Sunday, 30 November 2008

What good can possibly come out of what happened at Mumbai?

Don’t beat me up for asking such a question.
We claim that unity in diversity is our specialty. Up until today, I saw many examples of diversity, but few of unity.
What this attack in Mumbai has done though, is to bring unity in adversity, as the people of Chennai are calling it. It is grief that united.
Did you see how local Mumbaikars, cheered with every truckload of army men that came in? Every time they shouted ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai,’ I got goose bumps. India has never been an aggressor. We have been at war only a few times in the last 60 years: The ones with Pakistan in ’65 and ’71 and then Kargil. This is why we have never given a thought to our troops. Thousands of young men and women sign themselves up to the army, in times of peace, with no guarantee that the future will remain the same, prepared for any circumstance.
Unlike the USA where their troops are in much use every day all over the world, India never got to see action out of hers. In the US not supporting their troops is considered an offence. Not legally. But the troops go into war confident that they have their whole country behind them and their country is grateful to them.
But today, these men and women who we never regarded, today we learnt how indispensible they are. We suddenly became aware of their presence.
It took terrorists to make us aware.
In times of peace, when a pacifist preaches his message, no one wants to hear it. Today, when one gets up onto his soapbox to preach peace, he has an audience. The audience knows that he either accepts to follow the path of peace and still maintain some hope for tomorrow. Or he accepts that violence is the order of the day and nothing can change it. And I think more of us want to see the victory of peace today than ever before.
What this attack in Mumbai has done is that it has brought the urgency of seeing the success of peace to the top of everybody’s mind and wish list. There is nothing more anybody wants.
It took violence to make us aware of peace.
Initially, the fear was that communal riots would break out.
It did not happen. At least not so far.
This time, those who dare make discriminatory comments are being hounded down.
Instead, all anger is being channelized towards a new target. I never thought this would happen, but it has. We have taken our politicians to task. This is how, this times attack, was different.
Politicians usually manipulate every situation to their convenience.
This time we didn’t allow it.
Scour the internet. Remember I said that’s where the youth of India lives? Every young person is suddenly demanding answers out of them. They are not all sitting back and complaining.
Suddenly every young person is aware of their rights. Their right to information.
Every young person today is resolving to go and vote at the next elections.
Suddenly every young person is aware of their duty. Their duty to vote.
NOW we have finally agreed, that ‘Enough is Enough.’
It took terrorists to make this happen.
Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar and all the other police and army personnel who died fighting for our security.
It appears to me, that India would not have been so shaken up if their deaths hadn’t happen. This reminds me of the movie Rang De Basanti. Talking about the movie later with a friend, I complained that the ending should have been happier. He said, “It just wouldn’t have been as good if they hadn’t all died in the end.”
So thick headed India required 102 deaths, along with 12 police and army men and 300 injured, to actually feel and be affected.
Why did it take an attack in our own country to get united? We see terrorism all over the world. But we had to wait for this to happen, to be affected?
If we continue on this path of reconstruction, those 102 deaths would not have been in vain. Or else, they will remain as wasted unfulfilled lives. They will remain statistics. And their blood, and the blood of more to come, will be on our hands.
I don’t think those 40 men anticipated that they would actually stir up the people like this. They dug their own graves. 1.13 billion people(according to the latest estimate made, in March this year) and more, are waiting to throw mud on it.
As one man said on NDTV, “The fire is not on in the burning buildings, and the many funeral pyres being lit. Now it is on in our hearts.”
Ask me again, what good could possibly come out of what happened in Mumbai.

The Loss and Failure

102 people have lost their lives. 300 have been injured.

It is said that 40 terrorists were involved in this attack. 8 terrorists died. 1 is alive. 31 are still to be accounted for.

We cry about the loss of the 102 innocent. Nobody is crying about the 8 terrorists who also died. I am not either.

But do we realize that those 8 young men, all between the ages of 8 and 28, are also a loss to the world? There are many other things they could have been other than terrorists. But they chose to be terrorists.

Is it just these 8? No it isn’t. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, in the grips of various terrorist organizations, being trained in body and mind for future attacks, at this very moment. And they are going to train thousands more. Thousands more of eight-to-twenty eight’s.

