Thursday, 15 October 2009

Floods in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh

" The waters rose by a foot every five minutes and reached the third storey of buildings!" That is what the man said. And he also said " In last twenty years, the forests have disappeared, and with it the root systems that act as sponges to trap the water and pull it in" - and so the story goes, on and on, the history repeating itself consistently and more frequently with passing time

Losses, in terms of human lives, have been staggering, displacements - colossal, loss of livelihood, habitats, environment - enormous and mostly irreversible. None of this is unusual for India. Nor is the massive show of solidarity, support and the outpourings of sympathy for victims of natural disasters, such as this one, from people across nation.

The question to ask is, what would we do, as a nation, people, to ensure that such large scale disasters do not continue to be a part of our future? What would we go without, what aspects of our priorities would we change, to not have this happen, again and again? Will we not fell down our forests? not dam our rivers? not level our mountains or empty our mangroves? What would we not do - to avoid this fate on ourselves, and our fellow country people??

The most honest answer, it seems to me, is 'nothing' - we would not fore go any of our destructive practices, neither because these practices are wrong, nor because they pose a very real physical threat contributing directly to potential disasters, by removing safety valves that are naturally built into natural systems. By acts of deliberate human interference, we are in fact inducing man made calamities to befall us - naturally. And we do this, to be more developed, more progressed, more consuming...we sacrifice our land, water, forests, mountains, air, to have more - roads, malls, super deluxe colonies; more wealth, more cars, more possessions, more power, more comfort. We are becoming a nation of immoderate consumers ready to sacrifice a lot at the alter of Lakshmi. And then when the nature reacts, rebels, floods, fires, cracks its belly, we cry, shout, shame on nature - and then continue - as before.

And He Stands No Chance...

My friend sat beside me - we were finally speeding on a lonely highway taking us well outside the city limits. I hold my friend in respect, in very good regard, and admire him for certain qualities that he would never suspect. Anyway, as usual, the topic turned to children, parental expectations, children's dreams. Then my friend turned to me with a smile, and very sad eyes, and said " My son is a failure" - I could'nt believe I heard him right - and I still have not recovered from the impact of his words. How can one's child be a failure? What does that mean? What does it mean to say any human being is a failure? Two responses are immediately possible to counter this viewpoint. One, the presumption of defining success and failure can be questioned. Secondly, if one is sure of this, then, isn't it the parents who have failed??and the society? How can a child of fifteen or sixteen already be a failure. Moreover, does the child stand a chance? Doesn't a harsh parental judgment, brand him - for life? Who will tell the child " Dream, my son. Dream, and thou shalt fulfill"

A Quarter Century Later

Twenty Five years ago, the world changed for people of Bhopal. Million, trillion, gazillion words, memories, tears later, Bhopal is still attempting to recover from the worst chemical disaster recorded in human history.

I have evaded Bhopal till now - avoided reading more than the inescapable, feeling more than absolutely necessary, and reacting - not at all. Bhopal has been an unbearable reality that I preferred not to wake up to - for all these long twenty five years.

Next week I go to Bhopal - I go with my heart in a cracked crucible, my mind preparing excuses, my feet running fast and away - far away from Bhopal. Yet, I go to Bhopal, because I must - I need to confront Bhopal, bear the pain it will inflict, grow and forever be changed - I need to put myself through the fire that is Bhopal, burn in it, metamorphose to one that will no longer be a mute witness to other Bhopals that are being planned, dragged to alters of development and progress, blindfolded, lips taped, limbs tied; I will no longer avoid gaze, even in photographs, of children blind, deformed, born after the disaster; I will finally wipe clean the guilty haze that clouded my vision, free myself of personal shame that stopped me from ringing out a clear call to wake everyone " We will not let this happen again!"