Big tragedies bring out the best in human beings. The nameless-faceless mass of people offers their resourcefulness. This is what is so significantly remarkable. Their altruism goes beyond them even as they themselves may be at risk. Yet they offer it all – kindness in adversity, unmatched improvisations and support to survive. How one even begins to understand this language of kindness, asks Sunita, exclusively in Different Truths.
Let’s return once again to the natural disasters that occurred almost all over the world in the recent months. Typhoon Hato hits Hong Kong, hurricane Harvey strikes Houston and about the same time flood havoc creates a calamity in Mumbai. Days prior to these events at least five Indian states experienced severe flooding heaping misery on countless people. So also large areas of Bangladesh underwent flooding brought on by heavy downpours. Nepal suffered thousands of homes getting destroyed with terrified people just swept away. The UN reckons nearly 41 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal are directly affected by the disastrous monsoons.
Even as these catastrophes unfolded in different regions, the one symbiotic feature that was visible in all the disasters was the tendency of the human nature to bond and band together to offer care, kindness, and support in order to help them survive the worst. Even as, ordinary life as we know it came to a grinding halt, it was the sympathy of strangers that helped in bringing equanimity to situations that were really beyond immediate control. This sense of togetherness in the face of misfortune is the measure of our humaneness that becomes a guiding star to bring on hope, strength, and fortitude.
Agreed, many of us have become a tad weary of the ‘spirit’ of the people being applauded, but the truth is that it is the inherent spiritedness that comes to the fore when cities, towns, and communities suffer power outage, commuting systems come to a standstill, and there is no basic necessity at hand, even no drinking water! But many a survivor will vouch on the kindness of complete strangers who helped to assuage the difficult situation. Anand Mahindra’s tweet that went viral stated, “And here in Mumbai, a friend stuck in a car to the airport for 5 hrs told me that slum dwellers came out to serve stranded people tea and biscuits”.
On the other hand, we also heard of stray incidents of loot and frenzy in Houston. It must be remembered that these are trying times. While the affected victims attempt to fight off such paralysing events it may also become a survival-of-the-fittest kind of situation. But, conversely, we also saw images of huge lines of Americans signing up for volunteering to help victims get out of their predicament. This makes us believe utterly in the fact that there are more good people in this world than bad people. Complete outsiders come forward to help people cope with the crisis in a spirit of altruism.
It is heartening to read of accounts of people checking in on neighbours and friends, sharing food and sharing information, and offering shelter to complete strangers. And mind you, kindness is definitely contagious! Not only the ordinary folks but also corporate offices, religious centers, and government agencies opened doors for one and all. It is this concern and support of people who are not kith and kin that really warms the cockles of the heart. Just imagine yourself wet, shivering, stranded with no place to go, and suddenly you are offered a towel, tea, and a dry spot!
Mumbai, in particular, is fortunate to have enjoyed such people-centric cooperation in the face of catastrophes of all kinds. We always recall fondly how Mumbaikars have always responded to each other’s troubles, showcasing their enormous solidarity every time. So also we found heartbroken Texan people saving not only people but animals – horses, cats, dogs, and birds caught up in the watery mayhem. People share stories of how hotels took in homeless families, multiracial people praying together and donations coming across from across the land.
Just like families respond to each other when misfortune strikes and members pitch in, so also disasters bring out the best in ordinary common people everywhere. People who are far and not able to be on the spot hands-on always do the one thing that they can and that is offer donations. This brings to mind the earthquake that occurred in Latur district in 1994 that had the world renowned charity Oxfam offering vast amounts of money, almost all of which was donated by thousands of kind-hearted people of UK to assist with the rehabilitation of people. In fact, there were numerous charitable institutions from India and abroad that came in to assist in rebuilding village after village, offering support to hapless victims rendered homeless overnight.
It is to this nameless-faceless mass of people offering their resourcefulness is what is so significantly remarkable. Their altruism goes beyond them even as they themselves may be at risk. Yet they offer it all – kindness in adversity, unmatched improvisations and support to survive. How does one even begin to understand this language of kindness! Especially when emotions are distraught and everyone is pulled into a mindless chaos. Yet they reach out with compassion and concern to assist fellow brethren. Really, the majority of the people behave with such exemplary empathy in the face of deadly disasters to bring out this deep social connect.
Tragedy more often than not brings out innate goodness and cuts off self-created boundaries of class and divisions. Such peripherals get disbanded when it comes to a question of survival. The best thing is people in the aftermath of such incidents tend to become more humble – they greet each other, are more considerate and their responsiveness goes up several notches. Positive social response brings so many people to come forward in assisting total strangers. It is this human connection cutting across races and countries that need to be fueled to facilitate a collective survival spirit. With the global economy and global environment so intricately intertwined so as to generate forces that affect natural disasters going amuck, we need to enlarge this sphere of humanitarian resilience to ward off potential threats and help us survive the odds.
Photos from the Internet
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A flair for writing provides Sunita Shukla an outlet that she uses professionally and creatively to satisfaction to harp on events around her. Involved in several development issues since 1990, she has propelled these development beliefs through the written word. Fluent in English and Hindi, she enjoys life in all its oddities. Settled in Nagpur, she loves music, television, social media and enjoys the extraordinary achievements of her children who keep her going.