(The following article was printed in the "Inner Voice" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers, on 12 January 2005.)
ASHA RAMANAN, a young mother in Sri Lanka, grieves for her dead 10-year-old son. Rohit Charnak (31) from Chennai is numbed by the drowning of his wife while on holiday in Thiruvananthapuram.
The UN-estimated billion-plus dollars in aid don't touch the lives of people like Asha and Rohit - whose loved ones lost their lives in the biggest recorded disaster in modern history.
Earthquake and tsunami deaths are now thought to be in the realm of 14,000 to 20.000 in India alone. The individual sufferings of thousands, whose near and dear ones disappeared in the path of the tsunami, now confront us all.
In our 24/7 society, wealth has become the main measure of success and happiness. But when confronted with unexpected and untimely death, money suddenly loses its allure and stature. We are brought to our knees. We want more than words of wisdom to comfort us.
Man's heart softens in the face of severe bereavement. Even the greatest transcendentalists since time immemorial spend quality time seeing to "death arrangements": funerals, commiseration, prayer and pacification.
We all know it is time alone that alleviates the pain and scarring of premature loss in a man's life. And the gnawing fact is that human suffering is inevitable. Many face personal tsunamis at birth -- with dead mothers, missing limbs, disfigured faces and arms that won't move. Many learn to live with hurts that will not stop, even with unlimited funds.
Yet, there's no immediate solace for the ache that comes with the unexpected death of a child, sibling, spouse or loved one. Money can't buy happiness even though it can facilitate essential services, rush in medicine and save some lives. Time is the most precious commodity, which we kill at our peril. It holds healing and transformation in its wings.
(The writer is emeritus member of the Iskcon governing body commission)