Mumbai Terror Attacks: Pieces of the Puzzle

I have been tracking all major news channels and twitterfeeds since early last morning. The feeling of anger has subdued and I am in an analytical mode now. I scanned through the papers and I recommend you read the cover page of ToI thoroughly. A report that has caught my eye is ‘Search for Sabina Still On’. According to this reported Sabina Sehgal Saikia was resting in her luxury suite on the top floor of the heritage building.

When she heard gunfire and activity, she immediately called her friends and relatives. She was in touch with many people through SMS. She kept saying that she was alone and a final message from her to an employee of the Taj says that ‘they are in my bathroom now’.

They have not found Sabina yet. The police traced no activity on her cellphone until seven hours later. It was used from Raigad.

The last line has left me numb. How did her cellphone get out to Raigad? Were the terrorists posing as civilians to get out safe? Have they split into groups to hold the show at the 3 locations while the rest of them have made a run for it?

Last night the Taj Mahal hotel was declared flushed and empty. Then late last night, the reports said that there was an injured terrorist who was putting up quite a fight and moving room to room. A fresh report this morning says that there is more than one terrorist in the old heritage wing of the Taj and an unknown number of guests stuck. They are NOT HOSTAGES, but they are stuck inside none-the-less.

Our Prime Minister, Chief Minister or even the nation’s President, have failed to make an impactful speech that makes the citizens believe that we can get over this ordeal. What’s worse is that they do not even appear shaken. At this point, I keep thinking of Mayor Giuliani, who emerged as a New York hero post 9/11 and built the city’s morale back into shape. Do we have such a leader? Do we deserve such a leader?

I have never felt this helpless. A stranger following my twitter feeds kept asking me about the Rabbi at Nariman House. Turns out he was known to this person and was a close family associate. I tried and tried, I still don’t know if the Rabbi is in the building, is he dead or is he alive? No idea…

This whole incident has changed me forever. I will never trust the stranger standing next to me on the bus, just as you might never trust a harmless person carrying a haversack next to you in the street. My dad was in Istanbul 4 years ago when there was a bomb blast there. He asked his taxi driver how he dealt with the uncertainty. “We assume there’s a bomb between our two feet!” the taxi guy replied.

I do not want to be a part of an India that makes us or the future generations think on those lines… Is somebody listening?

Ps: I am writing from my phone. Please excuse the bad grammar and spellings!

Mumbai Terror Attacks: Lesson For Us To Learn!

The past 13 hours have been numbing for every single Mumbaikar. There’s no point in explaining what happened. It’s all over the media. If you don’t know what happened, close the window and read a paper right now.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I have been up almost all through the night. Worried sick for friends, then for the city and then for the bloody morale of this country, just worried. I have been surfing news channels. Gladdened by the sense of responsibility that some channels are showing, angered by unnecessary sensationalising of news.

This is a rant a bloody rant of a grieved citizen, a grieved Mumbaite and more than anything else, a shattered human being.

As I write this, I hear that the operation carried out by terrorists was just to cause mayhem and killing. They have no demands! This is ridiculous. We cannot tolerate these fanatics doing this for the fun of it.

We cannot tolerate these fanatics arriving in a boat on the Mumbai coast armed with explosives and guns. We cannot tolerate the fact that they got into high security stations and so called well protected hotels with guns and bombs and held people hostages. We cannot tolerate the fact that they killed people to just prove that they were capable of doing so.

I refuse to be resilient. I refuse to be tolerant. I want answers and I want them now. I want to know why the intelligence did not spot this. I want to know why the coast guard did not spot this. And I want us all to ask those questions.

This is a cue for us to get up and ask. How can we let these uncivilised bastards hold the city at siege? I don’t care if this post does not make sense. This is how I feel and I will continue to feel so until I hear that ATS chief Hemant Karkare, SI Vijay Salaskar, DIG Kamte and many other individuals did not lose their lives in vain.

As I post this, Barkha Dutt is questioning the info. More than 100 people are trapped in Trident and blasts have been heard.

A big thank you to Barkha Dutt, Kashif Khusro, the entire Times Now team for responsible journalism and for asking the right questions and keeping the citizens informed.