Is that not a loss to the world?

And are they not going to bring greater losses when they carry out their next attack?

Is it not a loss and failure when evil wins over good?

Like I asked before- who is it that failed? Was it their upbringing? Was it religion? Or was it us?

Courage or Cowardice

I have always questioned my world. I’ve always questioned institution and established ideas. I’ve questioned norms and conventions. I don’t do this to rebel, but to be convinced.

Once again, I question.

Was this attack in Mumbai, an act of cowardice?

We know that this time it wasn’t a faceless bomb. Instead it was an unmasked and armed militant.

As I’ve mentioned before, they were not afraid to die, and they were not afraid of living life in jail if caught alive either.

They had a cause, and were willing to go to any extent for its success.

When army men kill in battle and lay down their lives for their country, it isn’t considered an act of cowardice. When freedom fighters boldly challenge their captors, they risk their lives, and that isn’t called cowardice either. When they finally do die for what they believe in, it is called courage. They are called martyrs. We honor them like saints.

This is not to make excuses for what the terrorists have done, and will continue to do. But this is to try and understand it. This is not to take away from the nobility of our soldiers either. I love them and am fiercely proud of them.

Terrorists also have something they believe in. Something they are willing to give their life for. The cause is not honorable. But it’s a cause all the same.

They live their lives with passion. They have so much zest for this life, that they kill in order to live it the way they dream. They aren’t afraid of this life and they boldly contest the next. They have confidence in heaven. They do not obviously live by the standards of chivalry and honor that the rest of society lives by. They do not care for our code of conduct.

So how then can it be called cowardice?
One can call it disgraceful, misled, sinful, primitive even. But surely you cannot award it cowardice.

Saturday, 29 November 2008


Gripped By Terror has been edited.
"More on stereotypes" has been added to Part 3.
"On politics" has been added to Part 5.
And 2 true stories of survival have been added in Part 6.

Do check out .
Truely remarkable.
This young man has set up this helpline. He's making calls all day long for victims and relatives looking for loved ones.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Gripped By Terror

**** Readers please note: 'Gripped By Terror' is one long article. I have divided it into 6 sections, in 6 different blog posts. But it is to be considered as one article and read from the top most post, that is this one, to the bottom. It has been divided to make it easier for reading, and also so that you could leave comments at whichever point you feel like. Do not regard the time stamps, and do not read it from the post at 1:12 am. ****

Everything that’s in my head and heart. I’m just pouring it out, in as coherent a form as I can make it.

Gripped by terror is exactly what I was, since Wednesday, the 26th of November 2008.

Reason- Gunmen, terrorists, had opened fire at 11 locations in Mumbai, India.

Let me tell you how I came to know about it.

I had an exam on Thursday and was supposedly studying. I had fallen asleep over my books, when my phone buzzed at 10:55 pm. It was a message from a friend saying “Turn on the news.” I was a little irritated. “What turn on the TV?!” I said. But then I recalled that the last time I’d gotten a message like this.. it was from the same friend. And it was a few months back when there was a terrorist attack at the Mariott Hotel in Lahore. So I knew something bad had happened.

I switched on the telly to see pictures of the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, in flames. Apparently, gunmen, terrorists, had opened fire at 11 locations in Mumbai, India.

“Its hardly news.” I replied to my friend. This was completely misleading of what was actually going on within me.

I was hooked. I could not drag my eyes away from the television. I don’t have any relatives and only one friend in Mumbai who stays far from the scene of crime. But I was glued to the TV and at 2 am in the morning, I was still watching.

It was only after several hours of watching, did I become conscious of what I was doing. Why was I so hooked? Was it because it was India? Maybe. That was when it dawned on me- this was a story like never before. This attack was completely different from anything that has taken place, not just in India, but anywhere in the world.

You know how people keep saying that terrorism is a cowardly act? In my opinion, this time it wasn’t. All the attacks we have had over the last few years, around the world, have been carried out by unknown assailants. At least no one knew who they were initially, and in a few rare cases, they were caught after tedious investigations.

