Retiring after a long professional career, I went on a merit accumulating spree, making regular “annadan” donations to various religious and charitable institutions. Not happy with feeding unseen beneficiaries, I started distributing food packets to the destitute and hungry squatting outside churches, mosques and temples. Many of the faithful coming out of the place after prayers would also stretch their hands for the packets wishing to partake of what they genuinely believed as divine grace. Food packets being always limited ,I had to invariably leave many people disappointed, some of them making no secret of their displeasure with loud curses which used to leave me a little disheartened.
So being a devotee of Sai Baba, I decided to feed bananas to cows. Cows being difficult to find in a city, I would go hunting for them all over the place with bananas in a bag and locate a few near garbage dumps. Cows being noble creatures, if already eating something picked up from garbage would munch and swallow it before turning its gaze on the banana or look at it with disdain if it had its fill for the day.When I hastened to force the banana, the animal pushed its head menacingly towards me which I was able to avoid successfully but not always without sustaining a nasty fall or a bruised back. After a couple of such experiences, I lost interest in cows and turned to feeding bread & biscuits to stray dogs.
Dogs were a different experience altogether. They were easy to find but their sense of gratitude proved irksome as whenever I passed by they would trail behind me wagging their tails. A couple of times while walking on the ill lit road at night , the grateful ones silently trailed alongside to touch and scare the wits out of me. So I stopped feeding them but they would not stop their show of gratitude.
Soon thereafter we went on an overseas visit and I hoped that the long absence would erase me from their memory. But dogs being dogs, they jumped about in joy on my return at the sight of their long lost benefactor and would not leave me until I was rescued by auto drivers in the nearby stand. Being generally afraid of dogs, I decided I had enough of them and started taking a long detour around the area to escape their grateful overtures.
Chastened by these experiences, I came down the scale and started feeding squirrels and crows. After lunch every day, I mixed cooked rice and dal and visited the nearby park to place small morsels of food on trees in vantage locations. The squirrels had a field day and got mighty busy as soon as the food was placed, scampering over the branches , crawling under them ,flying from one branch to the other and shooing off aggressively other
squirrels approaching their target morsel. If the food fell down, they scampered down immediately to gobble it up before getting on to the tree again.
The crows were slow to come and more dignified. After cawing a few times possibly to alert their colleagues about the food, they would fly in to pick up a beakful and immediately fly off. If hungry they would come back for another helping but would not hover about or fight over the food with other crows or squirrels. They often put their picking in their partner’s mouths displaying a sharing spirit hardly seen in squirrels. Everything seemed fine as the squirrels and crows got used to the routine with a flurry of activity triggered in the park as soon as I entered it.
But alas! That was not to be. Soon disputes arose among adjacent resident associations about some unsavoury activities indulged in the park by some errant youth which threatened to disturb peace in the area and the park was closed indefinitely by the district administration. Wiser after all my attempts at direct benefit transfer had met with road blocks, I resigned myself to sending annadan donations again to charitable institutions getting in the process the additional benefit of 80G deduction.