No value for human life: How I prepared myself to be a thick-skinned Indian citizen! June 24, 2012

The anger at the death of little Mahi (whose lifeless body was rescued from the borewell she fell into 85 hours after she went missing!) across social media is genuine. The anger is, of course, directed at those who let such things happen, but even more so, it is directed at us. At the public memory of Indian newspaper readers and news channel watchers, who have gotten so used to stories of pointless death that we scarcely bat an eyelid anymore!

I always remember it being like this, though. When we were little (I was 8, same as Udai is now) and Indira Gandhi died, I was actually amazed to see so many people crying because someone on TV had died! I simply could not understand it. There were people dying in newspapers and TV all the time. Why did some people get tears and others shrugs? To my eyes at the time, many of the people shot by militants in Punjab or dying in train accidents seemed more like us. People with kids, who went to offices, carried tiffin boxes, wore nondescript check shirts and brown/grey trousers or bleached fading cotton saris. And so their dying seemed somehow to talk about the vulnerability of us. I once dreamt that my parents held hands and jumped off the Worli seaface into the sea…..perhaps a fallout of all the violence, distant and yet surrounding me.

Later, as a teenager in Lucknow, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I clearly remember a few of us took responsibility of a small pinboard in the faculty club, our venue for evenings full on table tennis, carrom and gossip! That pinboard became our canvas for expressing our feelings. We put up a daily tally of lives lost in the J&K insurgency. For months, those figures leapt at us everyday. I don’t remember the reactions of the adults round us, but our group of kids was very much affected by the sheer number of innocents losing their lives to a cause they didn’t perhaps understand or subscribe to fully.

Even then, we were steeling ourselves to become adult Indian citizens. Part of that preparation was developing a thick skin about death, killing the tears before they sprang to the eyes, stopping yourself from caring too much, convincing yourself that there is precious little you can do, so its best to get on with life and not think about the negatives.

It’s not easy to really be like that though. Many of us still get seriously disturbed by death that could be avoided if we were more careful, more sensitive, better organized, more prepared. And while I try and fight the feeling of total helplessness, I rack my brains to think about what I can possible do to change this, the deaths themselves and certainly, the apathy!

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on June 24, 2012, in Personal and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You know, the saddest thing is that apathy develops not just because of the frequency of such deaths. It often is because there is no visible retribution. When you invest emotionally into something, you want it to reach a desired conclusion. Most of the times that doesn’t happen. I was reading that after that first borewell incident in 2006 (Prince), there was another in 2008, then another in 2011. Nowhere do we hear about who was charged with criminal negligence. How long was he sent to jail for? Forget about the borewell incidents, something as visible as the Uphar tragedy has no one really paying for the crimes they committed.
    The other problem with apathy is that it is a slippery thing. You can pinpoint hatred and isolate it, if not finish it. Apathy–when does it go from being just a numbness to something that is capable of criminal neglect. Today I pass by someone who is hurt on the road, tomorrow I won’t care if I hit and run myself. I don’t hate that person, I didn’t deliberately hit him or her. I just don’t care.
    And this is just sad.

  2. I feel we should also look at ourselves,people ride 2 Wheelers on the Road/Highways without wearing a Helmet.How many people who drive cars,even fancy ones, wear a Seat Belt,let alone allow their kids to sit in front seat.Lots of times you see them standing,No wonder we have the highest nos of deaths on Road in the world,and we continue to stay that way.

    • I agree. We need more awareness and better implementation of safety laws. As always citizens are as much to blame, but it’s the matter of fact attitude that we all wear as a protective skin that bothers me. We must feel bad, feel angry in order to become part of social change

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