Few people could help being emotion choked seeing a front-page photograph printed recently in this newspaper. The photograph shows two pedestrians trying to pull out a street dog from beneath a car, which had almost run over the poor animal. The car on brake, the panicked dog thrusting out its head and part of the body from under it, and the two passersby helping it wriggle out of the death-trap make up a heart-rending scene.
The focal point here is the touching demonstration of humanity. The human self and the virtues of empathy and kindness have yet to die away in the people of this land. Against the backdrop of cold-blooded savageries occurring in the country, sections of the pessimists may have begun calling ours a nearly brutalised society. Why shouldn't they? Given the ominous spurt in inhuman treatments individuals and groups receive from perceived evil forces we can hardly resist being called denizens of pitiless times. To the delight of the optimists, this is not the end of the tale. There are silver linings. In the terrified times bereft of sanity and the human virtues of compassion and empathy, forces of humanity and love do appear, though occasionally. Or else, the forces of the dark would have let loose all their demonic orgies. Likewise, the monolithic power of rancour and revenge would have completely overrun the humanity.
But man is not born doomed. Nature has blessed him with propitious times of redemption when he's stuck in prolonged bouts of ordeal. Just as a proof of this universal truth, people caught in adversities find themselves liberated by the rescuers --- seemingly coming from nowhere. But judging by reason, these succour-givers do not actually appear to be wielding any extraterrestrial power. But it's also true some humans are born super-humans. Throwing themselves into hazards just to save a living being or mitigate the sufferings of a community goes with them innately. The two pedestrians helping a dog escape death in a Dhaka street are like anybody of us. Yet at a precious moment they have shown themselves as possessing virtues that the average humans lack. Throughout the history of civilised humanity, these men and women have stood by mankind while it is in agony. They transcend themselves above the ordinary humans. Or else, why would they risk their lives to save a wild animal straying into localities? The dog about to die in a Dhaka street did not come from a jungle. But, nonetheless, it was a mere street dog. Dogs and cats like it are regularly found crushed under wheels in Dhaka roads. People have become inured to these scenes. Some have not. They would not let even an animal die owing to being a victim of rash driving.
There is a diametrically opposite side to these spectacles. Some dreadful occurrences have become nearly normal scenes in the streets of Dhaka. They range from injured pedestrians or passengers lying in pools of blood and finally dying in the streets to being dragged by errant vehicles, with people watching the grisly scenes in utter nonchalance. Finding that such scenes unfold regularly in the city, new comers here get appalled. They cannot be blamed if they include Dhaka in the list of the most impassive cities in the world. Ironically, this is not the true identity of Dhaka. The city has been made to become one shorn of emotion only in the recent times. Of late, otherwise reputable cities in some countries have earned a bad name for being cruel to the people in distress. Two cosmopolitan cities in a South Asian country have recently seen passersby and road users going about their business during rush hours. Two fatally injured persons, one each in the cities on different days, were lying in the middle of the streets. None in the frenziedly busy crowds felt the moral pricks to pick and take them to hospital. Both of them later died.
In sharp contrast to these instances of unconcern, many a person is seen helping a blind man or an infirm old woman cross busy roads in large cities. These people are not aliens. Like most of those born and raised in this society, they go through the ordeals and traumas which are part of life in this country. But yet they stand apart. Despite their mundane ordinariness found also in others, these people prove themselves to be extraordinary. Thus when armed thugs pounce upon a simple village youth in a deserted street to abduct his teenage sister, the boy finds none around. Seeking help at the top of his voice and resisting the miscreants fiercely, the devastated boy is about to give in. He receives stab injuries. The thugs start dragging the panicked, crying girl almost to the door of a waiting microbus. In such critical times, human angels are found appearing from nowhere. In this case, a true incident, the saviour appears in the shape of a middle-aged man. He puts up a last-ditch fight with the thugs, but to no avail. Upon receiving multiple stabbings, he falls on the ground bleeding profusely. The gentleman could not save the girl from being abducted, instead received wounds. But he has tried his best to resist the goons. In these times of championing privacy and insularity, chivalrous acts like these are quite hard to come by. Thoughtful men tempt to explore the meaning of human existence in these acts. When a famed surgeon operates upon a seemingly incurable poor patient without fees, provides also the medicines; or a school teacher builds the erosion-devoured house of a hand-to-mouth farmer spending all his savings, this world gets back its pristine beauty. Life turns worth living, and the forces of darkness and evil get defeated.
That it's man which is the quintessential embodiment of the virtues constituting the best of all creatures has been sung by bards and sages through ages. In an inspired moment of realisation, Shakespeare's Hamlet soliloquies, "What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!/ how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how/ express and admirable! in action how like an angel! …" Extraterrestrials are fancied to be more intelligent than the earthlings. But even if they would appear in a form, they had better be regarded as a different species altogether. Meanwhile, man has been seen expressing the aura of unearthliness in many of his magnificent deeds. It's not only the individual humans in a certain country, regional or global communities also attain the height of greatness at times.
Taking cue from the victims of recent turmoil in many parts of the world, we may focus on the Middle Eastern refugees in Europe. Hundreds of them have drowned in the Mediterranean on their hazardous journeys to their European destinations. Yet they are being salvaged by the navies and rescue teams of the nearby countries and taken to shelters. Moreover, in spite of allegations by the ultranationalists of a number of their being involved in the terror killings in European countries, they have been allowed to remain there. The ill-starred and devastated migrants have not been driven back. What have prompted this stance are the human qualities at the community and national levels. Unless man uses the opportunity to prove his humaneness, which many ignore owing to their hardened makeup, this much eulogised and unique creature of nature relegates itself to a subpar level. It is due to these souls that many decaying societies still continue to function.