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.