BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The death toll of the Balasore train accident has crossed 275 lives, and as the cause of the accident is being zeroed in on, it gets clearer that though death is certain, its timing is unpredictable, and it is this that triggers pain.
Mishaps occur all over the world – some manmade and many inexplicable. However, the loss of life is the constant that will open the floodgates of emotions and pain, one that all prefer to stay away from.
The Balasore train accident will no doubt reveal a can of worms that our government has been anxious to keep hidden. And that is all that will matter to those in authority.
That the human being matters only as long as he is alive, going on to become a mere statistic after death, is a reality we all have to face. While relatives will usually care more, the importance of lives seems negligible to our politicians.
Days have elapsed since the accident, and there are calls that the concerned minister must or should have resigned after the accident. Resignation in India is always followed by more mishaps due to oversight. It is not a cure-all solution.
Death leaves a bitter taste in the living because death is incomprehensible to those in the mental state of grief. Science might explain death, and so might religion and philosophy, but to a grieving mind, death is always irrational and perplexing.
The stories that have been trickling from Balasore are painful. One worse than the other, sometimes forcing one to switch off and start looking for something light and distracting.
Those dead will have the ones left behind wondering how life will proceed from here on. Those injured and their loved ones have a similar question as a focus in their lives.
Nevertheless, one must not fall into the trap of looking at this tragedy as a dead end. We must start afresh. There will be plenty of scars, psychological and physical, which will hurt, but human beings are resilient creatures.
There is a lesson in this for us all, nonetheless. That is, we have been entrusted with the duty, the responsibility of doing good in this world, of being moral, decent human beings. For death is not the end when we have lived a blameless life.
Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet (“On Death”):
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
The pain of death can be eased by not fearing it. Fear of death vanishes when we give of ourselves unselfishly. This should be the mantra for our lives, our daily “dance”.
(The writer is a senior journalist)