I remember the day Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated quite well. There were framed photos of the man on street corners with garlands hanging from them. He was smiling in most of the photos and wearing a white kurta. Women were crying. Men were shell-shocked. It didn’t matter what your political inclinations were. It didn’t matter what you thought of the man. The sadness was palpable.
Frontline ran a story with graphic images of the dead in the aftermath of the explosion. Sriperumbudur, the place where Rajiv Gandhi died was a horrific sight. There were bodies strewn everywhere. There were bodies without legs. Torsos without heads. And there was a picture of the man, Rajiv Gandhi himself, or what remained of him – a rump covered by a tattered piece of cloth. Probably a piece of the white kurta he had been wearing. It was the most horrific photograph that I had ever seen in my life. What were the editors of Frontline thinking the day they published it?
Death and dismemberment are real. Vultures swoop down on corpses at Parsi dokhmas. Tibetans show their compassion towards animals by opting for sky-burials. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. That which is not cremated is returned to the mahabhuta. That is the order of things.
But there is solemnity in death. It is the end of the line for all of us. Is it, not natural therefore, that we, the living, show a modicum of respect for the dead?
Another day, another bomb blast. Bloody streets in some part of the world. Or perhaps, a dictator is dead? Where is the proof? He was killed. No, he was caught or killed. No, he was caught then killed. These questions are inconsequential. He was despicable. No one will miss him. How many ways did he spell his name in a language he did not speak?
Meanwhile, we boast about not flinching while watching movies in which humans are stitched together. About how we score headshots with a rocket-launcher on video game adversaries.
Every mirror hides a camera. Every wall hides thousands of microphones.
In Barrackpore, a housewife and her paramour were shot down by her husband in broad daylight. Then he shot himself. The photograph of the deceased lying in a pool of blood in a dirty bazaar on the front page of a newspaper is what I see in the morning. There are flies everywhere. The accompanying story mentions that the kids were not at home at the time. There were kids?
I plug my ears, but the screaming reverberates inside my head. I close my eyes, but the images are vivid. I cover my mouth, but the thoughts whisper to themselves.