All the previous major attacks we have heard of, have been hit and run. Bombs were placed and detonated from afar. Or it’s a suicide bomber who nobody expected would blow himself up, and not much could be found about the suicide bomber from his remains.

But this time, we had gunmen, directly involved in the attack. It wasn’t orchestrated from a distance. They didn’t merely send videotapes with demands. They were there. Right there. It was personal. They were conducting the whole thing themselves. And they were unmasked.

I asked my friend how he always seemed to be watching the news when something like this happens. He said that a friend’s friend of his had been shot dead. That’s how he knew.

I thought that that was the closest I know, of anybody who has been affected by terrorism. I didn’t think it could get any nearer.

I slept off some time around 3 am. When I woke up at 6, even before I opened my eyes, my hands reflexively reached for the remote. It had been about 12 hours since the crisis broke out. It was still not over.

Is this not different?

While going to school on Thursday morning though, I remembered another friend whose brother is in college in Mumbai. I asked her about it. She said he’s fine. Then she asked me something I really didn’t understand. She said, “Its happening all the way in Mumbai. Why do you care?

Gripped By Terror - Part 2

All I could think of during the exam was this. The first thing I did when I came home, was watch NDTV.
And I was thinking, why India? Why my India? Of course, we can also ask, why not my India?
I’m trying to look through the history I know, and the culture as I understand it, to find an answer.
Sure, we are a developing nation with extreme poverty. But there are poorer nations, and they aren’t necessarily a hot bed of terrorists asking for independence.
Since when did violence become a part of us? Sure, we were colonized by the British. But so were a lot of other nations. And they don’t have the same situation. Then again, what do the British have to do with this? Weren’t we disunited even before they set up camp, which is precisely what they used to expand their territory? We still haven’t learnt the lesson of unity. How long are we going to make excuses for that?
But then we had that historic Freedom Struggle. It was the most unique of its kind that the world had ever witnessed. We have never seen anything like it since. It was non violent and non denominational. We followed the policy of Non Alignment with regards to the world community.
But then we also had communal riots. And then we had the take over of Hyderabad, and Kashmir. We had the troubled and neglected north east and the annexation of Sikkim. We had land issues, about temples and mosques. And even though my friends and I haven’t studied about this in our history textbooks, some people have. And these people never forgot.
These people who never forgot, today call themselves the Deccan Mujahideen. It scares me to even type out the word. Their demand is an independent Hyderabad (Hyderabad lies in the Deccan Plateau of South India. Hence the name, I presume.). They want a separate Muslim state of Hyderabad, within the secular state of India.
What I can’t understand is this: India has never prohibited Muslims from their worship. Certain sects of Indians, of certain religions, have been involved in religious riots. But the nation of India is not the perpetrator of those crimes. So why then do they want a separate Muslim state within India?
So from this latest event we see that, radical Muslims aren’t just happy with one state of Kashmir. Now they want Hyderabad as well.
Check out this blog here.
It makes the point that apparently an Indian Mujaihideen wasn’t enough. A Deccan Mujahideen was required. Do they want one for every area of the globe they lay claims on?
Why does this seem more like a conquest and less like a Holy War or anything along those lines, if it even can be considered holy?
To add, here’s another example of how messed up this is. Is there really a clear objective to this attack? If it is only for the independence of the Deccan, and in revenge of the injustice inflicted by the Indian Government on the Muslims over the last 60 years, as the Deccan Mujahideen has said, why did the terrorists specifically ask for British and American nationals, thus making very serious international statements? Or is this a two birds with one stone thing?

Gripped By Terror - Part 3

Terrorism has no religion.

Not matter what, I will always support that. I have several Muslim friends. Some of my best friends are Muslims. Why am I even talking about Muslims here? It is because of the unfortunate fact that terrorism has become synonymous with Islam.

But how much can you blame the world for that stereotyping? Nearly every terrorist act in the last 5 years or so, has been in the name of Allah, for the purpose of Jihad. Terrorists freely admit their intentions of wiping out all infidels.

Somehow, only selected verses from the Quran seem to be taught to these young men and women.

