It might have been the stray stone and or it might just have been the rogue pavement down the street, a death-trap surface for high heels, that the other day I suddenly found myself sprawled on the pavement, dazed and not sure how I got there. I couldn’t gather what was happening for a few seconds. Taking a deep breath in, trying to think beyond the embarrassment of lying there at the side of the road, I examined my injuries. My left leg was stretched in front of me. All fine there. Turning my head the other way around, I found my right leg, intact but bent in an odd way.
It was a busy street, right next to the bus stop. People were rushing by, desperate to catch a bus to wherever they had to reach or else should the world collapse or something. These breathless people passed right by me, some staring at me but most of them deliberately looking away. Finally a man stopped and asked if I was all right.
“I don’t think so. I need a minute,” I replied.
“Okay,” he said, hesitating for a second before walking away.
My hand was bleeding and my ankle, I noticed as I tried to get myself to get up, was most probably sprained. Somehow I managed to lift myself up, gathered my bags and limped painfully towards the bus station. All the buses were already very crowded, so I decided that instead of taking a chance and having somebody stomping on my injured ankle, I should take a rickshaw. But as it happens, everything that could go wrong was going wrong that day. There was no auto in sight. I walked to the opposite side of the road and spotted a rickshaw. Just when I reached it, though, a hefty looking guy pushed me aside and got in. I tried explaining that I had found the auto first and that I needed it more than he did since I was injured and required first-aid as soon as possible. Nothing I said made him give up his ride, though. Too exhausted to argue anymore, I started looking for another vehicle. Half-an-hour later, a street or two away from the place that I was initially at, I found a cab. By this time, the pain had shooted manifolds and my hand, I saw, was still bleeding.
After what seemed like eternity, I managed to reach back home and went straight to the washroom in order to clean my wounds. My hand was cut and bruised so badly that I couldn’t touch anything for weeks.
By now you must have started to wonder as to why am I telling you all this.
I told you about this little accident I had because I learnt a big lesson that day. Our attitude, the general human attitude is not very empathizing. When something isn’t a dire emergency, we always question our motives for trying to help. Are we doing this to prove our worthiness as a human being? What are our ulterior motives, anyway? These questions drive us to become immune to other’s pain and so, mostly we avoid rescuing strangers in trouble.
People will choose to walk past a girl who has just hurtled down cement steps and is obviously injured. People find it easier to pretend not to see a blind man, face down on the pavement – even if they accidentally trip on him. This behaviors that people exhibit, I don’t understand it.
What I narrated was a small incident, almost trivial and none that brought a harm to me or anyone else. But it brings to light the fact that our society is one of predators and not saviors. This fact is only reaffirmed if you pick up the morning newspaper each day and read about the hundreds of rapes that take place day. Women are raped in the middle of streets with the whole world looking and pretending to not notice because it would be too much trouble to walk over and try to help by intervening. A woman in Saudi Arabia would be stoned to death if she as much as looks in the general direction of a man other than her husband. A certain Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for standing up to women’s right to education. We talk about incidents like these sitting within the comforts of our houses but would we get up and intervene if someone was crying for help and we could do something about it? Would we try to make this world a better place to live in? Would we?
I get that it is messy. You might get involved. The person could throw up on you or pull a gun or take you to court for your efforts. It is none of your business. It is none of mine.
But what about these lines of Auden’s?
“There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone….
We must love one another or die.”
Take a minute and read them out loud to yourself one more time.
What about these lines? What about “loving one another or dying”?