Like everybody else I am still reeling from the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Five people I know (friends of friends) have died. I just spoke to my best friend Nita a few minutes ago-her voice sounded heavy, the pitch nasal. She can’t shake the sadness away. She has two twin funerals to attend, right after attending a school event at Cathedral.
Her daughter gratefully clings to her side right through the afternoon-she feels lucky and thanks her stars. Lucky because two of her classmates lost both their parents on the night of the 26th of November. Shot dead at point blank range. They never had a chance. Another family friend escaped with three bullets logged in her arm bleeding profusely for eighteen hours after she was shot and before she was led out to safety.
I feel grateful too. In a weird way It was my birthday on the 27th of november, I was to bring it in on the 26th night at India Jones at Trident with a few close friends. On the morning of the 26th we decided to postpone the celebration by a day-I wanted to start a new year of my life with a jog on the beach at 6 am. To be back in time to drop my daughter to the bus stop at 7 am. So the party was postponed to the 27th night instead. So I could start the day on an energetic invigorating note rather than with a head laden with champagne and a stomach bloated with cake.
It was surreal. I never slept that night at all. Got the 1st sms about the attack from a school mom at a quarter to eleven. It sounded unbelievable. I forwarded it to all the other moms I knew to tell them to keep their kids home and switched on the TV. My family and friends were calling me from all over the world. They were hoping I was not out bringing my birthday in at the Taj or the Oberoi. I was calling and smsing everybody too-wanting to hear they are safe.
The next fifty nine hours seemed like something out of a Bruce Willis action film… dark sordid and gory.
But less than forty eight hours later we are all back to our everyday lives. Public memory is short-except for those that have been direct victims of this tragedy so people just dust themselves and trudge on. ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ and the ‘Resilient Mumbaikar’ and ‘Cast your vote correctly’ are the messages we are being bombarded with on sms and via other channels.
Politicians are exploiting the tragedy to usurp power and feed their own vested interests. Everybody is getting swept in the tide of ‘his head must roll’ and who the villain is. Raj Thackeray and his marathi warriors are conspicuously in hiding. R. R Patil issues a public statement that in big cities these things are occasionally bound to happen!! Excuse me? I was hoping he was misquoted or it was a typo when I read it. Surely he cant be that…but ofcourse he is. I believe he said it on national TV Chidambaran takes over as Home minister…Shivraj Patil resigns as does Vilasrao Deshmukh and his deputy.
So big deal. How does this impact any of our lives except that we see more of them on TV? Is one really better than the other? Do we have any leaders worth looking up to at all? Why has the terrorist attack become about who is gaining or losing power at the Government portals rather than how we can effectively prevent such a thing from happening in the future?
For the first time in my life I have a feeling of respect for George Bush-he was at least man enough to say-Nobody messes with me or my country or my people. And those who do will pay the price for it.
But what does the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh do-he feebly dilly dallies with the officials of the Pakistani Government before proceeding on his election campaign. The terrorist attack seems forgotten already, no longer on his agenda Shame!
If the trail of this attack can be officially traced to one or more countries/organizations why beat around the bush? Why not seek the co-operation of the rest of the world and declare them a terrorist state? What are we afraid of? The only terrorist captured alive hails from Pakistan and has admitted to being trained in camps there. Do we need further proof?
Why cant we pass international laws that no person of such affiliation/or terrorist state be allowed to set foot on soil outside their own country? Ruthlessly flush out any one within India that harbours a terrorist, or abets terrorism in any way or even has a remote link. Throw them in jail and lock away the key.
But how can an officio issue his own arrest warrant? Tch tch…why on earth would he do that or allow anybody else to? Its easier to kill a bunch of innocents and divert attention from the larger issues at hand. He knows from past experience that things will die down soon enough and his position remain safe.
Isnt that something we need to scrutinize closely?
And what about the ganglords and mafia kingpins? The guys that illegally control the docks, drugs, contraband, and much of India’s dodgy trade hand in glove with the establishment?
Each of them going about their business with audacity and impunity, dreaming of being turned into heroes as protagonists in the next Ram Gopal Varma gangster flick? Surely any terrorist activity of this magnitude needs funding to the tune of billions…where is it coming from? If it’s coming from outside India who is bringing it in? There was apparently enough explosives found to blow up the whole city…it certainly didn’t come in that tiny rubber jetty the boys arrived by sea in. Anytime there is an enquiry or investigation, notice how the bad guy just vanishes? Is any of this possible without powerful political patronage?
There may be a hue and cry right now but lets what this space. The D word and the C word and the B word will soon disappear from everybody’s lips as soon as the public outrage dies down.
Why are the bad guys getting richer and the good guys being shot dead? Too simplistic? Maybe but perhaps not…
How did these guys get employment and rooms at the premier organizations such as the Taj and Trident? Are there no document checks required? If not why? If this was an oversight then perhaps the trail is far closer to home than we can understand.. the perpetrators of this hate are amongst us. White collar workers. They are not just illiterate shady guys trying to earn a fast buck. They are people like you and me.
