Three monkeys

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.


14 thoughts on “Three monkeys

  1. As I watched CNN flashing images of a bloodied Gaddafi, I felt the same. You took those thoughts right out of my head and expressed them beautifully. The thin line between fantasy gore and a gawkish, horrible fascination with real splattered viscera has disappeared.

    You should hear some of the Halloween plans.

    It’s sickening.

    1. I saw the same photographs on CNN. I think what was the last straw for me was seeing a series of photographs over two days in the two Bangla newspapers I read. It was quite disgusting.

  2. Every mirror hides a camera. Every wall hides thousands of microphones.


    Over the years, my tolerance to unedited, gory raw images of blood and such has decreased considerably. It also could be perhaps I don’t have such news items that waltz into my family room at 7 or while having dinner. However, with the advent of desi channels via satellite, we as a family are appalled to the complete lack of insensitivity that news channels have for the dead, dying and just simply for the living recipients of such gore.

    We hate it. Call it whatever, there is no shock value whatsoever. It isn’t sheltering us from “reality” at all. The news is enough, a visual only lingers more. Very rarely does it provide the right effect.

    Thanks for that neat post.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree with you completely. One of the most touching memorials to tragedy that I’ve seen is the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. But the impact doesn’t come from gratuitous use of horrific images to describe a truly horrific event – it comes from the visuals of the instruments of horror and the effect it had on the people… shoes neatly stacked… photos of the living, who were never heard from again.

  3. We are, at the end of the day, animals…far simpler than we give ourselves credit for being. That’s the only rationale I can come up with to deal with the fact that I wake up to gory images in my newspaper and I flip the pages as I consume my breakfast.

  4. I don’t watch TV and I made it a point not to see the Gaddafi videos. When did human life, ANY human life, lose it’s dignity?

    We were told to treat cadavres with respect in med school. We teach children to love their neighbours. What goes wrong?

    Brilliantly worded post. This needs to get out.

    1. Good question.

      I do agree with you that cadavers need to be treated with respect and not in a cavalier manner. Many years ago, when Orkut was still the big thing, (yes I know it must have been many years ago), I noticed that someone, clearly a medical student, had posed with a cadaver, and posted photos. I thought it was disrespectful but Google does not have a policy explicitly forbidding distribution of graphic images.

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