I can’t think of a title for this one…

What a time to be re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird.

I started after the news and images of the Japan quake and tsunami had shocked the entire family into a kind of numb withdrawal. I don’t know what made me reach out for that particular book. Call it instinct if you will coz I have no better explanation to offer. Maybe it’s coz that’s what I do increasingly these days when stressed – reach out for an old friend, one that comforts and offers escape from the harsh realities of Life. This Harper Lee classic is my favorite book of all time. And yet it’s not like this book is all sunshine…far from it. A serious book about serious stuff if ever there was one, and yet one that’s written in a wonderfully uplifting optimistic way. Even while dealing with the inevitability of Life, we see the good people behaving as we expect them to, doing the right thing, making the tough choices and doing it quietly, steadfastly, without any fuss. As I revisit Maycomb and the Finches, Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, all I can think is, how Atticus Finch…is whom you need in a crisis. Cool as a cucumber, measured, a man of deceptive calm and quiet valor. A good, solid man. One gets the feeling he would know exactly what to do in a tsunami and would then do it to the best of his ability. Thankfully there are real Atticuses in the world, who know how to deal with the serious stuff as well as their fictional namesake.

All I did, on the other hand, for the last three days, is sit glued to the Telly, in turns exclaiming in pity, horror, sympathy, rage & frustration as the World collapsed around the Japanese. Quakes, tsunamis, nuclear explosions, volcanic eruptions…is there any form of Nature that’s not furious with Japan right now? Why is it, that though I have no conscious wish to see one more image of  devastation, or listen to one more report on how the Government is rallying, the people are rallying, the World is rallying; I cannot seem to stop flipping news channels to catch the latest. It’s as if this tragedy has me hypnotized and has turned me into the worst sort of disaster-junkie! I have stared at the screen and watched what seemed like a low wall of sludge move surprisingly quickly over the countryside, a hundred times now, if not a thousand, and every time I gasp in fascinated horror. Don’t ask me why, but the first time I thought – ‘Oh Good! It’s just farmland, there’s no people here, thank goodness!’ Such colossal stupidity! One would think after the amount of disasters I’ve watched over the past few years, I should have known better.

Now I watch stunned as new videos surface documenting the horror, flooding the screen with countless new images of doom. I watch the mushroom clouds over the nuclear reactors. I watch fires burn incessantly. I watch matchstick towns, with cars and ships stuck on remnants of roofs. Towns that were once alive with laughter and joy and sadness and children playing. Towns that are now dead, dead, dead. I see planes buried in mud. I think of all the people who drowned, got buried and crushed. I watch experts debate over what constitutes a ‘meltdown’, as if getting the definition correct will reduce the trauma. I watch as a woman wonders whether the fact she survived is good or bad, and in that instant I know exactly what she means. All around her are the ruins of her life, her home, her world as it once was. I wonder whether a tsunami is powerful enough to wash away even our best memories. Amnesia seems like a great option right about now. I felt the same way after Indonesia, after Haiti, after Christchurch…numbed and helpless. And the children…when I think of those lost…all I can see in my mind in an image of a dead mockingbird, its beautiful melody silenced forever.

Japan has always been special to me, coz I spent four gloriously fun years in Kobe when I was a kid. I have fond memories of the country and its people. I remember them as proud (in the best possible way), calm, hard-working and decent people. They’re used to earthquakes and tsunamis and I suppose their legendary resolve & fortitude will see them through this tragedy, like it’s done through many that came before. I guess that’s what Life’s like really. It’s about surviving disaster, assimilating lessons and rebuilding, but also about moving on without bitterness and anger. With Hope.

I salute the spirits of those that didn’t make it, the valor of the survivors who did & the courage of the incredible people who are out there helping them in the crisis. May they find success in their endeavors and peace in their souls.

6 thoughts on “I can’t think of a title for this one…

    1. Thank you Wendy. Like I said to Maura, I’m just so tired of these serial disasters. I realize most of them are out of human control, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. They did have warnings for the Bay of Fundy too initially didn’t they? My thoughts were on you and I was hoping nothing would come of that and was so thankful when nothing did.

      Hugs, H.

  1. Harsha, do you still have friends in Japan? Is everyone well?

    I know what you mean about Atticus. He’s a guy you’d want on your side.

    Beautiful post.

    1. Thanks Maura. My schoolmates I haven’t been in touch with since I left and I haven’t tried looking for them on FB yet. Many of them were non-Japanese and moved back to their home countries. Thee families we do know are safe, coz they are in Kobe where we lived. I’m just so tired of these serial disasters…it seems like every year we have a bigger, more horrific one 😦

      As for Atticus…thousands of books later and in many ways he’s still the best written character I’ve come across in literature 🙂

  2. I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ a long time ago when I was in first year A levels. The idea was to write a report on how the book compared with the movie.
    I had no idea what the hype was all about, but as I started reading I remember being riveted (though I can no longer remember the story)
    It wasn’t easy finding a print for such an old movie and I’m talking about the days before dvds. But it was imperative to find it, and somehow I did, and I thought, omg, Gregory Peck was perfect as Atticus Finch!
    I got an A on that book/movie report, and it made me so happy because I wrote it with such passion!
    So I think all this talk of rereading has inspired me to read TKAM again.
    As for watching the disaster unfold in Japan, I think most of us go through the same feelings that you have described so well. We can’t help being voyeurs, but only a few of us will recognise it for what it is and be repelled by it.
    Everything I say to express what I feel when there’s a major disaster (and Pakistan has witnessed quite a few in a short span of time) sounds trite, even to myself, so I decide to keep my mouth shut. It’s the same reason I’m hopeless with condolences.
    All I can say is, Nature sure is terrible…in the true sense of the word.

    1. I’m planning on watching the movie tomorrow when Ishaan is at school M 🙂 It’s a classic! And I thought just like you – Peck is the perfect Atticus! I’m so glad you’ve planned to re-read it M…would love to have an online discussion after you’re done 🙂 I’ve been toying with the idea of starting another blog just about books (I know, I know…I’m crazy!)…lets see what happens!

      I understand completely what you mean about feeling like voyeurs and sounding trite. For a long time (before I lost a loved one) I would never quite know what to say to people who had lost a loved one. If I had to, I would just mumble ‘Heartfelt Sympathies’ or something equally inane. It was only after I lost my Grandfather that I realized, you don’t really even have to say anything…you just have to turn up and people understand. And so that’s what I try and do.

      Nature being terrible…it’s easy to feel that…but mostly I think she’s just what she is…no pretense and no nonsense.

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