Sayali Phadke 11F43

It was horrific! Beyond the limits of imagination I had attained in 15 years of my life. The television cameras could not have reached the flood-stricken locations and even if they did; there was no electricity in most houses in Mumbai to watch the µbreaking news.¶July 26th 2005. The day Mumbai drowned, the day it came to a standstill!

My mother and I were safe at home and so was my father in his office. But we were lucky. People were stuck everywhere. We kept hearing stories about how people died while trying to jump out of the train without realising how deep the water could be or got bitten by poisonous water snakes and many more. It was gloomy outside; and so were our minds.

If Barbara Ascher had experienced this herself, she might have rewritten her essay µOn Compassion.¶ In this essay, she has talked about the ulterior motives behind compassion. She is asking whether compassion is really the reason behind some of our actions or is it just a rationalisation of something else such as pity, fear or disgust. ³Raw humanity offends our sensibilities´ (48) she says. It is the essence of her essay. As human beings, we want to be receivers of compassionate behaviour but we get too conscious and defensive if we sense anything unnatural in the giver¶s motives.

The stories of the floods are astonishing.They can still bring tears in my eyes. In areas near railway stations, people offered help to those who were stranded at the stations for hours together; provided them with not just shelter, food, clothes and first aid but the warmth too. On a particular road a double-decker bus was stuck and the water level was rising. The passengers were helped to climb onto the top of the bus and pulled them with a rope onto their building terrace. This, in my opinion was the zenith of compassionate behaviour I have ever come across.

Some say that there are people who can look beyond their own world. All our maids came from those areas and therefore we had a clear idea of how their houses were in deep trouble. tragedy and depression that we wanted this act of goodness to lift our souls? I still do not know how and why I devoted five entire days to this cause while it was my most important year of school and my mother was not happy with me µwasting¶ so much time. At times. Rescue measures were required till the rain calmed down. The support measures being taken were tremendous too.And these are only the rescue efforts. Were all our reservations against them washed away with the rain and had exposed the human in us naked? Was there too much negativity. and hence their actions become too sacred for us to doubt the motives behind it. Our area. But the people whose morale had dropped with the water levels and hopes had gone away with the rain. But taking advantage of someone else¶s adversity is not so uncommon among us. the incidences so tragic that any god-fearing human being would not dare to raise questions about the motives behind compassionate behaviour. Why am I compassionate? Are there always ulterior motives behind compassion? I believe yes. comforts and well-being. the matters are so grave. was safe but those on our either sides weren¶t. driven terribly towards it. thanks to its planned landscape. All the citizens had gotten onto the battlefield! The area of my residence is surrounded by slums on both ends. But such issues will never be discussed in open because the culprits have . Someone thought why not make it a collective effort of helping? Why were we doing it? Weren¶t we the people who complained about the slumdwellers all the time? Did we not crib endlessly about how they steal our resources. I do not remember anything but the fact that I was driven. needed support for a longer time. But not everyone does. dirty the area and are not worth receiving any goodwill from us because they do not know how to acknowledge it? We always thought of them as the beggar in Ascher¶s essay who ³does not know that acceptance of the gift and gratitude are what make the transaction complete´ (47). Be it the case of routing relief funds for Tsunami or those building election campaigns based on terrorist attacks. Similar problem arises in certain situations. literally and figuratively.

