Reviving Old Memories for Peace and Harmony


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

3 Jul 2017 – All people remember some events or people they have met and interacted with. In other words they have memories– some pleasant, some painful, some morbid. The pleasant memories give joy, pleasure and peace; on the other hand the unpleasant ones may not just be harsh and painful but may be tragic physically and emotionally and need to be sanitised lest they result in unspeakable trauma that may make the survival of individuals difficult.

We have pleasant and happy memories of many situations– excelling in studies or some other activity  — sports, music, theatre; living in a healthy environment; getting a wonderful job or being successful in business; having loving parents and grandparents; being happily married, having beautiful children or due to many other factors.

Similarly the opposite also happens. There are countless causes of unpleasant memories — poverty,  broken family  life, death of one’s near and dear ones, unemployment etc. In India these days, thousands of farmers are under stress and many of them commit suicide when their crops fail and they are left with huge debts.

Another cause has been and still is, being forced to leave one’s home due to religious or political conflicts and resultant violence. Developmental activities such as manufacturing or mining operations or infrastructural construction such as building dams, roads or railway lines etc also lead to displacement of thousands of tribal people and villagers — again resulting in untold misery, helplessness and stress.

Wars that have plagued countries from prehistoric times have resulted in death, devastation and displacement. Two world wars of the last century are still fresh in our minds where some countries were occupied by enemy nations, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions of people especially the Jews were forced to leave their homes and become refugees. The holocaust during WW II targeting the Jewish people is a horrendous genocide where about six million people were killed. Many other regional wars also have taken place with similar destruction, deaths and displacement.

Another momentous event was the breakup of India in 1947, into two nations — India and Pakistan (both west and east). Historians write that perhaps the largest number of migrations from one part to another as well as millions of people killed or butchered took place. Some people are still alive to recount memories of these tragedies; many novels, films, paintings are available giving a cultural and historical account of these horrors. My own family was also a victim of this unnecessary tragedy and joined tens of thousands of refugee families in Delhi.

Japan was a victim of the horrendous atomic bombing in two of its cities in 1945 that effectively brought an end to WW II in the eastern region. A few years earlier I had occasion to listen in Japan to an eighty year old lady who recounted the traumatic event of bombing in Hiroshima and how she survived the ordeal by being away from that city due to some fortuitous conditions.

Today there are countless number of people who have become refugees as a result of terror and mayhem in countries such as Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan and other regions. In Myanmar the problem of Rohingya refugees who have become stateless in their own country, seems to be beyond solution.

How does one cope with such tragic events?

There is no easy answer to this problem. One way as suggested above, is by writing a novel or a story or making a film on the tragic events. This somehow alleviates the loss and suffering. Another has been to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and ask for forgiveness as done by South Africa to somehow lessen the impact of apartheid in the country.

On an individual level, some people just by recounting those evil situations feel better and have a sense of peace and tranquility. There is occasionally a difficulty in this method. One can relate the tragic events to one’s children or some others who are a generation apart. But today’s younger generation governed by the internet or smart phones or the social media is not particularly interested in the horrors their elders have experienced (unless they are doing a research project on the theme).

Another approach although difficult and relatively rare is by becoming peace workers or being sensitive  to the injustice and by doing good to the disadvantaged sections of society. Discrimination and pain suffered by ordinary people such as violence on women or children or the urban poor will then perhaps become less severe.

One does not forget the painful old memories; but by doing some good to the people whether as a community or by individual efforts–however small they may appear to be–will usually generate a sense of fulfillment and usher in Peace and Harmony.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 Jul 2017.

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