A few thoughts put together
All Standard Disclaimer's Apply
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A few weeks back I got my annual appraisal letter. No credit for guessing that it did not amuse me one bit. The raise was negligible and the bonus less than last year's. Considering the inflation in this country, I will probably have less money in my pocket this year compares to last year. I was sad and frustrated. What does a hardworking person need to do to get his due.Retail therapy to assuage my monetary worries was a temporary relief ;)
The down payment of a flat ,the EMI for the car and the frequent stops at the gas station broke the calm that retail therapy had achieved over the weekend. I was distraught at my situation and listening to all my colleagues cribbing about their bonuses made it worse , for all I knew they had got much better than the rest of us. As numbers from other firms started trickling in things became almost unbearable. I knew I had to do something about it. I updated my resume and posted it on the job portal. I had to take my mind of the whole appraisal disaster. I decided to pick up some book and start reading. Not being much of a reader I asked a friend to suggest me one.
"A rainbow in the night " is the story of South Africa from the first settlers , through apartheid till it became a rainbow nation. But for me it was a story of individuals , one of them was Helen Lieberman . A white lady and a speech therapist. Her story started one evening when she ended up in a black neighborhood in search of a black infant who was discharged from the hospital where she worked. She feared for the kid's life, because she knew his life would be in danger if he did not get proper care. When she reached the slums or ghetto or settlement or whatever you might want to call it , she was taken aback by the sheer poverty in the area . People lived without proper sanitation, but that was the least of their problems. For people who were not sure if they would get their next meal, sanitation was at the bottom of their priority list . The place,where infant mortality was extremely high , with some dying of disease and the rest out of hunger, can surely be called inhuman if not hell. That one visit was the beginning of many such visits for Helen, who strived to make the place more livable every passing day . After many such visits Helen became Helen mama. She taught them a lot of things and learned a lot her self too. These visits were a window to the part of her country neglected by all. A place, where even though people died of hunger and tuberculosis , the strongest desire was not nutritious food but a school for their children. With the help of neighborhood inhabitants and most notably a strapping young boy names Sam , she was able to build a school for the black kids of the neighborhood. Helen lost many friends because she chose to work with people of a different skin colour , but she still had the strongest support system in her her husband ,to go back to. A happy Helen returned to her husband on the night of the opening of the school , to be informed, by the people of her adopted village, that Sam had been attacked and burned alive inside the school. The white police did nothing but threaten to act against Helen if she did not stop her activities inside the slums.
Helen lived in a country with close to five million other whites. She lived in a country where only a few others like her came forward to help the blacks or kaffirs as the black supremacists liked to call them . Helen , physically was no more a human than the rest of them . She wasn’t born in mysterious circumstances , where heavenly bodies aligned themselves in a certain order , nor was she visited by wise men with gifts on her birth. She was a normal human being.
My grand old man once told me "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and so does invisibility". Scientist are looking to uncover the formula for invisibility are looking in the wrong place. The secret to invisibility lies not in any chemical formula, but in the eyes of the onlooker. People learn the art as they grow up , and teach their kids as they grow up . We learn to erase from our view anything that is wrong with us and our surroundings. People say this is what is called turning a blind eye , but I would respectfully disagree. The blind never contest the existence of things that they cannot see , they just use their other senses to verify it . But people learned in the art of invisibility, learn to see right through things. The Nazis saw right through the pains of their Jew victims.The wails and tears of the Jews were invisible to them. The positives of one religion are invisible to the zealots of other religion . The pains of blacks were invisible to the whites in America and south Africa . The tearful eyes of aborigine mothers were invisible to the whites in Australia. For all my MBA friends Selective vision (similar to selective hearing) might ring a bell.
Why go so far back in history , I hear my friends tell me all the time how filthy the Mumbai slums are, and how much of an eye sore the slums of Mumbai are. They see the filth and dirt of the slums , but see right through the human beings who have no choice but to live in slums because in this glorious city of ours parking space is more expensive than their annual family income.
Invisibility is an art we have all learned . After reading Helen's story I had unlearned it for a few days. I felt like the kid in the movie sixth sense , who would see ghosts moving around seeking help. Every time I picked up a news paper or read a book I saw so much of pain that I wished if only i hadn't unlearned the art of making things invisible. I would go to bed with a heavy heart.
I don’t have the heart , the courage or the means to change things around me . I will learn the art of invisibility again just to stay sane. I will go back to cribbing about my promotion , my pay and my EMI . A friend of mine once told me , a sane man chooses his fights . Mine is a much smaller fight. Helen's heart was much bigger than mine, she continued her fight and today she runs the biggest humanitarian organization in South Africa.