I see a parallel here with Catholicism. Even Judaism. Even Hinduism. Devotees allow somebody else to dictate religion to them. They become pawns in somebody else’s understanding of the holy texts.

Let me explain. For centuries, Jews were not allowed to read the Torah. Only rabbis read and explained the scriptures. Catholics too, surrendered their beliefs to the butchering of priests. They never took their version of the Bible home, to study it for themselves. The binding caste system of the Hindus did the same thing. Only the Brahmins, who belonged to the highest class, were allowed to read the scriptures. Why, lower castes weren’t even taught how to read, just so that there would be no danger of them even accidently reading the ancient texts!

However, the kind of extremist undertakings that we see happening in Islam today, did not happen in these other religions. Yes we had the crusades by the Catholics. But then the Protestants broke away, and that history never repeated itself. And the caste system in Hinduism, though still alive, is not practiced to the same degree. It now mainly shows up for marriages and other alliances only.

Like a Muslim friend of mine said, most religions evolved with time. Islam seems to have not.

Coming back to what I started with, I cannot however say that Muslims are terrorists. Any God loving person wouldn’t do what they are doing. And as yet another Muslim friend of mine said to me, “We don’t even consider these terrorists as Muslims. A true Muslim would never do this. This is not what Islam teaches us.”

How can a religion ask of its followers to kill followers of other faiths? If it did, it wouldn’t even be a religion anymore. It would be a perversion.

More on stereotypes.

Just like my Muslim brothers and sisters are shaking their heads all over the world and saying “This is not us”, I’d like to tell you about another stereotyping that I do not like.

It’s the stereotyping of non Muslims.

We do not want terrorists to generalize all Indians or all Americans or all anybody’s as bad people either. We do not want to be held responsible for what the administration 60 years ago did or didn’t do. Plenty of water has flown under the bridge, and wrongs have been done by both sides. But to kill random innocents now is wrong. Does my judgment count for anything?

I have questions. Lots of them.

I asked a friend about the hierarchy of Islamic administration. Like in Christianity, in India itself, there is the Church of North India and the Church of South India. Each has its own diocese. The various priests all come under a Bishop. Then of course there is the Pope, who is the highest authority for Catholics.

So what is the system like in Islam? She wasn’t able to answer me, but I hope to find out soon.

Guessing that there is a head cleric, for the entire world, maybe at Mecca, I would like to know, what they have to say about all this. Do they not also agree that what is going on is a gross misinterpretation of the Quran? Then why are they silent? Even if there is no head cleric, why aren’t Muslims uniting to show the world different, to clear up misconceptions? Why isn’t there a movement? Why aren’t they coming forward, to not only tell the world that this is not what Islam is all about, and confirm what I believe, but also to save these many Muslims who are laying their own lives for hoped martyrdom?

Coming back to the terrorists now. More questions.

How is a blast in a hotel, a Holy War? How is killing random people, who I am sorry to say, nobody but their immediate family and friends care about, fulfilling their purpose? If they want some attention- which we know they do- why don’t they target famous figures, world leaders and the like? Instead they target not just innocent people, but also random people? Why?

Gripped By Terror - Part 4

I was watching the news when the first image of one of the terrorists was put up for the first time. It was the picture of a young man, who didn’t look older than 20, in a black T-shirt saying Versace, with a blue backpack. And an AK47. He had what appeared to be a line of blood on his face. And he was smiling. Not even in an evil sinister way. He was just smiling.

It scared me. It scared me because I was just thinking how he could have been my neighbor, or the boy who sat in the row behind me at college. He could have been my best friend’s boy friend. He could have been anybody. Of all the pictures of the terrorists that we have seen, it is surprising that not one of them had the trademark beard and traditional clothes.

The man/boy with the Versace T-shirt featured in nearly every photo taken. He was obviously not the most careful of the lot. I want to know what became of him.

None of them wore masks. Maybe they had no plans of escaping anyway? Maybe they had either planned to die in battle, or were aware and prepared to spend life in jail if they were caught alive. Why else would they not wear masks?

But what sort of indoctrination and brain washing prepares you for death or a life in jail?

