As I write this, I hear the TV describing the incredible ordeal of a marathon runner, who survived for days lost in the Sahara, without food or water. After a providential rescue and long convalescence, he shocked everyone by announcing that he would never stop running.

Today also brought news of a Kerala politician who fought heroically against the debilitating injuries from an attack on his life years ago, and remains a spirited communist. Moral of the story? The Mumbaiker's never-say-die spirit in coping with disasters, it appears, finds echoes all over the world.

Nevertheless, the scale and cost of the obviously premeditated horrific act of the recent train bombings is enough to make anyone stop and pray and be thankful, as well.

Sitting inside well-protected rooms, on full stomachs, as we worry our heads about the problems of selling and making money, all this can seem far away and somehow unreal.

Calloused sensitivities

It is strange how the memory fades so quickly and we return to take up positions, so to speak, in life's continuing drama. Stranger still is the way our sensibilities are calloused by media overkill of everything. Whenever there is a tragedy, a feeding frenzy overcomes the talking heads on the box, asking the correspondents on the site of the havoc and bloodshed to `take us through what is happening' as if grief and pain deserve a juicy ball-by-ball commentary.

Most are unequal to the effort anyway and lack the verbal felicity. Some deadening of the tissue certainly happens from the television medium, which affects both broadcaster and regular audience.

Yet, however we might try to rationalise it away, such reality will keep intruding into the even tenor of our lives; and then we are truly tested.

How can we as communities be better prepared? Or is there really no special way, and must we just go from one calamity to another and tackle each on the fly? All of us recognise intellectually, by reasoned argument, that we live charmed lives; in the midst of life we are in death. Yet we often behave as if this were not so, or won't happen in our patch. Is it simply because life would be too horrible to contemplate if we were utterly realistic? Would we run the risk of becoming gloomy and sinking into catatonic depression?

The middle path

Surely, there must a middle path to steer between blithe insouciance and morbid pessimism.

This calls for a philosophy of life and a way of going about everyday life which, paradoxically as it might seem, involves enjoying the moment to the full, without a care or a lurking anxiety.

This does not reflect a callousness or insensitivity at all. Indeed one must still be mentally prepared for anything but not let that affect one's `drinking life to the lees' as the poet said.

In work terms, this could mean doing one's very best and then being ready to face any sort of reverse when the day of assessment arrives. Interestingly, top-rung sportsmen and actors on stage are no strangers to such total focus, switching out the rest of the world.

In an increasingly insecure world, all of us could do with a dose of this watching the ball and not committing to the stroke until the very last moment.

S. Ramachander

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 24, 2006)
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