Tuesday, 24 February 2015

On Compassion




I missed writing for a day I had pencilled way in advance. February 20th saw thousands of bloggers the world over write on Compassion – the satin ribbon that binds, should bind, one creature’s comfort to another’s pain, one human’s fortune to the other’s need. I checked the exact meaning before deciding to write this. It was always a big word for me, but it became humongous after looking at what it meant. So much bigger than all the big words I like to keep as friends. Way beyond mere Politeness, surpassing stray acts of Kindness and occupying a pedestal next to felt Humanity, no less. 

Even though I was saddened that the bus full of beautiful posts on compassion had long left, leaving me and my pending work behind, on the desk still, I caught myself wondering aloud if at all I would have had anything to say about Compassion. That unconditional giving of what you have and what the other doesn’t. At all times, under any circumstances and without the slightest hope for reward. The emotion that makes you feel one with the other; human, animal or even an old oak. The ideal definition of compassion. 

And then I think, what about in life?

Every Tuesday the scene outside our neighbourhood temple is like it is on no other day. A mini-fete. There’s a balloon-seller standing alongside the Kwality Walls cart, together and away from the two parallel lines of beggars sitting lining the holy walls. A flute-seller plays devotional tunes, but the hungry stomachs hear no music. They beg for alms. For prasad, orange over-sweetened balls, from those visiting the temple. People walk in and out, and some passers-by dig into the newspaper packet to give some around. Often without looking who they are showing concern on, with measured hands. Three grape-sized pieces per hand. Deed done. Then they scurry on. Away from the house of God to their own homes where piping hot chapattis are being rolled. Leaving behind a question hanging in the air to be plucked by those like me, sitting and typing away their thoughts.

Is this compassion, pure and simple, or an automated ritual? Can the feeling of real concern be fleeting as the blink of an eye, or last the time it takes to brush the dust off the pants where the hungry-dirty hand tugged, in askance for food? Pity is short-lived, for who has tears to spare in such evil times? Or guilt. It vanishes quicker than grass thrown in the wind. But then, does it matter? Someone gave something. Shared. 2 seconds, 2 minutes. The heart opened. So, does it matter – how real how staged how in return for extra blessings?

The idea of giving, material or in thought, to the other has to stem from some degree of compassion. Or so I wonder.

Closer home. 

I don’t have half the number of compassionate bones as, say, my own mother. (I’m still checking dictionaries to see what it means!). My mother. So many times I get bugged at her idea of “doing good” at the cost of her own well-being, time, energy, health and bank balance too. What could have made her ‘adopt’ a student and sponsor his studies through school? What makes her spend her holidays teaching girls and boys from schools we never went to about the natural wonders of planet Earth? What makes her keep bowls of food and water for strays who lose their path into our driveway only to find a home in the verandah till their dying day? I used to think she is in love with the idea of charity but I corrected myself when I realized I’ve never heard her talk about it. It doesn’t make it a better version of being compassionate but it does make it seem more real in a world which we love to consider a stage, and all acts our performance to a gallery.

To feel and do silently is beautiful because compassion sings then in the highest note of the octave. I’ve heard that music through others in my life. The most fortunate ones hear it. See it. Learn to emulate it too, perhaps. 

Have I learnt? I don’t know.

Sure, I feel empathy for feet whose shoes bite, like mine. So many people’s failures are mine and cries of grief emanating as if from my lungs. I don’t hurt with rude words, even less with actions. I do try, at least, unless you hurt me or mine. Those who work for me never leave, those I have worked for are kind enough to call me caring. But what do I do in deed which can confirm to me that I am a compassionate person? No alms giving, no adopting. No routine cause-hankering, no fancy charity fairs. No impulsive gifting, no unaffordable donating. I could almost be the most apparently cold-blooded person on your friend list who moves not a finger till she feels. Gosh! What do I do to prove that I am compassionate? 

Mumma, wipe my nose please, or puppy will get a cold from me’ and the thoughts break with a prick. Oh no, not again. Please let it not grow into congestion. He feels so uncomfortable. He even thinks his stuffed toy will get a runny nose.

And then I realize, just like charity begins at home perhaps compassion begins right there too, along with answers and definitions to big words which need have no absolute versions. Just like the thousands of bloggers who wrote so passionately on the 20th of February, I too was looking to get in touch with the compassionate corner of my heart… 

Spent sleepless nights when he slept hot with fever, feeling the heat in my every bone. Spent impatient days when I knew he’s burdened in office, and today he needs a respite, he looked so. In tending to their needs, keeping mine aside or feeling loved when the pain was mine, this time. One feels towards toy animals and dolls, the other towards everyone who touches his life. And as I admire those compassionate acts done by my loved ones, I learn on-the-go to see what compassion really, truly means. I also realise where we discover true compassion breathing silently is what we call home, because real love breathes alongside. And there can be no compassion where there is no love.

Is that a selfish kind of compassion I feel, unable to fully grow beyond the hearth, and embrace all in one unconditional hug? 

I don’t know. 

Do I want to know right now? 

No. His nose is running, and him I need to be with. Or his puppy will get a cold, and he will then be 'hurt in the heart'.

30 comments:

  1. The initiative to me would have been incomplete without this post from you Sakshi. Truly compassion like everything else begins at home.

