Wednesday, July 28, 2010

To Aid or not to Aid?

The latest kidnap-rape strategy that is making waves in Chennai is to get a small kid to wail in the road. The kid would then approach girls who appear to be travelling alone, and go, ‘Akka, akka, please help..’ They would have an address in hand; the address would be a house located only a street away. Out of sheer good will, the girl accompanies the kid to the doorstep, gets forcibly pulled inside and robbed/raped depending on the mood/taste of the creeps.
This bit of news was playing in my head when I got out of the train on my way back home, from work. Railway stations here are miserable places. You find all sorts of sick, old and homeless people in the railway station, because it offers them a free roof. It is such a crime to allow them shelter in a public space such as this because it gives one such a heart wrenching start to the day, every day!(“Why can’t the Government DO something??!!”) The other day I saw a drunk man roll down the stairs and drop down limp at the foot of the stair case, where his family was squatting. Everything went still, like for 2 seconds, then it was as if nothing happened. Trust me; you get to see all sorts of drama when you look close enough. I’ll save that for another post.
So yes, my mum had drilled it into my head- No talking to strange people, run away from kids asking you for help, never trust an unknown face, etc. As I walk out, there is this family- one boy and his mum, who is holding a baby. They are dressed in rags and it is drizzling. Everybody is rushing home to escape the torrent; and the boy is crying loudly- ‘Koi Hindi jaante hai? Please Koi Hindi jaante hai?’(Anybody follows Hindi here? Please, does anybody follow Hindi here?) I know Hindi well enough; I know I sure could help that family. They were just asking for help. Alone in a land that spoke an alien tongue, swarming with dark, mean, alien people. For a second I put myself in that little boy’s shoes and felt so sad for him, I started walking towards him.
Then I hear my mum’s voice go, ‘DON’T!!!’ I know it was foolish, I know it was baseless fear. But-What if it was otherwise? I do have a heart; I just don’t want it to stop functioning because of some avoidable error.
For a second that boy’s eyes found mine, and then I forced myself to look away and moved on. Only that it has been troubling me ever since.
Damn those creeps.
Then I happened to read something related to this, by Malcom Gladwell. I highly recommend his books, by the way. So he says there was this murder that happened somewhere in the US of A. A woman was chased and attacked thrice in an alley, over a span of 20 minutes, with 38 families watching from their windows. But not one soul dialed the police. Why?
A few researchers studied this, and found out that that murdered lady’s mistake was running into an alley that had 38 families. Because everybody believes somebody else will do it, and of course, nobody does. Had she run into an alley way that had just one family, she might have survived that attempt on her life. They even give it a name: ‘Diffused Responsibility’ The larger the number of people in the vicinity, the higher the diffusion. Call it whatever, it sure IS a mean mean world out there. You get screwed for helping people. You feel shitty for having not helped people. And worst of all; when you need help, most of the world runs away from you.
But I said ‘most’ of the world. There is one small percentage, of nice people in the world. That small percentage will always exist, no matter how what. That small percentage that EVER stays back to help you; those are the nice souls that exist, and will always exist. There may be creeps like the evil-rapists, but the world goes round because of people like these. Let the police force work about throwing the creeps in. You and I can work to making it a better place for the rest of the world. Like they say, angels are everywhere; you just need to find them. And try to be one of them.


Sandhya said...

Macha! heart wrenching stuff di.. Why did you have to post this ? :( you know what? we people can do lots, and we'll never do it because we've been brought up that way.. its silly and stupid, and somehow we can do nothing about it.. The tipping point will be there around the corner, and I guess we have to wait until then..

Soumya said...

Well not much difference between Chennai and Bangalore I reckon!

Oh trust me, at times its foolish to feel bad for someone.. That's the only emotion that can be manipulated to the max!!


Yeah, it’s something you often see daily. Sometimes when I board a Bus, there will be a women and her two children distributing Pamphlets saying, they are from North, they don't know Tamil and asks the people sitting in the bus to help financially... etc etc... You know what, I was in a nearby shop few days after this, buying some stuff, the same people who gave the pamphlet were talking Tamil, shelling out money. That’s one of the examples explaining the reality of the situation. "To Aid or Not to Aid ?"
And Yeah, this 'diffused responsibility' is something we see often. I am not saying we mustn't go out and help. But rather be cautious in what we do.

P.S : - You don’t go looking for Malcolm Gladwell to explain this. It’s the bystander effect or the social loafing which we studied :-P :-D

Amateur Expert said...

Diffused responsibility..hmmm
Well, like you said, either ways you get in unfavorable situations. Either cornered by guilt, or other kind of unwanted attention for having helped.

Nice post though!

the world is not enough said...

Whoa. Kinda scary but informative.

Amey Mahant said...

This is the reality,Gitanjali.

There's this breed of ppl creating a bad impression and stopping to-be Angels like us from executing ;-)

A similar incidence happened with me at Bangalore when a couple of ppl were asking for someone who can speak Marathi. I gave them some money after having a discussion. But,to my surprise,I found some of them again,asking for someone-who-cud-speak-Marathi the other Day...

So, Beware before you help...This might be the upcoming Racket... :-)