A photograph was recently published of a villager carrying his dead wife’s body on his shoulder while his daughter walked alongside crying all the way. The unfortunate incident happened somewhere in the interiors of the backward district of Kalahandi of the state of Odisha. The husband carried his wife’s dead body for 10 kms to his own village. Reports reveal that a hearse was denied to him as he was not in a position to pay for it. But not one person seems to have come to his help. He did not opt for the wife’s cremation in the town where he had taken her for treatment because, in all probability, he could not afford the involved expenses. Now a video of the same man carrying his dead wife has also been posted in the Facebook for a more traumatic effect on the viewers.
Soon after, a news report with a photograph also appeared of a man breaking the bones of a dead elderly woman to make it more compact for bundling her up and carrying her away, presumably, for cremation. This too happened in the interiors of Odisha. This was not the end of such weird incidents. There was yet another incident, this time in Madhya Pradesh, in which a sick woman was travelling in a bus along with her husband, his mother and an infant to a district hospital having been referred to it by a rural health centre. Unfortunately, she died on the way. When other passengers came to know about it they did not want to travel with a dead body. The bus was stopped and the man, along with the family including the dead woman, was made to get off the bus next to a jungle, virtually in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, in this instance there were two good Samaritans who were passing by; they got an ambulance for the family from the nearest health centre.
These three incidents bring out in bold relief how insensitive our people have become. There are numerous such incidents which are shown in the Youtube exhibiting insensitivity of Indians. The other day I saw a clip where a man walking close to the pavement of a largely empty Delhi street was knocked down by a three-wheeler delivery van. The driver got off the van only to check whether his vehicle had been damaged, cursorily looked at his felled victim and got into the vehicle to drive off. Other people – a walker, a cyclist, people in cars – passed by without giving the man so much as a sideways glance. Eventually when the man was taken to the hospital after loss of a good deal of time and blood he was declared “brought dead”.
People were not so insensitive earlier. In my younger days a few decades ago people passing by would come to assistance of a man or a child if he were to have a fall from even a bicycle. Once I was knocked down by a drunken two-wheeler rider on an empty street. My head hit the asphalted road and I saw a few stars in the firmament. The noise of the vehicle hitting the road brought the residents out of the nearby houses to inquire and render assistance. That they turned out to be family members of our family physician was only fortuitous. Fortunately, I was only lightly hurt and didn’t need medical aid. What we see today, however, is something entirely different. There is utter lack of concern for suffering people. To a certain extent, in the last few decades Indians seem to have been somewhat dehumanized. Rising poverty with rising population, with hardly enough to go around for everyone, has probably given rise to a self-centred society with all its accompanying evils. The lack of feelings of sympathy, leave alone empathy and, of course, the sheer lack of concern for others have become common phenomena and are frequently witnessed all around the country. No wonder, some people have raised the question whether we live in “Incredible India or Insensitive India”?
One might call it an ‘ethical deficit’ which seems to have slowly crept into the society. Everyone is absorbed in dealing with one’s own problems which sometimes may overwhelm one and take up all one’s mental and physical strength. True, life has become increasingly difficult for everyone barring a few rich but that does not or would not sanction absence of humanity among others. In fact, the middle classes, or for that matter even the lower classes, once upon a time, were known for the values that they had. Compassion, kinship consideration, understanding, kindness, sympathy, tenderness, generosity, sympathy, etc. are qualities that appear to be progressively diminishing from amongst Indians. Times have indeed changed. It is a more materialistic world now and finer feelings of life are probably suppressed or are deliberately prevented from surfacing as that would only deviate one from one’s own pre-occupations – and ethics could be damned.
Apparently, earlier people were nurtured and brought up differently. Even in the midst of insufficiency and poverty parents would constantly instill in children the values that were taken directly from mythology. In unlettered and poor homes all of this would come down from generation to generation by the oral tradition. Folklores, paradigms, mythical stories or stories from the epics came all the way down even to illiterate households through the word of mouth. All that seems to have been lost under the pressure of the current times, effectively demolishing the age-old value system.
The country seems to be the poorer for all that. Attitudes have changed and that has resulted in indifference to everything except what is of immediate concern of self. Besides, it has bred lack of sincerity in everything that we do – in our relationships, at our work place, in performing our allotted duties or whatever. There is a perceptible lack of commitment and, perhaps, that is what is keeping the country behind others in many spheres. Only a resurgence of ethical values may bring back the desired changes – in our feelings of kinship, feelings of sympathy and concern for our fellow beings.