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What's Mine is Mine and Yours is yours

By Maliha Bassam

Pos.ses.sive (adjective). 1.eager to dominate00 wishing to control somebody exclusively or to be the sole object of somebody's love (disapproving) 2. selfish tending not to share possessions with others 3. of ownership relating to ownership e.g. possessive pride

Back in class four, we had this torture of a textbook in English class. A Way to English, as far as my memory cells can recollect. There was a story called "A Miraculous Pitcher"; a story divided into several parts.

It was about a poor, old couple who once entertained some tired travellers who stopped at their doorstep with the limited amount of what they had to offer. I wasn't impressed. At the raw age of ten, appreciating fictional hospitality wasn't a built-in feature. Years later, maybe my sense of acknowledging the absence of some things I read about almost a decade back is more acute. That story may not have been registered as the testament of some linguistic achievement, but looking back, I realise the old couple has left me impressed.

Oddly enough, I didn't happen to grow up in some quaint hamlet where miracles took place. I grew up in a bustling capital, where my air-conditioned mode of transport placed me in the better of the two worlds that existed. The glass of my car window separated me from sunburnt kids my age selling wilting flowers, cheap candies and colourful magazines. It kept me away from a world of floating germs, from a world of poverty, abusive fathers, diseased mothers, starving siblings. This side of the glass was my world; the upholstery of the comfortable car seats my domain. This was mine. What existed on the other side was theirs.

I grew up in a country where people slept on the sidewalk where on rare occasions I walked upon. Kids the age of my little brother worked for hours in construction sites while he went to school and came home to his GI Joe's. While I was reading books borrowed from the British Council in a frenzied haze, girls my age who could not spell their own name walked alone at night, harassed by men. Men and women the age of grandparents begged with dented steel bowls in hands while music blared on Discmans.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to identify that there's something missing here. That there's a gap here. A big, wide, gaping hole that separates you and me from them. What's amazing about human nature is its power to ignore. And ignore we do, every day, for day after day. Ignore the gap that no one is willing to bridge; for we were brought up in a world where, what's mine is mine and yours is yours.

Forget the fact that our rail station plays home to so many of the homeless. Forget the fact that the meal you consume in one day is the meal consumed by a family of four in a week. Forget it all. Let's take a look somewhere closer to home. The family living next door, or on the floor above yours. You know they have a widescreen television bought only last November. You know that Mr and Mrs X are the richest couple in the building. But when was the last time you were neighbourly in the true sense of the word? We barely greet our own neighbours; let alone offer to help the family who we've known for twelve years when they're moving. The walls separating an apartment from another apartment divide us into two; where once again, their lives don't involve us just like our lives don't involve them. Gone are days of sociability and hospitality; elements existing between every neighbour. We live with them years after years, share elevators, stairs, a common entrance, parking space and at the end of it all, keep ourselves strangely distant. Their grief and joy are as unfamiliar to us as the random stranger's on the street. There's no difference between sharing a roof with a family for ten years and a family you've been looking at for ten minutes.

The same applies for news articles. 15 year old girl raped in the city. 12 year old boy missing. Body parts of a schoolboy gruesomely packed in a school bag which maybe your little cousin has a replica of. A temporary hype; easily forgotten and lost in the blur of thousands of unsolved murder cases.

At one point, it has stopped mattering. It's become only another statistic, another coffee-room topic of discussion. It hasn't happened to you or anyone you love; it's happened to some face you've never seen before the newspaper photograph, and therefore, by some unwritten law, a matter that's none of your concern. News of brutalities can shock us at the most, but deaths of innocent children don't touch us. We let go of the grief, thinking it's only for the family to mourn; it's theirs, not ours. It's yours, not mine.

Sticking posters on the wall of an honest man who's spent his life savings to build a wall protecting a house he owns. Election graffiti with fake promises of alleviating poverty. Littering on a street thinking it's not my street that I should take care of it. The street belongs to you; someone I have never seen. Blaring horns mercilessly in front of a hospital where an old woman is giving her last breath; she's someone related to you and not me. Highlighting library books with fluorescent colours thinking it's not my book.

Similarly, you dump toxic chemicals into a river thinking it's not your river, it's someone else's. You ignore the sight of a starving kid begging for a dirty note that will buy him his meal and life, because the kid's not your kid or your brother. You ignore the pleas of white-haired, wrinkled men and women asking you to grant them another day to live in the world, because they're not yours and I ignore them because they're not mine.

The gap widens every second. With every back turned. With every cry ignored. With every thought of 'Someone else will do it, I don't need to bother'. The gap widens as you wrap your college applications up, thinking of flying away to a foreign land and never returning.

The gap widens as you elect undeserving men and women to power. The gap widens as you use what should have been your tax money to buy yourself a holiday to Switzerland. But more than our actions that cause this gap to widen; the gap widens mostly due to our inactions. For we are a possessive generation and what's mine is only mine and yours is only yours.

   

 
 

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