In the light of some of the incidents in this beautiful city, we are forced to confront and question some of the basic moral values which have governed us humans.
A dark day
It was a beautiful morning and the day looked promising enough to be called a fitting run-up to a well-earned weekend. It is not always one gets the luxury of a day off. It was something that I was looking forward for a long time.
What began as a normal day, turned out to one of the worst days ever. A girl of 24 was hacked to death, in broad daylight, at one of the busiest suburban stations of the city. Reportedly she bled to death with several onlookers apparently stunned to act.
Her dad had just dropped her off the station. Did he know that he was seeing her for the last time? Did she know that she was getting off that bike once and for all? Did her mom know that she would never get to pack her daughter’s lunch ever again? I hope her sibling knew that he played his best pranks with her the night before, for she would be gone to dust the next day.
What really killed her?
What really made me feel miserable was the public apathy that apparently killed the girl. It was neither an ungodly hour nor was it a deserted place for it to happen. (I am not justifying the relevance of deserted places, people). She was lying in a pool of her own blood while all those people were reportedly shocked to react. She was probably rewinding her own life in those last moments, trying to find one instance where she had hurt someone, knowingly or unknowingly. She was probably begging God to spare her life, to live with her family, that she had loved all her life.
Would the onlookers have been handicapped and stunted in a similar way if that woman in a pool of blood was their own sister? Mother? A friend at least?? What caused this lack of humanity? Was their job and deadline more important than that life which was on the brink of death?
People talk a lot, but when it comes to the zero-hour effect, they seem surprisingly hypocritical. This is a city which had shown immense courage and grit at the face of a natural calamity. When faced with a man made atrocity, we failed big time. I am quite sure as to we will still fail in future, because we are such hypocrites. We take pride in clapping for those bravery award winners, yet we don’t care about the soul that is possibly begging for the boon of life in front of our eyes.
Enough posts have been made, shocked expressions and proud exclamations made and written, criticizing, condemning, demeaning the witnesses for shaming us with their mere existence. And some of them go to the extent of making grand statements of how they were not present in the scene to make their classic hero move.
Now this drives us to the fundamentals – In the face of a crime scene, how does the person react?
To run would be the first thing any of us can think of. While some may just decide to be a passive spectator to the incidents going on.
But the irony of this incident is, even while help was available, nobody was prepared to lend that to the girl. Brutal, yes! We are just gearing up for a long debate, both the sides of the party arguing for the cause they believe in.
That apart, what actually brought this? Have we humans shrunk to such a low level, that we would rather see a fellow human die in front of our own eyes, than get our hands stained in the process?
Calls for some sensible action rather than debates and arguments.
A look into the human psyche
Meera Shivashanker, a psychologist cum writer in Chennai, throws some light on the incident.
“I think for one it happened too fast, and the gore and shock of it all was too much to take. Nobody expected this. People in India are scared of being stuck in the long processes in the name of judicial processes in our country. People who want to do the right thing are harassed, and they probably get threats from police and the other side. Their lives become a never ending circle of courtrooms, police station and what not.”
So judicial procedures and regulations are one thing whereas, what does an average human being in his senses go through when he faces a situation of this kind?
“From the human psyche perspective I think its self-preservation. Protection of the self. And, fear. The sight of blood always stops people in their tracks and their immediate instinct is to back off”.
On a positive note, she concludes saying there needs to be a significant shift in the mind-set. With specific reference to certain countries abroad, people have witness protection programmes and others which give us the assurance we mostly need.
Shift in the mind-set is easier said than done. And in a country driven by customs, we find it hard to break out of routine.
“Also media plays a key role here” says Selvam, an MBA grad residing in Chennai. “Our minds have become suppressed and we have been made to believe to expect an external person to jump in and raise a voice against wrong doings. Movies often portray a single person as a hero, by dimming the limelight on the surrounding ones. So subconsciously, we have learnt to accept what is happening to us and expecting an external person to take the lead and raise a voice against it. By that, we have truly become impotent.”
Making a first move requires a lot of courage, not just to face the complications, but also other questions thrown upon by spectators.
“Our Duty has become your duty” where we have gone to the level of questioning the ones who get down on the field to lend a helping hand.
The law is on your side
Above said, conditions have improved considerably with respect to judicial and legal procedures in India. Persons directly involved in offering help to the victims are protected from all legal complications. They don’t face any charges either directly or indirectly unless there are reasons to believe otherwise. This comes in the wake of a recent Supreme Court directive issued in order to protect those Good Samaritans who come forward to help those in distress. Although this directive is focused majorly on road accidents and the like, we have a reason to rejoice that the judiciary has its heart in the right place when it comes to issues like this.
How one should react in this a situation can’t be mandated, but when one is faced with a crime situation or sees somebody getting victimized, don’t hesitate to step in. You have the law to protect you. Anyway this is not the kind of atmosphere or mind-set that we must be proud to live in. Stepping up at the right time, goes a long way in setting up an example to the society. If change doesn’t come from within, where else would it come from?
I think it is time to take a few minutes off from our seemingly busy lives and introspect. There is nothing wrong in seeking materialistic wealth, but is it worth at all at the cost of lives? This is just not the legacy that we are supposed to leave behind fellas!
Like charity, let compassion also begin from home.
An article by Megha Sreeram and Pavithraa Swaminathan. Edited and curated by Kishor Lakshminarayanan.