9th November 2012 is the date. That was the day that I realised there was something fundamentally wrong with the people of Bangladesh. In my 5 years here, I could only make out a hazy view of the things that were wrong, but on that day, I actually was witness to a single event that showed more clearly the many things that is wrong with the people here, and perhaps more importantly, where it is that they are wrong.
It was a Friday, a day when Muslims are expected to attend congregational prayers. On my way to the mosque, I see an old woman with something red flowing out of her mouth. Someone else took a closer look and said “It’s just the red liquid that results from chewing betel leaves.” [That is the first thing that is wrong with Bangali people.] I continue on my way and attend prayer. On the way back, I see a small crowd gathered close to where the woman lay. I went to take a look, unprepared for the shock I was about to receive. The same woman was seated against a pole, looking exhausted. 10 seconds later, she coughed, and a stream of blood flowed from her mouth. I immediately got shit-pissed, “Where’s the asshole who could do something like this?” So I looked around for a bit, wondering if anyone knew anything and spotted a bunch of young guys actually DOING or seeking to do something. They were holding a piece of paper that was on the woman, it had the address of her village home on it and not much else. There was a second sheet of paper, a doctor’s diagnosis – terminal stage cancer. I turned to one of those standing there and he told me that from what he gathered, she was working as a household help, most likely thrown out when her terminal cancer was found out. [The second thing that is wrong with Bangali people.] In the hope of extending some help, several of those passing by dropped money at her feet. [The third, and by far the worst, thing wrong with the people here.] It was then that I met someone, who had actually missed the obligatory congregational prayers to try and help. I got talking to him and he told that all that she wanted was to go home, probably to live out what little time she had left with a little dignity. “A bunch of us can arrange for something to get her home right?” I asked, at which he mentioned an ambulance service nearby that would move the bodies of unclaimed, unidentified dead as well. “Let’s talk to them then.” Off we went to find the ambulance service and to talk to them. A few more brain aneurysms lay in wait there, the first being the person who received us explained to us why anyone would be unwilling to take on the responsibility. If she died in one of their ambulances, then there would be no end to the legal harassment from the police. [There’s the fourth folks.] A call was therefore put through to the owner of the ambulance service, and he was understanding, but very cautious. [The fifth.]
A short half hour incident, showing a full 5 things that were jut not right with society, nay, people here. The five that I noticed need to be explained better as to why I consider them to be wrong.
So here goes, the numbers are for the respective points.
Anything to make a quick exit from anything resembling trouble, even remotely. The truth can take any shade of grey they observer wants when the situation call for it. Takes the cliché “It’s all relative” to a relatively whole new level. I made a poor call of judgment in taking that fellow’s words at face value.
People have a callous disregard for others not their own. Prioritising family, extended family, friends (in that order) is understandable, even acceptable, but this is a completely different beast here folks. Her employers could at least have had the minimum decency to have sent her home but no, they had to do the “Bangali thing” and throw her by the roadside. But why am I acting surprised? One of the basic assumptions made in economics is that man is a selfish animal. This is a wholly different level of selfishness though.
The worst of a bad lot, scratch that. The worst of an ugly lot. Seems more correct. People throwing money at the foot of a deathly ill woman. The first desire to run through me when I saw someone throw down money was to, and I mean literally, place the notes where the Sun don’t shine for them. Consider this for a moment, if you were starving, cold and tired, of what use would a sack, or even millions of sacks, of money do for you then? Get you food, shelter and a bed? Very useful yes, now imagine you are dying and barely conscious. What’ll you do with money? Get into a hospital? Bet your ass you won’t be able to move your miserable ass off the road to get to a hospital. So what was the money for? If “But the money could be put to so many good uses for the woman,” is your thought, name one use. Then think about how it is to be arranged. Where does the money come in? And was the woman in any shape to make proper use of the money? I suppose I should be forgiven for wanting to put the money to a different use than it was intended for.
If you are still thinking “They donated money, what more can they do?” you desperately need to be forgotten on a deserted island with tons of money. Became perfectly clear all of a sudden, no?
Carrying out any action, that has nothing but good intentions behind it and good outcomes ahead of it, are discouraged by corruption and a blind observance of and obeisance to the rules where bending them slightly is the imperative. Hyenas and vultures abound to prey on anyone who shows any “weakness”, oh wait, I meant to say “decency”.
I just talked about the hyenas and vultures, what of those who willingly play along just to avoid trouble? Amongst the Bangladesh population of today , there are far more who take things lying down than there are people who do wrong intentionally. This allows the growth and evolution of the things that are wrong with people, evolution into interesting forms of the same sickness that afflicts people, while those who are against it stand down. There can be any number of reasons for standing down, I did come across one that goes along the lines, “There’s a difference between the two types of people.”
Of all these, I consider the third one to be the worst of the lot, although in passing it is the least evil, even encouraging (there are sympathetic people out there). This is where I differ, there are no sympathetic people, there are plenty of absolute idiots though. Dropping money by the feet of an obviously dying woman without attempting to find out what she needs or wants is just the start of brainlessness. That is not sympathy, that is just stupidity. Isn’t one responsible for what is being done with one’s money, do people not care enough to just ask one stupid question? Could this many people not come up with some way of extending the help that this woman needed? Even after all that, there is the question of police harassment. Could this many people not come together to deal with that as well?
The throwing of money is symptomatic of the corrupted thoughts of the people. It reflects many things – callousness when it comes to dealing with people; the icy cold heart with which people view the unfortunate situation of others; but above all, it shows how little thought people exercise and how little of a sacrifice they are willing to make when it comes to dealing with situations that clearly need their intervention. The thought that is most common here, it seems, and what was explicitly told to me when I first landed here is, “There is no greater help than monetary help.” Go tell that to a dying person, a starving child, how about a woman who has to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace, the bus, any public place? None of them need money, money can be useful in every situation, that’s true, but money floating around with no set target will just be gobbled up by every greedy pig hovering around, and there is no lack of this in the country. Was there any set plan for this money? Even the most general/obscure/hazy one? Or a semblance of an idea that this money will be used for a specific purpose? To the ones just dropping the money and walking away, no there wasn’t. So their dropping money was nothing more than assuaging their guilt at not wanting to do more despite knowing that more can be done, needed to be done. People here have come to treasure money in such a way that they think it is the be all, end all of everything. It isn’t. Simplest example, a hospital with the best equipment and the worst doctors will be the worst hospital, while one staffed by competent doctors and decent equipment will be a far better hospital.
There is the problem. People here refuse to acknowledge that order/thoughts/philosophies (the role of doctors) have the biggest role to play over just empty money (equipment). When did we become this heartless, with stupidity to match?