Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tsunami – On a personal note

I am one of those who become temporarily dysfunctional at the news of a disaster, natural or man made, leading to huge loss of life. Bhopal gas tragedy, Orissa floods, Lathur and Gujarat earthquakes, mass killing in Kosovo, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Godhra have all caused me a lot of sleep and peace of mind.

Hitler's holocaust happened before I was born. But when I first heard about it, studied about it and and then read books about it I looked up at the abode of the God of Israel and asked WHY, WHY, WHY? DO YOU KILL US FOR YOUR SPORT?

In my twenties, thirties and forties, I watched movies, read novels with Jewish themes, with a heavy heart. I watched Doordarshan's serialized telemovie Escape from Sobibore. I think the episodes were shown on Thursdays, when I would wake with an unidentified, vague tension which would soon grow into an anxiety which followed me like a nagging companion during the course of the day. Finally, when the time came around for the serial, I waited and watched for it to begin with a deadly calm poised precariously on the edge of depression, horror and infinite sadness.

"Just decide not to watch the serial. Who's forcing you to do it? Why torture yourself?' asked my mother when she noticed how agitated I used to get while relating the episodes to her the next day.

I had to watch it. I had to go through that torture, and feel the pain of a people who had nothing to do with my life confined to a small area in South India. Guess it was my way of getting it out of my system. Confront pain. Sweeping it under the carpet might cause you to trip and fall. Sweeping it up and trashing it was the best way to deal with emotional burdens, I must have thought. I could have decided not to watch that serial. But I felt compelled to do it.

But now I am a changed person. I don't watch them anymore. I can't. My mother's practical advice makes sense. It took a lot of persuasion from a friend to watch Schindler's List, which she described as the story of modern day heroism and sainthood.

But I find I'm not alone in this response to the horror stories of the shameful and painful chapters of life. My brother with whom I share similar inclinations in the movie watching habits too told me the same thing just the other day. He too can't stomach them any more.

Guess it has something to do with the weakening of the emotional intelligence which happens when one enters the fifth decade of life– a weakening of that capacity to manage the emotions which results in an auto suggestion that you don’t have to put yourself through an avoidable trauma over an issue that doesn't concern you.

Why am I indulging in such a lengthy dissection of myself and my responses to this pain filled world? Today is the 5th anniversary of the Tsunami. I remember as I sat watching the terrible visuals of the disaster and the spiraling figures of the numbers of the dead scrolling at the bottom of the screen, I felt numb. But it was not that self acquired defense against emotional trauma that I spoke about earlier. It was on account of another tsunami of emotional upheaval that had descended on me on the Christmas day of 2005.

My eldest brother, a priest, was brought home from the USA in the terminal stage of the deadliest disease of the century. There is nothing worse that watching a loved one fight a loosing battle for life. The pain is so tangible that it chokes you and clogs all those channels of emotion that let in lesser emotions.

Lesser emotions? Thousands of my countrymen in the neighbouring states swept away by giant waves into the land of death from whose shores they'll never return. Is that a lesser tragedy than the death of one loved one who though still young, lived a fruitful life, and was ready to meet his maker?

I must confess that the sight of concealed pain, the denial of it, and the awful knowledge that he'll not be around any more - - - it was too much for me. The tsunami on the TV screen failed to impact me the way news of disaster usually did. I couldn't FEEL. The horror and tragedy did not penetrate into those regions of me from where was born all those qualities which made one a sensitive feeling human being.

Now, the very mention of the word tsunami always triggers off mild waves of guilt in me - a feeling as though I have let down my fellow human beings by not feeling enough for them, for not including the victims of this disaster in the experience of pain that I reserved exclusively for a sibling who, ironically, had provided space in his concerns for those in need and pain.


  1. I think it was just a natural how you felt and there is no reason to feel guilty for not suffering from a loss of thousands people you didn't know. It just showed the difference between the intensity of feelings and no one would suppose you would mourn over a stranger more than over your own brother. That's the matter every human being can understand, no matter how disproportional the circumstances are. Jay

  2. The Holocaust is three-fourths [or more], propaganda.

  3. I write this from a technical angle, as a person who has been in the profession of writing for half his life. This could not be written better. So passionately truthful, not a word of flab, the essess with full force.
    Hats off, Ma'am!

  4. @ p venugopal
    thank you, sir, for your comments. to me they serve as a vindication of my presence in the blogsphere. thank you

    @ a stoic
    come on now. you CANT be serious!

    @ a real estate agent in vancouver
    thanks for visiting.
    i see you agree with me. but i guess it would be different for a gandhi or a mother theresa


  6. The problem of suffering is usually presented in two ways, with different responses required of each. First of all, there is the claim that the existence of suffering (as one aspect of evil) and the existence of God are contradictory, or logically incoherent. The second issue is why, even if it is logically consistent, would God still allow suffering to exist? What possible reasons could God have for allowing suffering?To turn to an all-loving and omnipotent God, who also allows us to suffer, requires that we truly believe he has some very important reasons for allowing suffering to exist. There must be some greater good that would not be possible in this world if God was to eradicate all suffering.

    You had replied to my blog when I had written why bad things happen to good people.Nature takes its own courses and probably God doesnt interfere in the rules of nature.
    My daughter inlaw is fighting cancer to stay alive at the age of 25 years. She is terminally ill and I stay at the bedside,helpless.It is hard,being a physician.
    We cant live without pain of some kind.Only the dead do not have problems or pain.


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