THE BURNING OF ROSE-BUDS! THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRAGEDY! It was on this day (16<SUP>th</SUP> July) last year that it happened. 94 young, very young school children were trapped to death in a fire in Krishna School in Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu, India. A cruel, gruesome accident which has no parallels in the recent past! News reports say that one of the teachers after knowing about the fire had ordered the students not to move and be in their places. Poor children, they obeyed their teachers words only to be in the fatal fire-trap. And another report said that the children when they knew that their end was certain just hugged each other, held each other’s hands before the heartless fire gobbled their hearts. And today nothing remains of those 94 rose-buds which were burnt to ashes – nothing but sad memories, an impotent anger against everything and an oil lamp which has been kept in that site. And in the minds of those unfortunate parents there is nothing but a blind rage and a grief beyond all consolation. Enquiry comissions were constituted, no reports have come so far. Arrests and accusations have been made but no convictions so far. Schools in Tamilnadu were ordered to remove any structure containing thatched roofs. Speeches were made, laws have been made, relief measures announced – but nothing can bring back those roses back to life. And the greater tragedy is that some children who did not die are still recovering from the burn-injuries and from the shock of seeing their classmates burnt alive before their eyes. Yes, today is the anniversary of the burning of rose-buds. Those of us who are religious have prayed to God that those rose-buds be assured a permanent place in heaven as they have already been burnt in hell-fire here on earth. Those of us who have a way with the words have written poems which make the hearts bleed. Those of us who have something to do with school administration have learnt their lesson well. (They are supposed to, at least.) There was even a poster-compaign in Tamilnadu against the heartless fire which has burnt the flowers. But what about the rest of us, who can’t write a verse or not religious enough or not connected with administration and Government? Should the event be just an idle memory like a tragic movie we saw last year, a touching book we read sometime in the past? No, not just that. Events like this should give us the perspective – the right perspective to view life, its precious gifts and harsh punishments. Those of us who are immersed in grief because our children are not on the top of their classes have a lesson or two to learn from this tragedy. Being the class-topper is definitely not as important as being there to answer our call, being there to hug us and run towards us in times of need. Those of us who are losing sleep because we do not drive the car our neighbour drives or possess the handphone our colleague has, can learn that compared to those rose-buds, their half-burnt lives and full-burnt bodies, cars, phones, jewellery, dresses and homes are but tiny specks of dust in the whole scheme of things. Those of us who are sad because our children do not love us enough can learn a lot from those parents who today do not have the children they loved. Those of us who are ferociously trying to climb the corporate ladder or amass wealth can stop climbing for a while to question whether they are that important. Those of us who are running towards vague, distant goals without having time to hug our kids or kiss them or read them stories, talk to them or just be with them, can stop their running for a while to gain this perspective. And if gained they might even realise that after all that the time spent with their children is the only time in life that is well-spent. I am not that cruel to say that those children have died only to teach us these precious lessons; but if in spite of their deaths we do not learn these lessons, then our lives might soon reflect the tragedy that happened in Kumbakonam on 16<SUP>th</SUP> July,2004.