How many times have we seen on the news an atrocity followed by women in intense sadness, wailing loudly? I could not understand this, until the recent Mumbai events. Even writing this, my eyes moisten with sadness for fellow human beings. Reader, my heart bled for India and the human race. Have you ever been discussing such a tragedy and had to leave, unable to control your emotions and speak further? Now I understand.
I was in Mumbai the weekend before these tragic events unfolded. I took the Konkan Express overnight (couchette style sleeper) to Dadar Station; I believe just one stop away from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which was attacked. Yesterday (5/12/2008), the papers reported two bombs found there in the left luggage office. I had left Mumbai the following Sunday night, the same weekend by the same mode of transport.
I visited South Mumbai to attend the 250 years of Masonry in India celebrations. There was a query as to my being allowed in due to security issues, but the required one week notice was overcome as I am a member of the Grand Lodge of India. No one thought more of it, but a nuisance. How wrong we were to be proved. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I have visited, in the past, the Gateway, the Taj Hotel and Leopold’s Cafe. My younger son was in the Bali nightclub a few days earlier. One of my Mumbai friends was in the hotel restaurant and had left only one hour before it all broke out.
Am I lucky? Is my family? I don’t know. “Where to go and what to do, try Katmandu” is a saying employed by a Goan chef friend here. How deep this is. Where to go to avoid terrorism? I thought of Bali, London, New York, Myanmar, Thailand, etc. It dawns on us, when we ponder it, there is nowhere. Is it because the western countries are so much securer, we will now see the terrorist turn his, or her, attentions to the less prepared world?
Here, in Goa, people were so stunned that they could not comprehend the situation. It was too vast for them. (That is not a comment on their intelligence.) One Goan from my locale was killed and I was privileged to meet his cousin. We have had terror threats here in the past, which have never turned into anything. Probably, this was due to precautions being taken. For example, two New Year’s Eves ago, no text messages worked all day. They came through in droves the next day. Now we are told the Americans warned India twice, both times mentioning the Taj Hotel. This is admitted. Ratan Tata took some extra civilian style precautions, such as no parking in close proximity and security gate guards, although one was reported as not on post at the pool gate where it is thought the terrorists were able to gain access. I wonder if this is part of the different culture and outlook on life; “Karma”; “Que Sera Sera”. “We took precautions but found nothing”, so all revert back to normal routines in a very short span of time (not what happens in the West). Life is cheaper here, as evinced by the papers on a daily basis. Such terrorist events as the Mumbai attacks make you realize how trite and petty the everyday spats and moans in the papers really are. The contrast of perspectives hit you hard in the face.
So, now things are back to normal. Extra security on borders proved to be unmanned the next day. Extra cops, armed, went around here for a few days but have been reduced. A few politicians’ heads rolled and things settle back down with the usual promises, which either get forgotten or bogged down in the red tape and paper work they were taught under British rule.
So, will I move out of India? No. An attack could happen anywhere and anyway, the terrorists would be winning. No one must allow that to happen. I was heartened to see a Muslim organizing support across the world against terrorism. Often here I have heard the thought that all Muslims are terrorist. I always say that whilst a Muslim might be a terrorist, it does not mean they all are. All barrels have bad apples. Let us rally together, stop these people hiding behind a religion, and start learning to love and live in harmony with our fellow creatures around the world (or global village as it is nowadays termed).
Well, Friends, Carpe Diem and best wishes.