Growing up in India at the time of the Khalistan separatist movement, ULFA extremism in the North East, Operation Bluestar, the massacre of Sikhs, the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal, the assassination of prime ministers, the bloodbath in Kashmir, the Rath Yatra and its aftermath were random spikes in our normal lives. We were jolted for a bit and then went back to the business of living - in the case of people my age that meant keeping your nose to the grindstone until you made it through a decent college and were able to earn a living.
Maybe the frequency at which tragedy hit our people had numbed our ability to react to individual events. As I write this today, I find it hard to recall all of the many disasters natural and man-made that took place between the 80s and 90s in India. I am sure I don't mention at least fifty percent in my list. My left leaning relatives in Calcutta would say that human life is too cheap in India and we deserve our fate for our political apathy and self-centeredness. That unless there was a grassroots level uprising - a common man's call to arms, the status quo would never change, that the country was going to hell in a handbasket. That is typical Bengali borderline leftist speak. Needless to say, such radical statements were made while sipping very expensive Darjeeling tea out of fine porcelain tea cups.
In India, tragedy is mourned in moderation and then we move on – life goes on and a living has to be made. We do not stage public theatricals of our loss, market it and fetishize it like it were the most tragic of all tragedies that has ever befallen mankind. Close to the infamous 9/11 date a Yahoo headline reads 9/11 babies old enough to ask for dad. Old footage is regurgitated yet another time "lest we forget".
Not to minimize the loss that individuals have suffered but to depict the loss of these children unique enough to make headline news is way over the top. Such public media spectacles of private grief not only invades personal space (everything does not lend itself to a reality show) but takes away an citizen's fundamental right to mourn death and loss without being coaxed for sound bites. With such relentless replays and overt displays of grief Americans manage to alienate themselves both from those who may have had sympathy and from those who have suffered far greater atrocities, effectively increasing their isolation and pain.
What about the millions of children orphaned because of war and genocide around the world - children who have never known what it is to have childhood and may have never seen a balloon ? Isn't it shameful and selfish in the context of the big picture to publish such inanity as "When he sends a balloon up to the sky and he finally sees the tiny dot of the balloon go through the clouds, he says, 'OK, the balloon found the doorway to heaven, I think he has it now," says Gabi's mother, Jenna Jacobs-Dick.
How many people in the world care about Gabi’s balloon ? Why is Gabi's loss greater than that of a million other children around the world ? We are talking a dead father anyways. Maybe Gabi and his mother should count their blessings that they live in a country where a child despite suffering such a loss is still able to indulge in childish whimsy and be fancy free.
Sometimes you wish America would stop acting like a rich spoilt brat and stop flogging the dead horse of 9/11