What Mushroom is to Russian salad...

...criticism is to virtuous effort. The mail, which provoked this subject, was put up on the yahoo group and on our internal forum, Blondie. In short, it said, “Sorry to act as a rabble rouser. But there are some concerns that are moving about in my mind. These concerns have been triggered by the recent statements in the newspapers regarding food poisoning. Concern 1: Could the patients have got better care? Concern 2: Why were so few people taken to hospitals outside the institute?”

After three sleepless nights of helping the patients out at the MDP centre and trying to get rooms in the hospital, one of our group wrote back, in obvious disillusionment with the system and in protest of the typical blame-game we indulge in. It is questionable whether it is our mentality as a nation, or inherent human nature to avoid responsibility and assume that the next person is better equipped or accountable for taking care of a situation. Much like the Parable of the Sadhu, we rarely bother to analyse how we could have aided in improving the situation ourselves. Which is why the reply to the mail was caustic to the say least, but heartfelt in its emotion. An excerpt –

“Concern 1: Yes, why didn't you arrange it for them? Concern 2: We took as many as we thought needed to be taken/could be taken. How many did you take there? Do you know how many beds were available in the emergency ward at Vivekananda? Did you speak to the Head Swami to get more beds arranged? Do you know who the night shift doctors were at KK and how capable they were?” He ended by a truth from Dostoevsky "For man has closed himself up, til he sees all things thro' the chinks of his cavern."

In short, the reply is akin to the one Kapil Dev gave Karan Thapar on Hard Talk when Thapar gave him a complicated bouncer of a question. In one of the most brilliant replies in television history, he looked him back straight in the eye, took a deep breath, and said, "You tell me!" Stumped.

The search for answers is understandable. Unfortunately, for all the rhetoric we have against the system one must appreciate that the onus here was on us as the caretakers of the system. The suggestions, though noteworthy are surprising in that they weren't made earlier, or that the propagator did not act on them. In another reply, one of our non-group members who has also had the misfortune of being deigned to spend more of his life at the institute than he thought warranted, said "The more you discuss this, the more you will be disheartened by realities that are yet unknown to you". His argument has considerable weight. Though it may lack the capacity for rational debate, it is a subjective judgement based on experience that we may find myself resigned to agreeing with. Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die!

As is usual, the constructive improvements and discussion of any merit on such an open forum degenerated into a series of personal effronteries and digressed from the topic at hand. After much give and take, another mail served to bring the group on track, which reminded is that “It is not just eulogising or a parochial view of a dysfunctional issue. But because of the need to discuss ideas to improve the situation and desist from discussing people". At which the discussion took a constructive turn of events and much reconciliation was undertaken, and many others joined in with the likes of “It is extremely unfortunate that we do nothing, but criticize the Government, the Parliament, the Courts, the Civic Bodies and the Institute for doing nothing or doing everything wrong. When will we grow up and do things on our own? If one feels strongly for something then why not get it done rather that just sit in front of a computer terminal and writing critical mails. Please walk the talk, there is no point just talking.”

At last glance, the group has been commending the efforts of the volunteers for the fantastic job they did, the mess workers who acted as support staff and the members of faculty who helped out in any way they could – by being there with the students as a security blanket, by speaking to the authorities at the hospital to ensure that we were taken care of, and by those who selflessly joined the students in the most menial tasks of taking care of the sick and lent their own residences for the purpose. It is times like this that we realise that we belong to a community that cares, even if there are many deviants who cause for ill repute. Of course, the issues of the insensitivity of a considerable number, or the vast majority who did nothing to help out, of the misrepresented official reports to the media, and of the facilities provided by the institute still loom large. All in all though, the incident has done much to unify the batch and provide a platform from which we can look at ourselves and make the changes we know are needed for our own good.

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