Vraja Bihari Das

“Happiness is a state of activity.”

–    Aristotle (Ancient Greek philosopher and scientist)

Kevin Carter’s photographs shook the world.  In particular, one image of a hungry Sudanese child collapsed on the ground while a vulture eyed the boy nearby, suggested a scary possibility- did the scavenger feast on the flesh of the dying child? The picture first appeared in New York Times and was soon on the front page of almost every daily in the world. The horrified readers asked uncomfortable questions on ethics and morality of it all. Carter, a South African photojournalist, had churned human emotions. While accolades came his way, many, like St Petersburg Times, criticized him, “The man adjusting his lens is another vulture on the scene!”

Carter cried- his mind plunged in guilt.

He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. Three months later he committed suicide.

On that fateful afternoon when he took the iconic photograph, he drove the vulture away. Besides, he took risks traveling in the famine and civil war infested zone. Although he worked hard and had even become a hero of sorts, he was depressed- the haunting memories of corpses, killings, and suffering took a toll on his heart.

For many of us, it’s the opposite of what Carter faced. He did his job well but a flood of negativity all around overwhelmed him, and he found little or no cause for joy. We, on the other hand, may have enough reasons to celebrate. Still, just one sullen thought could drown us in sorrow for the rest of the day.

The mind’s stubbornness

The mind has an inexhaustible appetite to feast upon negative experiences. From an excess of happy events, it expertly picks up one unpleasant incident and chews it with the gusto of a teenager’s fetish for bubble-gum. When the juice gets sucked out of the gum, the boy may inflate a bubble to wile his time away. Similarly, the devil within finds syrup in grumbling over a failure; or a perceived injustice by the boss could abruptly throw you into an angry mode. Soon, however, the fluid is out of the event; the mind then swells it and blows it far beyond proportion.

To be continued…


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