Another colleague walks in and raves about how great the Ganesh Idol immersion at the Chowpatty (not about the incidental casualties of course) last evening was.
The sudden Police force cover of the city was assumed to be for immersion, because no one really remembers Delhi. The capital of the country was attacked. Till even a few years ago this would have made extra-large font sized headings on daily newspapers, and would probably have been splashed around on every Indian website and TV channel.Not any more. We now live in a country where terror is commonplace. Where it takes an ex-Delhi-ite to pass an almost-ignored sarcastic comment 'You are very brave. After the bomb blasts you went to the crowded chaupati?!' (To which the colleague really had no answer, but at least shut up. Earlier a comment that people were celebrating while forgetting those mourning drew a philosophical comment - "you see, here 'Faith' overtook 'Fear'". Yeah right.)
Terror seems to be secondary. If terror is what it can be called.
Because 'terror' primarily means 'an intense sense of fear'. That, is totally lacking. I'm sad to say it, but the term 'terrorist' has been so used and mis-used that it does not strike terror in anyone's minds. Not Indian anyway. No fear, no sympathy. All that is there is another piece of news on media. And since this is one news that cannot be blamed on someone, news media immediately forgets it. Unlike the few one-off (rather regular now) murder cases.
I guess this apathy is called for. The government does not go on red alert, and no real security measures are taken. The attacks happen on a monthly basis, and don't really seem to kill hundreds. Actually, even if a few thousands were injured, its not important enough unless there's someone rich involved. Take the floods in Bihar for instance. No media bytes. 'Bigg Boss' I guess was more important. No wait. The American Idol or Lost were featured I guess.
I wonder what will happen if the PM or President faces an attempted attack. Pakistan seems to have recovered well enough from the Bhutto bombing. We are pretty close to Pakistanis (mentally).
Again, there is so much terror that the only place it is admired is on celluloid. I guess people are "resilient" and don't want to go on 'living in fear'. OK, so they gave up on fear. But what happened to survival instinct and avoidance of occurrence of further damage? What happened to not travelling by trains for at least a day after blasts? To not going shopping in a mall after an alert on possible bombs have been given? To mourning nationwide? To, hell!, card companies selling black bands for mourning against casualties!
I remember as a child we had to keep a mourning silence of one full minute on the day Gandhi was killed, at that exact time. I remember sirens going off which alerted those who were outside, perhaps working. When people died, there was nationwide distress and wondering. Media was not easy to come by and few houses had telephones or televisions. Yet people stayed away from crowded places, and remained low-key for a few days and gathered as much information as they could. You see, at that time India was considered one country, where a hit in one part was equal to another. I think that feeling is not there anymore. Every city and state wants to be better than the other, rather than better than another country. Though on-the-surface patriotism for the country seems more now than before, with greater respect to the flag and the anthem than what I perceived as a kid; the real feeling of being from one country seems strained. Or maybe it is too small compared to being from Delhi/ Bombay/ Calcutta/ 'South India' and surfaces only when faced by a foreigner.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating. Perhaps my view of the past is as clouded as anyone's view of the past is expected to be. But I do know that I'm troubled. That no one cares, except those who had someone present at the point of attack. And that there is nothing, really, like the rest of the apathetic lot, that I can do while maintaining what little sanity I have in my life. Wearing a ribbon will not help, and how many can you talk to? So like the rest of the spineless lot, all I can do is write about the state of affairs in a country which prides itself on its Peace values (as given by Gandhi, mind it, no one else earlier).
I think some doctrines can be taken too far. Reverting to terrorism by turning the other cheek is one of those. Someone needs to decide whether a 10% possibility of indicting the wrong man for mass bombing hurting hundreds is more important than letting a 90% guilty person go free. Whether it is a time when just catching and (severely) punishing suspects to strike terror in hearts of people who call themselves terrorists will work or not. I don't know. Because I don't have the resources or the expertise to comment. I am not in the decision making cell of the Government and the reason I chose not be there was because I cannot make such decisions. So the people in those cells are there. I know India is a big country, but I would expect that by now, more than 60years since we have been on our own, there would have developed a mechanism for keeping the country running healthily. And of knowing how to track down illegal training outfits.
All I know is I thank my decision not to travel by the insanely crowded local trains and hope the government of the city improves infrastructure. And I will stay away (and advice those who I know to stay away) from crowded areas. As long as I remember the terror. And as long as I can. Because serial blasts in multiple cities does not seem the end to me. Anyone who takes so much effort is bound to have a proper demand. And all we can do is wait like ducks for it to come.