VOICE OF THE VOICE­LESS

Tehelka - - GODMAN’S LEGACY -

Sati­nath Sarangi and Rahul Bose in­spire students with sto­ries about how dis­as­ters changed their lives

MORE THAN 1,000 students gath­ered at the Park Group of In­sti­tu­tions, Coim­bat­ore, to hear Sati­nath Sarangi and Rahul Bose at the Air­cel The Power of In­spi­ra­tion lec­ture. Af­ter a brief in­tro­duc­tion to Air­cel and the launch of their Col­lege Brand Am­bas­sador pro­gramme, Te­helka Foun­da­tion Founder-Trustee Puneeta Roy played a short video, which was a call to ac­tion.

Sarangi, who formed the Bhopal Group for In­for­ma­tion and Ac­tion, re­called how the night of 2 De­cem­ber 1984 changed his life for­ever. Forty tonnes of methyl iso­cyanide leaked from the Union Car­bide (since bought over by Dow Chem­i­cal) fac­tory in Bhopal, killing 8,000 in the first three days alone, and leav­ing more than half a mil­lion maimed.

“It came with­out warn­ing in the dead of the night. Most peo­ple drowned in their own body flu­ids,” said Sarangi. “It was a to­tal fail­ure of all sys­tems. The 5,74,000 peo­ple (as per gov­ern­ment records) who sur­vived, wish they were dead too. A whole gen­er­a­tion born af­ter the dis­as­ter is marked, dam­aged.”

Al­most three decades later, Sarangi con­tin­ues the fight for jus­tice for the vic­tims who have suf­fered de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­eases and con­tam­i­na­tion in the af­ter­math of the world’s worst chem­i­cal dis­as­ter. The lat­est vic­tory was get­ting the Dow Chem­i­cal logo re­moved from the Lon­don Olympics de­spite it be­ing one of the big­gest spon­sors.

Soon, it was ac­tor-ac­tivist Bose’s turn to take the stage. For the next hour, he shared the many events that had spurred him into ac­tion and made him what he is to­day. “How does one con­quer one’s fear? What pre­vents you from tak­ing ac­tion when you are feel­ing afraid?” he asked. “To be a fear­less war­rior, you need to be pre­pared to lose ev­ery­thing. Un­for­tu­nately, very few are pre­pared to do that.”

“What are the three things you hope your best friend would say at your funeral? Those are the three things that make your moral com­pass. Live ac­cord­ing to that.”

Bose spoke about how the bar­baric cru­elty meted out to women and chil­dren dur­ing the 2002 Gu­jarat ri­ots was the first jolt. Then, when the tsunami hit in 2004, he re­alised that the An­daman & Ni­co­bar is­lands weren’t be­ing helped in the same way as Tamil Nadu. It dis­turbed him so much that “90 phone calls later”, he was on his way there the very next day to check for him­self the ground re­al­i­ties as a rep- re­sen­ta­tive of a group of 20 NGOs. Twen­tythree trips over the next 30 months made him re­alise he wanted to start his own NGO, which would not dis­crim­i­nate on the ba­sis of caste, colour or class. His first step was adopt­ing five chil­dren from the An­damans to study at the Rishi Val­ley School.

“You have to en­gage with the world around you. Read mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives on ev­ery is­sue, hold your observations against your moral com­pass and you will reach a stand on un­shake­able ground. It’s the only way to push one­self out of the ‘It’s not my prob­lem’ zone,” he said.

Af­ter the in­ter­ac­tions, the speak­ers, Park Group of In­sti­tu­tions CEO Anusha and Puneeta re­leased Air­cel The Power of In­spi­ra­tion book, which was dis­trib­uted to ev­ery stu­dent. The vote of thanks by Puneeta drew the event to a close.

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