So, Preetha, Arpita, Sarah and I were standing outside our office building, on our daily one-person smoke ritual. And we’re chit-chatting, the usual twinkie stuff – shoes, clothes, arpita’s bro’s wedding, etc et al. Then two burly looking guys (one of which was cute for sure) came and stood not three feet away, and the non-cute one had a ‘fanny pack’ or something of the sort slung around his waist. Now these fellas were not Indian. They just stood there, smoking, and waiting for i do not know what. First thought that goes blinking in my head: What if they’re terrorists?!
And I’m not paranoid by nature, just a little neurotic. But it must’ve been something in the air that sent that shockwave of a thought through. A moment later, the horror of the thought sunk in: I, like every other tom, dick and harry (or ram, shyam and radheyshyam) in this country, was under the spell of that irrational suspicion that has whole gods and their believers raging bloody wars the whole world around…
My friend Lisa tells me that she’s been taking the bus from ITO to Gurgaon every evening after work since she heard of auto bombs. She also tells me of her three year old niece, who felt really ill when she saw a documentary on the 9/11 WTO extravaganza.
Sarah says her friend Kainaz, now posted as floor manager in Taj Westend, Bangalore, lost a whole bunch of her friends at Taj, Mumbai, staff whom she’d been working and laughing with uptil 3 weeks ago.
A certain public relations lady from Mumbai i was in touch with for a story, has not been in touch about the fate of her efforts. I don’t know for sure, but it seems uncannily coincidental that she’s just contracted insomnia in this day and hour.
A peaceful march down MG Road by NDTV to commemorate the loss of one of the armed forces, replete with candles, solemn expressions and slogans, had one lady encouraging bystanders to come and join. In the background, a certain undesirable element yelled “India Murdabad, Pakistan Zindabad”. Certain gentlemen tried to push him away, but he was quite uproarious, to say the least. Later, when it had all passed, I saw him high-fiving one of his auto-driver buddies, and still later, he was walking around muttering to himself about something that sounded very much like “Saale TV waale…”
A recent India Today edition carried “Inside the Mind of The Bombers” as their cover story. The boys held responsible for the Delhi bombings in July are exclusively interviewed by one of India Today’s ranks. What he finds out, if not sensational fiction of his own mind, is truly horrific. One of them wouldn’t mind bombing a market where his mother is shopping, because that’ll only send her closer to Allah. The other two, although not so convinced, or certainly showing signs of disillusionment, at this stage, still parroted the “Its all jihad, it’s a war for Allah”. They’ll probably hang to their death at the age of 23.
Barkha Dutt feels “a sense of Deja Vu” through all this, and portfolios get juggled at the centre. Certain Tamil writers/journalists criticise TV channels for their elitist coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks, while ignoring the shoot out at VT station, and concentrating on the Taj, as THAT is the icon of India’s progress and hospitality. The markets quiver, but experts say that this will not have too much of an effect, the global meltdown, and the fact that US is now officially in recession, are still more important determinants. Terror, Riots, Arson clauses get added to life insurance policies. In a perfect parallel world, this would be hugely funny.
And yet, through grieving for friends, relatives, Leopold’s, the end of peace, the heralding of another holocaust, blah blah, we’d thank god for yet another day, yet another meal, just one job, cheaper petrol, simple joys of microcosmic, individual trajectories of life…