As I woke up I had water all over my face. I was in more than one way drenched. This water never stopped coming, it hit me so hard on my face I became angry, angry at why somebody was just throwing water at me. My top was wet, so was my hair. I had absolutely no sense of where I was or why this water kept on coming.
It so happened that I had fainted in the local train. It was one of the hottest days of April that year in Hyderabad. The commuters who sat beside me realized it was a form of a sun stroke. The water was how they were trying to revive me. (In the city of Hyderabad these trains are called MMTS.)
As I woke up, I was too weak to even sit up and think coherently. It took a while to get my contours right. The four of us would have sat at the station bench for at least half an hour until I could tell them where to go and how I was doing then sun stroke wise. Mine was the last station.
They came with me to my hostel, this man and the two women. 3 strangers, they were strangers to me, they were strangers to each other, the 3 of them came together because a fourth co-stranger who was sitting beside them in the train had gone down with a mild form of sunstroke.
They left a phone number each of them with my friends at the hostel. I called them up later, and thanked then for their timely gesture. These are gestures.. It is belittling to term these as mere help…
I have often wondered about this. That time of day I was in the train, It was office hours, they were all headed to their offices at that time.. they kept that aside and waylaid into my campus with me.. this is one of the incidents in my life I can never get over.. there are many more.. lost wallets, lost phones, random help, riskshawalas, random trips where strangers mostly have offered to just be there….But in all this I realize, I’ve also gone out of my way, leaving my work to be with someone when they were in need, many a time.. but somehow I think like me in those few cases, these 3 strangers also felt it was right to take me to safety than their work.. I’m grateful.
A long lost friend of mine used to tease me with the term “samaj seva,” He used to say why spend time… just walk away, why do you have to help strangers, they’ll always be others” I used to laugh at the grandiose samaj seva bit always; at that time it was funny that such a term was used for these little kinds of help.. it could be helping somebody crossing the road, for instance like that day on the road..
I had crossed half way, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a hand caught.. in fact clutched my arm. It was this woman, she wanted to cross as well. Everything she had to say, even the fear of crossing, the urgency to get to the other side.. was in the way she clutched my arm. We were neither near any traffic signal nor standing on a zebra crossing.. there was no traffic police man in sight and it one busy road where the vehicles just wouldn’t stop for pedestrians… So, when the opportunity came, I held her hand and ran across! When we reached the other side, there was a smile, a flush of pink energy on the cheeks… we were on our way to different routes.. the word ‘Samaj seva’ sticks.. became and still is the in word for friends in my circle who get down to these little gestures 🙂 (Samaj = Society, seva = Help)
I don’t believe that just because I often stop and help, people also help me, the world does not work that way in these exact terms, if it did it would have been heaven now… but I do believe in “what goes around comes around,” may not be in the same kind.. but definitely there are a lot of people with beautiful hearts and thoughts around, even animals
dogs for instance… So as I walk out with my swimming gear at about 6 am when the sun will be still thinking about rising and he would be snoozing 5 minutes more on his alarm.. these two dogs cozily cuddled in one of the chairs in the hostel lobby will spring to their feet and walk out along with me or us, if we are a group… they are with us until we reach the steps of the swimming pool compound…..it could be any girl from this hostel who do not particularly care for them… that kind of spontaneity is what I am talking about, that is compassion to me..
Compassion, I think is an inborn quality to begin with.. then it can be cultivated as we are reared in our childhoods.. once grown up, for it to come by there needs to be somebody with a great influence on us, they can affect us..or else there should be some life changing incident, it could be like today when 1000 people are getting together to speak for this one cause… but it just cannot be like we wake up one day and say, I’ll be compassionate today or from today. That could be short lived.. It does not happen that way. If it does, it would be lovely 😛
The point is, to me, compassion is a spontaneous feeling, like joy it has to come from within. It is implicit and if it is there in a person.. wherever they go, whatever the circumstances…(even when they are down and under,) a person with that kind of compassionate antennas is always alert.. I like that phrase Compassionate Antennas.. just the title I was looking for, for this post..