Far-flung benevolence: Youths gather around a statue of C N Annuradai, gathering donated clothes and gobbling donated bread, Seepudupettai.
Photo Credit: Dilip D'Souza
The thing about great disasters that most fascinates me – inspires, repels, intrigues but always fascinates me – is the way people respond to them. There is tragedy, yes. But also, whether it is volunteers or victims, administrators or doctors – whoever they are, there are tales to tell, lessons to learn.
When talking about disasters, I often begin with two vignettes from tsunami-hit Tamil Nadu. The first, from a tiny village called Seepudupettai. Five days after the wave, I get there, walk around, speak to some of its still-stunned residents. Then I see an old woman. I see the old woman lift up a polyester dress. She holds it against herself, shakes her head and drops it back into the pile. No, it won’t fit. No, it’s not me. No, I don’t like polyester. No, I don’t wear dresses, I wear saris. No, not even a tsunami will make me want to wear someone else’s discard.
Romila Thapar addresses invitees at the
Southasian relaunch of Himal Southasian,
IIC, New Delhi, January 2013.
flickr / The US Army
On 1 December 2013, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the US of cutting fuel supplies to Afghan security forces. Despite US pressure, Karzai continues to stall the signing of a Bilateral Security Agreement.
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