Pretending it doesn’t exist won’t make the problem go away.
It’s impossible to walk out of a seminar on child rights and child abuse without being shaken. Not because of all the new and horrifying things you learn, but because it hits you that you knew all this already. But we’ve all become so clinical with our newsreading that headlines about rape, child labour or violence hardly make us flinch.
Sip coffee, turn page.
For journalists, it’s a whole different ball-game. Can you afford to be sensitive and at the same time churn out stories about such morbid topics on a daily basis without being driven into depression?
I asked Mr. Augustine Veliath, formerly a UNICEF communication specialist, about this. He had travelled all over the country, observing from close-quarters the miserable condition of children everywhere. Yet, Mr. Veliath was just about the most pleasant man you’d meet. I could barely get through Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy without being stunned, going back to daily routine, and then beating myself up for going back to daily routine. How did people like Mr. Veliath manage to keep up their spirits while witnessing first-hand all of what I’d read about?
“You know, Nandita,” he said. “If you meet these children, you will never be depressed.” I knew the truth in what he was saying, even as he was saying it. Children, however unfortunate the circumstances they live in, are happy people. They make you happy. And sad too, but not the kind that drives you into depression like words sometimes tend to. The sadness you feel after interacting with children is of a hopeful kind.
I think the more you passively read about the ills in society, the more you descend into gloom. You need to remind yourself now and then some of these kids that you shed passive outraged tears for are still hopeful. Remind yourself of this by seeing them first. Don’t look away uncomfortably when you see poverty, and then go back home and cry over Slumdog Millionaire. If you do, then your kids will too. The least we can do is acknowledge their presence. If everyone did that, then perhaps we’d start wanting to fix the problem.