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Window Seat: Empathy Fatigue

6/06/2021 at 7:36 AM

India is a country in deep pain. The persisting coronavirus pandemic, growing economic insecurity, rising prices, rising unemployment, political polarization, misinformation and general daily uncertainty dominate our lives to the point that many people are barely able to cope.

Life wasn’t exactly a cakewalk before 2020. Out of all the fears, stresses and indignities our citizens are living with, there emerges a kind of primal insecurity that undermines every aspect of life right now. It’s no wonder that anxiety, depression and other psychological problems are on the rise. And on top of that or probably because of that we are witnessing a kind of the empathy deficit- never ever witnessed in India.

Dead bodies are lying at the hospital with their relatives refusing to take them for cremation. Relatives are leaving dead bodies in front of crematoriums and going away. They are not evening waiting to take the last remains for the rituals. In fact in several crematoriums the last remains (asthi kalash) are kept in piles for the relatives to come and collect them. As many of them are turning in mass last rites are being organized in many places.

Relatives are disposing the dead bodies any which way they can. The other day a video of two persons pushing a dead body into Tapti river went viral.

In several villages no body is coming forward to help in cremating the body- something that hardly happens in rural India. The local administration is taking the body for cremation. This had hardly ever happened in rural India- and at this scale!

Something sinister is happening in our society. We must work to bridge the empathy deficit for empathy is glue that keeps the society together.


I often feel as a nation we love myth and hate history. We do not have respect for history. Neither do we document our history, nor do we try to preserve it.

May 30 was observed as Hindi journalism day. On that day in 1826 the first Hindi newspaper Udant Martand was published from Kolkata (then Calcutta) by Pandit Jugal Kishore Shukla. Several webinars were organised on this occasion. There was no dearth of sound bites.

But there has been hardly any attempt to preserve the memory of Jugal Kishore Shukla. Not even a plaque exists in the central Kolkata lane from where it was published. The ancestral house of Jugal Kishore Sukla in UP lies in a shambles. There is hardly any proper documentation of the person’s history and work.

This is just an example. As a nation we must learn to respect our history. Proper documentation is the first step of preserving history. Let us do that.

Alvida Badusha

Kerala-based cartoonist Ibrahim Badusha who drew cartoons for various causes – from road safety to awareness on Covid safety and child abuse to dangers of plastic – died due to post-COVID complications on 2 June. He was 37.

A native of Thottumugam, near Aluva, Badusha was former vice chairman of the Kerala Cartoon Academy and Kerala coordinator of the Cartoon Club of Kerala.

As a cartoonist he felt he had a social responsibility. So, his cartoons would focus on pressing social and environmental issues. Badusha is keenly aware of environmental damage because he grew up next to the Periyar river in Aluva.

Ibrahim was a man who was always on the move. He would conduct drawing sessions for school children all over the state as well as in West Asia.

He had created a record of sorts by undertaking the ‘Longest Live Caricature Drawing Show’ which he named ‘portraiture’.

We lost a young promising artist.

Media Apology

A man called Periyasamy died. 

A local newspaper reported, “Ramasamy passed away.” 

Ramasamy was livid. He went to the newspaper office and  shouted at them.

The editor was apologetic. “Sorry Sir. We shall publish the correction tomorrow.”

“Not just a correction. I also want you to express regret.”

The newspaper published this: 


We regret to inform you that Ramasamy is still alive.”

(Courtesy: Social Media)

About the Author:
Journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in the central Odisha town Dhenkanal. mrinalchatterjeeiimc@gmail.com

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