Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai - November, 26

When I started this blog, I thought I would move away from just creating a space detailing out the stories of my travels and daily drudgery and keep it restricted to just art, literature and celluloid depiction of dreams. However, having a space to write – where you get heard by at least some people – also comes with the inexplicable desire to give vent to your deep seated anguish. This might be a step towards breaking my self-inflicted rule – but there are times when you are so helpless, chained and restless that you can’t help but try to do your own bit even in the smallest way…

Yes… I am talking about the cowardly act of terrorism that was inflicted on the city of Mumbai yesterday night. And as I write these lines – there are still people trapped in a hotel in Mumbai waiting for either death or rescue to rid them of their miseries…

I wish I could be more coherent – as the Pakistani Prime Minister was when he spoke about how we are fighting the same war. I wish I was as coherent as the British Prime Minister was when he said that UK was all for the war against terrorism. I wish I could replicate Barack Obama’s measured speech when he said that US was looking forward to support India in this long-drawn battle. But… this is my land and these are my people…and I can only be as coherent as a common man who witnesses his own family burning before him.

Yesterday could have been just another peaceful November night with a nip in the air and the promise of another thoughtful quarter in the financial capital. But yesterday was meant to be different… and some cowardly, brutal creatures (yes… you read it right… these characters who are dying in the name of religion can hardly be called human anymore. Religious? Could be… though my untrained mind can hardly ever fathom what kind of religion they follow) had decided the fate of the financial capital long before we could even imagine it. Yesterday… November 26, 2008… they meant to strike at the heart of everything human. Just like they had struck at the heart of US during 9/11.

In case, you are still appreciating the daily soap, the story here is a dirty one. Some creatures (if you watched the news at some point of time, you may have seen the still shots of their ugly, snarling faces) decided to open fire at 11 locations across Mumbai. Not content with injuring innocent civilians, they took several hostages – mostly foreign nationals – in two of Mumbai’s biggest hotels. According to the bulletin that is rolling now – the hostages at Oberoi are still trapped inside the building waiting for their fate to come upon them. The official death toll is 125, the official list of injured stretches on to 327, the chief of the Anti Terrorist Squad has laid down his life in the war… and I wish… we could offer something more than just condolences.

If you have been to Mumbai ever in your life, you will probably appreciate my feelings about the city. It is a city of dreams – a city that never sleeps, a city where if you ask a direction someone will abandon his work and guide you, a city where you can always find a decent rickshaw driver to take you to your destination in the middle of the night, a city where people create destinies every minute. Mumbaikar, the term that typically identifies someone who has been born and brought up in the city, is a curious fellow. He is money-smart, speaks in a filmi language, acts like a superhero every day on his way to work beating the mad-rush at the station and jostling his way through the super-crowd in the train, and is a die-hard romantic at heart when he skips from office early and spends time with his family at the Choupatty (beach). A Mumbaikar is a superman and more… he is superhuman. He lives. And we live with him… watching him grow, watching him prosper, watching him live our dreams. Mumbai has been on terror alert earlier, Mumbai has witnessed bomb blasts that had ripped people’s bodies… and Mumbai had stood there, steadfast and unbeatable. A spirit so large and so full of vigour that it only fits a leviathan.

But the creatures… the unmanly, cowardly scum of the dirtiest soil wanted the city to look up and panic. And along with the city they wanted the entire world to panic – so the natural process was to target the innocent foreign tourists who had been staying as guests in the five stars. “Do you have a UK or a US passport? Then come with us to the roof… when the NSGs and the commando troops look up at the sky they shall see our bullets rip through your bodies…” And my God how they have succeeded! How they have succeeded in getting attention from all international news channels – how theyhave lived up to their names as serpents of the netherworld by making the financial capital come to a standstill, by spraying bullets to an odd four hundred innocent people and still continuing to do so…how they have succeeded in making every foreign guest a scaredy cat who would think twice before alighting from his or her flight…how theyhave succeeded in making us suspect our neighbours and their intentions.

In India, we have always been tolerant. And at times tolerance has even reached a point of ignorance. We are a confused country. We have confused leaders. We fight with poverty and opulence, we fight with bursting population and growing infertility, we fight with demons of our past and a future of economic freedom... we fight for every rupee against a strengthening or weakening dollar. We try and educate ourselves to take on the world and yet we worry about how the rest of our population will grow - will they find good schools? Can they prosper? We fight with darkess and light.

Amidst our daily wars, we fight with violence and non-violence. Our heritage and our culture teaches us to be tolerant. We have been tolerant of every invader who have come our way, we have preached non-violence and unshackled ourselves from the colonial rule, and we have been tolerant enough to run a bus to Pakistan and say, 'we believe in friendship.' We have done all that and by God we have succeeded, but for you… the one who counts the bodies and rejoices in it… we made a mistake. We tried to look beyond your fa├žade of a terrorist and tried to find a heart, a family, a mother, a brother… we forgot that you have been ripped away from every human relation the day you were born. We forgot that you had never been as born as human, and therefore there was no reason to treat you or believe you to be human either. Look at our literature, our cinema, our art… we have always tried to see beyond the gun-toting militant. With forensic precision, we have tried to untangle you from your gun, with a painter’s mind we have tried to place you in the midst of normal colours, with a common man’s mind we have tried to believe that you… the scum of the earth… will change. You will perhaps look back at your families, at your parents and realise that it is a sin in every religion to kill innocent people. We were wrong. We gave you more attention than you deserved. There was no point in trying to locate your terrorist psyche… you belong to death and that is where you will be placed. The scum will always remain scum and need to be discarded… there’s no point in looking beyond it.

We have seen your face… in the rugged still shot carrying an AK 47 and snarling at the world. We wish you’re covered in blood now, and may you not find a religion where you can hide the blood that you have shed. And so do we wish for anyone who tries to hide their madness in the name of an all forgiving God. And by God… we will remember your face… every Indian will remember your face and so will every British and so will every Israeli family who you have taken hostage tonight. We will track you, we will look in every nook and cranny, in every bunker, in every house... and we will find you. Lashkar e Toiba or Deccan Mujahideen, it won't take time before we find you because from today you will all look the same. And by God we will see the end of you.

To check out the news on Mumbai, access the following sites:

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