I was probably 14 years old when I first heard about ‘Doctors Without Borders’. I was toying with ideas of becoming a doctor, and it seemed that this is where I would head if I did take up medicene.
As things worked out, I decided to become a reporter. And I spent quite a few months applying for all possible posts at Reporters Without Borders. I had no experience. All I had was a vision that this is where I wanted to be. Being a reporter to me was not something simple. It meant you had to walk a tight rope between facts and giving into your idealogies and sympathies. Conflict reporting was something that I was absolutely keen about, and several people asked me why. Several people tried to dissuade me by saying that this wasn’t a place for women.
But what was the point of being a reporter if all you did was write about pretty actresses, annoying politicians and corporate espionage? Human life matters. Beyond race, creed, sex, religion or borders. Something we forget all too often. Something we ignore all too often. It becomes about religion. About terror. About politics.
I wanted to write about the people who were living through this. Give them a voice. Bring their story to the public. And perhaps, in this situation, being a woman was an advantage because women could go in some places where men couldn’t.
From the other side of 30, I can possibly see the naiveity of this sentiment, of this ambition.
But if I got a chance to do it even today, I wouldn’t turn it down. Today, I realise that this was also a desire to learn for myself what the reality was. Not what media writes. Not stories written by people. Perhaps that is selfish.
At the end of the day, it is a person who suffers. It is a child who is left alone. Religion, caste, sex, country – they fade in the light of the misery and the horror. Maybe it won’t make a difference to tell these stories. In today’s world, all it will gain is a like and a share on Facebook. But the story would have been told. It would enter some consciousness, becoming another drop in the ocean, and eventually, maybe it will add up to something.
More importantly, people need to know the stories beyond the bigger picture. The decisions might not always be changeable. They might even be important for the bigger picture. But we need to know the price we are paying for it. If we are building a naval base at the cost of an indigenous society, maybe it is crucial for national security. But that does not negate the fact that we need to know that our security comes at the cost of destroying a culture, destroying landscape.
Perhaps we are building factories on forest land. And this is important for the livelihood of several thousands of people. But you need to be aware of what is the price of that factory. And maybe sometime, we’ve to say that the cost of it is too high. The question remains about where to draw the line… but we need to know.
Hinduism and Buddhism (and perhaps many other religions) have prayers to thank nature for offering us our livelihood. They ask us to apologize for hurting nature or anyone else, even if it is a tree being cut. They ask us to take only what we need and nothing more. Our needs are much higher today, but perhaps one needs to know what you are sacrificing for it.
In any case, a reporter’s job is not to judge. It is only to report the facts. The facts are both that the land is beyond destroyed and thousands of people displaced, and that the new building will benefit so many people and earn them money. It is up to the individual conscience what they think is right or wrong. And that’s why sometimes we need an outsider to give us the facts, because we are too entrenched in our story to see all the details.