Great long conversation about family and relationships and politics -- then Purvi peeled off and the rest of us went to McShane's Exchange, a consignment store where I found a gorgeous J. Crew dress (pale blue with white embroidery in an Indian-style pattern) for $14, a triumphant purchase. Then we split decadent appetizers (baked goat cheese, guacamole, fried calamari, sweet potato fries) and an apple crisp at a nearby cafe, sitting at an outdoor table and talking more about politics, more specifically the ethics of earning more money than you need, and how you can fairly manage that. Also what the best use of charitable giving money really is -- tricky questions. Wonderful sharp-witted and compassionate company for discussing the problems. Lakshmi and Sujata are younger than Nilofer and I, and not yet in a position to be giving away money, but they're already thinking ahead towards the time when they will be, which I certainly wasn't five or ten years ago!
Kev and I aren't rich, or even comfortably well-off by many Americans' (somewhat insane) standards, but if we don't have kids, we make plenty for just ourselves right now, and our relatives look like they're going to be generally in reasonable shape. So it's interesting thinking about what happens if the book sells well (miraculously), or if he or I gets a raise, etc. and so on. Can we justify spending more money on a house than we already have? Do we start giving money away in lump sums? Do we do what Nilofer does, and tithe 10% of our total income to various charities? Do we save it and set up a foundation or a trust? If we do give it away, is it better to give it to small neighborhood programs or is it more effective to throw the money at some politician you believe in, helping them get elected?
I tend towards grass-roots work myself, mostly because that's what I can get enthusiastic about, where I can see concrete results. But that doesn't mean it's actually the most effective work. And sometimes, it can be so frustrating -- another of our big panelists just cancelled for Kriti (Bapsi Sidhwa), and okay, it's just a little arts festival, it's not a big save-the-world kind of thing, but it's still disappointing, to pour your energy into a non-profit activity, to feel like you're making good progress and then have to take a step back. It's how it goes, I know, but still.
One task for today -- e-mail a bunch of other authors and find someone to take her place. Also, write.
Those of you who do give away money to charity -- how do you decide how to give?