MembersHelpJoinRecent discussionsPress CoverageAdvertising

Interact Inn Home

    Recent Discussions   

Life Is Cheap!

19th Nov 1999      Kedar N. Mahapatra

Here is a article reflects attitude of the western people towards a human 
problem in our part of World. But it is difficult to understand apathy on 
the part of own Indian elites towards a disaster in our own country. May be 
the Orwellian paraphrase "some of us are more equal than others" very much 
works in the mind of our prvilaged fellow Indians.

Life Is Cheap
Arthur Hoppe
His column appears in the San Francisco Chronicle thrice a week.
On the same day that Egyptian airliner went down off Nantucket a cyclone 
swept through the east coast of India. The plane crash took 217 lives, the 
cyclone more than 3,000. It also left more than a million people homeless.
The plane crash was all over the front page and a half dozen pages inside. 
The cyclone rated a 12-inch story on Page 11. Few would fault the news 
judgment of the editors. The plane crash was at least 15 times more 
important to readers than the cyclone.
After all, natural disasters are far more common than crashes of jumbo jets. 
The airliner's sudden plunge out of the skies was both dramatic and 
mysterious, a plot for a movie. The cyclone, a force we understand, took 
hours to wreak its toll.
In a plane crash, we join vicariously with the investigators, searching for 
the cause so that we can take steps to remedy it. But we know what causes 
cyclones, and there is nothing we can do to prevent one from striking.
Nevertheless, had a cyclone roared through the Midwest killing more than 
3,000 Americans, it would go down in our history books as one of the stories 
of the century.
One reason for this disparity is, of course, geographical. We are far more 
concerned with a neighbor breaking his leg than with, say, 3,000 Iraqis 
being killed in the distant Middle East.
Yet the reason is not solely geographical. Should 3,000 Englishmen die as a 
hurricane pounded that far-away island, we would be shocked and appalled.
It is also racial and cultural. Most Indians are brown-skinned Hindus. We 
scarcely blinked at the deaths of 800,000 black Africans in the 1994 Rwandan 
genocide. Had those Indians or Rwandans Caucasian Christians like most 
Englishmen, we would have read of their deaths with horror.
Moreover, that cyclone swept through one of the poorest regions of India. It 
is difficult for us to identify with poverty-stricken Indians. We live in 
solid homes. We have a dozen changes of clothing. We speak the world's most 
widely accepted language. We have paved streets, skyscrapers and flush 
toilets. We drive cars, take vacations and fly in planes. How far easier it 
is to identify with those 217 poor souls aboard Flight 990. They might have 
been us.
We can envision ourselves lounging in a cushioned seat aboard an airliner, 
reading or watching a movie, when suddenly there is a an explosion, screams 
and we are hurtling to our deaths.
Yet how we must strain to see ourselves in rags, huddling in a flimsy hut by 
a fetid stream as the winds rise to a deafening shriek, carrying away all 
around us. That couldn't be us.
When I was young, it was perfectly acceptable to say that life is cheap in 
the Far East. As the years passed, such a phrase became politically 
incorrect as it carried the stigma of racism and cultural and economic 
superiority. Those who would say such a thing were shunned by liberal-minded 
But the truth of the matter is that, in our eyes, life is still cheap for 
those with different colored skins who live far away in poverty. We like to 
say that we believe all men and women are created equal.
But what we really believe, to paraphrase George Orwell, is that some of us 
are more equal than others.
Copyright, 1999, Chronicle Publishing Co. Reprinted by permission of the 

23rd Nov 1999      Puneet Pawaia

ndeed life is cheap.

Forget things like cyclones and other natural disasters. Take the roads
that we travel on each day. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 in Section 129
clearly makes wearing helmets necessary. However, here in Lucknow, whenever
the government tries to enforce the same , a hue and cry is raised and one
hears stories that this section is being enforced because some manufacturer
has paid the politicians for the enforcement to increase the sale. Even if
this be the case, will the helmet not save the wearer ? I don't think it
would save the govt. We should ourselves embrace such rules without the
requirement of the govt having to enforce such rules.

We are notorious for crossing railway lines when the gates are down. We
have so many accidents when people try to cross railway lines when they are
able to see the train coming, both on manned and unmanned crossings. 

Is it not our way of saying that our life is cheap ? Since if it was of any
value, we would take precautions, wouldn't we ?

Life in India is full of such indications of our considering life being
cheap. Then why blame others if they think the same ?