Saturday, January 9, 2010

Apathy

It’s not without a lot of hesitation that I have decided to write this down. By the end of this post you may find yourself cringe, you may feel guilty; you may also find your sensitive side violated. This is the expression of what I have observed over the years on public transports, bus terminals, government offices, and even in educational institutions like schools and colleges. There is a thick fog of apathy hanging determinedly across all these places, enveloping them in a maze of indifference, the walls of which would not thaw or dissolve.

Let me relate an experience that I go through sometimes on my way to work. There is a girl, about twelve years old, who gets on the same bus as me, with her father. She’s dressed in school uniform, wears spectacles, and has a white gauge of bandage firmly taped over her left eye. It’s obvious that she has sustained some sort of injury. The bus is generally crowded then, being peak office hours. I have noted with horror that no one offers this little girl a seat. She sways to the rash driving of the bus, latching on to the edge of the seat to prevent herself from falling over.

The bus is so packed with people at this time that she or her father can’t move beyond a particular point. I generally sit on the last seats. I tried to call her over and offer my seat, but she couldn’t even begin to reach me. Too much of jostling was something that she couldn’t afford with an eye in bandage. And I could sense the others seated near her, shifting uneasily in their cozy seats. They were feeling unsettled that someone far away from her could offer a seat while they couldn’t bring themselves to do that. Some looked out of the window fixedly, pretending they had no clue what was going on.

But I got my reward. The girl smiled sadly at me, as if to thank me for at least trying to help her.

What is it with us? What stops us from carrying out random acts of kindness? The other day when I was having tea at a tea-stall with a colleague, a beggar came with her child. She wanted to buy a cake which cost Rs. 3.50. She had only Rs. 3. The shopkeeper refused to sell it. I took out the cake and gave it to her. The other people at the shop stared at me as if I gave away my purse or cell phone to her. My colleague commented that they earn more than us! I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

2 comments:

Yu Yu said...

Yes, the thing about seats was the most prominent of culture shocks I got from Kolkata. People don't give up seats to pregnant women, old people, and children. I never got that, and I offered my seat whenever I could, but I've gotten yelled for giving up my seat on the bus "too soon". Usually old women wouldn't take the seat. And once the seat was offered there would rarely be "thank you" at the end. They'd just stare blankly like I'm some sort of an alien.
About the beggars: the middle class and working class, especially in Kolkata has always been against beggars. I remember hearing a non PC conversation between Bengalis on how it's because of the Muslims that there are too many people and children beggars. While this may not be entirely wrong, the tone I got from the conversation was that there can be no poor Bengali -- which was really really sad. These were educated people from affluent class talking crap. Not to mention other non PC stuff.

Rage said...

welcome back 2 blogging...