By Manu Chaturvedi
I suppose we’re all used to the mercury plunging further and further south as we drudge through January.
But this winter is exceptionally cold. Eight degrees colder in fact. That’s a deathly statistic!
I urge all those like me who invest in new clothes, sleep in bearish blankets, travel in heated cars and buy out shelves of rum, to please stop and look around through the fog.
Your gaze is bound to fall on street urchins and beleaguered octogenarians shivering by the street, selling roses, scaled aircraft models or simply begging the winter away.
Some of whom you see today will die tomorrow.
But forget remembering them, will you remember how you felt?
A red light, you slow down. You find a homeless, shuddering vagrant tapping on your window; he draws your reluctant gaze. A feeling quite like shame blended with guilt creeps up the spine- a strange and irrepressible motley of sensations.
That’s a sliver of humanity you’ve inherited along with other privileges. A good specimen of progress, thankfully. Your bewildered, almost anxious mind is trying to come to terms with the chasm between you and the man on the other side of the glass.
But wait. A morbid moral dilemma, you think, best avoided in a world geared for blinding pursuits and seamless gratification.
Congratulations, you just let your fickleness get the better of your educated senses. That’s a lot of social and biological investment gone to rot.
So you impatiently look away, attempt (quite successfully) to distract yourself with the many things and people who surround you or quite ironically, find absurd consolation in the everyday-ness of this sight.
You might be one to ponder further (the signal won’t turn green).
You find yourself privy to a pressing yet convenient conviction- that a single act of altruism is at any rate of little consequence.
A despicable helplessness overcomes you, apparently. A long drawn passivity to what is otherwise a shocking social structure- a familiar experience in most towns- bears down further on this ‘realisation’.
You choose to disengage simply because you’re not capable of making everything right, all at once. What’s right anyway!? ?You employ darwin’s most misunderstood summation – survival of the fittest. Ahh. You’ve been done in by science as well. But that’s uniquely stupefying, you think. And a little ignorant too. You’re smarter than that. So you chose the righteous, albeit nebulous, path- you’ll do something, someday, for someone. Yes you will.
You might just do something today, if you find the time. and if you remember. With this thought you rally against everything you’re fleetingly experiencing. You look up. A green light, about time. You change gears. Pick up pace. Off you go.
So, what you should do today is quite simple. Four steps that’ll burden your packed schedule by few minutes but are bound to shed a few pounds off your conscience (yes, do it for yourself if nothing else):
1. Open your cupboards and trunks
2. Find warm clothes that’re too small, too old or too ugly for you
3. Bundle up and throw them in your cars
4. Drive off to wherever and if there’s someone you find who could use them, drop your window a little (the hardest bit, you’ll find) and slip them some.
Amidst this, please consider that someone not far away is dying because its too cold, while you knowingly stock heaps of wool that you’re adamant on not using. Mostly owed to some aesthetic prognosis.
That you’re distracted, lazy, benign or indecisive about it, is as wretched as anything you’ve lately protested against. And how much we’ve begun to protest as a city!
Manu is an NUJS’ alumnus.
Image from here.