When a Show of
Emotion is Needed
Aasha Mehreen Amin
We are supposed to be an emotional race. Look at the way we shed oceans of tears during Hindi serials, the brutality with which we lynch a petty thief or an innocent when we are law enforcers, the unfathomable curiosity we have towards the ailments of strangers at the doctor's waiting room and the effusiveness of our praises towards people of power and influence. We are a warm-blooded race and our hospitality towards friend and foe is quite legendary.
But sometimes, some of us step out of character and leave the rest of our fellow citizens baffled, bewildered and befuddled. This is usually the case with people in powerful positions. When a child dies because of a stray bullet piercing through the house, a consequence of a street skirmish a former home minister glibly said that it was all God's will and that God had taken away his ward. Instead of showing compassion and regret at such a tragic death, the minister resorted to fatalistic platitudes that could only serve to infuriate and outrage the dead child's parents and the public in general.
Making trite remarks as a way of avoiding responsibility has been a tradition among ministers. Remember our former finance minister saying on TV after a reporter commented on the frequency of bombing incidents, that bombs are now a part of our life and we must live with this phenomenon? Some comfort that gave the public living in constant fear of being blown into smithereens at any moment.
Now our current home minister described the death of Abu Baqar, a poor, meritorious student caught in the battles between two factions of the student wing of her party, as not a matter worth pondering about as it could happen any time. Funny how she managed to say this in public without a bat of an eyelid. Did she know that he was an innocent victim of student politics that her government has failed to control, that he was the only member of the family who was to have earned a university degree in the hope of a decent life for his family? Perhaps she didn't know. We hope it wasn't because she didn't care.
These days it seems compassion and kindness are scarce commodities in the market although even tiny drops of these magical items could do a world of good. If the home minister, instead, expressed sorrow at this tragedy and made strong statements to say that they would try their best to make sure that the campuses are free from such violence, she would be hailed as a minister sympathetic towards public safety instead of an insensitive public official trying to cover up the dirty laundry of her party. Being a loyalist does not mean one has to purge all human sensibilities for the sake of the party. At least our spiky-haired former home minister kept promising that he would catch all the terrorists, so what if he was involved in their activities? At least he pretended to be a nice person.
That's the problem with our public figures. Many of them just don't know the art of acting. They send messages of 'shock' and horror at the news of some head of state they have never met, yet when their own people die senseless deaths because the state failed to protect them, there is not a word of sympathy. At least in this regard our present Prime Minister has for the most part shown genuine sympathy towards the bereaved on many occasions. One does not know if she said any words or made any gesture to console the family of Abu Baqar but we do hope she will.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010