We remember the anniversary of our first date. Nor do we fail to remember the number of times Shah Rukh Khan had The Black Lady in his hands. We remember the exact number of runs India would have required to win a particular match against one of her supposed arch-rivals in the game. Our minds are infested with too many things that can safely be discarded into oblivion at a time when it is of utmost necessity for public memory to get immune to the various kinds of eyewash aimed at ignoring events of major significance.
The visual quality of the image of debris of not brick and mortar, but of corpses mangled by the collapse of a flyover, no matter how haunting, is going to be obliterated from our memories, just as many such past events have been. Now as I am writing this article exactly five days after the incident took place, I am scared of traversing any flyover in the city. The quotient of intimidation and insecurity in our collective consciousness is extremely high at the moment, but ironically, it would not be long before newer data piles up on the memory of this incident and we stand in queues longer than ever in this nation of ever-growing population, to exercise our democratic rights. Democracy currently is a Sisyphian exercise of hope and disillusionment in quick succession. This is substantiated by the shameless dark history of massive architectural failures such as the collapse of a building near Mumbai last year, a similar tragedy in Chennai suburbs in June 2014 and many more in the past. How many died in such incidents is irrelevant because a loss is a loss- be it of one person, or many.
The ‘Calcuttan with a Mind’ reacted too much on social media to not make the #FlyoverCollapse a trending hash tag on the Black Thursday in Kolkata. She floated prayers in hash tag, compassion through constant status updates worth hundreds of likes and a piece of her mind by thoroughly criticising the present state government, following her age-old habit of politicising every kind of social pathology. The Calcuttan with a Heart and Mind, however, was not to be found shedding crocodile tears on social media while enjoying a decisive match of cricket of India contesting West Indies in the comfort of his home. He was seen at some blood bank sharing with his fellow citizen the hope to live on, by doing the best he could- donating blood. The believer was found lamenting the most unfortunate tragedy as “an act of God”, while the atheist from the party of opposition was seen vocally accusing the ruling party merely to expand its vote-bank in the upcoming state elections. Regardless of who feathered their own nest, who the good Samaritan was, and who was taken by surprise or pursued by anxiety, one thing stands certain- more than just a flyover collapsed on the last day of March, 2016.
On the day after the horrendous tragedy, I was informed by a friend about the demise of a classmate I had studied with in Montessori. The face of a dead classmate, with cotton balls shoved into his nostrils, flashed for the first (and the last) time on my phone screen right before I was about to go up on stage at a friendly debate in college. The debate had nothing to do with the tragedy. The time lapse between my seeing that terrifying picture and commencing the speech, I know, I shall recount as long as I live, for the simple reason that it made me realise how opaque to grief I had grown. In a jiffy I was The Stranger I could earlier, while reading Camus, never quite relate to. My conscience had finally found the chasm it inevitably would end up in.
The only bug I cannot get off my mind since that night is that I could as well have been in that boy’s place.