I immediately thought of the parents of these young men. Do they know what their sons have done? Its usually a big deal for parents to be called to school even, when their sons have done something stupid like bunk class or get into a fight. But what about when their sons grow up to be terrorists?

Was it them as parents who failed? Or do they believe the same things as their sons? Was it religion who failed them? Was it us, who showed them too little love, for them to think there was any good in the world?

When I saw images of the guns being used, they looked familiar. Then of course I learnt that they were AK47’s. I don’t know anything about defense and arms, but I do know that model number. The news also mentioned that Bazookas were being used by the terrorists.

I was reminded of how I first learnt the word Bazooka. It was more than 5 years ago when we bought our first computer. I had asked some of my neighbors in the building, to give me some computer games. I didn’t care for them, but I thought that’s what everybody did when they had computers- they played computer games on them.

They installed 2 games for me that day (which I never played finally). One was an NBA Basketball game. And the other was this cops and robbers kind of game, where the bad guys had fancy cars and fancy guns. The boy who gave me the game played a few rounds to show me how it worked. And I remember him getting excited when the ‘bazookas’ were used.

That’s the story of how I learnt of bazookas.

I also remember an argument I had with a friend of mine a few months back, about video games. I swore that when I had kids, they were not going to be given those toy guns with the springs inside, that made annoying shooting noises when one pulled the trigger. They were also not going to be allowed to play boy-games that involved shooting and killing. And finally, there would be no watching of wrestling on TV.

My friend disagreed with my point of view. He insisted that there was nothing wrong with these things; he didn’t turn out wrong after all.

That’s not the point. If I had a choice, I would remove the word ‘hate’ and ‘kill’ from the dictionary. That would sadly not solve anything. Hate is in all of us. So is love. We are born with it. We are born into it. But I want for every child in the world, to not know of these evils.

That’s like asking for a dog’s tail to be straight. Its like that story about the man who raised a leopard cub, on vegetarian food all its life, but one day when the cub licked blood off a child’s wound, it knew what it was made for.

Gripped By Terror - Part 5

Did you listen to the Prime Minister’s address? Sonia Gandhi made her address even before his. I had been waiting eagerly for it. When he finally made it, I didn’t know what to think.
'Strongly condemns.' These are the 2 words everybody used (Barack Obama included.).
I’d like to know what exactly they mean by it.
Just how much is their condemnation worth (Or us swearing for that matter. Everybody’s swearing at the terrorists.)?
If words of displeasure could end this, I’d have enough to say for you and me, and we would be in a happier place now. These are not little boys with genteel natures, to be insulted by our contempt.
Manmohan Singh said, “We are using the strongest possible measures to ensure that this is not repeated.” Then he said something about how confident he is that the people of India will maintain their unity and integrity.
Wasn’t this what he said last time? That this wont be repeated?
Why all this airy talk?
If the law can’t protect us, who will?
At this point, I’d like to tell you of some very strong things that Shobha De had to say.
“Enough is enough. I want to tell all politicians not to use this as an opportunity for their political agenda. Do not come to Mumbai. We pay millions to give these politicians Z level security (I am yet to find out what this is.). Remove security from them and give it to us. Let even a hair on these politicians be touched by this crisis.”
Too true.
With regards to politicians.
The virtual world is ablaze with arguments frustration and emotions you may never have thought could be emoted through the www.
Young people today do 2 things- party and have fun. Or stay indoors and online.
And pretty much everybody is bashing up the politicians.
Whose side am I on? Certainly not the khadi-clads. But this is addressed to all the youth who have been lamenting. I’ve heard “India is never going to change its so corrupt” a lot in my little life. And I hate it.
Did you go out and vote? Because if you didn’t, then you are in no position to hold by the collar the man you had no part in putting into office. If you did vote, you have every right and responsibility to do so. But if you did not, you are not in the right place for bad mouthing.
So don’t whine. Don’t complain. Bite your tongue and stay put till the next elections.
Either vote. Or contest.
Its not called a democracy for nothing.

