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.
- Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird (alpanamallick.wordpress.com)
- Book Review> Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (marissamullins.com)