Malati, our maid, told a strange story that morning. How the Ganges rose, and the fishes'd been swept up the drains, how the local boys caught them by the dozens and feasted with crisp mach bhaja, she went on.. Must be a minor quake, I muttered to myself as her shrill voice hurt my sleep groggy morning ears. Later I came to know that on this ocassion, Malati had not exaggerated. It was the Tsunamis.. and the devastation it left in its wake was significant. The drama however remained tuned off of my conciousness. The news made no real connection to my heart. In my life, it was another of those last few days of my holiday in India with too many things to do.... We came back to the US and some time later I went through a different disaster - hurricane Katrina. I drove down to work every morning listening to stories of lost homes, loots, displaced children... The stories were horrible and I felt sad for the victims. I donated money to the charity drive organized and I wished I could do something more. Suddenly I begun to wonder... What could I do ? Wondered whether this desire to do something was real at all, whether my sympathies were in fact a perverse expression of a kind of Carthusian pleasure. I wondered how I'd got left behind on that other ocassion when India had faced similar and if tragedies can be compared at all, far worse tragedies not so long ago..
This is what I realized: I, am a prime example of irresponsible reactions that one keeps making these days to different things around us that should have required us to respond more sincerely. I hear the news, not the stories.. words come crashing around me like so many meaningless waves making noise, but leave me unmoved.. I am too lazy to pick those pieces of human emotion and pain that that I hear about and give them place in my heart. I let the media instead mediate, manipulate my feelings, put words in my mouth. So that I am saddenned by a "well told" story of woe... I live by their pointers on who is the more deserving of my sympathies, and get "educated" on who's loss is the greater.. immunune to miseries that does not concern my immediate life with a diminished perception of loss and sorrow as impersonal figures and statistics.. offering up perhaps an automatic tchh tchh.. even hastily made donations to escape further responsibility. No real feelings spared and quickly forgotten in the flurry of the more immediate demands of what pertains to my own life alone..