U.S. values life
India should take a hint
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 00:02
What are the things that money really can buy? This question is the eternal cliche of modern society of course: can it buy happiness? Love? Care?
This question repeatedly plays in my mind every time my friends back in India ask me another question: what is the real difference between life in America and India? After all, now with the whole notion of the world being flat and the information technology age, so many aspects of the Western world are as much part of any Third World country, and especially a prospering economy like India.
But in the period of over one year that I have been in the U.S., one distinguishing facet of the American society repeatedly made itself clear to me. Something that recent incidences in India sadly made me realize is a trait we need to embrace back home. And that trait is the value for human life. Not just the quality of life, but the amount of importance with which each individual’s life is perceived in a society.
Two weeks ago, my roommate suffered a bad muscle spasm in his lower back. Since he was unable to move at all, we had to call 911 for an ambulance to take him to a hospital. This was really the first experience of calling 911 for me and my other Indian friends who were present. And soon enough, an ambulance arrived with two paramedics, accompanied by two police cars. The police made enquiries with us, while the paramedics quickly proceeded to help my roommate.
This experience left me with as much amazement as gratitude toward the emergency operations. We made one call, and on the scene within five minutes were two policemen, a state of the art ambulance and two paramedics. All for a non-serious back pain.
As I was looking at the ambulance looking our apartment complex, I thought back on a high profile gang-rape case that occurred in India just three weeks before. A young woman and her male friend were brutally violated in a bus gang raped by six men, and thrown onto the roadside where they lay for over an hour until eventually passersby informed the police. The whole process of obtaining help and availing medical treatment for the couple took away precious hours which jeopardized the possibility of saving the victim’s life. Many versions of what had ensued surfaced: some claiming negligence of the police to act swiftly on being informed about the victims. Many other passersby may have noticed the victims lying on the street side, but refused to be ‘involved’, fearing that they would be forever intertwined in the legal process that would ensue, by being a witness.
A sluggish police force that was careless in reacting even in an emergency, and a society that was forced to stay apathetic due to a complex and intimidating legal system: all of such issues were brought to light by this incident, and many reforms have been proposed and some are under way.
So is all the care that my friend received here in the U.S. simply because this society is richer and we can afford it? Is it because the policemen earn a good enough life here so they don’t have to be corrupt? Well, I feel fundamentally there is another aspect here: the value for life. And it could definitely be a result of many factors like a developed economy, but yet, I cannot come to terms with the fact that indeed, certain things are beyond what money can buy. And a simple hand of help for a sufferer is something it definitely cannot.
Sunil is a graduate student in The Lyle School of Engineering.