Friday, November 28, 2008

Compassion and the right to judge

I am woken up by a very plaintive but powerful cry from the street of a man seeking help about his son. I can't make out what he is saying. Appears to me to be something like police torture in connection with the Maoist attack on the Ministers' convoy in Midnapur. I come out on to the balcony. I see him. A poor man in a lungi. He has a small sheet of paper which he is profering to passers by who ignore him. It is a pathetic sight.

I go down to the street to see what the matter is. He is ahead of me. He has a quarter of a shirt on, that is the collar and the right half sleeve. Now I can hear him clearly. His son is sick and needs medicines which cost Rs. 370/-. He is squint eyed. I look at the paper. The prescription looks genuine. But his face gives him away. I ask him if he takes drugs. He is stunned. He seems not to understand. I ask him in Bengali, "Drugs? Do you take drugs? Medicines?"

"Yes. Medicines," he says.

I calmly tell him that what he is doing is not right and turn away. He becomes silent. That pathetic cry is stilled.

As I walk back I ask myself did I have any right to judge someone who was seeking help. Suppose he was really seeking help for his sick son? Suppose he becomes silent and goes away when he realises that people are taking him for a drug addict?

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