Courage is only a momentary lapse in cowardice. Most of us die a thousand deaths with little honour before we finally kick the bucket. Therefore, it is impossible to understand extraordinary acts by ordinary people.
These well-off middle class killers in Dhaka who, according to some reports, gave themselves the names Akash, Badhon, Bikash, Don and Ripon can be described as scum of the highest order.
But what Emory student Faraaz Hossain did in staying with his two mates in the cafe in Bangladesh and dying with them is not even in our purview to comment upon. It is such an incredible display of the human spirit that we dare not even salute him, because even that would be arrogance on our part.
The feeling of awe that we get is because we suspect that we would not have done it. Most of us would have run for our lives.
Yet, it is also possible that some of us might have done the same thing and stayed and died as comrades in arms. Not because we would be martyrs or ready to die or heroic, it is because we just couldn’t walk away.
That’s the mystique of courage. We never know whether we have it in us or whether we will show it if put to the test. And the test comes without warning.
You might run into a burning building to save a life. In a moment of courage, you might throw caution to the winds and leap into the sea to save a drowning stranger, because you just do it. Or perhaps, try to rescue a driver from the wreckage of a car that could explode any moment. There is no logic or reasoning—it is spontaneous and perhaps the greatest act of selflessness we can aspire to achieve.
To stay when we could have gone.
Why did Lt Khetrapal stay in his burning tank during the Battle of Basantar, defying orders to get the hell out? Why did L/Naik Goswami volunteer to remain on duty for eleven days and kill nine terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir before being shot. Why did Havildar Abdul Hamid PVC take out three Patton tanks in 1965 with a gun mounted on a jeep knowing he was going to die? This was to give his battalion an escape route.
Last week a mother in Colorado fought with her bare hands a mountain lion who had her five-year-old son in his mouth. It was an instance of motherly instinct which drove her to do this act of courage.
You know why a soldier goes towards the bullet in battle? Not for the flag or the country, but because his mate is going towards it. You cannot go backwards; it is as simple as that.
We have no idea what was going through Faraaz’s mind at that moment. Perhaps he knew he could not go backwards.