Of human tragedies…

So, did you read about what happened in Mali; that, there were 27 dead bodies after Malian commandos stormed the besieged luxury hotel to free those trapped inside?

Incidentally, there were 20 Indians among the roughly 170 people taken hostage by those terrorists.

Did you read about it, exclaim over it, anguish over it?

Neither did I.

On the other hand, I found myself horror-struck by the Paris attacks, I even cried watching that video of a gunman mowing down innocent café-patrons; and I couldn’t bear looking at photos of the pregnant woman who was hanging on for dear life from a ledge of the Bataclan theatre. There, see, I even remember the name of the place, whereas I actively have to “search” for the name of the luxury hotel that was attacked, in Mali.

Both events were utterly senseless, tragic and filled with mindnumbing violence, bloodshed.

Both were evidence of the cruelty man does to man.

Both events resulted in innocents being killed for no fault of theirs.

The Paris attacks and those gunshots, reverberated around the world. Tributes poured in across social media–for Paris and Parisians. Mali, not so much.

In fact, I had to look up Mali to find out that it is a landlocked country in West Africa and a former French colony.

Why do we react so differently to such terrible news? Of course Paris is, for many of us, such a tragedy because it is symbolic of so many things—the City of Love, cafés, culture, couture, the freedom to celebrate life in all its colours…and a lot of that symbolism was attacked in those terrible hours. But is there a deeper, starker difference? Was Mali less talked about because it is so remotely located and because it affected mainly Africans, Indians, Chinese, and “others”. Just as we don’t really spend much time thinking about what happens in Beirut, Lebanon, and other parts of the world where people live with terror and death, every day.

Before Paris, the drowning of little Alan Kurdi (the Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean), led to a global outpouring of grief. I could not look at the image of that slight child’s body, face down in the mud, without feeling heartsick.

But here in Bengaluru, at every traffic junction, I see little children living on our streets, born into a life from which there is no escape. These children have doomed eyes and knowing eyes. They wear rags, walk without footwear, they beg, they sell cheap toys and stickers, and they are controlled by a massive mafia-like group of adults.

I don’t want to dwell too much on how unsafe their lives are, how vulnerable they are. And on how depraved adults are to use children in this manner.

I see them every day. And yet, I look away. What about you?

George Orwell says in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” So it takes an event more terrible and more tragic than others, to make us weep.

And meanwhile, we are so benumbed by the little tragedies around us, the horrors we see, hear and read about amidst us, that we block out the truths we live with.

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