Mincing words is not my business. I’ll leave it to the politicians who are squabbling over whether India has proved to be a better neighbor to Nepal than China in this devastating catastrophe. It is not merely a moment of crisis for the Nepalese people but for the world at large. Like the wise guy in 80s Hindi films used to say, “Aaj jo iske sath huya hain, kal who tumhare saath bhi ho sakta hain.”
The way social media has reacted to the situation, by constantly posting, sharing and tweeting about missing people and ways to support the victims, is also commendable. There has been a general humanitarian approach to the whole thing, partially also because it was a natural catastrophe and not mired by a political war or communal furore.
What’s bothering however is the manner in which a synthetic jingoistic tint has been added to establish a certain perfunctory nationalist supremacy. As snippets of news reach us majorly through television channels, we as Indians cannot be prouder at the way the Indian Army has risen to the occasion and helped evacuate and treat the injured people. But the map trending on Facebook showing Nepal as a beaten man supporting itself on India’s shoulder, in an army uniform, has some disturbing implications.
First, they deserve better. The armed forces of our country have always been the symbol of grit and valour; whether it is cross border terrorism or any state of emergency. But when thousands of people are sharing a photograph like that, it neutralizes the gravity of their actions. There is another similar meme doing the rounds that shows Nepal as a wailing child and India as a woman holding it in a motherly embrace.
Now I have no problems against feeling pride for one’s own country. When India won the cricket World Cup in 2011, I had gone out on the streets and danced with strangers. And mostly everyone had a similar story to share from that day. But is this the right time to evoke such feelings among each other? When a friend fell during a 100 meter sprint we offered them our hands so they can get up. Not to send any message, not for a display picture. Not when I was growing up at least.
We are people, this is what we do. Pick each other up and have one another’s back. If we don’t, then that is the exception. India is both geographically and linguistically closer to Nepal than any other country. Several Nepalese men have served in the Gorkha regiment of the Indian Army for ages. It is no surprise that not only our PM was quick to offer his condolences but also brought the armed forces into action promptly. India also shares an open border with Nepal, which in a way acts as a shield against China’s attempts to expand its dominion.
The criticisms coming to the fore via social media from locals stuck in the valley are also proof that not everything is hunky dory. Only yesterday I read a woman’s post shared by a friend which condemned the way a chopper of the Indian Air Force neglected the distressed locals and instead offered its seats to a resourceful individual present at the scene. Now these are small glitches that a rescue operation as massive as this one is bound to face.
It saddened me but it didn’t make me lose hope. Everybody in this world is serving somebody in the end. But this is not the time to fuel vanity or bask in self glory. Social media may be free but it reaches out to the largest number of people in the shortest possible time. And even if that one post is about the emergency numbers to call if someone is stuck in any of the affected areas instead of comparison charts or Jai Hind rants then it will make a difference.
UN has announced that 8 million people have been affected by this earthquake and over 1.4 million are still in need of food. So if you are perpetually broke like me, then let’s instead focus on how to skip the next summer blockbuster so that money, whether in the form of rice, milk, blankets or torches, can reach them. The patriot can wait!