I genuinely think of myself as compassionate. And it is not restricted to humans. I tend to feel for all the living beings including vegetation. However living in increasingly cunning & fast paced world can have subtle effects on most quiescent being. Bombarded with increasing number of stories about people faking the misery & exploiting the generosity of others, one tends to be cautious; if not downright apathetic.
As for me, I have also become more cautious and cunning while showing any generosity, if at all. Nowadays I tend to examine the subject from various angles to make sure that it is not being exploited. And usually- it is too late by then to be able to do anything. Such a incident happened with me a few days ago which jolted me out of my slumber to clearly see how this is not the best of policies.
I was travelling by train in a general compartment. This was after a very long time that I was travelling unreserved. I enjoy doing such a travel once in a while. Such a bogey tends to contain people from all the cross sections of society and hence usually enriches you with experience and give you humility. It was a very hot summer day in north India. There was this one gentleman sitting in the seat opposite to me who appeared to be in his early forties. He was well built and appeared thirsty at the time when I noticed him. He was making some attempts to get water but all the while sitting in his berth. At the next stop, he asked a person who was deboarding, to send some water volunteers towards our bogey (each train station usually have some water volunteers during summer days who distribute water to the travelers. It is a usual practice in North India and is considered noblest of service). However no volunteer could make it as far as our bogey was the last one of the train. Volunteers are usually not as many to be able to cater to each bogey. They also try to hand out the water glasses from the windows, as the train slowly starts leaving the platform. People can grab the glass, drink it and then throw it back to the platform anywhere, which is then picked and reused.
This person also tried to grab these glass but could not due to the speed of the train. I was watching this scenario and was feeling for this person. I was having a bottle of water with me which I wanted to share with him. But then at this time, two thoughts held me back 1) why did he not try to go out and drink it from the station. he appeared to be fit enough to do some running, which could be required. 2) I had some cough and was drinking directly from the bottle, hence there was minor risk of infection to him. Although second reason appears more genuine at this time but the real reason which held me back then was the first one.
For significant time, I keep having this arguments back and forth in mind and felt very uneasy. I did NOT proceed to give him the water. After a few minutes, I looked in that direction and saw that another young fellow, who had also witnessed the plight of the man, had offered him water from his bottle. This filled me with relaxation and guilt at the same.
The man drank a little, felt relaxed and then started having conversation with this young fellow - 'Thank you. But if I drink your water, what would you do?' 'Dont worry, I will manage' said the young fellow. The man drank some more water and explained 'I am coming back from the metropolis after taking an injection for stroke'. So THIS was the reason he could not do the athletics required for drinking water from the station during the short time train stops.
At this point the lesson dawned upon me 'We can never judge the battle each person is fighting. Hence it is better to give a benefit of doubt while helping anyone in need. It is always better to help even if you run the risk of being exploited'.
This is a very valuable lesson. I will remember it preciously from now on & would recommend it to everyone. It would surely make this world a little better.