As I switched on the TV on Sunday night and saw the ticker talking about Prince being rescued from a ditch, I began to wonder what the heck was good ole Charlie upto. Or did William fall off a horse? Or was Harry punch drunk? And why was Manmohan Singh sending them blessings?
Or was it one of our Rajasthan type ‘hukooms’?
Or was it a police sniffer dog that was chasing a Tashkar-e-Taiyba terrorist who seem to be so easy to find?
Then I squinted my eyes as I read that the Haryana chief minister had offered Rs. 2 lakh to Prince. All this was breaking news. Later, images were flashed and I got to know that the whole country had been riveted for two days by the ordeal of a five-year-old who had fallen into an open sewer.
He was hailed by commoner and cynic alike as a hero.
I was just glad I wasn’t around to be “glued to the TV”. The Prince episode makes me sick. It has exposed the malaise that besets urban society – boredom.
K. Natwar Singh, our former external affairs minister, dedicated his column in The Asian Age to “A new little hero for India”.
He asks with utter naiveté, “How did a billion Indians adopt him as their own, why did so many perform pujas and collective prayers?” and then proceeds to answer with the even more naïve, “Because we are an emotional and sentimental people”.
Where are our emotions and sentiments when children walk around like zombies with bloated hungry stomachs, who die before they are born, who live in pipes that are not even two-feet wide? Where are our emotions when tribals are displaced, slums are demolished, people killed in cold blood?
He gushes, “What a wonderful, heart-lifting, skillful job the rescue team, the doctors and the administration did.”
Where are the rescue teams when calamities strike, when women are raped, villages plundered?
He further states, “The chief minister of Haryana has given Rs 2 lakh to the boy’s parents. The Prime Minister has announced free medical aid. This is not enough. Also announce that Prince’s education from primary school to university will be met by the government of Haryana.”
Where are our politicians when many such children die due to lack of basic healthcare? Why did Prince get Rs. 2 lakh? If it is compensation for the neglect of the authorities that left the sewer open, then the person responsible ought to be thrown out of his job first. This is a sop and will encourage the powers-that-be to become heroes by default. The prime minister should be sending his blessings to all the impoverished children of India for displaying resilience every single day of their lives.
On what grounds must the Haryana government sponsor the child’s education? Because a CCTV was monitoring him and he survived on biscuits and chocolates?
Why are TV channels being lauded? They want reality? They should park their cameras in villages where some kids run hard and fast hoping to become athletes if only they could afford a pair of shoes. Then let us see how many people pray.
Natwar Singh is extremely insensitive when he says, “The other reason is that this happy ending took our minds away from perpetual doom and gloom, from terror attacks in Mumbai, rape in Ghaziabad, abduction in the Northeast, violence in Somalia and Sudan, American folly in Iraq, an air crash here and a train disaster there, Israeli bombing of Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah retaliating with deadly determination, from a suicide by a girl in a Delhi school to murder in Vasant Vihar, I could go on and on.”
I am quoting from one article by an articulate, apparently intelligent man (never mind that he makes a comment like, “This five-year-old kid obviously has a very strong horoscope and a very strong constitution”), but this obviously seemed to be the mood around.
So, as citizens of the world, must we ignore the gut-wrenching happenings around us? Must we use a personal trauma as ‘time-pass’ and in turn transform an unlikely candidate into a hero?
To call Prince “a role model to millions of children of our beloved India” would mean waiting for every child to fall into a ditch, literal or metaphorical.