Friday, November 28, 2008

In a time of terror

For all those who have written in the last two days expressing concern, I would just like to say that I am safe and fine, although a little shaken like thousands of others who were in the Colaba area when the shooting broke out on Wednesday night. And like all those who were fortunate to emerge unscathed, I grieve today for those around us who lost their lives, and for their bereaved family members.

I was at a restaurant in Fort with some friends at 9.30 pm on Wednesday; we were all coming from the opening of the show for which I'd written a short text that I'd posted here last week. There were some journalists among us, and from the information they were receiving it swiftly became apparent that the trouble was of considerable magnitude. My sister, who is also a journalist, was with us, and my most difficult moments of the evening were in trying to restrain her as she bravely decided to head out towards the conflict zone. I dragged her, against her will, into a car in which our friends were leaving, and we made our way down Marine Drive and through Napean Sea Road to Peddar Road, where another friend of ours lives. Like many others who put duty over self, my sister kept insisting that she had to go, and so we stood out on Peddar Road at 2am waiting for a police jeep that could take her to JJ Hospital. My friends Amit Varma, Sonia Faleiro, and Rahul Bhatia, and their respective partners, all of whom had also come to the show, were even closer to the trouble, and were only able to leave Colaba the next morning.

The crisis still rages on; there is no knowing yet if there are further horrors to come. What we do know that is that we now live in one of the terror capitals of the world, vulnerable to infiltration from both land and sea and full of soft targets. Yet, if there is something to cherish at a time like this, then it is the bravery of so many policemen who heroically laid down their lives in combat, and the many acts of individuals to help save the lives of others or give succour to the wounded. Perhaps on the other side of these days of grief and anger, there will be a new determination and a new beginning for all of us.


Ajinkya D said...

It's a relief to hear that you are well. I've been trying to contact every Bombayite I know. So far, all's well.

Fresh firing reported at VT again. Less than an hour back. I can understand what people who live in Bombay must be going through. I spoke with a few friends from all over India and the situation is grim everywhere. Mumbai has virtually shut down; something unseen before. College exams have been cancelled in Pune and Nagpur.
Bangalore University in Karnataka postponed their exams. Every Indian I know and particularly Maharashtrian residents are shaken beyond consolation.

This is a macabre, sinister act. And we're in for a long recovery...

Promod said...

An article in today's Wall Street Journal article made the following points which, while deeply disturbing, resonates as blindingly obvious facts:

India's perpetually squabbling leaders have failed to put national security above partisan politics. The country's antiterrorism effort is reactive and episodic rather than proactive and sustained.

The reflexive Indian response to most acts of terrorism is to apportion blame rather than to seek a solution that will prevent, or at least minimize, its recurrence. Even Indonesia -- a still-poor Muslim-majority nation where sympathy for militants runs deeper than it does in India -- has done an infinitely better job of recognizing that the protection of citizens' lives is any government's first responsibility. A superbly trained, federal antiterrorism force called Detachment 88 has ensured that country has not suffered a terrorist attack in more than three years.

By contrast, India's leaders -- who invariably swan around with armed guards paid for by the taxpayer -- can't even agree on a legal framework to keep the country safe.

In sum, the Indian approach to terrorism has been consistently haphazard and weak-kneed. When faced with fundamentalist demands, India's democratically elected leaders have regularly preferred caving to confrontation on a point of principle. The country's institutions and culture have abetted a widespread sense of Muslim separateness from the national mainstream. The country's diplomats and soldiers have failed to stabilize the neighborhood. The ongoing drama in Mumbai underscores the price both Indians and non-Indians caught unawares must now pay.

Click on for a link to this piece.

What happened in Mumbai is sad. Even sadder is the likelihood that this carnage too will quickly fade from public memory, and governments will happily go back to doing what they do best- nothing!!!

Of course, this is not to take anything away from the fantastic work done by the commandos, the police and the hotel staff!


suroopa (hindu) said...

Such a relief to know Chandrahas that you are safe! I am an avid reader of your blog, and simply love the range of books you pick up. Somehow it seems odd that I should choose such an occasion to post a comment, but it feels almost right to say there is nothing more peace-able and reassuring than knowing there is one web space you can go to and discover and discuss books as an alternative to things grossly material and wrong. And to think you recall the face from a run down, shabby classroom as you spoke about literature and other old fashioned things!

Chandrahas said...

Suroopa - It is a great pleasure to hear from you (it is a great pleasure to hear from any of my readers, but is especially good to her from you). I never suspected you are so Internet-savvy, but I should have guessed.

Many years have indeed gone by since I last sat in a classroom at Hindu College, but not a day passes that I don't remember my time there, and everything I am today I owe in part to all the things I learnt about both literature and myself in my years there. So by reading my essays here you are in a sense completing a circle. I agree with you: there is a sense - qualified, but still true - in which books can be a salve for our troubles and even redeem the injustices of the world.

I am in Delhi later this month and I will certainly drop by before college closes for Christmas and see you all. Looking forward to it.