Compassion and Empathy; the two distinguishing factors; the factors that separate us from the animals! As I opened the comments section in the morning newspaper, just a day after the disastrous earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale struck the country of Nepal and the adjoining countries of India, China and Bangladesh, my jaw dropped after I read some of the comments made by people. People like you and me; people who were supposed to have the distinguishing factors. But does comments like ‘serves them right’, ‘die you people’, ‘the idol worshipers are going to hell’, ‘leave your pagan believes and embrace Christianity’, etc. endorses us as the empathetic and the compassionate beings? Is there a feeling of compassion and empathy for the numerous lives that have been uprooted and disheveled in these stray comments?
Death is the greatest equalizer. Death doesn't judge you nor chooses you by your religion, gender or age. Death doesn't choose you by the amount of money you have got. Then why are we choosing! And if we are choosing why aren't we choosing to be a bit more compassionate with the people who have lost everything to the fury of Mother Nature? Why aren't we choosing to be a bit empathetic to the people whose lives won’t be the way it was any further? A human tragedy of this proportion should level all our thoughts. It should unite us together. That is the choice we should make. Rather, we are choosing to further alienate ourselves by making such random, stonehearted comments.
An Italian born London based photojournalist, Alex Masi, clicked a photo of a girl enjoying the first drops of rainfall after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy struck in 1984. The scorching heat of the sun had aggravated the desperate situation of the families who were already reeling under the aftereffects of the toxic gas spill in their neighbourhood. And then there was the rain; the much awaited rain. And a little girl, Poonam, oblivious to the presence of the photographer, was looking up and letting the drops spill on her face. The photograph went on to bag one of the prestigious awards in the UK with a cash prize of 5000$. However, even after getting so much media hype and glossy money Masi did not choose to be indifferent to the perils of this tragedy stricken family. He chose to be different. He chose to make his life from ordinary to extraordinary. He did not make any gut wrenching and stone cold comments like many of us do. The photographs that he had taken made him feel that he was taking a part of them. He knew he couldn't change their lives entirely. Yet he chose to make their lives a little bit different and a little bit better. He chose to spend the award money on building a brick house for the family, buy a vegetable cart for the father so that he could have a steady and regular income and fund the children’s education. He goes back each year to check on them and makes sure they were doing well. He raises funds through crowd funding and keeps on giving financial help to the family whenever they need. It is a continuous process for him for bringing in a change in the lives of atleast one family which had been struck by a human tragedy and see them grow. It is these act of compassion and the feeling of empathy that one human feels for the other that separates us from our animal friends.
As the devastating scenes from the Nepal earthquake emerged, the extent of loss started settling in. Scores of people stranded on the roads. No money, no food, and no house. Desperate cries for help to survive. Villages after villages flattened, millions homeless. And in these times of crisis, instead of helping people survive and overcome the pain, we see individuals groping the opportunity for making repugnant and frigid comments, companies circulating SMS advertisements and religious fanatics propelling their theory of a faith change for a fate change.
Do we really have to treat these tragic times as cash cows and behave like human vultures? Are we so stone hearted? Can we remain oblivious to the pain and the anxiety that the families feel in these times of crisis? Change of faith cannot really bring in noticeable change in fate for these people; however, a change in attitude in us can bring a paradigm shift in the way these families think about their future. Whether it is the missing of the MH370 aircraft from Malasia, or loss of innocent lives in the ghastly school attack in Pakistan, any tragedy whether natural or man imposed, should unite us together in times of grief; it should compel us to stand by the families who are still in the process of embracing the dictates of life, this is what makes us human. So let’s be human and not human vultures!