Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Between Life and death: Aruna, Nidhi and a Tsunami
When world plunges in a tragedy like recent tsunami in Japan; where millions of people just vanished from the face of earth, one often falls in a numb silence wondering how to cope with such a tragedy. Indeed, you have never met those people but still the graphic images of death and devastation leaves one with a strange vacuum to deal with your own life.
Every day one stumbles upon tales of life and death. I find story of Aruna and Nidhi and the recent Japanese tsunami in particularly interlinked in a strange quirky way. Because all three stories deal with life and death own their own terms.
I choose to recount two woman's stories becasue their stories speak about the millions of women in India who struggle between life and death. Ironically, both the stories appeared on the 8th of March, a day when world celebrates it as woman's day.
Lets begin with Aruna. Aruna Shanbag is 67 years old woman currently lying in a government hospital bed in a vegetative state for past 37 years. Today she is deaf, dumb, blind and brain dead. She needs to be fed and tended to keep her alive. But this is not the way Aruna was born. 37 years back, Aruna was a lovely vivacious beautiful young nurse of the same hospital. She was was pretty and in love with a doctor whom she was to marry soon. Until a ward boy gagged her with a chain and raped her. Being gagged by a metal chain left her brain dead. She has not spoken a word, moved an inch, seen a sight or been able to hear any sound since then. She is lying in hospital bed in the same vegetative state for past 37 years.
Recently her friend and a well wisher, filed a petition for mercy killing in Supreme Court of India pleading that Aruna should be allowed to die with dignity. On the eve of 7th March Court gave the verdict. Aruna has to live. No matter what she goes through in her life, she cannot be killed.
So Aruna continuous to live. No one knows if she really wants to live or die. Hospital staff who has been tending her for past 37 years say that every moment for Aruna is a struggle. Struggle between life and death. But she has chosen to live. If she wanted to die she would have given up on life long back. It is only her 'will' to live keeps her going, even in this vegetative state.
Lets turn to Nidhi's story. Nidhi Gupta became the front page story on woman's' day becasue she committed suicide on 8th of march. Which also happened to be her 10th wedding anniversary. Nidhi killed herself by jumping from high rise building. But before she jumped to death she also flung her 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter to death.
Nidhi was only 32 years old and qualified chartered accountant working as a guest lecturer in the city college. A modern educated woman qualified to deal with modern life. And yet she chose to end her and her children without putting up a fight to live.
I am not in position to judge either Aruna's choice (?) to life or Nidhi's decision to embrace death. I cannot say if the supreme court has done the right thing by keeping Aruna in a vegetative state till her death was a correct decision or Nidhi who could have walked out on her husband and chosen to defend her own life instead of committing suicide was wrong decision. Life and death are only to positions.
When you ponder upon these two tales one just wonders,why one chose to live and why other preferred to die. What does life and death mean to these two women? Somewhere between these two tales lies the horrific tale of millions of people in Japan who had no choice between death and life. No body asked them if they want to live or die.Some perished, some survived, without their wish.
You again ponder, how will they cope with this? will they choose to kill themselves? or continue to live. You look for answers and seek solace in wise words of Don Juan ..." Life is an endless challenge and challenges possibly cannot be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges".
And I hope those Japanese who have survived the quake and a tsunami and now a nuclear threat, this is going to be a huge challenge! I wish they will have the strength and courage to deal with this calamity one more time.