I spent much of yesterday reading about Kevin Carter. And his friend Ken Oosterbroek.
That perhaps explains the melancholy I felt at the end of the day. Carter’s story is a depressed one. While his image of the vulture and the little girl is absolutely captivating, his story was written a long time before that.
Artists are supposed to be tortured souls. It is pain that apparently gives us the power to write. Without misery, there would be no poetry. Maybe that could be simply because it is harder to capture happiness.
But Carter lived and suffered. The little things of society – racism, money, bigotry, famine and sheer hate – got to him.
Carter faced much criticism for his decision to walk away from the girl and just leave her there. Nobody knows if she survived. And sitting in the comfort of our living rooms, it is easy to judge Carter for walking away.
But was she the only single kid there, starving and dying? Didn’t he go there to shoot a famine? What do you do in the face of such sheer misery? Such vastness of misery? How do you explain your helplessness and sheer inability to help a whole country of people?
A reporter constantly has the struggle between intruding and merely reporting. We are taught in journalism class to be objective. But perhaps it is already too late by the time we are even in that class, so the best we can do is try to get both sides of the story and let people figure out where the truth lies.
So sometimes we shoot wars, people dying, accidents and other tragedies and all we can be is a spectator. Do we feel nothing?
I cannot really answer that question. There is a sense of detachment that comes from self-preservation. Those images haunt you when you go back to the hotel room or your home. The cries of grief that you managed to block out and tell the story come back in your sleep.
Maybe that was the reason I did not choose television reporting. Perhaps the people who are working in that media platform are equally sensitive. But the Indian media has gotten so sensational that sometimes there is no time to think. My friends who work in that world talk about it with disgust. Some of them. To the others, it is just another job at the end of the day and just another story at it.
Self preservation happens naturally. For the moment at least. But when you sit alone, there are some of us who simply are not strong enough to block out those voices, the cries and the images that haunt us forever.