Is It ‘Them’ OR Is It Actually ‘Us’?
26/11 was pretty much surreal to me. I remember finding out about it while chatting with a friend on Facebook. One of the first memories that still hits me from that day is a Straits Times article about a Policeman with 3 kids dying of 3 bullet wounds and wondering about this cruel irony that fate handed over to ‘the father of 3’! Coming home that Christmas, I was subjected to various articles on a range of weeklies that talked of ‘India’s 9/11’ or ‘Mumbai’s Resilient Spirit’. Somehow, what really struck me was that even in the face of tragedy, the Indians had the perverse and gruesome inclination to find a way to prove how well we are aping the Americans!
However, there was one piece in the lot that really made me stop and think. It was the one by Arundhati Roy titled ‘9 Is Not 11 (And November isn’t September)’. It wasn’t just the title that appealed to me; it was the idea that lay within. Her article forced you to consider the possibility that maybe, we were the ones to blame for all this; maybe, the enemy was much closer to home and not beyond the Radcliffe line; maybe, it lived and breathed amongst us; maybe, it formed a part of each Indian!
Her article went on to highlight the problem of the Maoists and all the other problems that plagued and continues to plague India from the inside; the Riots in Gujarat, the Ayodhya incident, the violence that the Christians in Orissa were subjected to. Essentially, she was questioning if we were after all to blame? Were we in fact, facing the wrath of a monster we had awakened? Or, were the terrorist attacks that we have been facing a consequence of our apathy to the troubles and tribulations of the victims of these events?
About a month ago, there was another blast in Mumbai, 3 actually! This time too, some insensitive souls tried to throw some optimism into the picture with, the now over-used cliché of ‘Bombay’s resilient spirit’. To my great relief, the Indian correspondent of the BBC soon pointed out the asininity of the whole situation in his piece (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14140991) with the sentence – “The majority of its people live in slums, and millions live on the streets. This cannot make for a very happy place, and the city’s “resilient spirit” has now become the cruellest Indian cliché.”
This blog-entry however, was triggered by a part of a play I recently had the good fortune to watch. One of the many monologues in this play had a terrorist telling us his story in a light-humoured, matter-of-fact way. He told us in so many words that he did not really thrive on violence. He had ended up a terrorist because, he felt forced to take it up since it was the only respected profession in his country (Pakistan).
The entire audience erupted into fits of laughter, but I found that line more disturbing than hilarious. There were all these people in the world, who voluntarily or otherwise, resorted to terrorism with a belief that they were serving the purpose of their life by causing gross destruction, and loss of lives and limbs! The need of the hour was to try to answer the essential problems that led them to such drastic measures. And if these people were in fact fanatics, there was a vital need to educate them.
I remember going back to Singapore at the end of 2008 and listening to my Principal tell us all that, “The Mum-bai (the ‘Mum’ pronounced as you would in ‘mum’) attack is very close to our hearts, as one Singaporean died in this attack.” I had to exercise my vestigial patience and self-restraint to stop myself from going over and asking her “What about the 165 others who died and the 293 who were injured that day? Oh, and by the way, I suppose the fact that Indians were the 138 out of the 165 dead, made them too inconsequential to be mentioned!”
It has appalled me, time and again, how the developed world finds the suffering of the developing nations rather insignificant. When Obama’s country rejoiced over the death of Osama bin laden, they seemed to be unaffected by the fact that countless Afghans had lost their lives in a war that they never signed up to be a part of! I believe that is the worst consequence of the problem of terrorism; It is neither the terrorists nor the people who claim to be ‘fighting terrorism’, who actually incur the greatest amount of suffering in this war; it is the innocent bystander, who asks for nothing more than his right to continue with his life without getting involved in this brutal battle.
But mostly, I am just concerned about the future of my country and the world, where children grow up watching their cities being blasted every once in a while. I frequently agonise over the thought that maybe we are taking an overdose of news in this genre; so much so that, maybe we are becoming desensitised by such reports by the media. We have come to accept these blasts around the world as a part and parcel of life. This tacit acceptance of one of the greatest evil civilization has wrought is disconcerting beyond words! By remaining silent, we are sending out the message that ‘It’s alright’. Our resolute silence has been translated to mean consent to these terrorists to plunder and pillage our lives. However, at the end of the day, we still point the finger at ‘them’ instead of ‘us’!