Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Human Tragedy unfolds…On the Banks of the Kosi, in the tunnel of our minds!

The happiness quotient of a nation is not determined by how many people are happy, it’s determined by how many people are unhappy, and our score is pathetic.

On August 18, 2008, the Kosi River, also known as the “Sorrow of Bihar” picked up an old channel it had abandoned over 100 years ago near the border of Nepal and India. The river broke its embankment at Kusaha in Nepal, thus submerging several districts of Nepal and India. Almost the entire River reportedly was flowing through the new course. The worst affected districts included Supaul, Araria, Saharsa, Madhepura, Purnia, Katihar, parts of Khagaria and northern parts of Bhagalpur,

2000 people are reported dead although the official figures are closer to a 100. 26 Lakh people are affected and more than 10 Lakh evacuated. 250,000 acres of farmland is under water destroying wheat and rice.

But this isn’t the biggest tragedy. The biggest tragedy is not what has happened. The biggest tragedy is what has failed to happen. I remember the Tsunami of 2004, when the entire nation stood together, at hindsight, perhaps because a Tsunami, by its novel nature grabbed attention, whereas floods in Bihar –change the topic – what’s new about it. They happen all the time! After all didn’t some statistician say, 20 dead is tragedy, 20,000 dead is statistics.

Our singular apathy to it, limited to reading the front page of the newspaper (5 minutes, maybe 10) or 2 minutes of news, channel surfing between a Big Boss and a Soap (watching imaginary tragedies unfold!) is cheap, degrading and simply takes away the right to be considered civilized.

In fact someone I genuinely respect as a human being commented, unexpectedly, quite surprisingly, and if I may say so, unbecomingly that “even God wants to wipe Bihar off the face of the earth.” And I wanted to ask. Why? What is it that Biharis have done that they deserve this? If an utterly exploited, genuinely suppressed, part of the country, as a consequences of that suppression and ages of oppression has turned out to be a Social misfit in an “IT enabled” environment, who is to blame?

Let me throw some light on the place that Bihar was. To begin at the beginning, Kosi or Koshi was formerly Kausiki named after Visvamitra (also known as Kausika) who was a descendant of Sage Kusika and was said to have attained the status of a Vedic Rishi along its banks.

Nalanda, one of the greatest universities in recorded history was situated here and used to be a major seat of Buddhism (In fact Buddha himself, technically was a Bihari). In fact, Mahavir Jain is said to be born near Nalanda at Kundalpur and attained Moksha at Pavapuri. Ashoka, one of the greatest administrator, a Buddhist and whose lions now grace every currency note that India mints, was a Bihari.

Do we really need to be wiped out from the face of the earth? Is that God’s will? No, that’s either humor at its worst, plain apathy or a sign of extinct intelligent life form!