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    1. I know we think alike on so many things, Rekha.
      Thank you for reading. :)

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  2. Compassion begins at home, Sakshi. In that respect, I think you have all that it takes to be truly compassionate. To write about it alone, takes a whole lot of introspection and you have done it with so much candour. Don't be too hard on yourself :)

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    1. What a lovely thing to hear, Shailaja.
      Many thanks! :)

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  3. Very nice. You made my day describing softer side of humanity. People do things for others without much expectation. Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by to drop your comment, Abhijit. I really appreciate that you did.
      Best.

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  4. It is indeed true that compassion begins at home, and most of the best deeds don't accompany words. But I am reminded of Khaled Hosseini, and his 'And the mountains echoed' where a little girl was rescued, and almost resurrected by someone who was despised by his brother as a braggard, who does things for publicity (while at the same time failed to live up to the occasion).

    It, and many instances that I've experienced or heard in life makes me wonder, 'sometimes, goodness catches the wind and goes the distance. But most of the time, if it must propagate, it must create a wind too, even if that attenuates its novelty'.

    Then, I have my Nanaji, and his life lived well that serves as the best validation of the claim that what goes around comes back around, and in the most unexpected occasion (in a beautiful, and very heart reding way in his case). It makes me wonder, 'what maketh the man'?

    A good read on a good morning.

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. Wonderful reference stolen from Hosseini, A. I must read the book. That I haven't read it is a shame.

      Love this!

      I don't know what maketh a man. We're all but patches of cloth borrowed from whoever brushes past our life and sown together into a ...quilt? I don''t think I even know which patch came from where. :)

      Very happy to have added to your 'good morning'.

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  5. What an honest post! Sure, it all begins at home. How else could you make complete strangers happy if you're unable to keep your loved ones happy? Your son is so sweet to be concerned about the puppy catching cold due to his runny nose. He's already a compassionate young man :)

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    1. Vinodini, many pose for the cameras while performing for the charity parade. While their homes remain in disarray. I know some, unfortunately.
      My son is as sensitive as children this age are. In their pretend play, and them endowing mere toys with feelings, they learn to have fun and they learn to feel. I admire him.

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  6. I know of people who go all out to be compassionate to the world and are least bothered about the sufferings or situations that their own friends and family are going through.

    I agree that like everything else, compassion should begin at home, too.
    As always, lovely write up.:)

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    1. I know some too. We're super at keeping up appearances. :)

      Thanks, my dear. As always, good to see you here.

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  7. Its always a sheer delight to read your posts.

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    1. How beautiful of you to say this, Ronita. Lots of love!

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  8. Compassion and charity both begin at home. And another thing. Compassion can never be taught. You observe and learn. You have observed your mother and that observation has led to this very thoughtful person in you, reflected very clearly in the post. Reading you for the first time. Loved your style of writing. Will be visiting more often now.

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    1. Compassion can indeed never be taught. Much like other concepts like, respect.
      I thank you for coming over and dropping this lovely comment. Would love to see you around. :)

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  9. I think you undervalue yourself. Putting the needs of those you love above your own, that's compassion. But there's more - if those who work for you never leave - well you must be doing something right. And the people you worked for think you're a caring person - that's testimony enough. You seem to be doing well.

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    1. No. No. No, Tulika. Not undervaluing. Only wondering where I stand. Read so much about compassionate deeds and thinking where I stand. Yes, I must be doing okay. :)
      Thanks so much!

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  10. Without compassion at home how can there be compassion for anything on the outside..I think if and only if you have compassion for those you love , can you actually ever think of doing anything for others...

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    1. Sometimes we play to the gallery, Naba. Our home waits while we wait on the poor with the cameras flashing. Just told someone how I know some in that category.
      But you are right if you mean 'feeling' for another. At least all my lessons and growth begin at home.
      Thank you for reading me.

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  11. That you consider yourself an 'I-don't-know' on the Compassion bar, is proof enough to prove that you are one, but just not the one who'd trumpet about it. Your Mother is an amazing lady, lucky to have such role model

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    1. Nandana :)
      Lots of love.
      PS - I don't just have a trumpet. I have a Saxophone at home. Trust me!

      Delete
  12. you are right charity begins at home.. if we are not good at home then how do we expect to be good outside.. moreover compassion is something that i we all have, some show it , some dont .

    The temple scene I have never understand that part and this is going on tangent everyone seems to go and donate so much to a temple or a gurudwara i mean these insitutes are so RICH yet the same people would not like to pay a cost of a burger at mcdonalds for a poor hungry child outside ..

    regarding you been a caring or a compassionate person well just reading your srticles and the way you write suggest to me that you are one and those who say otherwise well WHO CARES wat they think :)

    be like this always and God bless
    Bikram's

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    1. "some show it , some dont"- True that!

      With you, totally. I am quite undecided what I think of patronage.

      Hehe. That stressed WHO CARES got me to LOL. :D

      Thank you, B.

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  13. This is where parenting and upbringing play such an important rule. Truly heartwarming. What comes from the heart goes straight to the heart.

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    1. Thank you, Alka. I know for a fact that when it comes to being parents, we are both ditto-ditto.
      Very happy you liked this personal post.

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  14. Like charity, compassion too begins from home and valuable lessons are learnt in the tight of a compassionate mother. A very candid piece of writing.

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    1. Thank you, Kalpana. So good to see that you read me today. :)

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  15. You've defined compassion so well. It's so true that the joy of giving need to move us first or else, what's the point of believing in a cause. You are a wonderful human being, Sakshi and always truthful. For me, that's matters a lot. Honesty is the best gift humans can choose to lead their life:)

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    1. And you, like always, too kind, Vishal. :)
      Thanks for reading this.

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