Food apart, what about other critical issues? You probably had access to an excellent education, Jasmine, but did you know that nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read? Here are other shocking stats: less than one per cent of the global expense on arms could educate the world’s children — but few humans, least of all the super-wealthy who could make a difference, give a good goddamn.
Forty million live with HIV/AIDS; every year one million die of malaria; half of humanity suffers due to bad water and lousy sanitation; millions of women spend hours every day just collecting water; 1 billion live in slums, and 2.5 billion rely on wood, charcoal and animal dung to cook their meager food. As for money — the love of which the good book says is the root of all evil — would it have surprised you to learn that roughly less than one percent of the world’s population controls a quarter of the world’s financial assets?
Am I suggesting you could have sublimated your angst by trying to improve the state of our wretched and our destitute? That you could have metamorphosed from Bollywood celeb to Mother Teresa in order to improve the lot of Mumbai’s lepers and slum-dwellers? No, Jasmine, that’s not why I reeled off those horrific stats.
You see, I’ve come to believe that a Higher Power governs the cosmos via subtle laws — an omniscient power that sees past, present and future, yes, the whole staggering cosmic tapestry. Appearances to the contrary, everything is happening according to Divine will — which does not mean we should stand by passively when someone is in trouble — especially if we are in a position to bring solace. But if we widen our personal horizons to consider the appalling conditions of fellow human beings, perhaps we can begin to appreciate our own myriad blessings, and make the best use of our own precious lives.
By the way, Jasmine, I do know what it’s like to feel so bad you want to end it all. But, as a friend who suffers from manic-depression once said to me: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And while millions of humans do consider killing themselves at some point or the other in their lives, most desist from this often cowardice-fueled act .
The unsung heroes of this planet are those who summon up the guts to struggle through tunnels of doubt and despair in order to wend their warrior’s way back into the light — no matter what! The inner tussle between darkness and light goes on for all of us, but the mature human never gives up. Some even hit that sacred point when spiritual gold begins to shower down; looking back, they realize that all the suffering was worth it in spades.
Like you, Jasmine, I too viewed the world through extremely dark glasses. But fortunately for me, even as I flirted with the demons of self-destruction, a wisdom path opened up before my astounded eyes. Decades of study and practice later, I’ve more or less managed to wean myself away from the usual selfish concerns of the mainstreamer: of looking good, feeling good, being adored by a fickle world, of focusing all my energies on ephemeral things incapable of providing deep satisfaction or happiness, assets I would inevitably have had to leave behind when Lord Yama, Lord of Death, came calling — as He does for all of us, rich or poor, young or old, brainless or brilliant.