A sports luminary was consumed by COVID-19 yesterday. As expected, there are several posts celebrating the legend and mourning the loss. Several persons of influence and people in power have shared photographs of theirs with the legend or of the legend with them.
A corporate foundation has released photos and news clip about its relief distribution work in remote tribal locations of the country – elderly and crippled, standing or hardly, in neat rows with sacks of the “donated” relief material placed in front of them, and a banner proclaiming their saviour enterprise in the background. You wonder who is poor.
Each one of us will know at least one person who is a self-photo enthusiast. They will keep sending a steady stream of their photos, in various poses, on different social media platforms. They even sending special day greetings to others with their smiling faces appended prominently in the corner. This, when they are not running for any election, or are they? They need to be there in the picture, somewhere, always!
A friend lost her father a couple of days ago. Condolence messages included those where senders shared about their own grief at losing a parent, to stress that they could understand the bereaved’s trauma. I held myself back from sending such a message but could not stop reminiscing about the times spent with my own, long dead genitors.
I recall an incident when the sight of a female alms-seeker at a zebra crossing in Jaipur brought unexplained and unrelenting tears; later I realised she had triggered in me some 20+ year old memory, of a Delhi 1984 riot victim. She was collecting rations from our locality just a day and night after the massacre… I was eleven years’ old and the memory stuck.
Why is it difficult for us to resonate with the grief or loss of others without concretely picturing ourselves in their place? [Is this the same when moments of happiness are shared?] Can compassion not flow automatically? What is this unavoidable urge to make even the most solemn and sensitive of moments principally about us?
Is the Human code fundamentally selfish?