- Imagine the dichotomy of an urbane, well-educated person standing with money, goods and clothes worth Rs 50,000 in front of a widow whose husband killed himself for Rs 20,000 and the lakh of rupees that his family will get after he dies. It happened with me. Can you look that widow in the eye and can you forgive your own wild consumerism? Can you forgive yourself for the regular five-star lunches you have when these people eat plain jowar rotis.
But I stop short at "Can you forgive your own wild consumerism?" and "Can you forgive yourself the regular five-star lunches?" Because to me, this skates too close to the thin ice of guilt, and (I'm getting deja vu all over again here) a more futile, useless emotion than guilt would be hard to imagine.
The people who effect change, in my experience, are the ones who bypass guilt altogether because they have no time or use for it. They also bypass theorizing and arguing and debating. They simply get down to doing something. It may not necessarily the "best" thing to be done in that situation, whatever that may mean. But because it gets done, because they simply buckle down to work, it makes a difference, and then who remembers all the discussion and debate?
There are lots of people who come to mind as I write these words. An IAS officer called Saroj Jha, handling cyclone relief and rehabilitation in Erasama in Orissa in 1999 (I mentioned him briefly here). A young woman called Revathi who started a school for tsunami-affected kids in Nagapattinam, the "R" in this article. There are more.
Writers like me come and go from places like Vidarbha. We agonize over what we have seen, then we write about it, then we get into wrangles with others, like us except that they have utterly different ideological opinions on What Needs To Be Done (Suitably Capitalized). It gets all bitter and contentious and snide -- but of course, you can bet that none of the argument actually ends up with any of us actually Doing Anything.
So I applaud the Revathis and Jhas of this world. They show me how pointless guilt is. They show me how things get done.
Me, I'll keep up with consumerism and lunches. I'll also keep going to places like Vidarbha. I see no dichotomy.