In my travel, I went to my childhood friend’s house. His eyes were red and looked as if he had just cried on something. I got worried and asked him. His 14-year old grandson standing there laughed his heart out and said, “Oho! Those tears are because of that TV serial! Grandpa always cries when he watches emotional scenes in that Maharani Padmini’s Johar serial!” Adding to that my friend said, “…and for those tears I am being called a sentimental fool.” It happens in many houses. Whether it is a TV serial or a film or a novel or a real life pain or joy in anybody else’s life. Off late, only a few have tears in their eyes for something that is not directly related to their lives and for those tears, they are laughed at.
This ‘Oh! How so emotional! What do I have to do with it’ attitude is rampant and is seen on various levels. On individual level, interpersonal level, institutional level, social level, political level, governmental level and where not! Before we go into causes and effects of it, there is other side to it as well. Not only tears, but it seems that today many have forgotten / or ‘don’t feel like’ laughing full throttle. Children watch cartoon films and laugh. Parents keep themselves busy that time in other things. It was earlier felt that those who can enjoy and laugh watching cartoons as much as reading philosophical books are truly sensitive intellectuals. Only they can ‘FEEL’ that pain and joys of others. If cartoons sound a bit western then all of us may recall that in most villages and towns there used to be informal gathering of people daily after dinner. This group would share jokes, sing bhajans or other songs and so on. This was a good catharsis for a tired mind and body. Even for women there used to be festivals which required gathering such as together going for Vata Savitri pooja of a Banyan tree or Nag Pooja on Nag Panchami etc. Today informality of such things has vanished, commercialisation has caught on like in Garba etc and such occasions of natural expression of emotions are fast disappearing.
On an individual level, it is observed that people really do not share their sorrows and other feelings with anyone these days. These feelings may look generally trivial but important for any person. If someone tries to express it, usually he / she gets a cold shoulder or just a dry ‘Oh! Too sad’ or ‘Oh! really?’ type comment and that’s it. Are we so scared to share our sorrows and simple joys in fear of manipulation? Are we so engrossed in ourselves to ‘feel’ other person’s pain and joy?
On a social level, we surely see some people, NGOs, organisations and even individuals doing great social service for well-being of various sections of the society. Some help vanvasi children, destitute women, the blind, some run old age homes, some groups rush to help in any natural calamity. In my earlier article, we read of some such excellent service work. But on a micro and macro level if we carefully observe, then we can definitely see huge pent up apathy and indifference, that results into scary insensitivity even on a social level. Obviously this is a severe manifestation of insensitivity on an individual level. Accidental deaths have gone up and most times a life can be saved if one gets timely medical help. A general tendency of ignoring an accident on the road / railway track is growing. Reasons vary. Some blame it on police harassment later. But do we really need excuses to help a severely injured person? Why our hearts do not go out to his/her family and to FEEL enough to help him/her?
My childhood friend where I had gone was still in a mood of a loud thinking. He said, “In my childhood, we were supposed to daily write in a note-book at least one GOOD DEED we did that day and show it to our school teacher.” Many of us will recall this. Now if on an individual or social level all plan to write such a thing daily, then even a 10 page notebook will get filled in even in 365 days.
Recently a few TV channels and newspapers have started a great concept called ‘Citizen Journalist’. Those who feel that they have something to say but routine media does not show it, then they record what they have been going through and it is shown. Sometimes we see very touching stories in it like how a group of youth saved a river from industrial pollution or how an old lady fought a brave fight against the system to get her rights etc. Barring a few such examples, most of such features end up into a complaint forum against governments, administration or so on. There’s nothing wrong in it but I wonder that there are many things mentioned in such features which could have been sorted out by two individuals or groups if both could have been a bit more sensitive to each other’s pain and needs.
Truly touching social sensitivity was visible in a case of Aman Kochar’s family. He was brutally ragged and committed suicide. But his family extended their feelings with so much compassion to the larger level and today it has resulted into a law against ragging, which is perhaps saving many Amans. But these are truly rare examples.
Many of us see / know / watch many such incidents of human right violations, rapes, child labour, old parents being thrown out of homes, dowry burnings, farmers’ suicides, suicides due to joblessness, hunger deaths, water logging inconveniences, train lootings, road rage murders, child drug traffickers, minor girls prostitutions… and say, ‘Oh! It is in Kashmir, Assam, Bihar, Bundelkhand, Surat, not in my city.’ Or ‘Oh! It is in the other housing society, not in that of mine’ or ‘Oh! It is in my neighbour’s house, not in mine.’ Doesn’t it make OUR hearts bleed with warmth, concern and an urge to help? There was a very good advertisement recently on TVs. A couple hears loud noises at a neighbour’s house and they know that it is a daily beating-up going on by a husband, and wife is crying with pain and agony. This neigh-bour knocks and rings a door bell of that house. The advertisement said, “Ring the bell.” It means that one should not ignore any such things happening around us. Why does today’s Bharat need such an advertisement to request people to help?
This is insensitivity on a serious level. It dries up our tears. It steals our laughter. It makes us ignore anything other than ourselves. This is the problem. Causes may be many, like modern age rat race, pressure of competition, stress to succeed faster, socio-economic tensions and so on. But impact is scary. We are becoming increasingly indifferent and insensitive to anything other than us. Me, Mine, Myself are becoming the only focus on individual, social and political levels. The danger is that this will not stop here. It is a demon. It may hit anyone. What if your building collapses in an earthquake or a landslide and your neighbouring building people say,”Oh! Not mine” What if your child goes missing and his friend’s parents say,Oh! Not mine”? What if instead of in Kashmir, Assam or Mumbai, your town market gets blasted by Jehadis and all others say, Oh! It happens everyday somewhere in India” Remember? You had said the same when you watched such daily blasts in Kashmir, Assam and Mumbai. So, when next you see an accident on road, hope you don’t pretend as if you did not see anything and hope that when you see that a Ganesh idol in Sangli, Maharashtra, being stoned by green hooligans, you don’t sit at home enjoying your prasad, i.e. laddu! Let your heart beat for all, let your tears rush for those in pain, let your laughter bubble with others’ happiness and let your hand extend to help the needy.
(The writer is a well-known Cancer Surgeon and Secretary General of VHP. He is available on [email protected])