Until it happens to you (Short Story)
For 33 years, I’d lived a good life. I was part of a loving family as I was growing up. I was a keen traveller from a young age and afforded opportunities to go to various countries around the globe. I had a stable, awe-worthy job as a financial manager, where the company treated us like kings. Married to a loving wife, with two beautiful children, there was never much to complain about. In spite of this, as humans are, I was unsatisfied. My thirst for the world remained unquenched, there remained an appetite for the unknown. Yet despite this, it was unquestionable that I had it good, and my problems were relatively trivial.
I was never that close a follower of current affairs or world politics. I felt that they were not really of much concern to me, unless they affected my family, income or stability, yet where I was working, there were never really such issues. I suppose my philosophy was to keep myself to myself – if everyone did that, the world would be a better place? Just as I had made a success of myself, so too could others. For the most part, people themselves were their own downfalls. They didn’t seize their opportunities like I had. They had allowed the quibble of their self-doubts, or of those around them to get the better of them. They didn’t take charge of their own destiny.
I considered myself a good person. I would always help out family and friends, respected among my social circle. When I saw an elderly person struggling to cross the road or with their groceries, I would help them. I’d often give sound advice when I was asked, particularly with people’s finance. And it was because I was a good person, good would happen to me. Positive karma, I would say. These were all sentiments that had cemented themselves in me for most of my life, from success to success, largely unchanged. That was, until about a week ago.
Today, I realised how my life has been largely a sham and I was deluded. When you ask me of sweet yesterdays now, I see more bitter nothings – the opportunities that blinded me that I had actively brushed to the back of my mind. The young girl at the supermarket, with the bruises on her face as the mother yelled at her and dragged her viciously. The countless homeless people, who lay outside the shops, but whom I refused to give my money to because I was convinced they did this to themselves and would use the money to buy drugs and alcohol. The young, pregnant lady sitting silently on the bus as she was getting abused because of where she was from.
All around me, there was poverty; there was sickness, homelessness, bigotry, racism, bullying. Vices in all shapes and forms. Every time, I had a choice – to be a bystander, or to do something and get involved somehow. Yet these weren’t in line with my ‘ethics’ or code.
‘Don’t get involved in the politics’
‘You’ll only make it worse’
‘It’s not your problem’
‘It’s okay. There are many people around – someone else will deal with it’
‘You don’t know the full story so its better to not get involved’
Ah, from what privileged eyes I saw the world! I stuck to my mantra, ignoring the politics and current affairs around me. ‘Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ – but the evil was still there. I just chose to ignore it. After all, I didn’t want to be ‘that’ guy with the moral high horse. Live and let live. Don’t hurt anyone, right?
Yet here I am, now. On my latest travel a week ago, I was detained at the airport. I remember passively seeing this on the news, about people getting stopped, getting turned out of places. But this didn’t apply to me, or my passport, I was sure. This was unfortunate, it was sad for them, but it was not relevant to me. These things don’t happen to people like me?
At first, I was shocked and mesmerised, less by the unbelievable reality of this endeavour, more at the number of eyes that had witnessed the injustice and carried on. Why was I stopped? Why were they not letting me out? WHY WAS NOBODY SPEAKING OUT FOR ME? Yet now a week has passed and my thoughts are more solemn and clear.
Woe to the destiny that I once thought was in my hands! I am helpless. I am a stranger in another country, a nobody here. Blindfolded and cuffed, breathing in the air of humiliation. For all the bravado of my once apparent swagger and infallibility – I can do nothing! All this time, all I am thinking of, is my wife. My family. My children. Pangs of sorrow debilitate me. I speak of my sufferings now, and the only ones that could have understood me were those I had ignored, the oppressed, the helpless – and why should they listen? I am not their problem, as they were not mine. A hope lies in those whose hope was once in my hands. How I wish now, I didn’t close my fist each time and walk away.
‘It could happen to anyone’ they say. And you never believe it, until it happens to you.