The Chennai tech girl murder on a local train platform is disturbing at so many levels I was avoiding any comment on it. So much is wrong with it….

First the identity of the assailant. There is a rumor mill that he was a Muslim stalker. This has neither been confirmed nor denied, which is just stupid on the part of the authorities, so everybody is drawing their own conclusions about it, usually wild and harebrained. Add to the mix the usual police incompetence and we have a complete disaster.


Murderer on the left and the victim Swathi S. on the right

Then we have the appalling reality that nobody went to help her. This should have been India’s Kitty Genovese moment, but the fact is this has become commonplace for years now. It is a combination of fear and callousness. Courts have been passing judgements for years that those who render help are not to be implicated in cases but people do not trust the police.

People correctly apprehend that they will be sucked into legal quicksand even if they are completely innocent and nobody wants that. Because the cost is too high and everybody is barely managing at best. Hence the callousness, it is defensive. What passes for middle class in India is actually disguised poverty in most cases. Even the girl in question.

The girl was being dropped off at 6 am and being picked up at 7 pm. If you have to leave for work at 6 in the morning and get back home by 8 at night that is servitude, not a profession. It is the common experience so nobody thinks it odd, but a medieval peasant would bring out the scythes and pitchforks if he was expected to toil so.

People are too exhausted to care, they are benumbed by their unending grind. There is simply no surplus energy left to intervene in a situation which may worsen your already precarious grasp on life.

I know it sounds like excuse making, but I think very few people comprehend how we lose our souls and our dignity day by day, enduring interminable train rides and slaving in air conditioned sweatshops. We create a society that makes zombies of its people and are shocked when nobody lifts a finger and calmly catches the next train to work after witnessing a murder.
We inhabit a particular type of society and cannot pretend to value traits like compassion and helpfulness in that society. For they are dangerous luxuries and one cannot develop a taste for them if you want to survive.

Sarvam Shivamayam!


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