A cliché about India holds that the loss of life matters less here than in other countries because of the Hindu faith in reincarnation, and because of the vast scale of the population. I’ve found that young people feel the loss of life acutely. To my mind, what appears to be indifference to other people’s suffering has little to do with reincarnation, nothing to do with being born brutish, and a great deal to do with conditions that can sabotage innate capacities for moral action.
In places where government priorities and market imperatives create a world so capricious that to help a neighbor is to risk your ability to feed your family, and sometimes even your own liberty, the idea of the mutually supportive poor community is demolished. The poor blame one another for the choices of governments and markets, and we who have means are ready to blame the poor just as harshly.
It is easy, from a safe distance, to overlook the fact that in undercities governed by corruption, where exhausted people vie on scant terrain for very little, it is blisteringly hard to be good. The astonishment is that some people are good, and that many people try to be—all those invisible individuals who every day find themselves faced with dilemmas not unlike the one Abdul confronted, stone slab in hand, one July afternoon when his life exploded.
If the house is crooked and crumbling, and the land on which it sits is uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?
“If you lose your way tonight, that’s how you know the magic’s right.
Random Access Memories