Deciphering the bizarre analogy
There is an old Assamese saying: Kothate kota jaai, kothate bota pai (loosely translated, your words either make or break you). What was basically a motivational speech to teachers took a turn for the worst with an utterance that came across as a very insensitive and hurtful statement when Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma chose to say that cancer is caused by one’s past sins! The outrage was nation-wide and instantly gripped the dismay of friends, political foes and most importantly, cancer-stricken patients.
The anger against the health minister was massive and was mainly dissipated through social media. Cancer survivors especially felt that their health was mocked at and they responded by saying that they refuse to take such an abominable insult. “Shame on him!” was the war cry.
What made HBS bring in such a bizarre analogy beats any intelligent mind by a long margin. Apparently, he was speaking about karma having its own consequences – good or bad. But then, to decipher the analogy better let’s take those drawing room discussions in Assamese households where sad situations of other families who have been stricken by some disease or the other, are often raked up and attributed to sins committed by them or their forbears. Paapor phawl paise (consequences of sins) is a common refrain and almost gossipy for the Assamese society. HBS was clearly motivating his audience to work with dedication and telling them that their good actions will always bring in good consequences. And yes, he was also trying to warn that deliberate sins would augur no well-being for the sinner. Things were all fine until that drawing room statement came flowing out of his mouth in full public view and on cameras.
Politicians are seasoned speakers. In many cases, that is all they are good at doing. But HBS has been a worker and there is no denying that. The minister’s initial refusal to accept the error in front of the hounding national media added to the outrage. However, he has issued a lengthy clarification, is remorseful about the utterance and the whole issue has perhaps been a great lesson for him. And just for that, the issue may be buried and not raked up again.