If you’re angry, pass this on

A friend who visited my blog left a comment about the futility of raving and ranting — he had just visited my link to this site here — and he wondered what to do about the sense of outrage he felt .

We exchanged a few comments, but I continued thinking about the issues — not just Bhopal, but the lack of interest in the 25th year anniversary. A couple of days later (i.e., today) I posted a comment at my blog which I’m re-posting here:

There’s been so little traffic at that website … it’s very sad. This is where I think we’ve got to recognize the worth of raving and ranting — in a world where the squeaking wheel gets greased, they are the squeakers.
I am NOT good at raving/ranting and I resist “hearing” those who do. So I guess I’m not good at either end of the spectrum. I think it’s atrocious that Bhopal gets so little attention. Why is it so? In my opinion it’s because there’s a deep-seated cultural abhorrence towards criticizing “home” and “family”; many Indians transpose their feelings towards HOME/FAMILY onto the country they belong to — without thinking their feelings through. There has to be SOME reason why so few writers/artists/film-makers have chosen Bhopal as their subject!

A more cynical reason: no catastrophe of similar proportions has occurred in Western democracies, hence there are no ballads/films/novels from which Indians can make their localized imitations …

But WHY isn’t there a greater sense of shame, horror, repugnance?

I didn’t like Indra Sinha’s ANIMAL’S PEOPLE — I found it crudely polarized in the familiar Bollywoodian style,so that we’re left with a cast of grotesques and one-dimensionals. Still — at least it was written, at least it’s there to be critiqued and dissected!

There should be many more.

I drew posters for the street exhibition in Bombay immediately after the news broke. That’s the extent of my involvement. I don’t have any valid excuses to offer. I can only complain, about myself and about others. But hey — at least I’m complaining!

So that’s what I posted at my blog — but after posting it, I continued to feel angry. So I thought I’d port that little spark of anger across here, to this blog, in the hope of engaging at least a couple of others on the subject of WHY — i.e., I’m looking for further answers to the question I asked myself in the above comment — WHY Bhopal doesn’t inspire more than a shrug of the shoulders, a sigh, a shake of the head.

I found myself saying: Maybe I should think back to what it was like, that year. We had seen the storming of the Golden Temple; the unrest in Punjab following the riots;  then on October 31st,  the terrible news of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination ; and finally, the abomination of the anti-Sikh riots. All of that had happened in the weeks just preceding that night of December 3rd.

I can remember the numbness that overcame me. It was truly, unbearably, extreme. I felt I simply couldn’t face one more horror and yet, as the news came out of Bhopal, the pictures, the accounts, it was like a relentless tide. The anti-Sikh riots had already been that, for me and now, here was something more terrible, more enormous — even though I had already thought that, during the anti-Sikh riots.

It may be cheap to mention this — but I am actually crying as I write this — and I am neither patriotic nor given to emotional outbursts. I’m not even sure why I’m crying: is it because the road we have traveled since then has only grown worse and worse — and that today most of us are truly so deadened with overload that we simply can’t feel anything any more? I’d like to think it’s because I had forgotten what it was to feel that sense  of doom, as if a black curtain were falling over a particular idea I’d had about the world we lived in and in particular the country I belonged to; that I am distraught to be reminded of the desolation I felt then.

2 Responses to If you’re angry, pass this on

  1. gina says:

    Recently i saw a documentary on the Bhopal Tragedy. Besides the horrifying footage… and i remember the cover of India Today magazine with the picture of a child face being covered with sand… sightless eyes still haunts me but i am unable to understand why the government wants to establish a monument on the site. What will it tell us. That we are erecting a monument for our indifference which stretches down 25 years.

    India is the poor people and we dont care, even as i resent the west looking at my country through that single lens, the fact is that i am as responsible for it as the next person. Too many people and too many poor people so who cares. Who cares in any case for the third world when even the leaders dont.

  2. magnoliana says:

    Well, maybe leaders would care more if they thought their voters cared? After all, elections are sometimes won or lost on the basis of the most recent communal unrest. If Bhopal became an issue that was central to the concerns of “enough” citizens, then the politicians would take note. The reality is that it hasn’t been of deep concern to a majority of Indians. Perhaps because the reality of the horror didn’t spread beyond the immediate environment of the disaster. In every real sense I think there is a greater sense of shock associated with New York’s 9/11 than with Bhopal — I mean, even amongst Indians.

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