I've never really felt that a blog is the right place to write about how terrorist attacks make us feel. My blog, especially, has always been some kind of crap-machine which hardly ever reflects what's really occupying my mind at a given point of time.
Yes, I hate this. I hate knowing that any day, 25 terrorists can just sail into the city with tons of ammunition and enter every landmark and fire at people.
Riots, we're used to. Bandhs, we smile at. Bomb blasts - they've become "usual", recently. Yes, our politicians are spineless. Yes, none of us expected Raj Thackery -so *protective* of Bombay usually- to spring into action or do anything remotely useful. Yes, we knew our security sucks royally, none of us have ever been checked at a station, and we're not surprised that people managed to breach dock/hotel security either.
But bombs in 10 places, a continuing hostage situation in 2 places even after almost 24 hours, and a couple of terrorists who could be on the loose?
It's not about the Congress vs the BJP anymore. It's not about bombs or guns, RDX or grenades. It's not about Indian victims or foreign.
It's really just about terror vs. humanity. The simple fact that you can't keep beating a man over his head without him either hitting back or collapsing. The fact that it's no longer as simple as calling your friends to ask whether they're okay. The fact that the loss of life, even if its not in your immediate circle, is still loss of life for no reason.
And the fact that the tangible damage -people dead and injured, policemen martyred, soldiers in battle, relatives waiting for loved ones- is only a trailer of the real damage this can do - to the psyche of an entire city, and an entire nation.
Because it's our city. Our roads, our hotels, and most importantly - our people.
It's not easy to watch helplessly as fires rage, as blood spatters over roads, as your city crumbles, as people die, as the media speculates and as AN Roy gets emotional and mourns the loss of his men. It's not easy to see the roads deserted, the people scared, the voices hushed, and to hear the sounds of ambulances in the dead of night. All we can hope is that we bounce back. I'm not 16, I can't chant "Spirit of Mumbai" every time something goes wrong. A city is made by its people, and the only thing that holds us together is the fact that we love and need this city and -at some level- each other. If that can override our fears -and I think it just might- we will bounce back still.
This is not something I really wanted to write about. In some way, it feels like a trivialisation of the horrific realities. Do you blog about the loss of a family member? Or have Facebook status messages mourning the person?
Do bloggers, journalists, writers and activists really matter at a time like this? What do they do, except stand at the sidelines and comment? You know how we always believe that the media has the power to influence thought and progress? Does it matter? A bunch of intellectuals analysing situations while people die on the streets? Pardon me for thinking in black and white - but it's difficult not to, at a moment like this.
It pisses me off that the media goes overboard and Barkha Dutt -one of our best- plays manipulative emotional games with relatives of people held hostage. (I've seen her at it before, with a woman who lost her child, prodding and questioning until she got the reaction she wanted. Yes, the media is manipulative. But one would hope that at least some of them would retain some semblance of ethics?) Or when CNN brings in "terror experts" from London (upper-class Brits) to talk about the *trends in terror* while Indians die. Or the obsession of news channels with this being "India's 9/11". Is this what we're reduced to? A nation of spectators, victims, and clowns?
Call me an idealist, but I still believe that this is not who we are - this is not what people are, anywhere in the world. Because after this is over, once the fear and sorrow and shock has faded, hopefully -just hopefully- we won't go back to being cynical.
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More (and better) writing, here, here and here.