Please note that this is a collection of incoherent thoughts and may not make a lot of sense.
It was 11 and I was in Vashi (about 60 KMs from the South Mumbai) playing Counter-Strike when I first heard about terror strikes in Mumbai. A friend’s mom called up and said there was fire at CST and if we were ok. We did not take things seriously that time and went about our work. But when we started getting non-stop phone calls, we realized something was wrong. Left the game midway to rush to the nearest television screen (@McDonalds) and saw live footage from CST and Taj. We realized that it was as planned terrorist attack and there were lot of casualties (127 reported dead till last count) including the ATS chief, Hemant Karkare. The indiscriminate firing at CST and hostage situations at Taj and Oberoi came as a shock. I had never imagined that something like that could strike us.
First thoughts were “damn it, yet another attack on India”. First reactions were of indifference. First thing we did was called everyone in Mumbai and enquired about their safety. Once we realized things were ok with our kith and kin, we went back to our game. I did what a typical Indian would have done – ensured personal health and safety. I also did yet another typical Indian thing – I ignored it and decided that, like everything else, it will be ok soon. And like any other Indian, we had an opinion on things. We had no clue what the ground realities there were. We dint know what the situation asks for. But we had an opinion. An opinion that would not have helped. We commented on people and their follies. The very act of writing this piece of text is giving away an opinion.
Not for a minute I felt sympathy for people who have suffered. We celebrated a holiday. We made plans for going to Matheran or some place. We played Counter-Strike. Were we being irresponsible? Were we being selfish? Was everyone else in India feeling like that? Most probably no. But then again, you never no.
More I think about it, more disgusted I get. These terrorists are no different from what I and most of my friends are. 25 somethings, fond of good things, ambitious and optimistic about future. Where is it then, that these guys decided that they want to kill innocent civilians? What brainwashes these people that they suddenly are ready to die? And for what reason? What cause? And is killing innocent people part of the solution? I am strong believer in power of conversations. Why cant we sit and talk and resolve whatever these guys have in mind. If they say that they are doing it for love of god, someone needs to tell them God never preaches killing. Not of the innocent for sure. I would love to meet one someday and understand what makes them do such extreme things. What rush do they get out of it?
Investigation into the reasons would for sure prove futile. There were reports that terrorsits were singling out American, British and Israeli citizens at hotels. Was it thus an attack on foreigners in India? Unlikely. Was it done to attract attention of the world? Maybe. Was it to get closer to their god? HELL NO.
And whats with the Media in India? Apart from showing real news and analysis, every channel was in a race to declare news as “exclusive” and “you-saw-it-first-here”. They were competing with each other to come up with the most fancy headline for attacks. It was all about sensationalism and propaganda. The only other headline that they were concerned about was the cancellation of ongoing cricket series between England and India. I agree that life should go on normally and we should not bow down to these attacks and alter our routine, but is cricket that important that we ignore people who are fighting and dying on the streets?
Obvisouly the courage and solidarity shown by our politicians should be mentioned. People like Mr. Raj Thackery and Mr. Udhav Thackery were nowhere to be seen. On any given day, they could be seen paddling pride of Marathi Manoos and Shiv Vada Pav. Today when Mumbai was under a serious threat and needed reassurance, there was not a single word uttered from their camp. As a north-Indian, who has made Mumbai his home, does that give me confidence in Maharashtra? No it does not. In fact as a Maharashtrian, does it give me confidence that Shiv Sena And Maharashtra Navnirman Sena can stand for me? HELL NO. And what about all those “north Indian” security personnel who are fighting to save Mumbai? What about Mr. Modi? Mr. Advani? Can someone tell them that this is not the time to engage in political battles and getting mileage for things that may or may not have been done?
If there is something needs a special mention, its social media. Twitter in particular (I am @s4ur4bh there). I was far from a TV screen and there was no way for me to update myself with what’s happening in the other part of the city. Only way I could do that was with Twitter. There were people on Twitter who were as concerned and constantly fed people like me with information and tips. Some who were close to the site, actually ventured out and clicked pictures (@vinu). However difference between Twitter usage in India and other countries is the community. Most of us in India were merely relaying news clippings from mainstream media. Social Media is most effective when people actually report original news and make available things that mainstream media cant. In our case, there were hardly any notable individuals who did original reporting. Vinu is one such person and he is been doing a commendable job since. In fact most of the channels are using this pictures for their telecasts. Apart from twitter, individuals were quick to setup webpages for helpline numbers, lists of affected people, contribution calls for donating blood etc.
I am too insignificant an entity to actually predict the long term impact and ramifications of the attack. Tourism, travel and hotel industry would obviously be impacted. The ruing Congress government might have a tough battle ahead in the forthcoming general elections (due in first half of 2009). Investments in the Indian economy might take hit. Global companies would definitely not want anything to do with India (Board of HUL was reportedly at Taj when this happened). Ah, how can I forget plight of Cricket. Poor little gentleman's game. Series' would be cancelled, players would have to undergo agony, channels would loose money and media would have another field day creating headlines and
Coming back to the track, by the time the thought of these attacks sunk in, it was late in the night. Sleep was distant. Anger wasn't. And there was that familiar feeling of helplessness. My country is at the mercy of just a few men and just the thought of it is sickening. They enter our parliaments when they want to, they can explode not one or two but 15 bombs in any city and they can open fire at passengers trying to go back home after a long day of work. And after all this they can get away. How long will we tolerate this? When would all this stop?
We might say we as a country are proud of our unity in diversity. But are we really united? We conveniently ignore things because they don’t matter to us. For someone in Delhi, a terror strike on Mumbai is just a piece of news. For Mumbaikar, a strike in the Parliament is yet another news. Until it directly affects our lives, we conveniently ignore things and move on. We are indifferent to things happening in other cities with other people in their homes. We choose to ignore them. And in the process, when all of us are holed up in our respective cocoons, we feed that ticking time-bomb.
I also want to talk about much hyped spirit of Mumbai and how mumbaikars are resilient and come to work in worst of rains, largest of floods and deadliest of terror strikes. This spirit is commendable but how long can we just talk about “spirit of Mumbai” and keep ignoring things? We have used it as a lame excuse for too long and I guess its about time we move to actions rather than just opinions and discussions.
I have this People Tree t-shirt that reads “Ek Zabardast Toofan Aaye Aur Humein Gehri Neend Sey Jagaye”. India needs an awakening. And now. More than all that I, personally need an awakening. Guess this incident is that “toofan” that I needed in my life. Guess its time I recollect my thoughts and ethos and bring about a radical change.