Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Christmas Tsunami

This is a belated impression owing to our shock at the tragic events of Sunday. Before we go on, can we urge all readers to please generously contribute to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund or to the Association for India's Development's Tsunami Survivors Relief Campaign.

For days we haven't known what to say, then we saw a Kovalam fisherman on TV, wailing unconsolably at the loss of his only son -- a brilliant student in whom the bereaved father's dreams were vested.

We were reminded of the heart-rending film The Sweet Hereafter, based on the eponymous Russell Banks novel, that chronicles a small town's coping with the sudden loss of most of its children in a freak accident. Over time, the grief goes away; what linger are guilt and helplessness and anger. These latter emotions are corrosive to the core -- they can reduce powerful men & women to shells of themselves.

Indians will undoubtedly give generously to our compatriots in their time of trial. But beyond material compensation -- which really is no compensation at all -- lies India's greater long-term responsibility to the survivors: their psychological recovery. There is no doubt that overseas Indians will contribute more themselves than the near $100mm the so-called "rich" nations have pledged so far. We hope, however, that this will not be the only contribution we will make -- that we will, in our own ways, find opportunities to engage over the long-term to help in the very painful coping that is to follow.

For Sri Lanka and Maldives, we fear even greater sorrows than India will endure. We hope that India is just as generous with these neighbours as it will be for its own people. We already know it has formed a coalition with US, Japan, and Australia to coordinate the global relief effort -- which should be, and will likely be, the largest in human history.

No comments: