The only way forward

I tend to avoid the news when I can. It upsets me and since I can’t do much about most of those issues far away I satisfy myself by trying to live in the best way I can; compassionately, sincerely and respectfully.

I couldn’t avoid the news of the recent rape of a 23-year-old girl on a bus in India. Her name is Damini. People are writing about it on Facebook, talking about it in daily life and now that I’m in the UK and actually watch TV, it is on there too. Earlier today when I learnt about the details of how the girl is still alive and in critical condition in the hospital, how the men wanted to ‘teach her a lesson’ for being friendly with a boy, who they also beat up badly, and other details I will spare for the sake of younger and more sensitive readers, I reacted with shock, disgust, and a boiling over of a rage to submit those creatures, a shame to humanity, to the most atrocious forms of violence I could think of. They didn’t hurt only her and her friend, they hurt their families, friends and every compassionate, empathetic human. They have caused so much anger, pain, and aggression to sweep out from their actions. There is a part of me which agrees castration, public humiliation, torture till they begged to die rather than to live like that would be suitable and well deserved. But as I tried to sleep, I found myself struggling between the part of me who wants revenge for that girl, for all those subjected to such pain and violence, and the part of me which yearns for something more.

The fact is that no amount of violence we can subject those aggressors to can take away her pain. Nothing can undo that devastation. But by subjecting them to the horrors many of us have vividly envisioned administering to them, we only add to the total depravity of human nature.

The only choice we have for peace, for moving forward, is forgiveness. And that is so hard to do. There is a reason people remember Buddha, Gandhi and Jesus. They were advocates of compassion lived their lives as examples. I recollect once again a poem we interpreted in Hindi class when we were thirteen called Sneh Path. It talked about the power of love; how it can cross any obstacle, any border, beyond what threats and invoking fear would ever achieve, and how it had the brightness that could seep and flood the depths of the darkest soul even through the smallest crack. It asked us as readers to promise that we will never condemn a person as beyond hope or incorrigible. It asked us to believe in the inherent goodness which is within everyone, even though in some it is buried ever so deep, and to continue to show compassion and love until it could resurface. Unwittingly, I made this promise back then. I know that it can be very draining. It hurts to see that nothing seems to change no matter how much you give. After some point one may question if it is worth the effort. Those who wronged you seem to live a pretty smooth life anyway. ‘Bad guys’ do get away with things with not so much as a moment of remorse, let alone recognition or acknowledgement that they did something wrong.

It may seem foolish to many but still I strive for a greater capacity for compassion and forgiveness because perhaps it is not about the criminals but about inner peace within each of us which will, in larger quantities, leads to external peace. So long as my thoughts contain violence, I am part of the external violence which actually plays out in these outrageous acts. Could I forgive those men? I don’t even know the girl personally, yet I find it so difficult; I can’t begin to imagine how much worse it is for those who know and love her. These are the times, when I feel so limited that I wish there was a god; that it could really be that simple to hand this large effort over to ‘a greater being’. The tough reality is that as humans, it is our burden to bear. It is up to us to grow up enough as a species to not cause such pain to others and be able to forgive those of us who are still so small minded and poor of heart that they act so barbarically.

I truly believe that it is up to each of us to keep trying to let go of our anger, and pain so that we can heal, impossible though it may seem, and to forgive for the sake of our own emotional and spiritual well-being.

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