Monday, 6 July 2015

The Body in a Ditch

The other day (about 10 days back) I decided to take the car and drive down to work instead of taking public transport.

In the hot and humid morning, everyone in the city is in a rush to reach their destination.

If a car breaks down on the road thus, slowing down traffic, everyone gives it a baleful look as they pass it by.

Having held up traffic many times in the past as a result of my ancient four-wheeler refusing to start up after being switched-off during a traffic signal, I know how it feels both ways.

But, that day, it was pretty festive. No one was complaining. Just that the traffic was slow.

As I reached nearer the general spot of the hold up, I could see people on my left side, standing on walls and lining against the road, craning their necks to see something on the other side. Having lived next to a 'nullah' (in Delhi) and a 'dried-up river' (in Bombay) for long enough, I knew there had to be a dead body around.

My first instinct was to look up at the trees on the other side, hoping to see a body hanging by one of the branches. But, I saw that people had climbed the walls and even the trees there and were looking this side.

Then, it occurred to me that they were perhaps, looking at something in the middle of the road.

By the time I looked, I was next to it.

Blue feet aimed at the skies above. Some policemen were moving it around. I got a 180 degree circle of stiff feet in the air. Some drivers, were looking decidedly green but, unable to move their eyes off it while others refused to increase their speed watching intently.

I was mesmerized for a second - there was a body in a ditch dug up in the middle of the road! Right on the divider! It was preposterous, said my mind. But, somehow my mind found it completely believable.

The rest of the body were still inside with only the feet making themselves visible with four inches of the ankle and that too was purple.

Definitely a young man's feet. It was dark but, unlined. No cracked heels. He was probably sleeping when he was picked up and killed. His striped pajamas were fluttering in the hot and moist morning air.

I had passed by the same place the previous evening around 8 pm and the road was choked with cars and two wheelers. When did the killers dump him there? Was the ditch there in the divider already there or did they dig it up at night? Was he killed yesterday or was he killed before? Maybe his dead body was lying in the ditch for a day or so before someone realized that the ankles belonged to a dead man! Maybe he was from the neighboring locality? Or was he brought from afar, killed and dumped here in the middle of the night?

In a city as large as Delhi with immigrant population pouring in every minute like a deluge, a life means nothing.

A death is at a pinch, a one morning drama.

Whether your remains are found in a ditch in a busy intersection or you die at home surrounded by a loving and caring family.

My mind never worried about who he was and who he had left behind. It just never crossed my consciousness.

Most people are not even grossed out by death any more nor moved. We live and breathe in a crowed atmosphere. There are so many people that life has become cheap. It does not matter that your blue and stiff dead body is found in a ditch one workday morning.

It does not even warrant a line in the daily news. Not even online. Not even when a colleague told me that he had passed that way a few minutes after me, when the body was taken out by the cops and it had a huge gaping slit in its throat. "It was blue because all the blood had seeped out of the body," he said in a matter-of-fact manner.

The excitement of the discovery and witnessing of the event by some of us did not even last a whole morning. Most of us had moved over to our daily tasks from the coffee machine where a few words were said about what a couple of us had seen.

Someone said, we could read about it in the paper or watch it on TV later. But, even before I could open my mouth with the superior knowledge of an erstwhile journo, another person said, "death of a single man does not warrant TV or newspaper coverage."

I smiled and went on to my desk. Yes. One person's death has no drama. Not enough pathos. It does not catch enough eyeballs. It does not bring out a sense of collective guilt among the masses, It is not newsworthy. It does not even fulfill the criterion of  '15 minutes of  fame!' How Warhol would have laughed at us!


  1. Wow. Makes me wonder what we are even bothering to live for.

    1. We live for ourselves. Period. Don't worry. We are still each one for ourselves. Warhol was so right or maybe materialism has caught us full force! :)


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