Saturday, July 22, 2006

Life must go on...

Around July every year, herds of wildebeests cross the River Mara, on the boundary between Kenya and Tanzania, lured by the greener pastures on the other side. Over a million of them participate in this parade. The river is populated with crocodiles eagerly awaiting their annual banquet. Thousands of wildebeest perish during these crossings, either caught in the stampede or in the waiting jaws of the crocodiles. The wildebeests are aware of the danger, as is evidenced by their nervous behaviour when they sight the river, but they plunge on regardless, driven by the strong instinct that the species must survive, even if a few individual elements of the species must be sacrificed.

This came to my mind when I drove past the Western Railway line in Mumbai on July 11th, soon after the blasts. So many people had lost their lives and there was palpable tension in the air. Yet, within a few minutes, thousands of commuters had come out the railway stations and, as one teeming mass of humanity, started to walk in the direction of their homes, hoping to find other means of transport along the way. Yes, a few hundred of the species had succumbed to the terrorist crocodiles, but the rest of the species had to move on.

Sadly, I must admit that I was also one of the callous thousands, as all I wanted to do was to get out of the traffic jams, reach my hotel as quick as possible and sleep.

True, there were hundreds of commuters who stayed back and helped; several good Samaritans who rushed to hospitals to donate blood and scores of people who came out of their houses and offered water, refreshments, etc to people stranded on the roads. But, the dominant instinct was to get out of the scene and to safety.

Society, as some ethologists say, is an organic whole, and everything in a society reflects that society’s predominant instinct. Charles Darwin concluded his thesis, “ Descent of Man”, with this paragraph :

…….We must, however, acknowledge as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which he feels for the most debased, with benevolence that extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his godlike intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system --- with all these exalted powers --- man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

3 comments:

jhantu said...

thats right, after all weoriginated from a species of lowly killer apes

Lalita Mukherjea said...

At last, I have come across another person who has read Darwin, instead of reading about him.

You changed your profile again, you modest soul, you.

Raj said...

Jhantu, yes we don't seem to have abandoned our roots entirely.

Lalita, fooled you, didn't I? I just read the last para of Darwin's book.