“Hunger For Love Is As Intense And As Strong As The Hunger Of Bengal”

September 28, 2012 at 9:15 AMSep (Friends, Letter, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

A friend wrote a mail regarding her experience with the grassroot India. While I was happy and proud about the work my friend is doing, a line from the mail got stuck in my mind which reminded me of several other conversations. The line said that my friend hereafter, after looking at the miserable conditions of poorest of poor, will not crib about her own life.

The line reminded me of what many people over many years have been telling me and I have heard many people telling many other people. How many times I have been told, “Look at those people who do not have to eat, a shelter over their head. In comparison to their lives your life is so much better.” I have heard this being told to many other people I know by many others who I know with much concrete examples like “Construction workers,” “Migrant labourers.”

I have had problems with such line of thought, always, for two reasons. One I have never understood how can we compare two or more tragedies of life and say one is bigger a tragedy and the other is not. While I understand that there is an intersection of socio-economic powers in some tragedies and some are purely emotional and personal, I cannot come to believe that social, political and economic tragedies are more miserable than personal, while I completely agree that socio-political and socio-economical tragedies need to be fought collectively. I say this at the risk of being called “self absorbed.” But let me say this, like Manto said in his essay titled ‘Why I Write?’: If a boy falls in love with a girl I do not consider it to be the same as some viral fever. Such a boy captures my thoughts and imagination. It happens so because to my mind his hunger for love is as intense and as strong as the hunger of Bengal.” 

I have not even understood how the miseries of a migrant labourer or a construction worker can make me feel better about my own situation. It is like what Javed Akthar wrote in one of his gazals:

Kam Ho Kaisey Inn Kushiyon Sey Tera Gam,
Lehron Mein Kab Behataa Hai Nadi Ka Chand.

[How can your miseries be of less weight than these moments of joy,
When has the river carried away with it the reflection of the moon?] 

Similarly how can somebody else’s miseries carry away my own tragedies, however personal and emotion it is in opposition to the other miseries which have a social political and economical gravity.

More importantly, I have always found this call to feel better about oneself looking at other’s miseries, very sadistic. To feel good by looking at other’s tragedies, by comparing it to our own tragedies, to my mind is a sadistic line of thought.

But I believe that one’s personal tragedy, because of its touch of pain, should make one understand the bigger tragedies of life and world in a better and much more sensitive way. If that does not happen then it is ‘self absorption’, I agree. But at the same time those who speak of the tragedies of ‘construction workers’ bringing in loaded words of class and oppression, should be able to understand the personal tragedies without dismissing it off as personal and emotional. We require a Montosque line of thought which can see the personal and social as the same and personal through social and social through the personal, it appears to me, rather than breaking the two apart and saying one has more weight than others.

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