Friday, August 24, 2007

Not Being Able to See The Mountain

When Dr. Murray Banks, one of the top speakers on psychiatric problems, who combines his wit and acting talents amazingly said : eight out of ten Americans are neurotics, it shook me up. Personally I would have put the figure at four at the most -but reality is always waiting round the corner with a sockful of sand to hit me hard at the medula oblongata and knock me out.

Now the logical corollary to this finding would be : if the average person is mad (sorry I am not using 'neurotic' to be politically correct, for this sounds to me like a catastrophy rating 9.5 on the much-abused Richter scale, God help those poor two, who think they are sane. When a majority thinks you are mad, even when the majority itself is quite mad -you have the chance of a snowflake in an overheated steel plant to survive. It can be so darned hot there people often remove their shirts and vests, and walk out in the mid-day sun even if it is the Mid-may scorching heat. It is a relief beyond the pale or words and phrases.

So when a mad world, or a representative chunk of the world declares you are mad, just because you happen to be one of the two sane persons being judged by an overwhelmingly insane crowd, what do you do? Rather akin to facing a murderous crowd of people hellbent on killing you, and not in the mood to listen to logic or explanations or prayers or pleading or invoking the name of God either. You get killed.

Some really great scholars have been butchered this way by a transient wave of insanity that goes through like horizontal lightening through a crowd of good for nothing rioteers : and no city in the world has the mesmerizing fascination for rioting than Ahmedabad. Some celebrated Gujarati journalists cum authors have admitted, gloatingly, that the public there loves a riot now and then... given a free hand they could have a year long orgy of attacking, maiming, killing, raping, shoving impossible objects into the genitals of a person (this shocks you? Then you don't know much about our illustrious past. The Hindi saying 'Shooli par chadhana' always foxed me till I asked my good ole mother about it one day. She said in her matter of fact tone that it was a punishment where the offender was made to sit on a sharp pointed cone of steel. With his -never heard of a woman having suffered this ignominy- own weight, he would feel the point piercing his anus and slowly sink downwards. The crowd of idle onlookers, and there has never been a dearth of them anywhere in India at any point in time, would cheer lustily as the slow progress to death would go on...the more he writhed the faster he sank, the wider his arsehole got. I nearly retched -but reality has managed to stay a step ahead of me in this respect. The brutality, the cruelty and the raucous laughter at someone dying shorn of all human dignity seems to have fascinated mankind above all pastimes. My head usually hangs in shame, every single day, because the TV channels today are showing much more shocking reality with a benign sumptuousness, a smug orgy of reporting minus emotionality. Tchah!). Riots have their own un-pretty history.

Why do people fail to grasp the enormity of a catastrophe close at hand?

Like most of us are least bothered by scientists warning us about the ozone layer depletion or worse still, the global warming. I have been sneaking into seminars and reading up material on all this and as a human being capable of thinking, I am disgraced every moment by the smug callousness of a wide majority of people. No one seems to think it is right to believe that because the arctic snow is melting, or the Ganges Glacier is melting, there could be floods devastating enough to destroy millions upon millions of people.

I got a similar feeling when I saw a forest fire for the first time, in the Saputara jungles, in south Gujarat. There was a raging fine measuring sixteen kilometres by six or so, and it was rapidly coming towards a settlement of tribals. The heat was so intense, standing two kilometres away we were feelng singed, but even then most of my friends refused to believe the fire could reach the village in a few hours. I believed the forest officer who predicted that. In fact, it reached much earlier, fanned on by a strong breeze.

I feel, this is rather a stupid human failing. If you walk in the shadow of a mountain, and if you have just been transplanted there without knowing even an iota of the local geography, chances are when I tell you : " Look at the mountain....!" You will whirl around and ask me the inevitable question : " Where, where, where?"

We have always failed to know trouble, real soul-curshing existence-smashing trouble, if it is standing next to us. Homo sapiens, after all.

Einstein rightly said : " Two things are infinite. The universe and the human stupidity. And I am not too sure about the former."

Welcome to a mad mad mad world, getting madder by the moment.


(c) Max Babi
Nashik 230808


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