Ever since I can remember, terrorism is something we’ve heard of in the news and far off and away. When 9/11 hit USA, I was nine years old. I remember my dad coming home from work and going, ‘Turn up the news, something big has happened.’ I could not comprehend the magnitude of what had happened completely, though I did watch the towers collapse in horror, replayed a million times on a million different news channels.
A few months ago, I developed a sort of curiosity that made me delve into the 9/11 footage on the net. Separating fact from fiction is difficult and falling deep into the world of conspiracy theories such as Loose Change much easier, but no matter what your take on the whole situation, the thing that I could not deny as I watched footage on YouTube is that lives were lost in a horrifying way. Thinking back to or trying to put the pieces of this mystery in any way, takes a toll on my mind. Thinking of the implications and the experience of everyone who was caught in that nightmare gives me shivers. I stopped exploring only because it gave me goosebumps to think about the whole thing.
When terrorism hit closer home in November 2008, I was old enough to follow the whole thing on television and watch the reports with my own eyes. That was, I think, the first time my eyes opened to the possibility of getting unfortunately caught in a situation for which you are not responsible in any way and out of which you may never come out alive. If there is a God somewhere, why will he blindly sit and accept the sacrificial murdering of innocent men, women and children for a cause that ultimately makes no sense whatsoever? The 26/11 attacks were India’s own version of 9/11. They were an attack on the Indian elite, in the swankiest parts of Mumbai through the renowned Oberoi Trident and The Taj Mahal Palace hotels, as well as on Nariman House, the Jewish community center.
Terrorism awakens communities to threats that are global, perceivable and very hard to fight. How do you threaten someone who is not afraid to die? Is there any way to do that? Terrorism makes us question our safety, the safety of the people we love, the sanity of bringing a new person into this world when life is so harsh and cruel.
It’s not easy to think of these things and not be affected. Last year when a girl in Delhi got brutally raped and it was all over the news, many of us treated that as an eye-opener. Rape cases abound but some hit you straight in your heart and it hurts when you confront the reality of the reasons for certain restrictions being placed on us girls everywhere. But the alternative is so much more horrifying.
Anyway, the point I am trying to drive home is that no matter how much we separate ourselves from the history that shapes a country, we’re all prisoners of the times we live in. No matter how progressive our personal belief systems and thought processes, we cannot ignore the world we grow up in. Not one hundred percent. Not all the time. We all surrender in some way or the other.
A few months ago devastating floods hit North India, causing countless deaths and a lot of destruction. We were passing through my hometown that week, on the way to New Delhi to catch a flight back home. Just as we were exiting the city ,a bunch of policemen started hailing taxis to the side of the road. They said they’d been instructed to enroll all available taxis for service in getting the stranded tourists back from the higher flood-struck regions of . So they were emptying all the people out of pre-scheduled taxis and very rudely instructing the families within to find their own means of transportation. Now we had a flight in the evening and though we had a few hours margin, we definitely could not afford to trudge around with our luggage and find alternate transportation.
We did manage to get through finally and the taxi driver was instructed to report back for duty at the earliest possible time the next morning. However, the incompetency and absolute inability of governments to provide adequate relief work came glaringly to light for me through this incident. What kind of a relief operation enlists commercial taxis on a moment’s notice? Where are the funds going? Where is all the tax money being fed? Questions we’ve always asked take on new dimensions when we face such incidents up close and personal.