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Absence of Compassion Among Us Goans – I

By Nandkumar M Kamat
IT was raining very hard at night. There was no light on the road to my house. As I was walking towards my residence, I noticed a large pool of dirty water which had formed on the road thus making it difficult for pedestrians and traffic. It was a familiar sight on same spot. I took a long piece of wood and tried to clear the drain. A car came to halt behind me. A person called out. He was a senior teacher – “what are you doing”. “I am draining this pool so that there is no danger to users like you. Despite reminders they don’t clean it every year”. He didn’t say anything and sped away. I stepped aside. It took me some time to drain the water.
This was an annual experience for me. The aim was public good. Increase the ease of people and care for their safety without waiting for an official circular. Let us take another occasion. As I was walking towards my house in the hot noon, I saw a long black hairy shape, flattened and sprawled across the road. As I got closer I could see that it was a dead three stripped palm squirrel killed by a speeding vehicle. I lifted the carcass, went to my house, took out a spade and began to dig a small pit. A neighbour heard the sound and came out – “What are you doing?” he asked. “Giving a decent burial to a dead squirrel, can’t you see?” I showed him the carcass. “Very unfortunate”, he said.  “Yes” but it would have been sickening to leave this carcass behind on the road, that’s why I am burying it”. I closed the pit and put a large purple flower of Bauhinia tree to mark my respect. “Rest, my unfortunate friend, be part of all that, to which I will also return some day,” I mumbled holding back my tears as I bid it farewell.  There is no count of how many times I have done such things, quietly and with profound sadness in heart.
The peon hesitatingly entered my lab. Behind him was a lady sweeper.  ‘What happened, Dilip”, I asked him. “Sir, someone from X department poured acid on a stray dog behind Y faculty building and this lady found it injured and in pain. See if you can do anything”. I immediately called an animal lover, a very compassionate post graduate student, Ms Raisa Fernandes and told her to investigate and take help of a veterinary doctor to care for that animal. A day later she came back with the sad and cruel story. She couldn’t understand people’s lack of compassion and rise of cruelty and sadism. “Sadism and lack of compassion is normal behaviour now”, I consoled her.
“Did anyone beside you, me, Divya, Rutuja, Jaishini, Joella, Sujata cry for the whole-scale slaughter of 500 roadside trees when they were widening the road? We have more than a thousand students here, not to speak of world famous faculty members, so you can see yourself if there is no compassion for plants, even hundred years old majestic trees, then how there would be compassion for animals and humans?” She felt sad and left.
It was early days of monsoon. The work of building a new footpath in front of our faculty building was going on. When I reached the entrance, I saw a small crowd of female students gathered around a girl. “What happened”, I enquired. Initially they were not interested in replying. Then I went to have a closer look and found that the girl was in deep pain while holding her ankle. “Is she injured?” I asked them again. One from the crowd said – “she slipped and twisted her leg”. “Then take her to a health centre, don’t waste time, she needs medical attention”, I said and then saw one of our employees coming to inquire. Mr B, can you do me favour, can you take this injured girl on your vehicle to health centre? Mr B, who was earlier in National Service Scheme (NSS), agreed promptly and obliged.
What would one find common behind all these acts, which are real life experiences and events in a heavily public funded institution? It’s nothing but simple compassion. Stripped off our chairs, positions, degrees, designations, egos and all material acquisitions – at the end of the day when humans would judge humans on humane yardstick then it would be only compassion which would remain as highest value. The basics of understanding compassion are simple. One is either born with it or one is not. Those who don’t have it bred in their genetic constitution virtually become machines, automatons. They would tell us that it is not our duty to clean drains on stagnated roads or dispose of dead carcasses or care for sick stray dogs. Compassion – scientists, teachers, educational decision makers, academicians and intellectuals should understand is not a statistical function. You become a dealer and not a leader without it. On March 25, 2007, a compassionate governor, former ex-Chief Minister of Nagaland S C Jamir had called me, wife and our year old child for dinner at Cabo Raj Bhavan. When initially I expressed my regrets since my son was a baby, he sent a message that a caretaker would look after him while we enjoy our dinner and talk. We had a memorable dinner in presence of another guest, his legal adviser Advocate Carlos Alvares Ferreira, an amiable gentleman lawyer. My son then came crawling on the carpeted floor in the big hall. Then he went and sat on the governor’s lap. Governor Jamir just smiled as he saw my son lifting the telephone handset and playing with the number pad. “Boys are boys”, its same in our Nagaland, said the governor – “What facilities you have to care for him when both of you are working”. I explained him the situation. “Send me a letter” he said, “I understand your difficulties. I will do something to take care of that”. That was a very compassionate offer (to be continued).

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