Where Does The Empathy Go?

Bicycle with watermelon looking tires

Photograph by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Sadoo and Pareshaan In The Hospital Admin Office đź”—

I waited in the cue to get discharge papers at the hospital. The office had two people sitting and working seriously. One of them, let's call him Sadoo – the one in a suit – visibly the one working there for longer, looked particularly indifferent, no emotions on his face, except a slight hint of sanctimonious. The other one, let's call him Pareshaan, a recent joiner, kept coming to Sadoo to ask questions. The questions pertained to things he didn't yet know about – a fairly regular practice for new joiners to take help. Pareshaan was helping a patient's custodian fill formalities, take advance and get them admitted. Pareshaan came over to Sadoo for a third time to ask if he could go to have lunch. Sadoo asked if he was on the 11am shift. Pareshaan said yes. Sadoo said that 11am shift people werent't allowed to have lunch at 2pm, because it's a peak hour. He asked him to go later to have some snacks.

There's no one else here with us ( pointing to the third empty chair in the office ). If you go, how will I do all the work?

Out of my attention span and sight, Pareshaan might have asked the same question and shared the dilemma with their supervisor/boss, because she came over. She confronted Sadoo directly

Did you say that Pareshaan wasn't allowed to have lunch?

Sadoo fumbled, taken back suddenly. He defended that he didn't say it like that, that he meant that there wasn't a third person in the office to keep up with the load. The boss woman called the third person and asked if he'd had his lunch

If you've done your lunch, come back na quickly! What are you waiting for? You've been gone a while now!

She asked Parsehaan to have lunch as soon as the third person came back. As soon as the boss left, Sadoo, angry and irritated, stopped what he was doing, craned his neck to his side to confront Pareshaan and bellowed,

Why did you say to her that I told you not to have lunch? Did I say so?

Pareshaan, not sure how to answer back –  since Sadoo had told him exactly that at first ( he had used the word not allowed ) – played a genuine victim card

I don't know what politics is going on at this place, I've just joined and two complaints have been filed against me already.

Sadoo muttered some more words of warning, contempt, displeasure and ridicule and went back to working with the rest of us waiting for him. He worked with dissonance and disinterest but with the focus and attention of an eagle. He complained to a woman who just entered then, that 8k from his salary had been deducted because of an error. The woman – responsible for taking patients to their beds after formalities – asked him to get in touch with the IT department to get it fixed. His reply was a vague combination of lack of intention, will and denial.

Now what can they even do?

Duh! But on second thought, perhaps he was shaken by the way he had acted and how he had been suddenly taken by surprise.

But I wonder how this would have turned if he had acted with a little empathy, putting himself in the new joinee's shoes, which I'm sure he was too at some point in time.

All I Want To Say Is That They Don't Really Care About Us đź”—

About a year ago, I was thrown into a difficult situation. A colleague had repressed emotions ( as diagnosed later ) and snapped in an unrelated urgent office meeting. He didn't seem to be himself, kept mumbling absurd, irrational thoughts of grandiosity, walking nonstop, taking cold water baths, wandering around the complex without warning and locking himself up. The best guess seemed to be that he was high on a potent drug. Having waited enough, after two difficult nights, and finding out that Manipal Hospital didn't have a single person in the psychiatry department, the good psychiatrists diagnosed him as having had a severe manic attack episode, which lasted 4 days. He had to be kept under heavy sedatives.

I informed a senior colleague of what was up. When he talked to one of the executives, his response to the situation was to leave it be. Both he and I were shocked, to say the least. Frustrated, headache throbbing, when I called my mom at the end of it all to hear her voice and feel a little better, she consoled me, but also corrected me to feel proud that it all fell for me to handle, that I could be helpful. That instantly shattered the ego-backed pride of my actions and humbled and grounded me.

Meanwhile, I often think about that person who outright rejected to act and ordered to let it be. I didn't know an employer could be so fearful and afraid. It seemed like they were indifferent, but I think they were mostly afraid, to not have anything to do with something potentially dangerous – with a person's life at stake.

War And The Notion Of Purity đź”—

With Israel going ballistic on Palestine, my wonder has reached exhaustion. I think of all the kind people around me, the ones who sometimes find it hard to even stand up for themselves with required borrowed aggression. I draw a mental range of everything that would need stripping and brainwashing for them to act worse than animals, without even any personal vendetta, to abolish lives because they fancy it. I can't imagine that dystopian world where a technology like this exists, not because it might not be possible, but because somehow, somewhere, the blatantly nonsensical ideas of what it takes to become the right kind of an ideal human being—as if humans were a combination of different species fighting for survival—are being successfully passed to the new generations, who are already gullible to believe anything anyone says, with a cause and a voice, not having the self-awareness to be able to stop, think and ask. Without the ability of even a semblance of self-inquiry, they are up on a long road to stress that will (hopefully) catch their lost conscience and pluck it out. But it'll be too late still.

Hmm… 🔗

I think of all the times when I didn't have empathy. It never lasted long because a grip of guilt would hold me accountable and I'd apologize and improve. It's difficult sometimes when everything at that point in time is acting against your ability to stop and put yourself in the other person's shoes, and ask a simple question: "What if I was in their place?" The philosophical, angsty, helpless reality of nonanswerable questions like, 'Why did I take birth in this particular family, with these privileges, and why did they not?' aids empathy. It could have been me coupled with the hard-hitting fact—that we are all going to die— that we subtly push aside successfully daily—blossom the need to have empathy as a basic human principle, not as an exclusion of an add-on.

We've all, I'm sure, have people around us whose reasons are dogmas put down our throats and called right. Their way of validation is asking similar people around, if they are right or not, or if they have unchecked power, force us to believe. With the boundaries of race and religion, even if someone had to submit to live in democratic regimes run by authoritarians, they don't have any option but to suffer, one way or the other. What could one possibly say to people like these? The time when they could be educated is gone. Our only hope is that law brings them to justice. But when the law protectors let violence slip by, or worse, order it, what option is there but to go to extreme measures to—in case of religion—try to go out of the country, or convert like A did in In Rheea Mukherjee's The Girl Who Kept Falling In Love. With race, it's a lost cause. One can't change the lineage they are born in of course. What do a person do then? I've been following Rheea's relentless efforts to ask people to not stay silent. Reading her book made me uncomfortable because I've always been silent. But seeing what is happening in Gaza and things around me regularly, I couldn't. I had to write something, even if it might not make any difference. A start.

I hope and pray that the people who are given reigns of power to act brutally without reason get punished, if not sooner by the law then later, if not by the law then by the power of people protesting, with perpetrators' minds catching up to the time when they finally come back to be included in the human species as adults.