Two Girls, One Balloon And My Blurred Compassion

What I am going to describe and narrate now, is hardly inordinary or uncommon in our lives. In fact it is clichéd, one that you have seen only too often, that has tugged at your heart only too often but something about it has happened only too seldom. And so, I too meekly and merely witnessed it and left nonchalantly

Tadav ni Paar is the most bustling hangout of any summer evening in Jamnagar. The patent chaos, crowd and humdrum of Indianness come alive here in all its peaking glory. Ice cream vendors, ice lolly vendors, soda shops, paanshops, toy hawkers, vegetable hawkers, balloon sellers, walkers, picnickers, thinkers, families, couples, youngsters, grannies, nannies, urchins, each one finds his very own space in the periphery of the Lakhota lake and contributes in the immersive sea of animated humanity. This ritualistic congregation is then gently and gelidly fanned by the eternal swaying breeze of my maiden town that delays any homeward departures of its people.

So at eleven o’clock that evening, we placed our orders for Dish Golas with malai and mawa. The super fine crushed ice, soaked in flavoured syrup, topped with a layer of smooth cream and sprinkling of nuts, will have you salivating any minute now. The noisy banter of all our kids was adding rightfully to the chaos, especially my daughter’s who has a gift for crazy antics and incessant blabber. Her five year old bubbly soul, zippy gestures and dancing eyes are beyond any containment. So while my mangy little girl with dishevelled hair was scooping her dish gola greedily, another girl of exactly her height with same lanky limbs came by. Her clothes were mangy too and hair dishevelled, but a spirit of determination set her tiny face. She came closer and both these girls adamantly insisted that I buy the balloon.

One of these was the seller and the other a prospective customer. Child labour is viciously pervasive in our poverty stricken, over populated country, and I have seen enough young kids begging or slogging before. But when that girl stood side by side to my girl, it wasn’t possible not to be affected. The inequality in their destinies seemed unduly unfair. It hurt, it bothered. It bothered enough to make me write this story but did it bother enough to bring some change in her destiny? I didn’t cause that inequality apparently, so my responsibility to mitigate it ended with buying that balloon and feeling pity for her. And this is what I did.

There aren’t any easy answers to such egregious national issues, but they aren’t insolvable as well atleast in parts. There are things that I could have done if I would have strongly so desired, but the cumbersomeness of seeing through that change needs tougher resolve. A lot of us are doing or trying to do our bit by giving back to the society or contributing towards a fairer world in big or small ways. And I unwaveringly believe that there is enough goodness in the world, which is why it hasn’t toppled just yet. However, it brings me to the question of what is compassion? Is it enough to feel the pain and empathy or sympathy for another being to call myself humane or a real action to that end makes me meaningfully compassionate?

Yeah of course, empty empathy is no good though it is better than a blind eye or a cold shoulder. Yes, empty empathy doesn’t bring change but it evokes thought. And if it sustainably evokes thought than it might evoke an action some day in the simplest or smallest of ways. In fact, only recently we shared our stories on the same theme of “Being Humane” at the Meraki, Chennai. And though, there aren’t any conclusions or ready solutions after such discussions, it’s important that we are consciously talking about it or the lack of it. And when there’s a sincere thought, actions do follow sooner or later.

What I couldn’t change that day, I hope I will redeem it someday some place with someone else while that scruffy determined face will be my inspiration.

Photo by John Cahil Rom from Pexels