Right now, some sources said that the weapons used were H&K MP5s which are the Pkistan Military’s standard weapon and are produced in Pakistan on a license. The pieces of the puzzle if fit together create a scary picture.

Mother?! India?!

I am a woman, I am Brahmin,I am Maharashtrian, I am Hindu, I am Indian, I am human. It doesn’t matter who I am or who you are. All that matters is if you are a human being sensitive to the world, to the good or bad, to the right or wrong. If your blood doesn’t boil when you see injustice, if your heart doesn’t cry when you see suffering around you or if your soul doesn’t itch to do something about the things falling apart, don’t read this post…
The Orissa government has finally asked the state crime branch to investigate the rape of a nun- Hindustan Times, Mumbai, 4th October 2008.
On August 25, a 29 year old Catholic nun was allegedly raped by a fanatic Hindu mob and paraded through the streets shouting Bharat mata Ki Jai- TOI, Mumbai, 4th October 2008

I am shamed, disgusted and appalled. You consider you country your mother and you think you have honored her by raping and humiliating a woman? Disgusting. What disgusts me more as a woman citizen of this country is that the police refused to help the victim and delayed investigation. It took 38 days of violence, protests and lot more for the State to decide that there was a disgusting crime committed and that the police officials who failed to protect or bring justice to the victim needed punishment.
Why did it take them so many days? Because there has to be a detailed report, a lot of letters that shuttle around and a lot of press before action can be taken. I am not convinced by Mr. Naveen Patnaiks’s assurance that the culprits will be duly punished, for obvious reasons. If he keeps his word, great but I still think it would make very little difference to this situation in the long run.

By all means punish the culprit, that is the Judiciary’s job. But who’s doing what about preventing such horrific incidents in the future? While the judicial process ensures justice to the victim, there are a couple of things that need attention. First up, these people need education to gain a certain level of maturity and understanding. They need to stop blaming the missionaries for conversion of poor Hindus. Look, your system and your relgion failed to give them their basic rights of food shelter and clothing. If they seek that and more through another religion, it’s their call. We are a secular nation and we are free to follow the religion we want. It is not our place to decide which religion is better nor is it our place to decide whether he missionaries are forcibly converting the poor against their will. If they are being forcefully converted, there needs to be positive action. Torchig missionaries and raping nuns is not the answer.
By the way, no evidence of forced conversions was found in Karnataka. NDTV is flashing that as I write this.

The poor in this country are helpless and there is a passion to seek justice. Certain religious leaders disillusion them into believing that death and violence will bring their religion/country to glory. Wrong. These guys need to be sensitised to understand that their actions cause harm and only harm. They need to understand that there is no glory brough forth by hurting or insulting any human being, religion no bar! If they dig deep into the religion, with the aid of education and ratinale, they can see for themselves that these acts are not endorsed by their ‘supreme’ religion. If there is one thing that these extremists need, its education. They need awareness and they need a lesson in human values. Can we as a country try and do that?
Look at the names that strived hard to make our nation. There are Muslim, Parsi, Hindu, Sikh names. They didn’t see themselves as the representatives of their religion. They fought with a spirit of being Indian and the strived for a united country. They hoped for an independent India, with a better tomorrow for one and all. And they believed it could be achieved. They believed in the spirit of Indianness above everything. Where is that spirit? Why can’t we forget our classifications and move forth?

Why am I writing in this tone, you might ask.I am pained by what’s happening around and even more pained by how indifferent our urban society is to the issues that hamper our growth and development… Move beyond the rise and fall of stock markets, stop obsessing over Obama and McCain and take a hard look at your country. This is YOUR country.

A friend’s update on twitter reminded me of a valuable quote from Mahatma Gandhi: You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

I am an Indian, nothing else matters…

A piece of peace please!

Mahatma Gandhi gave the world Satyagraha, a weapon sans violence. Gandhi followers speak of his dislike for violence and his ability to fight for the truth without resorting to violence. This man known as the FAther of our nation, must be disappointed with what we have made this country.

All the newspapers’ front pages are adorned with horrifying photographs of the Agartala blasts. Most also speak about the loopholes in the report prepared for the 7/11 Mumbai blasts. There is a report about the victims of the Malegaon blasts. Another report says that the death toll in the Chamunda Devi mishap has reached 150. The anti-Christian violence in Orissa has also claimed quite a few lives.

