Saturday, October 10, 2009

Concern for the necessity of Compassion

When we enter this world, with our birth comes the inevitability of death. Yet so pompous do we tend to be, that we think we can ignore the unavoidable death, staring at us in the face of life and the innumerable surprises and wonders it has to offer.

In our celebration of life we ignore the grief of death that is all pervasive and continues to haunt us and all around us.

It’s been a while since I’ve been planning to begin writing a blog. But I did not wish to jump onto the ever growing bandwagon with just a regular, run-of-the-mill blog, or maintaining an online diary. However, an incident that occurred today has implored me to record the event as food for thought: how life can change from joy to grief, from celebration to gloom in a matter of seconds.

My father, like any other army officer, enjoys going to the club, unwinding over a game of snooker, or cards with his friends. A companion of his in the snooker room is a Para-commando officer by the name of Dharamveer. Over the numerous sessions of snooker, my father and Dharamveer, equally keen and good players began to share a friendship of sorts, a comfortable, enjoyable companionship.

Today, what occurred was narrated to me by my father in a gloomy tone. A gutter in the United Services (US) Club needed cleaning. As is common in India, gutter cleaners are not provided with suitable protection masks and clothing to prevent inhalation of poisonous gases and contact with harmful substances in the gutter. So, two brothers who came to clean out the gutter entered it without appropriate gear, and as a result of inhalation of the poisonous gases soon became unconscious.

Dharamveer a regular visitor to the club, as he was passing by the gutter, spotted the two unconscious bodies of the cleaners. Probably the bravado and compassion that gripped him was such, that his sense of logic got blinded, as he jumped into the gutter not realising that the poisonous gases could catch him as well.

And that is exactly what happened. Dharamveer too inhaled the poisonous gases of the gutter and fell unconscious as well. After a while, an ambulance was called, by a spectator of the scene. When the ambulance arrived it was discovered that the two cleaners were already dead, while Dharamveer was promptly taken to the nearest Defence hospital, INHS Asvini, his condition critical.

Currently battling with death in the ICU, he has left his wife and a baby daughter of about 5, to pray to God for his life.

“Excited about his upcoming birthday the next day, he had planned to play snooker all day along, it being a holiday,” tells me my brother. Ironical, that outside the same snooker room, his sense of concern for fellow beings got him onto the bridge between life and death.

How a simple human act of compassion for fellow human beings life has put his own, into a state of jeopardy, within a matter of 2 hours ! The sheer unpredictability of life is both exciting and scary.

This incident reminds me of an article in the Hindustan Times, Mumbai edition, sometime in May which spoke of how gutter cleaners in Mumbai were not provided adequate protection, masks, and clothing gear when they went down to clean the drains, as a result contracting severe skin diseases or inhaling poisonous fumes harmful to their lives.

“It is actually the club’s fault for not providing masks to the cleaners, when they know the waste can exude harmful gases.” This statement by my brother voiced my very thoughts on how civic authorities are so callous towards the ‘lowly’ workers who actually perform one of the most important tasks, required to satiate the basic human need of cleanliness and sanity.

The Classical Marxism school of thought talks of how as we become more free, we become more and more intolerant towards other’s right to freedom. Why cannot we realise and ensure that others have the right and freedom to live as much as we do. Why in our blinded, selfish channel of thought, we choose to ignore any danger to other’s lives?

What makes humans different from animals is the ability to think and feel. Emotions are what makes us a superior species. A sense of concern, sympathy for one’s fellow beings is what makes one a true human being.

Here is a man, who felt compelled by empathy to help out the poor, unconscious cleaners. He could have easily ignored them, or simply notified the authorities. But his concern for another human life did not allow him to delay help to them. However it is unfortunate that he had to suffer the consequences.

I feel there is a lesson here for all of us. We needn’t be callous and jump into the well without considering possible outlets, but we can extend a helping hand to the ones down. We can make an effort to save and protect others around us. That is what will make us all good human beings, and this world would be a much better place to live in….. :)


  1. very thought provoking!

  2. well put aastha. you're right. the moment we stop feeling we kill the human within us. our emotions and actions need to be concerted and applied in the right direction.
    hope your papa's friend gets alright soon.
    happy blogging!

  3. hey thanx....ya my dad's friend's bin discharged now and is well...:)