Some more questions, for anybody who can answer them.
So far only big cities have been targeted. Why? What if they decide to target less popular cities, where they can easily cause the same number of casualties, and things will be much easier for them since no one was expecting it? Is anybody thinking about this?
Where are these weapons being manufactured?
Who supplies them?
How are they smuggled?
Who is sponsoring this?
Why wasn’t our intelligence able to pick up on this?
How did the terrorists get into the hotels, with all their weaponry?

Gripped By Terror - Part 6

Remember when I said that I had thought that my friend’s friend’s friend was the closest I had come to being affected by terrorism?

Listen to this. I have another friend who has all her family in Mumbai, living opposite and behind one of the 11 sites of attack. They saw the place nearby catch on fire. They saw everything. The lights were off in their buildings. The force of the impact shook the entire structure causing the windows to shatter. One of their neighbors, a young married couple, panicked that their building wasn’t strong enough. So they decided to make a quick dash to the next building. They were shot dead. Both of them. Their bodies were lying in the street for around 2 hours. Nobody could leave their homes to drag the bodies to safety. And the ambulances were busy with all the chaos. She also had 2 other incidents that had happier endings- another family friend of hers was supposed to be working at the Taj on That Night. His shift was changed at the last minute. Further, one of her relatives was to arrive at CST That Day. Her trip was cancelled.

This is what is termed as ‘mindless killing.’ This is why I asked why terrorists not just killed innocent people, but also randomly.

I’m still trying to imagine what kind of doctrines these people are fed, in order to become this numb. Visualize this: the terrorists see a target in front of them. They take aim. They shoot. They watch the person fall dead. They shoot people on their left and right. They see dead bodies all around them. They walk through blood, step over bodies. Yet they kill some more. And they have peace in their minds, that they are doing the right thing.

I can only say that they see these things, but they don’t really see these things.

So how exactly do we root out terrorism?

In spite of all the hope and faith I have, some practical fibre in me tells me that this is something that will never leave us completely. Its like these microorganisms that are said to be immortal, because nothing can kill them.

Its like a horror movie, where you slice it once in the head, and 2 new ones appear.

As long as there is one left, there will be another.

So lets meet over coffee sometime.

And talk about how we are going to deal with this

On religion once again.

Its times like these that disillusion a lot of people, with regards to religion and faith. They ask where God is in all this.

Allow me to tell you what Mahesh Bhatt said.

“Don’t expect your gods and goddesses to come down and sort this out for us. We are the architects of this destruction.”

Doesn’t that make sense?

A far cry from ‘heaven being a place on earth’, like the Bangles felt it was.

One of my friends had on her Facebook status, that she is hoping for justice.

Justice? That word has lost all its meaning. This is not a fair fight. When innocent civilians have guns held to their heads, as a barter, that is not a fair fight.

According to the traditions of warfare, one never attacks an unarmed opponent. And one never attacks when the opponent is sleeping. Those were the good old days of chivalry and honor.. and justice.

Unless you are willing to wait for judgment day, there will be no justice. So, hold your peace.

Why is this happening to us?

This is not the kind of philosophy I would like to give a grieving person, or probably receive when I am grieving. But here’s what I think:

Know how they say ‘when you smile the world smiles with you, but when you frown, you frown alone’? Apparently this is not so. In fact the world doesn’t always smile with you when you are smiling, because the sight of someone else happy and successful burns them up. On the other hand, it is during times of grief that our hearts melt for each other. We make chicken soup for a person we don’t like just because we are good people deep down inside.

There’s a particular medical condition that some people are born with, in which, they cannot feel pain. You can put staples in their hand, or pluck out each strand of hair from their head, but they won’t feel a thing. Lucky for them you say? Not so. These people are at the disadvantage of not knowing if their body is burning or if they have lost a limb, because of this very same wolf in sheep’s clothing. And by the time they do realize it, it might be too late.

Pain is a necessary evil.

Times of happiness do not make humanity come together. Times of sadness do. Laughs, cries and music have no language just like terrorism has no religion.

To end, I want to say this.

Please love your neighbors more. He might just be a terrorist, in need of some love, and in need of someone to tell him the world’s not such a bad place.

I am praying for the terrorists. I’m praying for the world tonight.