I popped by to Goa for a day trip last weekend. It was a very spur of the
moment thing, and since we were only there for a little less than 24 hours, we
decided to not do very much and spend our day bumming on the beach before we
went back to Mumbai.
In the evening, I had dinner with a mixed bunch of acquaintances and acquaintances’ acquaintances. One of them was a Goan man, born and bred in the state and since our discussion turned inevitably to Scarlett Keeling, he spoke about how sad and shocked he was to hear about it and how the beach it had happened on was just a little while away from his home.
I guess the debate was mostly about whose fault it was, a debate that’s been happening for a while. Everyone tended to blame the mother, who was off elsewhere in the country with her boyfriend and six other children, leaving her fifteen year old daughter alone in Goa with no money. A recent article quoted her as saying that this man, who she left Scarlett with, was "very responsible." He was 28, she was 15.
I’m still on the fence about my opinion though. While I agree that it is truly irresponsible to leave a teenager on her own with a practical stranger, I don’t know whether it is anyone's case that it completely exonerates the crime. One of the men at the table said, "But look at what she was wearing, surely it was titillating." It’s Goa. People walk around topless and in really tiny clothes. I don’t think that that is any excuse either.
Who’s to blame for Scarlett Keeling? Is she just a victim of the society we live in? One of the people at my table mentioned a British man who spoke up later about how he saw her on the beach, how she had asked him for a ride because she had no money and how later he saw how drugged out she was. He didn’t want to get involved. Which got me thinking about what I’d do if I was in the same place. Would I intervene? Would I say where are your parents and who’s taking care of you? After much soul searching, I realized that most likely I wouldn’t. I’d be on holiday. I’d be busy with whatever I was doing next. I’d think, oh another hippy and leave it at that. And in the process, I’d miss a chance to save someone’s life. Which is almost as bad as killing them in the first place.
We, citizens of the 21st century are, on the whole, an apathetic lot. We care about ourselves, maybe extend it a little to include our nearest and dearest, but the rest of the world can basically go to hell. And getting involved is such a complicated process these days, what with police reports and hundreds of questions to answer when, at the end of the day, you just want to go home, have a nice dinner, take pretty photos and leave it at that. Back in the day, when knights in shining armour still walked the earth, there was no red tape, no forms, no police questioning. You did your good deed and that was that. Now even the motives of doing something nice for someone else are questioned.
I’d like to change that. I’d like to be able to look at a stranger in trouble, really look, and be able to help them. Bureaucracy scares me, but you have to face your fears, right?