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Tragedy in Bam

By Roya Monajem, Tehran


My first reaction to the tragic news of the earthquake in Bam was a mortal urge to jump into my car and drive the whole way to that city. Immediately however, the usual inner interrogation started:

-         Do you want to be a Mother Teresa?

-         Where does this urge really come from?

-         Are you sure it is not from pity?


The ceiling on my head, the fire in the fireplace, the sound of the kettle on the oven, the soft cozy touch of the woolen jacket on my skin....


Tears started to freeze like the snowflakes falling playfully outside the window facing the cloudy cold scene of the east northern mountains of Tehran.

-         Who are you to pity anybody? Is the ceiling over your head, the fire in the fireplace and... are really any objective measures for feeling superior and confident of being in a 'better state?" For this is the origin of the emotion called pity, to think and consider yourself 'superior,' is it not? If this is a blessing (to have a home and...) and indeed it is a blessing, then how come you constantly tend to forget it so much so that from many ways you often don't feel much better than the people still alive in the present city of Bam? Why go so far? At this very moment don't you really feel as desperate, as hopeless, as bereaved, as depressed and... as they feel? Does the variety in forms of the same emotion really matter? Surely, your kind of desperation and... is different from theirs, but does it really matter? It is of the same quality, is it not? and the quantity here is not measurable; we still can't objectively, scientifically measure or weigh even physical pain, let alone more abstract emotions such as pity, love, grief and...


The mind was still babbling while the Mother Teresa collected all the warm clothes that she could find around the house and made a pile of them waiting by the door.


'They' must have set up stations for aids by now. 'They' had not. After driving for sometimes in the cold snowy weather in vain, again the urge of driving to that city appeared overwhelmingly. And again the voice of the mind:


-         You know 'they' will not allow you to go to the city. You are nobody in such situations. Not a conventional doctor, nor nurse nor...You know how difficult 'they' make it under these conditions....


By then the feeling of desperation had become unbearably suffocating. What to do? It was already noon time and the sound of azan implied that a mosque should be around.


"Only if they are new clean clothes, we'll take them." The custodian of the mosque said.


"You don't worry about that," I replied mischievously for freely entering the house of god without having a chador for the first time in my life and regretting for not having a red lipstick on as well. The fact that they didn't bother about it showed that not only the people of Bam, but everybody was in a state of shock!


-         Are you feeling better Mother Teresa? Good for you, because I don't. It was one of those rare times that I hated myself for not having waited another couple of years to receive my medical certificate, for not having any academic certificate for that matter. Now not only the ceiling on my head appeared less of a blessing, but rather a cause for embarrassment which kept increasing the more we approached night time... So there was this decision not to listen to the news anymore. It seemed repulsive to sit in a comfortable place and watch people in agony. 

-         If you want to watch agony, desperation and... watch yourself. There were people who said it lessens their pain when they watch the reports. They said this is their way of sharing. And the only reason I did not interrogate them, was "the state of silence" I am trying to stay in. Otherwise, I liked to ask them 'sharing' what? What is sharing? How can you distinguish this emotion from pity? Disregarding the superficialities, who can tell that we are not more pathetic? And ...


Yet there is this bugging question that has not left me alone for a single minute since the first day I heard the tragic news of the earthquake when that inner interrogation started.
"Which is really more tragic?"


- That hundred thousands of people have lost their life and their houses and their beloved and...

- That more than 80% of the unique historical remains of Bam are demolished!

- That a new born child and a five year old girl were found alive after three days? (Will they have a better life now without their parents and relatives or worse? Is this a miracle or ...?)

- That we keep forgetting how lucky we are to have a ceiling over our heads and...?

- That we keep taking for granted whatever we have and keep becoming aware of them only when we lose them or face a tragedy like the earthquake in Bam?

- That we are not allowed to even share with people in need without belonging to any groups, society, profession and...?



... Payvand News - 1/8/04 ... --

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