This is the response of a “public servant” when questioned about the inconvenience suffered by a differently abled person who struggles to commute between his work & home(source). Imagine waking up every morning with a prayer that you find a kind, helpful soul who gives you a hand to board the train, and another one who help you off it! One would think that the problem of another human being would trigger empathy and a will to help in others who are watching, but this does not happen. Lets tick off the most common responses:
- Of course (s)he can manage without my help, I wouldn’t want to offend him/her by even trying(or asking if they need my help).
- I don’t care, I am such a busy person. I need to check my phone for the next facebook update!
- Why doesn’t the government do something about this? I told you we should’ve voted for the other person!
Yeah, it is true that most disabled people would not need any sympathy. But a lot of times, they can use a helping hand. It will never, ever hurt to ask them if they need any help. Yet we are conditioned to not care. We are (almost) trained to look away and never meet the person in the eye. And this is true not only for helping someone who is differently abled. It is also true when we see that woman struggling with a kid and a very heavy bag of groceries that she’s trying to board the metro with. Our internal rationalization is along the lines of “if she couldn’t handle it, why did she go ahead and shop that much. Serves her right!”. Only the rarest of rare people would walk up and offer help.
It is also entirely possible that the offer for help is rejected with scorn and stern words, specially in India. This is because most people are afraid that those offering help will take advantage of them, and these fears are not entirely unfounded. Remember the fate of this, and this young girl who accepted help from strangers. But does this mean that as a society, we all go back in our shells.
What do you do if you witness a road accident, or come across someone lying injured on a road? Do you take them to the hospital, or just move along to avoid getting involved with police? In majority of cases, people choose option 2, and quietly move along. I’ve been the victim of a near-fatal accident, on a crossroad that had residential apartments and shops looking over it, and no one from those houses or shops picked my unconscious body from the road and took me to the hospital. It was a group of labourers who noticed me after 20 minutes, took me to a hospital and saved my life!
Yes, it is always a problem of one person. The one person who decides not to help. The one who turns their eyes away. Are you that one?