Making a Difference on Indifference

I’ve been wrestling with the topic of ‘indifference’ all week.

What does it mean? What is its significance? And, what have I been indifferent to?

By popular definition, indifference denotes the lack of interest, concern, or feelings.

More simply put: “I don’t care.”

There are many things that I care about, and those that I don’t. I care about my family, my health, my colleagues, my clients, my country, the future state of the world, etc.

I didn’t care about Trump’s presidency.  I didn’t care about who won which Oscar awards.  And I certainly didn’t care about sexual assault of girls in India – not until what happened last week in Bhubaneswar, the ancient city of temples in the state of Odisha.


Honestly, I was indifferent to the myriad of social issues in the world, and sexual assault is no exception.  But I was challenged to confront that indifference at the Kalinga Fellowship – a 5-day programme jointly organised by BRIDGE and our partners in India, where around 100 participants from India and around the world representing stakeholders in the ecosystem gathered to tackle a challenging issue: “How might government, business, NGO’s and the civil society work together to create ZERO TOLERANCE to sexual assaults on girls in the state of Odisha?”  

Being physically in India certainly made a difference.  It’s impossible to remain indifferent after hearing the brutality and inhumane acts directly from victims and survivors of sexual assault.  It brought to life, the dramas and stories depicted in the movies – right in my face. I felt disgusted, disturbed, and dismayed.

Undoubtedly, there had been some re-wiring of neurons.  I simply cannot see the world in the same way before I arrived at Bhubaneswar again.  Not ever.  At one point, after learning about (from Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, a social activist and survivor of sex trafficking) how young victims of sex trafficking were beaten and tortured to learn a new body language so as to attract and please clients, I found it deeply uncomfortable when watching the seductive dance moves performed by tribal students.

Immersing in the stark reality of this issue not only altered my mind, but made a profound difference to my indifference.  Deep in my heart, I’m beginning the feel the pain, the angst, and the quest for justice.  I swore never to be silent, and am reminded of the words of Elie Wiesel:

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

I’m done with being indifferent.  And I’m not alone.

Margaret Meade once said: “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  I’m convinced that an extraordinary force for good had been unleashed this week.  A force that will help reduce the incidents of sexual assault and create a safer and humane world.

I’m extremely touched and inspired by the collective and individual commitments made by fellows of the Kalinga Fellowship, and hopeful that this week had sparked off a flame that will carry the message across India and beyond in the months and years to come.

And if George Bernard Shaw was right when he said “Indifference is the essence of inhumanity,” than perhaps, a profound insight had just emerged here.

Making a difference on indifference might be an essential step towards bringing more humanity into the world. What do you think?

Now, you might not be concerned with sexual assault of girls in Odisha or India or anywhere in the world.

What are you indifferent to? What might you want to consider caring about?

Whatever it is, there is always something you can do.

I am only one,

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

~ Edward Everett Hale