Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Charity begins at home - Compassionate Fatigue


An NGO worker used the words "compassionate fatigue" the other day. I am still coming to grips with the term. Last few days in Kolkata is giving me a real understanding of it. There is so much imbalance in the world that looking at it gives as vertigo, so we would rather look away. We slowly step away from the cliff and look up towards those who seem better off (left side), so that we don't have to look down the cliff into the abyss (right side).
Kolkata is the city of my birth, visiting it after living in Australia for the last 10 years is giving me real perspective on the systems of the world. So much is determined by causality or what I call the "Luck of birth". No wonder many Asian cultures obsess over astrology and the alignment of the planets at the moment of birth. In reality a new mother needs to do no more than look around the place they have given birth and the epoch of history to get an appreciation for what her child's life is likely to be like. The bastis (slums) are next door to new apartment blocks made of steel and concrete, commodities for which the modern Indian gods (Cricket players and Movie stars) act as posterboys. A child born in Kolkata today can choose to be a base jumper or a climber, of real building or of the social pyramid scheme.
Yesterday was Valentine's day, St. Valentine has finally made his way to Kolkata from Rome. Couples were sitting in the garden outside Dakshineswar (God of South) Temple. Exchanging sweet nothings, plotting the continued exponential growth of the Indian population, perpetuating the pyramid scheme of the world by building more bricks at the base of the pyramid. May be one of those bricks will grow a few wheels or sprout wings and hop off to the top tiers of the pyramid, if only to act as a sentry to block any other bricks trying to work their way up.
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