Today, there was a touching story in the TOI news of a Hyderabad Mom, a school teacher, driving 1400 Kms on her scooty to bring her intermediate-student-son home from Nellore to Nizamabad.
The lady had written to Police to request permission and drove the two-wheeler on a fragile road to fetch her teenage son. He was preparing for medical college admissions.
Most people will rejoice in the story’s inherent spirit of motherly courage as their first reaction. It would be hard for most people to read anything other than a story to celebrate. This was the reporter’s intention, to bring out the best in people during difficult times.
The report has received hundreds of comments and counting. Some comments are so disturbing that I couldn’t read all of them. It was quite distressing to read them. Although it can be difficult to read some of the comments, they are informative nonetheless. They range from the sensible to the completely sloppy comments of cowardly and anonymous trolls.
Some reports celebrate the mother’s sacrifices for her child’s sake. Others raise more practical issues. Some have wondered about the helmets missing from both the mother and her son since the report features a picture of the mother riding on the pillion. While this is a valid point, it speaks equally about the Police as the people involved (in this instance, the mother and her son). It is just as valid to ask why the first officer didn’t send her home with a helmet when she was stopped.
Some ladies have voiced concern about being complicit in the spread of COVID. Really? Is it a COVID threat to a lonely mother riding her two-wheeler on a lonely highway when the rest of the country is locked down?
Some people are worthies and believe that reporting on such stories in the paper would encourage others to do similar feats. Perhaps they believe it is okay for VVIPs and VIPs to disregard every law and every norm in broad daylight during perfectly normal times. One mother who is anxious for her son will be reprimanded by these equity-minded citizens if she fails to obtain the competent authority’s permission.
It’s not the case for anyone that it is okay to violate COVID restrictions. But surely, some authorities can ensure that this happens? The Police Officer in Charge would not have allowed the lady to fetch her child. Neither would the officers who stopped her on her way (albeit overlooking her missing helmet) would have agreed to the urgency of the case and let her go. No, we always evaluate every rule by the most rare of the exceptions. Even though we are silent witnesses when laws and rules are broken by our wealthy and powerful, in every walk of our lives, every day and every minute, it is not an issue. Equity is only an issue when one of us – a common individual – receives an out-of turn treatment. Not those we consider “superiors” or entitled to it.
The communal domain is the worst and most prolific category of comments. It is disappointing to see the persistence of pettiness, division and even apathy. Some people are right to believe that this episode amounts Muslim appeasement. Others use this instance to question the secularity of the nation. Others are quick to identify entire communities as COVID spreading agents. Is there any hope for civilized people?
As some commenters pointed out, the boy was probably sixteen or seventeen years old and the mother could have explored other options to bring her son home. The boy may not have had a penny in his pockets. It could be that all buses stopped plying. He may not have had a place to stay indefinitely in a new city. Because everyone was helpless, it could be that no relatives or friends were able to help. We don’t know all the details, surely. We are large enough to be able to recognize a mother’s bravery. We have room for exceptions, surely? This is certainly not the right time or the context for communality.
The mother did the right thing, and I’m glad she did it. Trolls aside. It wouldn’t be worth living if we had to live by the opinions and suggestions of trolls.