Thursday, November 27, 2008


Numb, this has been my state of mind ever since I woke up in the morning to read vague headlines of “Rash of Terror Attacks in Mumbai: 80 dead”. In my foggy, sleepy state of mind I could not comprehend the headline, 80 dead how, when, I saw the news till 9 pm, there was no news of this sort till then. I even thought it was a cruel, insensitive media gimmick. But truth is never that simple. As the fog in my mind cleared, I read the newspaper in shock, in numbness not completely understanding what had happened, skimming through the papers searching for the obvious and now much too familiar modus operandi of bazaars being bombed through surreptiously placed tiffin boxes. There were no serial blasts. What does ‘firing indiscriminately” mean, what does they “threw bombs” actually mean. I just did not get it. What I did read clearly was that 80 people had died, that my brother in law lives on Napean Sea Road, that my brother lives near Vile Parle and loves Leopold Café. I called them up, relieved that they were fine, messaged friends and got back comforting replies that they are all fine. I spoke with my dad; he said that “this is war, it is not a terrorist attack”, I was forced to switch on the TV. And probably that is when the enormity of this ghastly, horrific attack dawned upon me. Yes, they “threw bombs”, they “fired indiscriminately”, they walked around with knapsacks on their backs and AK 47s in their hands and they wore jackets full of grenades. They stormed into the Taj Hotel, The Trident and Nariman House and opened fired at guests, staff. They opened fire on the streets, in CST; they opened fire and threw grenades at people generally enjoying a drink at Leopold, attacking hospitals where the sick were healing. And at 8 when I switched on the TV, they were hostages and guests trapped in Taj and the Trident. I could see smoke emanating from the beloved Taj Hotel. I saw images of some of these menacing crazy looking terrorists roam around the streets with hand grenades and AK 47s. I just could not believe that I was seeing those images on television, that this had actually happened. It was not about the numbers of causalities, but about how they entered Bombay on motorized dinghies through sea, about them just mocking and making a cruel joke of how “secure” we are in our own homes, on our streets, in our offices, our hospitals. About how they could walk around the streets opening fire where they wanted to, throw grenades in any direction they fancied. About how easy it was for them.
As I write this at 6 in the evening, Bombay has come to a halt, as a friend living on Cuffe Parade tells me; she heard gun shots all through the night and well into the day. The streets are deserted; the two hotels in question still have guests and staff trapped inside as the army combs each floor of the hotels. Images of guests dressed in white, leaning against the glass windows asking for help, trying to convey that they are safe waiting to be rescued have been flashed through the day. People are waiting outside, calmly, fearfully, hoping for the best and not thinking about the worst. I spoke with friends through the day and we all are terrorized, there is a fear unspoken at times but palpable immediately. Up till now we all felt that avoiding bazaars on crowded days, immediately reporting suspicious looking unattended bags would ensure safety, but now there is no plan on how to avoid this. All strategy fails, how many aspects of our lives will we change to finally feel safe. The terrorists seem like cockroaches; every time you find a way to kill them they mutilate their gene to be resilient against that particular brand of insecticide. There is a feeling of helplessness. I am incoherent but that is how a lot of us are feeling.
But come to think of it, maybe this attack, this war declaration, this brazen invasion on a city that is the financial capital of the country is not as dangerous as the unabashed north Indian “bhaiya” driving a cab in Bombay, maybe concern over terror is not as legitimate as the Gujjar demands, maybe this day is not as historically relevant as the Ram Sethu, maybe not as revolting as the MF Hussains paintings, maybe not as scary as couples making out in parks, maybe not as catastrophic as homosexuality, maybe restoring peace is not as important as ensuring no one else is “converted”, maybe these terrorists are not enemies enough as the opposition parties (only till you need to bed them for power after next elections). Because these are the issues all our “leaders” have been focusing on since time immemorial. None of them have ever addressed terror rationally, never has the political parties come together to fight this menace at a grass root level without getting political about it. They just cant seem to get enough of creating politics of hate. Terrorism and gun men firing randomly may be damned, only till the “leaders” can make a poll issue out of it. I am angry, angry that the prime minister addressed us after 19 hours of the beginning of this mayhem, that Shivraj Patil has not resigned even after this, that the NSG took 8 hours to arrive in Bombay as they were busy protecting the leaders of the nation, angry that since July of this year we have been attacked again and again and we have been watching like the timid shy school boy whose tormentors, the bullies are getting more audacious by the day, appalled that I sit every month watching a new city being attacked by a new group in a new way.

As I watch the horror unfurl, I pray for the souls departed, thank the firemen, policemen and army forces fighting to save lives. I pray to God for this to end quickly. But we all know this is not the end.

I have never been a jingoistic, patriotic Indian who shouts from the roof tops about Arya Bhatt or IT revolutions, I have always been confused about what I feel for my motherland, realistic, affectionate, sure that I would never want to be born as anything else but Indian though unsure about the reasons why I feel that way. However I have always been proud of our thriving democracy, smug that in this hot bed of troubled neighborhood we as a country have a functional democracy, an economy to be reckoned with and a country that does not have fatal and fetid issues to deal with like our neighbors have. I am not so sure any more. To the outside world probably we are just the same now. I know its not true, but am too scared to say that anymore.

I want to do something about it, but I do not know what to do. I want to walk into the parliament and shout till I am heard; I want this nightmare to end. I want politicians to stop fuelling politics of hate because this is what happens at the end. Can you tell me what WE can do about this?


Prof. Jai Prakash Sharma said...

A genuine reaction to ghastly happenings around. A person with social conscience and sensitivity like you can do that. Keep it.

Nandita said...

Thanks Papa, I hope we all collectively can stop this hate mongering and killing

Anonymous said...

Great post...i guess India needs more political activism ...atleast people should come out and vote...