This article may contain language that is disturbing to some readers:
“Man is matter.” Joseph Heller exclaims in Catch-22, while the protagonists are facing shrapnel, flak and anti-aircraft guns. Snowden lies in the plane, dying, his guts spilling out, and “Man was matter. That was Snowden’s secret.” says our narrator. Somewhere else in the book, he points out that dying is the easiest thing to do on this planet, there is human violence, violence from wild animals, diseases, war, in fact, not dying is something of an achievement.
I was reminded of all this, today, as I ate dinner with my family. We found ourselves talking about the news. Apparently, what was making waves these last few days was the death of a boy (seventeen, or so) who had fallen into the enclosure of a tiger in some wildlife reserve (national park, perhaps, or zoo, it doesn’t matter). Naturally, I had no idea what they were talking about, as I get my news from the internet (I find Tamil news channels sensationalist and biased, and NDTV isn’t too innocent, either).
I was told how the boy, as the tiger glared at him, knelt, frozen to his spot, and begged the tiger to spare him. The tiger stood still for some time, watching the boy, and then pounced on him, and dragged him away by his neck. That was where the news channel decided to stop the video, apparently.
I felt a lot of things at that time. I was disgusted by the news channel, for airing that video. I was horrified by the fate that had befallen that boy, who was probably just a year younger than me. I imagined him, kneeling over there, begging for his life, while the tiger waited for ten minutes, considering its prey, and struck.
I mean, just imagine this: Spending the last few minutes of your life in fear, your stomach in your throat, and your heartbeat audible. A prayer whispered, cut-off mid-sentence by canines piercing your neck, the pain that boy must have felt during the last few seconds! I hope, earnestly, that he died quickly. Nobody on Earth deserves to be brutalized like this, do they? And his parents! My God! Do those channels have no empathy? Won’t someone put a stop to this nonsense?
I gave voice to my feelings at the table, my relatives (more experienced, as they are, as far as life is concerned) told me that he was probably destined to die like that. It was this sequence of words that prompted this article.
Man grows up, hoping to leave his footprints where they will be seen. Man experiences life, and cherishes each moment, only to have it all taken away (sometimes, in horrible ways) in a second. What, then, is life’s purpose? Of what use are the comforts that man has given himself? One grows up, believing that he will become something more, one hopes that when he dies, people will say something nice about him, remember all the good times they had with him.
Nobody would want the memory people have of him to be a blue sweater and grey trousers being dragged off screen, be it by a tiger, or a soldier. Nobody would want to die denouncing their country, for a cause they do not believe in, executed in front of a camera.
Why do these things happen? Has Man cheated himself, in the development of a society? Has he cheated himself into believing that he is better than the tiger, locked away, by its own mind?
How does the world go round?
In one place, a couple of parents cry, hugging each other, over the loss of their child; and in another, journalists speculate freely that the child had jumped willingly into the tiger’s enclosure, hoping to get a position on the front page, while news channels play videos of the boy being dragged away to increase their ratings.
How do we remain happy in the midst of so much unfairness? How do we live, surrendering control of our lives to Destiny?
How do we sleep at night, trusting that we will wake up the following day?