Instead of returning such a huge donation, the beneficiary could have used the money to help the needy.
by Mariam Mokhtar
The interest rates that banks offer are pitiful. So I keep most of the money I have under my mattress. I earned whatever I have with sweat and lots of tears. No one has donated any money to me; so I can only imagine what it would be like to have RM2.6 billion.
How many suitcases would RM2.6 billion fill? If it were to come in the old RM1,000 notes, RM2.6 billion would fill several truckloads of suitcases. If piled up, they would reach the roof of the Petronas Twin Towers.
I once had to carry RM10,000 for an elderly relative who did not believe in banks. She wanted to buy something expensive and I must have shed a few kilograms walking from her car to the shop. I looked at everyone who passed me with suspicion, afraid that he would clobber me over the head and steal the money.
I was dripping with sweat, and it was not from the hot KL sun. I was consumed with fear and anxiety.
When an old lady stopped me to ask for directions, I jumped in fright. I assumed the worst. I suspected that she was a decoy for a snatch thief. The old makcik must have thought I was ill. She asked, “Are you all right? You look so pale. Why are you sweating and trembling?”
I know that if I were given RM2.6 billion, I would not return it, especially if the donor did not ask for it back.
My bank account does not look healthy these days. I am not alone, and most Malaysians are in the same boat. If someone had deposited even RM42 in my account, I would have noticed it. So, anyone who says that he does not notice a RM42 million deposit must be obscenely rich and must be careless with money.
If I had RM2.6 billion, I would not even buy a new car. Anyone who has been with me will know that I do not like speeding and that I am very happy with my old jalopy. It gets me from A to B.
If I had an imported car, just think of the cost of insurance and spare parts. But then, with RM2.6 billion in the bank, if the car were to develop a fault, I might as well ditch it and buy a new one, right? It is alleged that most people who win lotteries in the west do this sort of thing. They buy designer clothes, shoes and watches, and throw them out when they get dirty or scratched.
Would I eat caviar and drink champagne every day? Probably not. Would I want Jakim to come after me if I was happy from too much bubbly? I would be satisfied with ulam raja, sambal, ikan masin and hot rice. You can take the girl out of the kampung, but not the kampung out of the girl.
No caviar, but telur ikan terobok would be fine, except it is such a rarity these days, even in the markets of Kuching and Sibu. The destruction of the mangrove swamps has almost wiped out this fish.
I know of a women’s charity in Ipoh which could do with a little cash injection, perhaps a tiny portion of the RM2.6 billion or the RM42 million. It does a lot of good work and relies on volunteers and donations. It would be nice if it could have its own vehicles and paid staff.
Various individuals help children who are homeless and live on the streets. They could do with some help. Wouldn’t it be nice to open an orphanage for children of different faiths?
And there are many rural Orang Asli and Iban communities that could do with decent sanitation, water, electricity and basic amenities.
Perhaps, rather than returning a donation, it would be better to use the money for useful programmes. Some of it could be used to invest, say, in an apprenticeship programme to train the youth of the marginalised communities and inspire them to help their own communities after graduation.
That is if the donor does not ask for his money back.
Only a fool or a rude person would return a donation. I would be pretty miffed if I gave a Christmas present and it was returned.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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