Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Unaccountable Loss

It has been very depressing to read about the serial killer in Noida the last few days. I wince inwardly to think that it feels "depressing" and not gut wrenchingly sad as it should really be. The sheer magnitude of the event leaves me numbed - I can no longer emote or empathize as a parent with other parents who have lost a child in such a horrendous way. Having grown up in India, I am no stranger to how magnitude of loss in numbers takes away from one's ability to react to tragedy and how headline news disappears to page six and beyond within a week bringing oblivion in its wake.

The powers that be will dole out some ridiculous sum of money they deem equivalent in value to the life lost, provide symbolic closure and reason to move on to the next catastrophe - God knows we have enough of those to keep us busy. Those who are bereaved will be left to mourn alone. In India, you learn early on that all life is not equal and in as such neither is all death.

The deaths of assassinated heads of state will be commemorated ad nauseum but the unknown number of children that were sexually assaulted, killed and left to be accounted for only by their bones will be forgotten before the year is out. No one will think it fit to make a shrine for those dead bodies and pray for peace to be upon their agonized souls. No sloganeering politician will fast unto death until right is done by them and their grieving families.

The Noida killer story has all the elements of the farce that tragedy in India can get reduced to specially if the victims are poor, marginalized and therefore disenfranchised. The reporting varies between patchy and sensationalist depending on the publication - the key facts and the hard numbers which should form the basis of the reports stand on shaky and unstable ground. The common theme that runs through most reports is the apathy of the police.

There are no visible signs of citizen journalism which apparently takes one person armed with an MP3 recorder and a cellphone with a camera to get the story. The talk about the culprits being mentally ill is disturbing - particularly in light of the political overtones that this tragedy is acquiring. It would be only too tempting to blame it all on genetics and biology and let them off the hook and get back to business as usual.

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