even if it is something as tiny as making them a coffee! Thank yous make me feel awkward.their own vested interests.¶ then this beggar is the one who must get a few rupees from me.´ (48) she says. But I will not accept it if someone calls me selfless. My analysis of µreasons behind compassionate behaviour¶ comes from personal experience. that one smile can keep me going for the day. But yes. as I believe it is in my case. Is it fear. But their work is so purist that one should not be mentioned where µulterior motives¶ are being discussed. Why do I think that there always exist ulterior motives behind any act of compassion? I find this point of view more realistic because it lets us observe open-mindedly. torn clothes. Why . Buthumans want to believe that everyone around us is a saint. I understand that the interpretations are lop-sided. malnourished! What to do? If expression of compassion involves the tinge of the feeling of superiority in terms of µI have something. Something as harmless as µwanting to boost your ego¶ can be a subconscious trigger to compassionate behaviour. Then do I take efforts for someone who is not courteous enough to give me that smile? Am I really compassionate or only attention seeking? Is compassion always subjectobject specific? I see a beggar. Doing something for someone close makes me feel good. terribly bruised or disabled. This makes the µulterior motives¶ argument relatively less acceptable. forcing us to look deeper into the situation to be able to build a strong argument about µhow nothing is as smooth as it looks at the surface. And I know there are likes of Mother Teresa who devote their lives to selfless cause and I have utmost respect for them. more than you do.¶Barbara Ascher asks us what evokes compassion. pity? What really is empathy that we call it the mother of compassion? ³Compassion is learned by having adversity at our windows. I do not know what people think. do exist. I believe that I am compassionate. So yes. people who believe that compassionate behaviours stem from nothing but pure love. We should not always look at µulterior motives¶ as negative.

Ascher writes. . about one thousand odd people had to die.´ (47) Take the case of Virginia Woolf and her dying moth! Would all those thoughts about the moth have been evoked in the mind of the author if she had not seen the moth die. Like in the example of Barbara Ascher. there is one thing we must take into account. The helplessness can also be that of the subject. shelter whatsoever. Yes.do I make him go away?Are we simply seeking approval by being compassionate? If compassion is something essentially innate. bearing the dollar like a cross. What people did that day was in such a trance that we cannot generalise it. death is stronger than I am´ (451). to retain what no one else valued or desired to keep. Because there were people who had no food. Compassionate behaviours must be scrutinized for the motives behind them. But compassion can certainly make the journey to death better. the efforts of the rescue units or the compassion of those willing to help had to say. But day-to-day life in Mumbai is exactly as Barbara Ascher has portrayed it to be. against a power of such magnitude. Her primary instinct is to safeguard her baby. moved one strangely´ (450). All the forces of universe. ³The mother grows impatient and pushes the stroller before her. someone felt that they should be helping. do we really have conscious control over compassionate behaviour? One thinks. this gigantic effort on the part of an insignificant little moth. Would Woolf have written with such intense emotions had the moth survived? Is it that death evokes the maximum compassion in a human being? Compassion cannot save you from death. ³O yes. compassion arises out of helplessness. nothing can. the love of their relatives. die so helplessly? ³When there was nobody to care or to know. the mother who gives money to the beggar is more helpless than the beggar himself. Or we should say the perceived helplessness of the object. While thousands thanked their fellow citizens for saving them. Mumbai¶s floods were an extreme example.

Martin¶s. Death is not compassionate either. Barbara. the other is the world where we are not willing to venture. µThe Death of the Moth. Ed. Virginia. Works cited: Ascher. starts cleaning the floor. its embrace is the warmest and the most comfortable at that point. Samuel Cohen. µOn Compassion.¶ 50 Essays: A portable Anthology. I am willing to go out of my way to help an unknown lady in my train compartment. but wherever they might be drawn. But if you do believe in destiny and that µwhatever happens. One of our awareness and other is the one we try hard to be unaware of. Third edition. Samuel Cohen. Ed. our compassion does not reach beyond them. But when a small boy of 10 enters. Third edition. Boston: Bedford/St. knows you will resist thinking you can win the battle but if you accept its supremacy and surrender. Martin¶s. 45-49 Woolf. asks for money or food.¶50 Essays: A portable Anthology. unwanted. Boston: Bedford/St. it happens for a reason¶ then it is the most compassionate being.The city Barbara is talking about or that I hail from comprises of two worlds. irrespective of who she could be. is it? Look at it normally and it is evil. It seeks nothing in return. The boundaries of the first world differ for each one of us. 45-49 . The first is the world in which we are comfortable to manoeuvre. I just lift my legs. it knows its job well.

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