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Watching a War from Far

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

( My KT column dated 6-8-2022)

I am writing this piece right after a disrupted dinner. It was a meal that I had to drop midway because of horrific scenes from a war that were unfolding in front of me as if they were snatches from a WW II movie.

It is a war that is happening thousand of miles away, but for the past many weeks it has been gnawing at my heart at the pace of an invasive snail. It is possible for a faraway citizen fraught with private concerns to shut her eyes to the suffering of millions on the other side of the world and get on with life, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do it. The stark reality of senseless human strife is beginning to get to me.

The bombing of the train station at Kramatorsk was the last straw.

This is a piece I am writing on behalf of all those who want to show their solidarity to a stricken population, and all those who have wanted to articulate their sentiments but had no veritable means to do so.

The last time I was rattled this severely was when Aleppo was reduced to ruins in Syria. That the perpetrator of both eventualities is the same person makes me think how deeply entrenched evil can be in some people to be able to inflict pain and suffering repeatedly on innocents who have nothing to do with their diabolic aims. It also makes me wonder what on earth inspires so much evil that one is fogged out of all goodness. Scratch the surface and we will find the answer.

The root of all evil is a combination of the vices that are inherent in us all in varying proportions. Greed, envy, desire, arrogance, anger. That some humans excel at acquiring these qualities is what makes them more wicked than the rest. Wars are manifestations of our vices; violence is the fall out of a selfish mind and depravity is the mark of a character that covets limitless pleasure. It was with a shudder that I realised how we were all microcosms of the monstrosity that is now on display in Ukraine.

It is a matter of great solace that a majority of us are also endowed with ample amounts of compassion and empathy that get the better of our delinquencies. It makes me want to work harder on maintaining the virtues in my daily life by being watchful of my thought, intent and action. It is a personal lesson I take away from people of devious nature.

As I watch the charred hulks of whole cities and villages and the confused stares in the eyes of the people driven out of their homes; as I think of what lays ahead of them and what might be left behind them in their native land; as I think of the dearth that might follow in their lives, and the stench of death that they may carry on their skin for years, I recognise the humongous nature of suffering that can afflict people, and see my own grievances shrink in size.

When the mind wanders to my tomorrows and frets at its absolute uncertainties, I think of the displaced todays of the people in Ukraine and other conflict zones. When I see an old woman ambling through the streets of Bucha in ruins, with empty water bottles in her hand, I admire her stoicism, courage and the will to carry on. As swathes of a beautiful country turn into rotting remains of war, I wonder what might the perpetrator attain at the end of it all. Of what purpose this apocalypse?

With each frame that flashes in front of me, I am learning lessons. Of how to be and how not to be. Of what is worth aspiring and what deserves to be tossed out. It is teaching me the basic tenets of righteous living.

The fate of Ukraine is unknown. It might become a script of frozen strife or be routed by an indiscriminate enemy. As the tanks continue roll down its cities, my thoughts are with its soldiers fighting fiercely to hold the fort, and its people showing determination in the face of incredible viciousness. My thoughts are with the maimed, the scarred, the displaced and the dead, and their gossamer dreams gone unrealised. My respect for the reporters on the ground who bring us the stories and the humanitarian missions handing out hope braving the dangers has grown manifold.

Last year, about this time, we were battling a scourge of a different kind. Puzzling how evil takes different forms: a microscopic entity at times, and a full-grown human at others.

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