Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The real tragedy

Something about the Aarushi Talwar case tugs at my heart. I feel transfixed every time the TV splashes Aarushi’s childhood pictures and videos. The normalness of the images is chilling in that they bear no hint, not a shimmer of the terrible fate that awaits this family round the corner.

The clips reveal a regular, attractive young girl celebrating, dressing up, posing; laughing and generally being her own self.  She is quite obviously a child, well cared and well provided for. The vignettes are of regular domestic bliss; a birthday party in one, a ceremonial function in another, a shopping session with her mother in the third. There is a lovely, vulnerable, slightly self-conscious smile on Aarushi’s face in most of the shots. She bears an air of being at ease in secure surroundings. There is also a certain sense of style and self-awareness in her bearing.

I remember the one frame though, that struck a jarring note in this otherwise idyllic visual stream. It was a clip of Hemraj braiding Aarushi’s hair. I could never make up my mind whether it was a slightly off key degree of familiarity there or just the usual comfort level between a family loyal and the teen whose childhood he has been a part of. It is not unusual in Indian families to have a steady and consistent domestic over several years, someone almost at home. Even so, there was a dissonance in that space, perhaps it had to do with their respective years. I am unsure but there was that care in the gentle manner he was folding her hair with that belied what should have been to me, a strictly no-nonsense and business like chore. But it might just have been the affection of an old retainer.

There were other punctuation marks in this story that winked at me. Aarushi’s school; my kids attended its namesake at R K Puram. The Talwar family lived in a Jal Vayu Vihar flat, that could have been us, and we did own a home in a similar society once. I thought of the couple, coming from this milieu, working to give their daughter the best possible life in their power. They would have laboured over her inoculations, her nutritious diet, the milk and non-veg protein routine, her school paraphernalia, research on personal gadgets such as phone and camera and the iPod. They would have had plans for her, on what she would be when she grew up. I would certainly have identified with their agony over her fevers, allergies, the invariable indispositions. They would have harboured fears over her security, worries about her being eve teased or threatened in any other unsavoury way.

This frequent and on-going empathetic reverie of mine is what is intermittently and  rudely interrupted by the media accusations of public voyeurism even as they bang out the “in your face” coverage and go to town with their distasteful allegations and theories.

Am I being intrusive, morbid, and salacious in associating with the Talwar story in thoughts?
Oh no, my conscience is clear. There is no guilt because I know the tragedy’s hold on me arises out of its incongruity, the bizarre and tangential turn of events as they happened, so out of character with a seemingly ordered configuration. I admit too that there is a deeper sense of identification owing to the demographic commonality. There is almost a need for personal validation; to have it proved beyond doubt that there is more to it than a mere twisted and sensational spectacle created by the TV channels and newspapers, lending itself to an impatient dismissal at the most.

It cannot be! There are flesh and blood humans involved. Surely it is more than a fluke tragedy in one of its kind accidental mode? Is there, in all of this mess the germ of a lesson for us, a mirror and a wakeup call; the reflection in fact, of our lifestyle choices?

If a healthy, educated child of a professional couple living the comfortable regular, ideal life meets this end, do we not owe it to ourselves to examine the incident in broader, universally applicable terms?

The middle classes’ antenna is forever quivering in anticipation of any threat to their heavy investments; the children in short. What must the couple be going through since her passing away, I shudder at that thought?

There are other related reflections that come to mind. It is clear that one really doesn’t know what is going on behind closed doors in civilized neighbourhoods. The family had to have been in extreme and extraordinary pain to have manifested this dreadful event. One wonders too at the strange connections and dynamics that can arise between people in a group, occupying that space called modern living, and irrespective of their status or position in the group hierarchy. Can one turn a blind eye as well to the natural tendency of teens to dive into whirlpools of attachments that no one can see them in, let alone extricate them from. And most tragic of all, that as a society we do not have the emotional wherewithal to survive any errors of judgement by our children. 

Where was the extended family while some dreadful mishap was taking shape in this small band of members? What happened to the buffers when the fear got out of hand? How did the Talwars get so alone and lonely in their hour of need?

The tragedy that is the Aarushi Double Murder case is a mirror to us, the Indian society. It is the very same conservative anonymity that we take pride in, that proved fatal for this family like ours.                        


Pradeep Trivedi said...
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Neerja Singh said...
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