Wednesday 8 May 2013

Sarabjits and Us

Have you heard of Tihar Haat? It’s a humble store running out of Tihar Jail and selling goods made by the inmates. Plants, rugs, namkeens and biscuits, durries, weaves and the tastiest ever muffins, for the price of nothing, come home with us every time we visit. What marvellous fortune to be staying next door to not just one of the most VIP areas of today, but also one churning out such wonders - neatly packed and nicely priced. However, not many share our excitement, or our muffins and namkeens for that matter. Made by prisoners? How can you buy this stuff? Are you sure about hygiene? Some of them have blood on their hands. Ram Ram! You really think this is a good idea, letting goods made by criminals enter your homes? While we continued to think it was, everyone we spoke to wrongly rejected the place as nothing but an off-shoot of evil minds, idle hands and sub-standard products.

Then one day a certain Sarabjit succumbed to his injuries - brutally beaten to death in jail after decades of being a prisoner across the border. And suddenly, we found tragedy. Swarms of protests, posters, rallies and ranting against our neighbour began. We felt for the grieving family on TV and screamed in one voice that those responsible for this murder should be brought to task. That this Sarabjit be provided the best medical treatment in our country. Justice, as it’s popularly called, was demanded, as is usually asked for.

And here I sit today, wondering without answers, as his name vanishes from everything that we see and read - What does all this mean?

Is it because he died in the prison of our arch “enemy-state” that we got so angry? Or is it that no other tragedy was doing its rounds at that time for prime time - that time we tell the time by?

Is life really so fickle that one day we other, and the next day we mourn? Or is it because for death there is sympathy but in life there is no time to think to know to even care?

Statistics and numbers of prisoners lodged in jails are floating around now. Numbers. Big numbers. This side that side and all over everywhere. Sarabjit was a nameless number for most of his life, and just a name and a number when he died. The person that he was was never alive to us, and so could not have died on us – and no amount of money or days of state mourning can make it seem otherwise.      

However, we found tragedy, the news channels found a topic, and two nations found more politics.

There’s nothing more there. If there was, dear Tihar Haat and it's muffin-making Sarabjit would not be dying of unnatural causes either.   

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