Nothing seems to matter anymore. Neither the empty space in my living room that provides me ample room to dance about nor the comfort of warm water while showering. Neither the number of people who liked my picture on Instagram nor the fact that my Internet is now beginning to function at a sluggish speed.
Because I just remembered a core fact: that none of these things are real. None, to be exact. Surely, not in the face of life and death.
If this is my current disposition, what must be going through the minds of those who were very close to Tarishi Jain and Nicolas Leslie, and to those hundreds of people dead in the recent terror attacks?
“I won’t be strong. I don’t want to be strong,” said Jain’s mum, on the very day she saw her daughter being placed on the funeral pyre. Indeed, why should she be strong? Being strong in this case seems to be synonymous with accepting the irrationality of it all and continuing to live life normally. It would be as easy as posting an RIP, apologetic post on Facebook and then going about liking other funny videos or sharing links.
It would mean to adopt the mantra: Out of newsfeed, out of mind.
I am sorry, but if this is what it means to be strong after knowing of someone’s unjustified death, I’d rather not be strong.
The blank truth is, it’s not a question about being strong or weak. It is about recognizing the difference between right and wrong. Recently, I found myself gazing at a DKNY clothing advertisement, pondering: Is this world and its inhabitants for real? While some are spending their leisurely time in a mall searching for the perfect red Louboutins, the only red that meets the eye of many at this moment is that of blood. Blood, that in my perspective as a biology student ought to be running within your veins and not be drained onto a rubble of crumbling roofs.
At first, I think I only imagined myself to have met Tarishi more times than I actually did in the past year, perhaps because of the sudden way in which she left us. What pains me the most is that it wasn’t a natural death, terminal illness or road accident that took her away; but it was other humans. Humans, the same species as you and I, who decided one fine day to walk in where she was and demonically pluck the soul out of her beautiful being.
I tried hard to remember the conversations we had every time I saw her entering the Golden Bear Cafe on crutches. I remember walking to my class, thinking: Isn’t she feeling uncomfortable walking like that? Boy, if I had torn a ligament, I would be cranky all the time — a far cry from Tarishi’s warm smile and strangely calm demeanor.
Now I am slowly accepting the fact that life at university will continue as it did. Students with the same hopes as Tarishi and Nick will enroll at UC Berkeley, compete to attain a 4.0 GPA, perfect their applications and strive to get into the Haas School of Business. They will graduate — some with double majors, some with honors. Some will create novel startups and before you know it, will have started a family of their own. Some will really succeed in the stride of life, and some will just about get through.
Fine, I now understand how this works. People can’t stop their living their lives. The show must go on. Yet, it is agonizing to think that while most attain recognition during their lifetime for being a Golden Bear, some had to leave this planet for the world to notice their shiny coats.
Now that several weeks have passed, I finally am remembering many more ways in which Tarishi’s life intertwined with mine. Her texting me “Best of luck” early in the morning before every NST 10 midterm, her texting me when we both were freaking out for our Bollywood dance group audition, her sitting next to me cozily in lecture while I discreetly picked on a burrito bowl for an hour, her being one of the few attendees at my Hindi film screening event. … So it wasn’t my imagination after all. Though I wonder, how did I forget all of that?
The scariest truth then just hit me: Human memory is pitifully short. And with the advent of virtual socializing, it is somehow even harder today to really embed details of any real human association in our minds. Nothing else seems to explain why these things that shouldn’t slip away, slip away so easily.
But this doesn’t answer what is it that differentiates right from wrong. It only makes me hope now that we don’t let Tarishi and Nick become just another story on our newsfeeds.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members.