Empathy II

By Raphy Islam

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It was a reasonably cold evening. I was waiting on a rickshaw, sitting patiently. When I am on the road, I usually try not to be restless. I was sitting patiently as the rickshaw-puller stopped by the side of the road and told me that he needs to drink a glass of water. He was quite an old man. I am not good at guessing ages, but he was definitely pushing beyond 60.

I nodded affirmatively as he went back to have a drink at a roadside cake shop. After a few minutes, I figured he shouldnot have needed this much time to drink a glass of water. So, I tried to peek over the side of the rickshaw and saw him having some traditional winter cakes in the shadow of some dim street and shop lights.

I had a bit of a chuckle myself. I was in no hurry but after five more minutes while sitting alone it seemed very odd to me.Still I waited. He came back a few minutes later and started pulling the rickshaw. After a while, he again stopped and sat down by the side of the road.

He was breathing heavily. He mumbled, he cannot go further. He looked disoriented. Earlier, when I was getting on the rickshaw, I had said to him, ‘I’m quite a heavy person, do you really want to take me as a passenger?You already look tired.’ He had then replied, ‘I’m a professional, I can take you’. Hearing his reply, I had boarded the rickshaw.

As he seemed tired now, I got down from the rickshaw and asked him to take some rest. Although I had reached only a quarter of the destination, I gave him half the fare as I saw him breathing heavily. I began looking for another rickshaw.

A few days later,during some conversation with my father, this incident came up. I told him what had happened and after a sigh, my father replied, ‘What could he do! He has got to fend for himself and maybe also for his family. There is no other option left other than begging or work hard for money.’

My father is in his early 50s. He has been wondering about his retirement coming up and how the family can sustain itself after his retirement. Life is uncertain. While witnessing the anchor of the family all shaken up, also stirred my emotions.

Still, I hope that with my education and hard work, I will be able to provide some support to my father and family, at least the same standards I grew up with if not better. But what about those people who have fought and still fight the endless battle with poverty and trying to make ends meet.

There are few cases where some manage to turn everything around for themselves and their families, just like my father did. But the majority of them stay in the battlefield:combating with resilience and maybe some hope that things will get better someday.

Economic disparity, class struggle, capitalism, communism, socialism etc. are bigwords and ideas. They provide us with theories from scholars. But in the meantime, the harsh realitiesare suffered by millions of people.

After all the time human beings have utilized the earth, we still fail to provide the slightest ease to the needy. As a world citizen, a nation, a society and a community, we have failed to alleviate their burdens.

Maybe we could have patted ourselves on the back if things were changing for the better or the misery of hunger or a sense of security affected a very small number of people.

But that is not the case.

Some people will always be better off and some will not even have three meals a day. Even after a few hundred years of evolution, we have not managed to come up with a solution to battle poverty.

I am a believer of the fact that accepting the things that need great change and modification are the gateway to be able to ignore all humane and moral calling. A cynical thought of an adolescent mind, I guess.

The Indian philosopher JidduKrishnamurty once wrote, ‘Theories and beliefs do not change one’s life—man has had them for thousands of years and he has not changed’.

Again, Albert Einstein said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.’

So in this insane world it would be crazy to get rid of the excruciating facts of life! But do these marginalised people not have the right to ask the society for a change?If they do,did they ever ask for it? If they did ask, did we ever listen to them?