By Amreeta Das:
Yes, it is dark. It is fatal. We have to put up a hard fight to lead a normal life and enjoy our freedom in an environment often contorted by meaningless violence and hostility. We have an election which is reduced to a mere display of voter cards and queuing voters suffering 43 degrees Celsius with the real election neatly conducted by invisible voters ‘beeping’ inside booths after polling hours. We have bloody roads, opened skulls, raped bodies. We have men teaching doctrines of ‘decency’ to a free individual for smoking on the road because she is a girl and that too, a girl in shorts. Doctrines of the vilest kind, sanctioned by self-proclaimed leaders and moral police are being preached everywhere. It is frightening and nerve shattering. The sky is overcast. Apocalypse is at hand.
It is strangely coincidental that moments after I read the report on the Presidency College student’s courage to stand up to some patriarchal people against the harassment she was being subjected to, my telephone rang. Apparently, there is no perceivable connection between these two contextually disparate incidents. But both are linked through an honest commitment to a righteous life.
When I lost my phone, I naturally gave up all hope of ever getting it back, convinced that even if someone finds it, the possibility of getting it back was dim. Yet, contrary to this ‘natural’ line of negative thoughts, I got it back. An unknown voice rang me up. In three more successive calls, I realised that I was going to get back my phone that I had lost the previous day. I had accidentally dropped it in front of my flat and when I came back to look for it after quite some time had passed, it was gone.
The man who gave it back to me is the driver of a gentleman who lives on the second floor of my building. He performed the most simple and yet the most difficult act. He proved his human worth. He could have decided to not pick the phone up and let it be crushed by some car. But he chose to take the trouble to return it. It was a choice which altered little, but important, things.
I didn’t have enough words to thank him. He quickly left on his motorcycle. In fact, I couldn’t hide my blush at shamelessly fumbling the ‘oshesh dhonnyobaad’ (Thank you very much). It seemed strangely inadequate. Yet, language offers us only this much. And it reinforced my belief that perhaps, the root cause of this mounting horror and barbarity lies in our inability to simply be human; to obtain that essential consciousness that differentiates us from ‘beasts’.
It is alright to err and slip. But to do good to ourselves, we need to reach out with this gesture of being simply human. To rectify, examine, recognise our errors and lead a life that involves questioning what we are and who we are. And we do this for ourselves.
Hope is struggling against this overpowering darkness. Hope in the form of students relentlessly struggling to keep alive this spirit of questioning, this refusal to live in obstinate complacency and easy reverence of outmoded and dangerous ideas of morality. Hope in the form of relief workers in the war-battered Middle East, in Palestine, Syria, and Libya. Hope in the teacher who chose the taste of bullet wounds to save his students in Pakistan. Hope in the form of all those Good Samaritans who spent nights pulling out half dead, bloodied bodies from under the wreckage of the Vivekananda flyover. Hope in the form of all those who leave the comfort of their warm hearths and fireplaces to make small or big changes.
The fight is visibly ‘silly’ because the darkness is formidable. But here the fight is not simply one against one equation of good and evil. This world is much more complex than reductionist definitions. But it can ultimately be boiled down to an internal battle of choice. And all those who are consciously giving hell to others, or living lives that are stagnant no-lives, are trudging their way to an end that shall stare back at them one day and utter, “You had one chance. You nicely spoiled it.”
We have one life and we must do justice to ourselves. There might be no God to judge us, no book of virtues and sins, and no Judgement drama either. We have what we have, here and now, this good minute.