Saturday, December 6, 2008

The latest chai- time discussion

Maybe it’s law school that did it to me. After all, here you get to know of so many ‘wrongs ‘ in the world around, that the ‘right’ stops making sense after a point. Or maybe I was born with it, an inherent irresponsible part of me I pointedly kept overlooking over the years. But yes, I realize, with a touch of sadness (or bitterness, perhaps?) that all the blood and gore, all the terrorism brouhaha, have left me unmoved at a sentimental level. Impervious to all the bloodshed and tears that have left the country reeling in its wake, I have no feeling, nor much sympathy for those who died. It’s not that I don’t lament ( the fact that I invariably forgot to wear white on 1st December doesn’t count coz only my absentmindedness accounts for that). But at some level, I’ve become numb, my emotional system now exists purely for the purpose of being affected by me, myself and people who I am acquainted with. A handful, almost. But then, isn’t being selfish what this new age world order is all about? Isn’t unbridled capitalism (personified by Donald Trump, United States of America and Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead) the whole point of life today? Why, despite this commonly known and accepted axiomatic truth, do they still expect you to be affected by people you don’t know, have never met and never going to become chummy pals with? And besides, how much of 'bad" stuff can you take, and how "bad" can you keep feeling? I have now got into the practice of digesting every news of atrocity, terrorism or otherwise, with my morning toast, carrying no baggage with me to college. I dutifully stood up in class with the others when it came to observing a moment’s silence for all the who perished in the Mumbai blasts, but my thoughts went in this vein : “ Joy Bhogoban, Joy Bhogoban, Joy Bhogoban.” Don't laugh. No, seriously. This is my standard opening and closing line during prayer, having to choose among the multiple Hindu Gods and Goddesses, I did not want to rouse the ire of any and hence appease them all by addressing my prayers to a common denominator – bhogoban. Had this brainwave way back in early primary school and now it’s become part of a rustic ritual. But lets not digress. Thoughts continued: “I hope the souls of all the departed rest in peace. May their survivors of the Bombay blasts soon find their way back into normalcy. Have I enough balance to wish Happy Birthday to Subarna in Mumbai or should I get a recharge?” That’s just what I mean. The shallow, cold blooded indifference to it all makes me cringe in self loathing. I know one emotion that has come to the surface in the midst of all this, though. It is anger… raw, unadulterated. Anger at a system which acknowledges, mourns, forgets, moves on. But never, never, stands up and fight. Anger at a nation that is always terrorized, and never terrifies. Anger at a society which after being hit by terrorists 12 times in this very year, still needs Mumbai as its wake-up call. Anger at a government to which a nuclear energy deal is usually more important than its country's sovereignty. Anger at a not-so-distant country which clearly hasn't heard the adage "Love thy neighbor." The latest chai-time discussion topic shall soon be replaced by another, at the onset of the finals of Indian Idol 4, or when Amitabh Bacchan goes to Leelavati hospital for the umpteenth time. Until the next time terror strikes. I look on at the candlelight show of empathy, bemused. I know that it stems from a moral duty, an obligation to feel, rather than the actual feeling. I know all we care about is our own thick skins, and wonder if we are next in line.

In the end, I sigh inwardly in relief and am thankful to be living in Calcutta. After all, as everyone knows, an assumption that has so far proved accurate, this is the breathing, breeding space of terrorists and so they wont attack here. And so, my family shall survive. And that is the thing I care most about.