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26/11

December 6th, 2008 2 comments
Its always a bad idea to vent when you are angry.

I was in Bangalore when the terror strikes in Bombay happened. I flew in the next day. I saw the events of the first night unfold on the telly. There was no reaction i guess it was the numbness of seeing something like this happen. The next day while flying into Bombay the mood at the airport was sombre. Nothing obvious among the pasengers but there was the underlying apprehension that was in the environment among the people who were flying to Bombay.

Surprisingly enough i couldn’t wait to get on the flight, i couldn’t wait to be in Bombay, even though i knew that the situation was very very volatile and a bomb had exploded right between my home and the airport and i would have to pass through the same roads. I think i breathed a sigh of relief as soon as the plane touched the tarmac at Bombay.

Knowing that there was carnage happening a few kilometres away. A carnage and an event which nobody had ever seen in India ….. ever. Knowing that this was probably a time as bad as the 1993 bomb blasts to be in Bombay.

But i was home. The wheels touching down on the tarmac, the palpable apprehension outside at the airport and the quiet roads on the drive back home so unnatural of Bombay. All of this and still this was home.

I don’t think the anger really surfaced until the third day. The impotency of watching nonsense on the television for more than 48 hours. The frustration of seeing a few psychopaths rape my city’s heritage and peace was mind numbing and too much to bear. The soul silently screamed out in anger and frustration, it had had enough.

The news that we as a city have lost some of the finest policemen in this massacre, that we as a city have again suffered innocent deaths, that we as a city have again been targeted, that we as a city are again mute spectators to some idiot extremists trying to inject fear in us …… just wasn’t sinking in.

It went on for two more days after i got to Bombay.

The stillness in the city on Sunday morning, after it ended, was deafening. There was momentary jubilation that it has all ended ….. but only momentary. The magnitude of the incident had started to sink in.

The only sounds were the indignant news readers on the T.V. channels in all the houses around screaming out self-righteously for every bit of information that they possessed, baying for blood, they were the only ones who were giving an outlet to what the city was feeling …… though they were highly misguided.

The next day it all started. There was a resolve in everybody, there was a burning desire and an unimaginable need within each and every person who saw the carnage to do something about it. Nobody knew what …. all they …. all we needed was some direction to our anger. I think if the army was on a recruitment drive that day they would have seen the maximum number of volunteers enlist at any given time.

Then came the SMS’s, the social networking chatter, the twitter messages about the peace rallies which were being organised.

I made the resolve to go.

Never have i seen anything like this. Never in my life have i seen such a big gathering of youngsters anywhere. Never have i seen such resolve and such a raging anger in any group of people ….. ever.
Never have i seen my city so united. I felt proud just being there, too stunned to even be a participant. All i could do was be a mute spectator.
Suddenly among the melee i saw an old couple walking with the crowd, heads raised high …. silently saying … Proud to be a part of this. Then suddenly a group of photographers carrying their camera’s with them rushing after this whole gathering. Walking behind all of them i suddenly reached a group of youngsters holding a huge banner which read. “Terrorism has no Religion. War is not a solution.” ……. I just stared.

Walking along i reached the back of the Taj.

I could see the sea from there … dotted with policemen all around. The whole street was cordoned off and nobody was allowed anywhere near the Taj. People were lighting candles near the end of the road. The whole scene was eerily quiet, Even among all the noise.

I looked up at the Taj, that was when the goose bumps came.

This was the sight i had been seeing on the television for the last 60 hours. This was the building that was burning. This was the building that was Bombay. Its difficult to explain how it feels to somebody who isn’t from Bombay. Its difficult to make an attempt to symbolise the Taj as a part of Bombay.

It Just Is.

I couldn’t look long enough ….. i had to take my eyes off it. I could see the blackened windows, the damaged facade. and the look in the policemen’s eyes who were gaurding the Taj. The yellowish orange light all around the street from the street lamps. The guns all around and then the people with the shock etched on their stunned faces.

This was where two days back Hell was recreated on earth.

Suddenly there was noise behind me, motorcycles quietly coming up. I turned. There was a group of kids about 12-15 years old holding hands with smiles on their faces and skull caps on their heads, followed by youngsters on motorcycles two on each the pillion rider holding placards, they were followed by adults and older men. The street went quiet seeing this group. Everybody in the group was wearing a skull cap. It was a statement.

“Declare Pakistan a Terrorist State”
“Lets show Pakistan we will not take this lying down”
“United We Stand”

This was what the placards read.

There was appreciation in everyone’s eyes on the street, for an islamic group to come out like this and show support in such large numbers showed what Bombay truly is, the clapping started after that.

Suddenly a car stopped bang in front of the youngsters on motorcycles ….. everybody thought the worst and got prepared for something to go wrong. The motorcycles stopped, a man got out from the car with something in his hand and stood in front of the motorcycles and then the guys on the motorcycles smiled, they raised their placards even higher, The man took photos with his phone and then went and shook everybody’s hands. The smiles all around were of a feeling, of an emotion that is difficult to explain.

We gave one final look at the Taj and turned and walked on towards Cafe Leopold. The crowd there was humongous. That is the only word to explain it. There were heaps of people outside taking pictures of all the diners inside the Cafe. There were Indians and Foreigners standing shoulder to shoulder outside and lighting candles, shouting slogans, holding hands and doing whatever it is that people who are overwhelmed with emotion do to show support and comfort.

We stayed there and watched. There was something in the eyes of every single person who was there. Something unique. Something common to them all.

I watched.

The chanting of slogans continued. Suddenly a loud voice screamed …. “Vande Mataram” and the whole crowd picked it up. It went on. Loud and Clear in the night, the cry carried.

This was surreal. The only thing that came to my mind was … This must’ve been how India was during the years just before the Independence. This is how united the people would’ve been. For a moment i was transported back to the era, not visually but definitely aurally. I was finally a part of it all. I smiled.

I wish nobody has to go through what Bombay went through in those 60 hours. It is not human. It is not even animal. It just isn’t us. Let us end this before we all lose whatever little shred of humanity we have inside us. The anger that this fosters has the means to consume in entirety everything in its wake. That is a scary thought. Let us not be the method of our own destruction.

Enough Is Enough