Like the images of the terrorists clearly proved. I too would have crossed any of them on the street and mistaken them to be students. Kids…living on their ‘baap ka paisa’ Misguided to boot, but kids nevertheless. Young minds are the easiest to manipulate after all. Did anybody check their parentage or who was going to be paying those bills before checking them in? If they were staying at the hotels as has been reported. Which bank gave them a credit card? Or did they go the old fashioned way and just pull out wads of cash? And if they did that why were eyebrows not raised?
Ever tried getting a job in America or the UK or anywhere in the western world? Or even a hotel room? Then you’ll be aware of how much documentation you have to furnish before you even get through the door.
So who let these guys in? Besides the fishermen that were killed? But that was the last leg of the operation…this had been meticulously planned and executed weeks or even months before those twelve boys came in by boat. How? Where? When? On whose behest?
The scale and scope of international terrorism is far too complex and dangerous for my brain to ever completely fathom. It’s not only about religious hatred and intolerance but ultimately about ruthless economics and power. The evil that has driven man to the dregs through the centuries.
It’s the games men play very often out of each others drawing rooms. For and against each other. Terrorism is not about religion. Religion is just an excuse. It’s merely the politics of hatred and acquisition of a perverse convoluted notion of power. It knows no caste, creed, humanity and certainly no God.
As an ordinary citizen, as a woman and as a mother I don’t even want to understand the vile machinations of it. I just want to feel safe, my children to roam free and the world to be a happy place.
And in my honest moments I admit that I want somebody else to do the dirty job of cleaning my neighbourhood and country up. I’m still some what conditioned to believe that it’s a mans job. If there was any problem my daddy always looked after it. I stayed indoors and fed the dog or wrote a poem while my mother cooked us a warm meal. Its how most of us girls have been raised.
I know there is evil, I know there is hate but I don’t know how I can stop it. So do the only thing I can. I point fingers, I accuse, I abuse and I rant. Because I feel helpless and don’t know any other way.
But me, like everybody else, needs to take a reality check and stop playing the blame game.
Because the villain is not just one person or even a few corrupt politicians. Or a fistful of terrorists
The true villain is our individual and collective apathy.
Our inability to stop it or do anything about it.
Our inability to sustain dialogue and bring about long term change.
Our need to pussy foot around issues and sweep them under the carpet. Our dismissal of things that seem too large to deal with.
Our lack of social conscience and our resistance to change.
Our misplaced notion that it’s somebody else’s problem.
But it’s not somebody else’s problem. It is our problem. Each and every one of us.
We should be angry, we should be ashamed and we must raise our voices
But just fear or anger or apathy or indignance alone will achieve nothing if not channelized correctly and put to proper use.
It will once again be buried in the din of airconditioning and drawing room conversations of the glittering chatterati. Drowned under the rhythm of the latest Bollywood hit song and the salacious quotes of the new item girl with the biggest boobs on the block. In a few days the matter will be forgotten altogether…see how the Indian media is already moving on?
Till death and destruction strikes again
The only thing that will work is a cohesive comprehensive dialogue and sustained effort at every level to deal with the enemy.
The enemy from within and from outside.
The implementation of a system and rigorous checks that works for the good of everybody.
A system that works on inclusion rather than isolation.
A system where our conscience is not for sale to the highest bidder.
A system where people can feel a pride and dignity in their existence.
A system that gives us the right to be free and be safe in our freedom.
And a system that takes a stand. That is not afraid to tell the world that if you step on my toes, I’ll stamp your face.
You mess with me buddy, you’re a dead duck.
Lets stop being so nice. Niceness beyond a point is nothing but cowardice. Bullies are well known to exploit that.
We need some concrete action to secure ourselves. Not just round table conversations at the taxpayers expense. Not just three more aircraft for the NSG and fewer bodyguards for the CM and his like.
We need a body independent of corruption and greed and beaurocratic intervention and control. A body of like minded well intentioned citizens. Is that even possible? Can the human soul remain incorruptible?
Hopefully it will happen now, because this time around it’s not some helpless farmers that have died in an obscure village or some poor illiterates whose heads were blown off in a local train. People who had no voice, no power and no means to change anything, not even their own lives. People who dealt with death as the fatalistic hand of God. People whose annihilation was dismissed as one vote less, but nothing to be alarmed about. Nothing of consequence.
But this time it’s affected those who are the backbone of our very nation, nerve centers of our economy, people who have the power to collectively affect policy. People who made us so very proud to be Indian.
The attack on them is a direct attempt to reverse the clock of our progress, blacken our faces with the soot of loathing and jealousy.
Please let’s not offer the other cheek and wait for the bad guy to come drill a hole in it. We have been too tolerant for way too long. Not only of our enemies but our so called protectors.
It’s that word again…apathy. Our biggest enemy…second only to greed. But what good is greed if one is no longer alive to eat?
This is perhaps our final wake up call.
I will go light a candle now and say a prayer. A prayer for strength and fortitude in these difficult times. A prayer of condolence for those who died and their families dealing with immeasurable grief. For the brave soldiers who fought with their lives. A prayer for myself, my loved ones and my country. And even its enemies.
A prayer for good sense and peace to prevail.