War Is Not The Answer

The attacks on 26/11 have scarred Mumbai, but Mumbai has bounced back. The streets, the hotels and the stations are all back in business. In fact, Leopold opened its shutters within two days and as a symbol of defeat to the terrorists, has been crowded with people sipping from beer towers throughout.

One thing that will not bounce back is the faith in the government and administration. The citizens are enraged. They want answers and most of them have solutions themselves too. The political parties are red faced, and they might do something but that’s a whole different issue.

For one, many people I meet are convinced that we shouldn’t be tolerating Pakistan’s support for terrorism and we should attack Pakistan. Hang on, the terrorists are trained in Pakistan, but that doesn’t mean the country supports it. My friend who’s a journalist in Pakistan says that they too, face the same issue. She attends a concert and two days later the venue is blown up. We should support and help Pakistan figure out effective means of combating terrorism.

There was a video on YouTube, in which a Pakistani journalist criticises India for pointing finger to Pakistan, every time there’s an attack. Certain points are true, but, you clearly see that the media in Pakistan is creating an anti-India sentiment. ‘They ask me why I am pro-India, and I tell them of the love I found in my Indian friends. But they’re so shallow they do not understand,’ writes my friend. She is my soul-mate, somebody who held my hand through tough times and somebody who loves me for who I am. And without a word exchanged, she knows I reciprocate the same.

Just as we are pointing fingers towards Pakistan, they will soon point fingers right back at us. At such a stage, a war will only add to the animosity between the countries and undo all the efforts that we have put in for the peace process.

History stands witness that a war only kills innocent people and rarely targets the real cause that stands behind a war. The innocent lives, the enraged emotions give birth to a hatred that knows no reason. These symptoms breed innocent minds that are vulnerable to terrorism. They are trained in the name of the ones they lost, in the name of revenge and in the name of Allah to wield weapons and kill even more. This doesn’t do much for their cause, but yes, some larger power out there ends up using them as a puppet to execute a horrifying plan that unfolds in the darkness caused by terror.

If we go to war right now, I only see more hatred, more lives lost and more destruction. The terror outfits will have succeeded. They want us to be Indians vs Pakistanis, Hindus vs Muslims etc. They want us to be divided.

I stand for being one. One power, one religion that believes that lives are precious. A power that believes in fighting as one and learning from the diversities. Am I dreaming? Yes, maybe I am. But I will not let the bastards grind me down.

I love my country, I am just as enraged and disturbed by the acts of terrorism. However, I do not want a war of any form. Not a religious war, not a inter-country war all I want is a movement to develop higher value of emotions and people.

Twittering Upto A Revolution

26/11 has changed many people forever. Those who have survived it, those who escaped it and got lucky, those who lost loved ones, those who came face to face with the terrorists, those who were reporting on location and then there were those who monitored the news closely and kept contributing to an online newsfeed with timely news reports, analyses and opinions.

I was on twitter and I sincerely want to thank the community for using this unique medium to create awareness about the situation across the globe. The phenomena brought forth the power of citizen journalism. Of course, it had its pitfalls too. Rumors can spread quickly etc. But then, think about it. Those living abroad and concerned about the situation in Mumbai could constantly keep in touch via this medium.

These twitter feeds were being used by the international media as well for the speed and precision with which it functioned.

Unfortunately, the one thought that hasn’t been letting me rest is that the terrorists’ aides could have been monitoring twitter too. The TV channels couldn’t stop giving out key information about the NSG operations at the three locations, which I am sure was being conveyed to them. The terrorists were equipped with SAT phones and blackberries. Did I unknowingly help those b*stards?

But I think some people on twitter deserve a mention here.

