Thursday, 17 April 2014

Compassion, the most banned emotion


Looking at the visuals of political leaders talking inanities non stop , I have realized that the human emotion most frequently withheld is not sex, but compassion . To feel so deeply moved by the grief and suffering of other humans that in trying to ameliorate their pain , one has to letsgo of one’s own immediate interests and offers a frank apology for all misdeeds committed against humanity. Years ago I remember a village Jagariya ( a Dalit priest who calls out to lost spirits and alienated gods in a ritual of expiation for collective sins causing all kinds of unforetold disasters) in Uttarakhand opening the haunting ritual with a song of apology : Kariye Chhima mero Kariyo nee Kariyo , Kayiyo nee kayiyo parabhu !  (forgive the wrongs I may have committed and those I may no have, the hurt I may have caused by saying or by withholding words!) . Offerimng such an apology is impossible for our leaders today . Perhaps they feel that in making it they would be risking a loss of their vote banks and turn into a wandering saint with no known caste, political or Party affiliations .

Never mind what we may say about Indians being different from other ‘cruel’ races , the 2014 election reveal that in our daily lives we are no different . Our known electoral history is replete with examples where various sorts of  philosophical and societal taboos have held compassion firmly in check, so that members of various tribes , citizens of particular republics or followers of certain sects , may not lose sight of the worldly ties that create families , sectarian groups and , last but not the least ,  the Nation State . Naturally as the heat builds up during the elections and speeches become more and more shrill, the quality of Compassion will be the first casualty.

Thousands of years ago ,  Vaivaswat Manu created the Four castes in descending order of importance . He took care to draw a series of circles of compassion of diminishing intensity, around individuals . The circles ensured that one must love one’s parents most warmly ( Pitri Devo bhav! Matri Devo Bhav!), then one’s family and then others belonging to the caste and clan . After the formation of India’s democracy respect and loyalty for the nation State comes first we are told . ‘Pehley Desh, phir parivar ‘, thunders a popular leader . What of those that stand outside the pale of the System as minorities ? Silence .

As usual, women, those givers of life and frequent teachers of compassion, pose a problem . The various male lawgivers agree that as producers and nurturers of human beings women must be accorded the deepest respect , but under a law based largely on a  male epistemological stance, laws for marriage, inheritance and sexual relations, see to it that by and large women and transgenders are treated as second in importance to men . To protect self interest and the interests that form and guide the formation of families , clans , civilizations and the Nation State based on male centric laws, our present day political parties also create vast backlashes to ensure that compassion and self denial are not allowed to overwhelm the system . Atavistic loyalties to clan , caste , political party and region must be maintained under all regimes, when considering cases of women deprived of their domestic and democratic rights . Sectarian discipline and market structures help sustain this mindset .

It is the Mothers , the singing Jagariyas and the artists , those sad clowns of history with painted smiles , who maintain memories of the quality of mercy that raineth from heaven and underscore again and again, the need for compassion . Remember the Iranian mother who saved her son’s murderer by substituting revenge killing with a mother’s slap .




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