter of fact, I have never met or seen her… ever! (She was just an ‘FB friend’ then and an ‘FB follower’ now. Following after blocking! Classic!)

Putting everything aside, I said “sure” … and not a formal sure. I actually called my friends in Jaipur, wrote mails to others and put up an FB update regarding the same. My friends went crazy. They called their friends, and family and doctors and what not to find a matching donor. That FB update was shared more than 50 times! I was overwhelmed. I Googled blood banks in Jaipur. The exercise fructified and one of the directors of a noted blood bank agreed to provide blood. Elated, I passed on his number to my ‘friend’.

Two days later the Blood bank Director worriedly called me to inform that he hadn’t been contacted by anybody yet and whether everything was all right. I had no answer to his query. Even I wasn’t contacted … or thanked in the past two days. At that moment, I felt like a condom: one who lands up in the trash even after giving his 100%.

A fortnight back, my professor, whom I really respect, gave me a call. Said that his niece has got a job in Delhi and I should help her to find a PG accommodation or flat. I said, “Sure”. Her name, I didn’t know; her number, I never bothered to ask. But at that very moment, she became my ‘friend’!

The next thing, I put up a ‘requirement for a friend’ on Flat & flatmates page on Facebook. I was flooded with queries. Never before in my life had so many girls ‘approached’ me in such a short span of time. Some were actually very hot and I secretly hoped that one of them ends up being the flatmate of my so called friend. They requested me to connect me to her on FB or share her number; I had neither. I simply cooked up stories and fed those hotties.

But I couldn't (cuz I thought I don’t need to) cook up a story when I got a call from a very good friend (actual friend) who was also house-hunting then. She asked for her number, I said I don’t have it. Then she asked all sorts of those uneasy questions which I had no inclination to answer. I hung up (though technically I closed the call with a goodnight!), much to her displeasure.

We didn't talk for a week or more after that and even though we do talk now, the charm is lost. No playful bantering, no flirting and no double-meaning talks any more. No more eagerness to meet; we simply make polite excuses of unavailability these days. So in my excessive over-enthusiasm (no, excessive is not redundant here!) to help an unseen unknown friend find a flat, I flattened, if not f*cked-up an existing blossoming friendship! Marvellous!

And lately, I have been requested to help a friend get her documents attested from a gazetted officer so that she can host the future-wife of her friend from Pakistan! I said, …you already guessed it! “Sure. My Uncle (School-friend’s father) can do it. I need to ask though,” I said. If my memory serves me right, I asked her to text me a brief about the boy, the girl and her connection with the two so that I can explain the case to my uncle easily. She never cared to do that.

I still went ahead and called my school-friend, took his father’s number, convinced him that it’s gonna be ‘safe’ and fixed a day to meet. Called up the ‘host-friend’ to give her the happy news but the line got disconnected just when I came to the point after beating about the bush. Called back. Her phone was busy. And that’s about it; no call back, no message, nothing. Meanwhile I am just preparing a reply for my uncle lest he should call and ask “why didn't u come after taking time?”

No. I am not dissuading you from helping a friend or even an unknown human being in general. But before investing your time, energy and at times feelings and reputation, check. Double check!

Going out of your way to help someone is fine, but just a step or two. Don’t run an entire Marathon for them only to realize that they had no intention to run in the first place. They enrolled only to collect the goody-bag!

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