Are we losing our humanity?

The day was hot and the city was gasping for breath, even as the pollution levels touched a new high. As people went about their daily grind there was evident a certain lethargy that arose from the stifling conditions. As I walked down the street I saw a crowd of people near the sidewalk. As I slowed down I could hear a low keening sound that signaled acute distress.

When I peered through the crowd, I saw a heavily pregnant woman, lying prone on the pavement holding her swollen belly. The keening sound was coming from her! The twenty odd people who were standing around her were curiously staring at her, but no one seemed keen to help.

Even as I was taking in the scene, a 15-16 year old girl in a school uniform stepped up and held her water bottle to the woman’s lips. A few sips later, she recovered a bit. As I moved closer to the woman and crouched down to her level, the young girl asked in a loud voice, ‘Is anyone else going to help? If not please move away and let her breathe.’

At her loud admonition the crowd sidled away, no one taking the trouble of asking how they could help. The young girl whipped out her cell phone and called her mother to inform her that she would be late. She immediately asked me to cradle the woman’s head and feed her sips of cold water from her bottle. Flagging down an unwilling taxi with the help of the traffic police, she helped the now moaning woman into the cab.

I was dazedly doing as she instructed, and followed her instructions unquestioningly. As we settled into the cab, me in the back seat with the pregnant lady and the child at the front, the young girl said,” ma’am, what happened? How are you walking on the streets in this condition in the heat?”

“My elder child is unwell and at home with her grandmother. I had stepped out to buy some medicine. I still have two weeks to go, someone pushed me and I fell!’ I was outraged at the callousness of the person who could jostle a pregnant woman just to get somewhere a couple of minutes early. The cab driver had now got into the good citizen mode after the initial unwillingness and sped down the alleyways towards the hospital.

The hospital authorities needed a little coaxing to admit the lady but the strident appeal by the girl forced them to admit the lady in the emergency ward. We took the lady’s phone number and address and called her mother-in-law. She was a little panicked by this time. The girl encouraged her to come to the hospital with the other child. Once the older lady reached the hospital, the girl made her comfortable and got her a bottle of water. Once the situation was stable, she picked up her bag and started leaving.

I too left with her, thoroughly impressed with the fortitude and sensibility of the girl. Once outside the hospital I could not resist complimenting her on her cool head and empathy. Her reply was startling. She recounted how her father had suffered a stroke and was lying on the street for an hour before someone bothered to take him to the hospital. The damage was irreparable, and was totally bedridden. Her mother was the sole bread winner of the family and she herself gave tuitions to young children to help keep the family afloat. It was this experience that had had made her vow to herself that she would always stop to help a person in need.

The young indomitable spirit taught me a lesson. Today I am a part of a NGO that helps people who need medical care but have no helper. Thanks to that young girl, my life has found a new purpose.