Thursday, October 27, 2016

Where does the neighborhood end?

Usually when I call my parents, thanks to life on opposite sides of the world, I end up calling them when they have just about wrapped up a hot breakfast, and when they are contemplating what to prepare for lunch.  Usually.

Not that one day.  Their lunch prep was on hold.

The preparations had to wait because the neighbor had died and they did not want to get the kitchen operations going until the body was taken away.  Whatever be the religious reasons, there is a basic humanitarian reason for such a delay, which you may have already figured out.  Indian cooking releases a gazillion mouth-watering aromas (or, strong odors, if you don't care for them) and such an act while the neighbor's family is sitting with the dead person is simply an awfully discourteous behavior.

In the old days, in my grandmothers' villages, one of the reasons for a quick disposal of the body was to also make sure that the neighbors were not put to a great inconvenience--after all, when tragedy strikes in our life, it is not a tragedy for everybody, right?

Which is what I want to get to in this post.  Where does that neighborhood boundary end?

Tragedies happen every minute of every day all around the world.  But, that does not stop us from cooking delicious meals, traveling, having sex, ... whatever.  While it is a wonderful survival mechanism to make sure that we don't involved with the tragedies all around, my objective in this post is a much simpler one: For us to be reminded that there are real people all around with real problems that are far more compelling than our problems with the overcast skies and crappy cellphone coverage.

One of those tragedies was this image that appeared in my Twitter feed:

The tweet noted:
it's a kid arm holding to his bag after today's bombing
Yet another tragic day in Syria :(

I started following that Twitter feed after reading a Nick Kristof column, in which he had included details about a kid and her mother in Aleppo.  Now, thanks to that, I am reminded every day that life is not normal in Syria.  The image of a kid's severed arm lying on the ground with the fingers wrapped around a school bag is, sadly, only the latest of the horrific images that we have seen over the past couple of years.

Later, news reports provided a complete picture related to that image:
A school compound in a rebel-held part of northern Syria was repeatedly hit by airstrikes on Wednesday in an assault that monitoring groups and rescuers said had left dozens of people dead, including many children.
Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, said the assault in Idlib Province may have been the deadliest on a school since the Syrian war began more than five years ago.
Twenty-two children and six teachers were killed in the strikes, Unicef said. 
Neither my parents nor I stop our lunch and dinner preparations in order to honor and respect the dead in Aleppo. Or in Mosul. Or in wherever.  Because ... they aren't our neighbors?!


Anne in Salem said...

I heard today that the school bombing might be pursued as a war crime. Not that prosecution as such will stop anyone from repeating it in the future.

Perhaps there are too many tragedies, too many pictures of tragedies - we become inured to it as we have to murder on the news or vulgarities spewed ad nauseum. I don't mean to imply these are of the same caliber but think there is a similarity to our desensitization to all.

You may not stop your daily activities at a particular time, but you have that child and his family and all the victims of this senseless violence in your thoughts as you write this, just as those of us of faith pray for them. We do what we feel we can. Most of us lack the creativity or influence to do more than donate to the Red Cross or MSF and pray.

Ramesh said...

Anything on Syria leaves me numb. How can the world allow this to happen . How different are the ISIS, Basher al Assad and Putin different from Hitler ?? Yes, Anne, they are in our thoughts, but how ineffective it is in relation to the catastrophe leaves me despondent.

I read this item in the New York Times a couple of months ago. If ever there are people worthy of veneration , they are people like him.

Sriram Khé said...

My thoughts and your prayers won't make a damn difference in Aleppo.

Yes, stories like that doctor going on humanitarian missions, or MSF, or whoever, are phenomenal. But, going with the same medical theme, this is not even a band-aid on the problem.

"Never again" has really become an empty slogan. All I know is that history won't be kind to us, when they review our inaction. The sin of omission here ...

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