Everywhere I read about death. There is death in the name of religion, death in the and of fame, money and God knows what other reasons death uses to use as it’s accomplice. I wonder if Gandhiji, Nehru and Ambedkar foresaw this sorry state of affairs…

Eccentric Saturday!

After a hard week, one always enjoys hanging out with the family. I do immensely because I rarely get to see them. So, yeah W, RK and family are in town, and as usual RK was super excited about going film shoot observing at Film City. His enthusiasm is awesome, actually the whole family’s enthusiasm is like awesome! So three Mumbaikars, two Punekars and a whole bunch of Londonkars packed themselves in two cars on a bright Saturday morning and headed straight to film city. It was hot, humid and all sad shootings were happening. But that did not deter RK who hung around a few sets and spoke to a few people.

I was standing in the shadows wondering why do we have such a low quality tv industry! The actors look anything but good, they can’t act and the stories are the same, nonsense. There’s no variety.

And to top it all, there is no infrastructure as such within film city. WK couldn’t help but compare it to the awesomeness of Universal Studios. That’s exactly when I thought, hey, there was this talk about making film city a Bollywood tourist destination. Whatever happened? Just another government plan that must have fizzled out!

Of course after a lavish seafood dinner at Gazalee, I wanted to curl up in my bed and nap before I headed for my dance class and that’s when Sneha’s SMS shook me up. Yet another blast! I mean what is going on with our country. I can’t help but think, what is the terrorists’ goal in blowing places up and killing innocent people?

Some say they want to make their presence felt and want the government to take notice especially while making some policy decisions. But what does it achieve? Yes people are terrified, the government starts to act responsible (literally acts) and a few arrests and encounters happen.

All a Hindu hears is that a Muslim was behind the bomb blasts. All a Muslim hears is that he is being racially profiled and the government is after their race. It creates a wider rift between the two communities that are trying hard to overcome riots, fallen Masjid and Mandirs yet to be erected. The political parties, meanwhile, use the terrorist attacks to condemn each other or to further their chances of getting votes in.

The government remains unfazed and we, the citizens, get shaken. In our country, which is home, we cannot leave home and be sure we will come home safe. We cannot help but be petrified about what’s to come next.

I hate watching the news and seeing a blast or an act of violence in the name of religion. And what I hate even more is the fact that these incidents are becoming a regular feature in news. I dread switching on the news these days, because it tells me that our society, the Indian society, is crumbling.

PS: after I sorted these thoughts out, I went out with family, and then went drinking with Omu and Nanu. It was after a long long time that we got to hang out. The chaar chand on our get together was the sighting of an UFO! I’m not kidding, we saw random lights flashing in the clouds late in the night…

‘Taxi’ trauma

Bombay, Mumbai or whatever name you address this city by, is constantly on the run. Floods, blasts, strikes have failed to bring the city to a standstill. Everyone is trying to get someplace and they want to get there fast! I am not talking figuratively, nope, I mean literally. Life is all about catching the bus, train or a cab and beating the traffic. Time my friend, is priceless. And yet you spend so much of it just traveling around the city.
Every city has a peculiar cab driver. The New York cabbie is shrewd and the London cabbie is full of wisdom. Welcome to Mumbai, our cabbies are rude, full of unnecessary wisdom, have an attitude and they are doing you a huge favour by taking you from pt. A to pt. B. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t know the way, it doesn’t matter that the jerky ride killed your back and it doesn’t matter that the cab almost hit almost 10-15 pedestrians, 25-30 cars. What matters is that he got you there and you are intact (oh thank God).

So why am I writing his? Well because, I am angered by their arrogance, dishonesty and lack of integrity. I want to relieve myself of the anger, or I might just end up being the serial taximan killer.

