The gloomy times of Covid-19 were continuing with more intense pain to the disadvantaged people. It was easy for us, the middle class and the upper-middle class, to switch on the TV sets and listen to the news which was going around. I may not comment on the viewpoint of all, but I have seen the least care about humanity in my family in these times. Discussions continue very often in the mornings and evenings at least twice a week. The plight of migrant workers was getting worse with each extending day in lockdown. We were in our lobby with TV set pouring news like “the plight of labourers”, “one migrant worker dies”, “A speeding car knocks a migrant worker walking home dead”. My father commented – “Somebody ask these people if they have lost their common sense. Who sits on the side of a road like this. The government is doing so much for them. Why can’t they stay put?” Then a sadist comment comes from my mom, “Let them die.” These words hit me like a thunderstorm. It was the least or I must say never expected. In sheer pain and astonishment, I started making a case in the defence of the migrant workers. “You did not give birth to them. How could you even say something about letting them die?” It was hurting to see a grave picture of the death of humanity. I kept on going, “Everyone has feelings. They too wish to return home, they too have families.” I asked my mother if she didn’t want me home too in this crisis. “We just sit in these cozy luxuries and talk like this.” My father then started giving many examples that were portraying the migrants in a negative light. I don’t deny that there might be some negatives in them. Who doesn’t have it? Everyone does.
Then again the situation arises when the majority of us like to just comment on the consequences rather than focusing on the reasons what forced them to take this step. Discussions continued with my father saying, “Give them as much as you want, these people are never content. Go see these people form lines outside banks and accumulate wealth. They are not poor. You know the amount these people ask for planting saplings in one hectare of land? Rs. 7000. During the floods which occurred in Punjab not a long time ago, these people filled up their homes with the things given in the form of donations or help and later used it for seeking profits. Then before I could answer, came the typical comment, “You have grown older now. You must not argue about everything. Only speak when asked to. Learn how to speak to your elders.” My mother sitting on the other side of the bed got up to cite examples of cousins saying, “They are so mature. It’s only you who has no manners. Your brain has gone haywire.”
I responded by saying, “A mistake is a mistake. Whosoever makes it.” My father then said, “Let’s sell all that we have made in our lives, shall we?” You know these are the weapons parents use to check your seriousness about the cause that you are talking about. But there too, two types of parents exist, first where they would appreciate your thinking and would stand by your courage to do some little good to humankind and second where they just want to be more sure that how far you crossing the limits set up by them so they can take immediate action to stop you by any way. Unfortunately, I fall into the second category of a family set up.
I gave them a neutral answer saying that if they didn’t want to it, fine. But why do they have to ask for bad to happen in others’ lives? I saw a little failure on his face. I had numerous reasons for my neutral answer. I have to do many things, which, otherwise, would not have been possible. You can’t leave the place just after a discussion in traditional and conservative families as it gives the message that you left the place in anger and that is no way acceptable. I remain seated, my father giving me examples that many workers have failed several companies. I reverting with a layman reply that they might not be getting enough salaries required just for basic necessities. He cited an example that a Maruti plant failed due to strike of labours. I had the same reply. He kept on saying many things. He is a businessman and into politics too, besides being a farmer for much of his age. He had close dealing with farmers so he is of the viewpoint that the largest misery is being suffered by the farmers with 2-3 hectares of land. “Where would a small farmer go? He can’t leave his land, can’t survive on it either. Even a daily wager is better than him, for he could earn 15000 per month.”
It’s often said that you may encounter any person with huge pain but your pain will always appear bigger to you. This was the case I was experiencing. I don’t deny that burden and pain of farmers but it doesn’t mean that any other group is not on the same boat on which you are. It also is a big irony that businessman and taxpayers ask for exemptions in income tax showing their children school fee slips, medical bills and every possible bill which can help them in Income tax returns but on the other side they feel angered and feel no generosity when poor people speak for their minimum rights. I don’t deny that he has done good to many people and continues to do so. But my point is that these crises are huge. People are unfolding as worse human beings, with some unfolding as angels. The roots of compassion and empathy are too weak. Other selfish values are covering us even more. We need transformation.
“You love differently when you know God.” – Malanda
I had often heard from people that it’s very difficult for the government to change the way people think. “Let alone others try changing the thinking of your family on an issue, and then we will see.” It proved to be true today. It was this very incident when I stopped criticising the government for its role in Covid-19. I thought that if humanity is dead, what are we left with to talk about? It’s a bitter truth that when you are shattered by most near ones, you start expecting it least from others too.
“Ultimately, the source of our problem lies at the level of the individual. If people lack moral values and integrity, no system of laws and regulations will be adequate.”- HH The Dalai Lama.