Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Diseased

Nothing aggravates me in a fine March morning, when the sky is blue, the Bohea steaming, and my general mood in the pink, like seeing a buffoon venditating its momentary physical discomfort on a popular virtual forum. Directly I catch sight of such lame “status messages” as down with flu or suffering from a stomach pain, and my morning bonhomie transmogrifies to a bitter sneer, and I catch the distinct aroma of a singeing disposition. On not less than six or seven occasions in the past couple of week have I been, unwillingly, the reader of the trivial physical discomforts of my virtual acquaintances. And on every occasion I have wondered how we are supposed to reciprocate to such consequential physical discomforts of our beloved web-pals? Are we supposed to cry, or better still, howl? Are we supposed to give them a hug, a kiss? And how such actions could prove to be efficacious in alleviating the pains of the subject is lost on me. I agree that the unwritten laws of the society entail us to show concern for the health and wellbeing of our brethren, but does that involve showing unneeded love on undeserved recipients. Why is it that a certain section of our educated, seemingly wise and extrovert population take it for granted that they are the cynosure of our eyes, our own Adam and Eve, our paradisiac fruit that need contact watching and attention? Why is it that within the confines of the bijou virtual compartments we maintain we cannot spend one happy day without being pestered by needless information? When a world is being wrecked by a war on despotism carried out in a community that lives with us in the same world that we inhabit, when people are still recovering from the throes of a devastating earthquake in a land that is linked to us by means of humanity, do the scattered cases of a homely viral fever, or a menstrual cramp, or, for that matter, a sudden change of mood, matter? What amazes me, even peeves me, is the way a section of our younger and even matured unit are blithely discarding the serious aspects of a worldly life for a homely self-centric one. If one keeps her eyes open one can catch the discrepancy in the points of view I am talking about: on one hand one will witness great democratic feelings unleashed in the social area that can crumble the ivory tower of a tyrant while on the other a carefree unconcern for anything except self. The attitude struck me square in the face when I disembarked at the Delhi airport and caught sight of the glammed up metropolitan city that I now call my home. The city of Gurgaon is one of the lushest cosmopolitan conurbations in India. It cups in its palm the most expensive restaurants, bar, fashion stores and its hip population. In many ways it is as snazzy as New York or Los Angeles, and the average cost of living, as you can guess, touches the zenith in the economic scale; yet, in this seemingly, well-maintained, well platted out, organized metropolitan hub, you will easily catch such diseases as child labor, abject poverty, chill penury. As soon as you cross the polished, glassy fa├žade of the skyscaperized city you will, if you have the eye, that is, catch the glimpses of pain and distress: children with perpetually hungry eyes specter thin in form looking for food; women, emaciated, bare-boned extending their hands in the hope of small charity; men, hollow, shadowy forms working under the beating sun to build brick by brick glass palaces to be inhabited by the fortunate ones. Who will listen to their disease; how shall you reciprocate to their pains? The whole city riding expensive cars and spending needless money on “imported” goods turns a blind eye to these agonies. They behave as if the less fortunate ones do not exist, they turn their gaze, and they close their hearts, deliberately. Let me share a small incident with you: a day or two after I relocated to India, my husband and I went for a snack. We had in our mind delicious Indian snacks available in a food stall near the guest house we had been staying at the time. As we enjoyed the hot treat a small girl dressed in an almost threadbare outfit and displaying an unbearable hungry countenance approached us. I asked her what she wanted to eat and she said she wanted a “samosa,” a deep fried Indian treat I am sure many of you are aware of. My husband took the girl to the shop and bought her a couple of samosas. She left the shop in quick steps carrying the bag of food. I stood in my place watching her moves: she reached a side street where her mother sat, placed the bag on her mother’s lap. She washed her hands at a washbasin adjacent to a temple that stood in the area, wiped them in the loose end of her mother’s saree, sat by her and began eating. I cannot tell you why, but the happiness I felt that day watching the child enjoy the little treat is greater than some recent great joys. I thanked God for bringing me to the spot that A.M., for allowing me to help the girl in our little way. At the same time, I couldn’t turn away from the fact that a portion of my fellow human beings, rich, well-fed, topped to the north in silk attire, is sick. Apathy is a disease that has marked them as her own, and they are unaware of it, or they simply do not care. Compared with the inconsequential, barely there diseases that wreck my virtual pals this disease of apathy is a grim discomfort that eats away the heart and kills the human spirit. This is a disease we need to be concerned about; this is an ailment that needs prompt attention, potent medicine and regular treatment.

                           Raise a voice and help stop child labor in India.