By Arati Nair:
When does an obituary transcend its role of merely notifying the public of a person’s demise? While scores of names are added under this column in newspapers every day, rarely does one elevate the death of an individual to the pinnacle of glory few mortals can aspire. Unlike brave-heart soldiers guarding our frontiers and duty-bound to lay down their lives for the country, a common man sacrificing himself for the sake of humanity is quite unusual.
The incident befitting such high praise took place in Kadalundi, a coastal village in Kozhikode district, Kerala. One morning, P. V. Abdurahman, a resident of the area and an Ideal Relief Wing volunteer, was returning home after the subh prayer at the local mosque. On walking past the railway platform, he heard the deafening whistle of the Mangalore-Kacheguda Express. However, what baffled Abdurahman and his companions was a man calmly crossing the tracks with scant regard for the fast-approaching train or its shrill horn. Several onlookers shouted at the oblivious fellow to stop. But Abdurahman knew that those calls were futile. The man, Raman, was a deaf vagabond who’d been making ends meet by doing odd jobs in Kadalundi. Uncaring of anything else, Abdurahman jumped down the tracks to push Raman aside. The story ends quite tragically with both men dead.
This news item, reported placidly in our mainstream media, is important on numerous counts. Sadly, it has gained regional publicity for all the wrong reasons. Some have lauded the courageous act of Abdurahman as a prime example of selfless sacrifice and benevolence. This group pales in comparison to another bigger section which eulogizes his actions as those of a proper Muslim. They are quick to label him a follower of ‘good’ or ‘true’ Islam. Perhaps his rescue attempt was not a spur of the moment act as initially perceived by the masses, but a calculated move, with roots in Islamic teachings.
What the proponents of this theory forget is the brotherhood that has always prevailed in Kozhikode, a melting pot of diverse religions and cultures. As the rhetoric surrounding radicalisation of Islam, alignment of the youth to the IS school of thought and communalisation by the right wing fringe elements gains fever pitch, the pseudo intellectuals are bound to overlook the founding feature common to all religions. Humanity. The fault lines of caste, race, and religion were all drawn up in the latter half of our chronological history. Even before Gods were created, human beings had evolved. The human nature to lookout for fellow beings was thought to have drowned in the deluge of theological confrontations.
The Kadalundi incident primarily underscores the prevalence of this fading brand of holiness that considers all human beings as equal. Abdurahman was scared for Raman’s life. He cared for a fellow human’s survival. He empathized with the deaf man’s predicament and tried to do the least he could to save him. He would not have stopped to evaluate the merits of saving Raman or mentally listed the pros and cons of helping a non-Muslim. The apologists who peddle the idea of religion dominating humane considerations must close down shop already.
With everything under the sun examined through the religious lens, we have done enough damage to our inherent sensibilities. Whether a Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Christian, black, brown, white or purple, we must appreciate Abdurahman’s dying act for what it truly was, an attempt at bravery and exceptional kindness. Let us save communal debates for occasions like Yoga Day, reinterpretation of history and cow slaughter. This man’s sacrifice eclipses all those paltry discussions. When an Abdurahman dies trying to save a Raman instead of shooting the titillating video of his death on WhatsApp, we can be rest assured that humanity still lives.