Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Wednesday

As a kid, Project IGI-I used to be my favorite computer game that had me hooked on to it for time immemorial. There were 15 stages to be cleared, with the last stage unsurprisingly proving to be the toughest. After one more of my innumerable failed attempts, a computer literate friend of mine introduced me to the world of cheatcodes. A quick application revealed that I could not only have unlimited power but also immobilize my enemy wherein I could pick them off at will while they would remain powerless to retaliate. Years have gone by, and while I cleared the last hurdle in my then-favorite-game (as a loyalist, I never applied the cheatcodes), the scenario has eerily come back to haunt us in real life. Bombay bleeds once again as its innocents are stripped off their right to live, while they remain defenseless, immobilized by some 'cheatcodes'.

As I write this, I realize that I have lost count of the precedents to the current mayhem dancing along Bombay's alleyways. However, if anything is more scary than the near-holocaust scenario in India's economic capital, it’s the disturbing knowledge that the greatest concern that would afflict the common man's psyche tomorrow would be whether Yuvraj would make it to the national test side or whether Lindsay Lohan would emerge a shade better than Britney from her rehab (depending on loyalties). Rajdeep Sardesai put matters in perspective when he enquired about the English cricket team departing (before suffering the ignominy of a possible whitewash) in the wake of the recent attacks. My, my! Imagine our plight. The whole of India has been robbed of the chance to watch Veeru pile on the misery on a few club side English bowlers on a Saturday morning. Now, isn't that a national tragedy?

The event brought some simple questions up for glaring scrutiny in my muddled thought process. Questions like, "Who is to blame for this?" Is it the terrorists? Oh come on! We are trying to be rational over here. Those chaps would be without a job (and 72 virgins if their training tales are to be believed) if they weren't spraying the streets with bullets. Is it the Government? That's an interesting one. 24 hours after the attack, the PM issued a 'strong condemnation' statement, adding for good measures, that the attacks were an event to 'destabilize the nation'. Excuse me Mr. Prime Minister! With due respect to your unending gold laden resume (that I still respect and admire), we are no yokels to interpret the sight of a police jeep filled with 'Deccan Mujahideens' mowing down innocent civilians as an endeavor to beseech the Nobel Peace Prize. What we would like to know is exactly what have you done to institute countermeasures against such barbaric acts? Your prime opposition, after having taken his usual potshots at your party, has appealed for communal harmony (imagine, of all people, him, talking about communal harmony). As if the whole diaspora was incomplete without the communal angle. What was sickening to note was their itinerary which granted Mumbai their blessed presence on a Friday, after the current engagements with the terrorists had reached their logical conclusion. It seems that Mr. Advani was scheduled to visit the city today itself, but opted to postpone the visit at the behest of the PM’s request (that, it gave him a perfect shield to stay away from an event that could remotely be of harm to his physical being was entirely a matter of inexplicable coincidence). But, unfortunately, even they aren't the answer. They are, well, politicians and no adjective would so succinctly sum up their inadequacies as their own profession.

So, who is to blame? I remain numb, searching in a vacuous sphere within me, until, in an impromptu seizure of horrifying clarity, the revelation hits me. It’s all of us who did not die in those blasts. It’s our collective nonchalance that wrote those cheatcodes that condemned the hundred odd (and the 500 odd before them in the last couple of months) to stay immobilized in the face of gun toting madmen. It is our refusal to share their plight that has boosted the confidence of those deranged fanatics to strike at will, knowing that we will remain spineless in the face of such dastardly provocations. They know, that tomorrow, "Mumbai will again be up on its feet (never mind that the world has been yanked off beneath those feet) and indulge in its daily routine of driving out Biharis/Assamese and all non Marathi-manoos whereas the rest of the country will laud its spirit". They know that no matter what, the common man will not rise above his rhetorical platitudes and coerce the powers-to-be to set up a dragnet that will effectively obliterate the very notion of an attack on its existence. They know that the average Indian, with all his excess of intellectual and moral refinement will once again fail to empathize with the loss of a fellow Indian who has lost a near and dear one. It’s because, the hundred odd who died in yesterday's attack (a mere blip in a city of millions) were not my husband/son/father/mother/brother/wife/daughter and so it’s ok to give lip service and get back to Ekta Kapoor's serials (or the erstwhile Splitsvilla - Ironic choice of names, isn't it?). And so they strike, merrily, almost carefree, without breaking a sweat, comforted by the knowledge of our insouciance.

It’s interesting to note that the divisive forces tearing away at the crux of our stability never seem to affect these 'loony tuned madmen'. I wonder, for a bunch of religious fanatics, how come they never seem to have problems with their faith? Or caste, creed, region? Ever heard of a terrorist being thrown out of Laskhar-E-..whatever because he was not a local from that region. How about reservations? 80% recruitment based on whether you are from a particular geography, caste or creed. Rest 20% on merit i.e. when they measure your viciousness against the U.S or its allies (sadly, India is bracketed in that category). It begs curiosity to imagine if they have a 'godmen' amongst them. No sir. No such nonsense amongst such 'backward people'. Single minded, dedicated, focused and ruthless they remain in their pursuit of 'avenging their brothers and sisters' whereas we relentlessly continue to desert ours.

A friend asked me, "But what can we do? We are after all common people". I ask, why we can’t declare in one voice, “We want our right to live restored? Why can't we force the government to establish a security force that will fight this war on terror, and make no mistake - It is a war, on equal terms. How is it that every time there is an attack, some group or the other claims responsibility (while others altruistically relinquish theirs – “hey, that wasn’t us, that was XYZ Mujahideens. We gotta get better and achieve more body counts next time in our endeavor”) but never once have any agency from our side claimed responsibility for thwarting an attempt to dismantle national peace? Yes, our beloved democracy would perhaps suffer, but isn't that an insignificant price to pay in exchange of being able to roam the streets without being paralyzed by the fear of being reduced to a severed arm and a limb and a mass of mangled flesh?

I hope, in this lifetime I get an answer, so that the question may not haunt my next generation. As I conclude, a small news trickles by - "Bollywood fears loss of revenues due to terror attack". A few million of INR less in the coffers of some poor billionaires. Sigh! Maybe Saif won't be able to take Kareena to Haiti to celebrate the New Year. So much for empathy...


bhatt said...

Yes It is war we agree without any doubt.Can we have your suggestions on how to fight the war socio -politically first and then wage the war against the perpetrators in real terms.

Kanika Gupta said...

You have befittingly and rationally highlighted the (if I may call it so) 'burden' of responsibility that each of us, as an Indian, carries. Most of us tend to shrug our responsibility, for it's always easier to blame others - insensitive and spineless politicians, the undiscriminating Press (there, I'm doing it again, but those adjectives just go with the subjects). Some of us have the realization that 'the solution' is not an abstract, unattainable goal (it may seem so, because of the magnitude and extent of the problem), but an achievable, tangible objective that each of us has the capacity to accomplish, in our own motley ways. Each and every Indian has to believe in the power of the Individual. Great people have traversed untraveled paths, armed with nothing but their vision. The day when each of us lives with the cognizance of our responsibility and our ability to make a difference, no matter how small, would signify the much-needed and much-anticipated dawn for our country. Let us pledge to make an effort to become the change we want to see.