Monday, 11 May 2015

When the earth shook but time stood still...

There was a strange commotion about the place. Even before we approached the heart of the town, everybody seemed to be out on the streets. It could not merely be explained by the fact that it was a Saturday, in fact Saturday is not even weekend in this part of the world. Suddenly the vehicle stopped and the driver lurched out suspecting a puncture. It was then that the realization of an earthquake sunk in. It was then that the 'commotion' began to make sense. With a hectic schedule lined up for a long day ahead of us, there was little one could do except dismiss it as a minor aberration and go ahead with one's life as usual. Yet, there is always an unsettling feeling about the safety and security of our loved ones when we are far from them. The fact that we could not contact our families immediately afterward just reminded us of the similar need everybody must have felt at a juncture when the ground beneath our feet shakes and this time, quite literally!!

Alone in my room as we reached our destination, I began to ponder if the tremors we had dismissed as minor aberrations a little while earlier had indeed upset the happiness and lives of a chunk of humanity somewhere in a not so distant corner of the world. Before my thoughts could even find an expression, the aftershocks began. As the door swung like a pendulum, and the walls swayed, no uncertainty remained about the magnitude of the catastrophe unfolding somewhere in the neighbourhood. As we silently prayed for the lives and safety of our loved ones across the world, the news updates streaming in from the mobile apps, just served to lend credence to our worst nightmares. Not only had the upheaval affected millions nearby, but also where we were standing while reading these news, was dangerously close to the epicenter of the seismic shocks. 

Next couple of hours as we flitted in and out of meetings, a new realization began to dawn upon me. I could no longer content myself with the fact that everybody in immediate family and friends was safe and secure, rather being at the helm of affairs in an assignment which concerns young children, I was hoping and praying that none of our kids suffer in any manner. As it took time for my faculties to respond, we could only send directions across the State to relay any information of any damage whatsoever and put any rumors and misgivings to rest. Thankfully there wasn't much.

Despite all the damage and the losses that the quake brought in its wake, it was not what had hit me the most. What I saw over the course of the next 24 hours was far more devastating to me on a personal level. Not that anything is terribly wrong per se but just that while we rue about the lives that had been lost in the wake of a
disaster, how I wish we could develop the empathy to rue over the precious lives we are letting go of unknowingly and unhurriedly each day. As we make tall claims of being modern and civilized and enlightened, as we go about showcasing and marketing stories of our success and as we begin to believe in the truth of the stories scripted by us, we could not be more wrong. As one of my favorite authors Khaled Hosseini puts it, "Children aren't coloring books. You don't get to fill them with your favorite colors." Yet this is precisely what we have been doing all along. It is one thing to be apathetic but quite another to feel something for our own kids but not the same for others'. It was different earlier but now when I look at these angelic souls I see the face of my two year old in each one of them, as if asking me some questions with absolute faith and innocence. Much as I may wish, it is beyond my belief and power to answer all the questions they silently put forth or to even give them hope of a life that they are building dreams of. In moments such as these, I find myself and these little ones being stuck in a time warp. I shall never be able to find the courage to acknowledge that their lives will perhaps be no better or different from the lives of hardships that their parents have led and much as they may strive there will always be a huge chasm separating them from their 'truly blessed' counterparts in the gleaming metropolises. At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become. Whatever I may do, I can not help but say..

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.” 
― W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems

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