Jan 1, 2005

For those who died: we came from the ocean, and we will go back to it

`'Tis double death to drown in sight of shore.'

THE mind boggles at the amount of death and suffering. The sheer scale of the disaster is unthinkable. The damage will take decades to repair. The blow will lay low the economies of the region and send it into an interrugnum of darkness and despair.

This is what floats through my mind right now, watching and reading about ten thousand new deaths with every new day and the rising difficulties facing the relief workers. Suddenly the Iraq insurgency, terrorist threats and Middle Eastern oil cartels seem like such distant concerns. Something has hit us here in Asia, and this something that could destroy this region and turn it into a hellpit of misery.

I look at satellite imagery of Indonesia before and after the tsunami and try to imagine what would happen if something like that hit here in Bangladesh. I can't; it's too hard.

I once read a Jungle Book story where Mowgli has the elephants of the jungle destroy his native village, which cast him out as a demon child and would have burnt his parents as witches. He said, `Let in the jungle, Hathi!' In the satellite pictures it looks like someone cried `Let in the sea!' and it was so. In the Jungle Books, there was nothing older or more powerful than the Law of the Jungle. Now it seems to me there is something older and more powerful: the Law of the Ocean.

And yet in the news they're always talking about what the UN is saying, what countries are forming coalitions, sending each other aid; the rich giving to the poor, and the poor sharing amongst themselves. Volunteers helping stranded tourists find their lost ones. All countries coming together in symphony and no jarring notes, no dissension. It's so amazing, so incredible to see this -- the countries acting as if they are part of one big nation, one nation-planet, governed by the common Law of Humanity.

Which is the stronger law? No doubt about it, the Law of the Ocean. We came from the ocean, and back to it we will go in the end.