Right from the list of emergency contact numbers to the victim names, Asfaq was constantly mobilising info to help out concerned individuals across the globe. Your contribution is immense. Thank you

www.twitter.com/asfaq

He heard a blast like sound in his south-Mumbai residence and immediately put a question on twitter. His tweets on my phone made me realise the magnitude of what happened at 10.30 pm on the night of 26/11; thank you, Gaurav.

www.twitter.com/gsik

Lives abroad, but didn’t lose touch with the city while it withstood the worst terror attacks ever. Used to be a student at my Uni. Thanks for interesting reads you put up, Shriansh.

www.twitter.com/shriansh

I don’t know this person, they followed me and I followed them. They’ve been putting up amazing articles that give you an indepth read into the situation.

www.twitter.com/crypticvalentin

This person has been speaking of communal harmony and just been supportive of the sentiments of the Mumbaikars. It didn’t matter that they’re far away in LA, US.

www.twitter.com/goldenheart

He got together with his friends and organised a candle light vigil at Carter Road. Thank you.

www.twitter.com/ajeshh

These are just a few of them. There are a lot more. These guys make me believe that our country has people who think and will not be scared to run the country if they need to.

At a time where me and billions of Mumbaikars were distraught about the terror struck in their city, seeing these guys constantly putting up info, selflessly, was heart warming. I am glad I could put in my two bits. And as I write, there are about 20 tweets going up under the #mumbai tag every minute. Bravo guys! Bravo!

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…

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…

Right to life: Who decides?

Everyone seems to be talking about the Mehta case for the last couple of days. For those who don’t know, Niketa Mehta fought the law to fight for her right to abort her 25 week old foetus which has congenital heart problems.

The verdict is out and Niketa Mehta has been denied the permission to terminate the pregnancy. In a country where many abortions are done behind closed doors without the knowledge of the law, here is a couple who went and knocked on the courts for justice and for their unborn baby. The baby might have heart problems, shortness of breath and may even need a pace maker shortly after its birth.

There are strong chances that this child will not able to lead a normal life. Had Ms. Mehta found out about this a month earlier, she’d have had the right to terminate her pregnancy. Under the MTP Act, termination of pregnancy after the period of 20 weeks is prohibited by law.

Niketa does not want to bring this child into the world to suffer. She’d rather let her baby go. As I read the story done in different papers, I found myself confused. Is this right? Was the court wrong? I felt incapable of making a statement about this. I haven’t borne a child or raised one to empathise with Niketa. So, I asked Mom.

‘Do you know how much hurts to see your child suffer? That’s exactly why she doesn’t want the baby…’ she said as she tossed a hot paratha into my plate. I couldn’t help but wonder, if that child is destined to be born and to Niketa, who is the law or who is the mother to interfere with the forces of destiny.

I shuddered as I read that a 26 week old foetus can smile. Imagine, if the foetus can feel things, does it feel his/her mother’s requests to abandon it? Does it sense that the mother wants it terminated? I start wondering how it might feel if my mother didn’t want me… And my heart goes out to the unborn child.

I wonder what’d happen if this child was born, and Niketa brought it up with all the love she can (I believe she will because she’s a mother and they love their kids no matter what). And then suddenly a television report or a news story reminds him/her of the court room drama that determined their fate and of the fact that it was that judge who decided to bring them into the world and not their own mother. The way the media is going right now, I won’t be surprised if that happened.

Suddenly, my Mom puts her hand on my shoulder and says, ‘On second thoughts, however they are, your children are yours. You love them anyway,’ she sits down and continues, ‘so if a mother doesn’t want her child to come into the world, it is always for a strong reason. She makes that choice out of love. She’s aware that the life she might bring the child in to is much worse than death.’

That reminded me of my aunt, Neena maushi, who kept telling us how important it was that we understand our Mother through the rebellious teenage years. She’d always say, “When your mom tells you to jump from the 10th floor, don’t ask why, just jump without a second thought. Know that she’s telling you to do so, because grave danger is lurking behind you. A mother always knows the best and will protect you at all costs!”

Maybe that is what Niketa is doing. Maybe she doesn’t want her child to ask her why he/she can’t run around in parks, maybe she doesn’t want to see her baby cut open the day it is born, maybe she doesn’t want to see the baby depend on a pacemaker… But then maybe that child deserves a chance. Maybe that child is destined to struggle and sail through. Maybe Niketa is destined to stand by her child through its struggle.

After all who are we to fight destiny?

PS: Just after i wrote this post, I read that the Mehtas are not challenging the court’s order. Jaslok hospital in Mumbai has offered to perform the surgery for free for the Mehta baby. The Mehtas are yet to accept or decline the offer.