I work in an area full of swanky offices and parking is an issue. My relationship with BEST buses is another story altogether. So, I hold on to my dear life and make a run for the nearest taxi. I happily chat with Sneha on the phone or read the papers and voilà, I am at work!
Cut to the evenings. I get out of the office, aching to go home in time to watch friends. I flail my arms at every cab but all are taken. A few empty ones slow down for just a minute, I ask then if they’d oblige and take me to Dadar. They shake their head, give me a sad look and zoom off!
Yes, they refuse to take me where I want to go!
This is a day when the rain isn’t threatening to drench me and believe me, its a happy situation. When it rains, the traffic is worse and I am flailing my non-umbrella wielding arm to stop any cab I see. I see a lot of them empty, but with their doors locked and windows rolled up. They refuse to take any of the passengers, gape at drenched women in a vulgar manner and make their way out.
Some of the ones forcibly opened, claim they are running out of gas. But happily accept a fare for Andheri after you curse and get out. This has happened to me not once but about 10 times and I don’t know how to get some authority to punish them for such unprofessional behaviour!

Now, today there’s a brand new reason I’m pissed with the men in balck and yellow. It’s their job to take me to my destination and their job profile requires them to know the friggin’ roads! But fine, I’m ready to show them the way but the dude must ask! He takes a turn he does not need to, takes me on an extra long ride! When I argued with him, he said that I was mistaken and that his way was the right way. Okay whacko! On reacing the destination i can’t believe that the meter reads almost twice the amount I usually pay. I ask for the tariff card. He merrily shows me the October 2000 card which is the wrong one. A brand new tarriff card has come into being from 2007 and acording to that card the price I need to pay is 10 bucks lesser. I am irrtated. I am convinced he has tampered with the meter. Consumers forget to ask them questions and these guys try and make that extra buck by cheating them.

“Why do so much natak (drama) for 10 rupees?” He shamelessly asks me. How do I explain this stupid man that it’s not a question of those 10 extra rupees but that of integrity. I want to ask these questions even if it means 10  minutes of my precious time is wasted. There are a number of times my female friends have had horrifying experiences on account of their taxi drivers. Some have even been sexually harassed. If all of us bother asking, maybe they will start behaving themselves.

Turning 24

At the age of 12, I often thought about how my life would be at 24. It’s a random age to pick but I was very curious about how my life was going to be at this age. I had a dream about all the things it was going to be.
The age that I couldn’t wait to be, was 18. Every year I was glad to count one more candle on my cake. It brought me closer to 18.
I couldnt wait to drive, vote, be allowed to sign MY cheques for MY bank account. On the parental level, I was promised permission for rock concerts, stay overs and a CAR!
For a girl like me that was all that I wanted, at that point in time that is. On my 18th birthday I was exhilarated with anticipation. I got all that I wanted. But I didn’t feel fantastically independent like I’d imagined. I still was chubby and I was still my parents’ little girl (they wanted names and phone numbers everytime I went for a stay over or a concert)

But I had two fab friends, a super enthusiastic group of friends in college and a fabulous life in general. After 18, every additional candle felt weird. It took me away from my fabulous age. Being 18 then meant a license to be a baby when you want and be an adult when you want (Eg: Mom please please buy me that new watch! or I am going yaar Mom, I’m old enough to take care of myself) I didn’t want to move away from that age. There came a lot of stuff after I turned 18 which toughened me up but at 18 there was a magic about the crises even. In fact, crises were  adventures. Sigh

My Cake courtesy colleagues who are more like friends

My Cake courtesy colleagues who are more like friends

This week, I blew 24 candles, and suddenly remembered the dreams I’d had back at 12. I am nothin like that girl was supposed to be an yet everything I want to be. I am not a hotshot MBA who has a fancy car and an awesome boyfriend. I don’t sing and write songs for a rock band in my free time.
In fact, I am no different than the girl I was in college or school. I still cry in the movies, I still sing along to my favourite songs, I still love my friends and go out of the way to be there for them and happily so. The friends are different though. I still ask my parents for their opinion before I make a decision. I still love my sister but I have learned to love our crazy fights.I still like to eat but I have found joy in exercising.
I am still me. A slightly different version, but the soul remains the same.
How stupid was I to have wanted to be all that was not me.
And yet so lucky to have found the people who love me and people I love. People who’re not blood relatives but thicker than ever with me. They love me for me and not because they have to. And some that I am just glad to have as family…
Nani, Om, Pannu, Satam, Lathi, Shefali, Shetty, Mariam, Sneha, Jugal, Parnil, Urvashi… A treasure trove of love I have scouted and will preserve for life.
After all someone’s already said ‘the only real difference between you now and you back then is the people and circumstances around you.’

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