Bombay, my city

It was lunch time on Wednesday, Nov 26, when I, as usual, sat in front of my computer at work and typed cnn.com. As I read the headlines, I froze with fear. My mind stopped. I read about the attacks on my beloved city and had goose bumps. For a few minutes, I couldn’t even comprehend what I had just read. And then as I read more I saw pictures of the old Taj burning. My heart sank. The identity of Bombay was being attacked. All that history, all that culture, the heritage, the easy going attitude of the city, the fact that the city never sleeps, the unity the city reverberates, all that was being attacked.

Thankfully, we had a half day at work and I went home only to switch the TV on and hear more about the deadly attacks that were still ongoing as I watched the news. As one of the reporters was trying to say something, there was loud gun firing on the background and I think that’s when I realized that my beautiful city was being ruined for some inconsequential reason. Tears rolled down my eyes, as I saw Leopold’s in a mess. We were there, that same table, we sat there not that long ago and now to see all that being destroyed was unimaginable.

My brother, his wife and their kids were gonna land at the airport there in less than an hour and I couldn’t imagine what they’d go through when they hear this. I called Mom and Dad and told them to not leave in the middle of the night, it was about 2am there. But, they of course couldn’t let their kids be alone at the airport, so they braved the night and went to pick them up. Thankfully, they were stopped a few times on the roads by cops and were able to get back home safe. But those two hours when they were on their way to the airport and back, when I couldn’t reach my brother’s phone my heart was pounding hard, I couldn’t think straight and all the news on the TV had my adrenaline going.

All this pain and agony even though all my friends and family are safe and I’m not even there…… I can’t even imagine the plight of the people who have lost their loved ones, who were there when this was happening, who survived and were able to come out safe and more importantly, who gave their lives while trying to protect others’. I can’t imagine the splendid Taj, the beautiful VT, the casual Leopold’s and the lively lanes of Bombay being attacked and potentially destroyed by some extremist groups for the sake of their happiness. Really? Does this make them happy? Does this give them freedom? Does this give them democracy? I really wonder how they think that instilling fear in innocent people’s minds and getting their governments to respond is going to give them freedom, democracy and happiness.

Aren’t there already enough natural calamities like the earthquakes, wild fires, tsunamis and cyclones that are killing millions of people, that we need human calamities like these? When natural calamities strike people of their own clan where are these fanatics? Do they offer help? If they are so resourceful, brave and intelligent that they are ready to sacrifice their lives for their “purpose” of freeing their land and getting equal rights for their people, then why do they not stand up and help when nature gives them an opportunity to? Why do they go hiding? Aren’t they man enough to brave such disasters or they only know how to spread fear, not mitigate it?

I salute the NSG and the Indian Army for their heroism and the fact that if things have quietened down in Bombay, it’s because of them. If we have anyone to thank it’s these brave men who brought this terror attack to an end. Even though they saw their fellow cammandos give their lives in the line of duty, they didn’t hesitate in restoring peace and honor to the city. Several innocent people were rescued and the beautiful buildings prevented from complete destruction, just by these brave men. I salute to you.

On the other hand, I wonder why it is such a coincidence that security was laxed at these luxury hotels just a couple weeks back. Maybe I’m trying to build connections that don’t exist, but when I see very capable people like ATS Chief Hemant Karkare and several other jawans and officers sacrifice their lives for duty, I question the city’s protectors. I question why the security officials and police don’t have enough equipment and more importantly motivation to interject and prevent such attacks. I question why an innocent child who can barely count to 10 is shot and allowed to die in her father’s arms. I question why mothers have to anxiously wait at the door step just to hear that their brave sons gave their lives for the city. I question why a teenager who has barely ventured into the real world be gunned down before he can even comprehend its real meaning. I question why kids have to grow up without their parents, just because the security officials weren’t doing their job right. Why? Why this unfairness? Why this mayhem?

In a country where the economy is booming, where software companies make animations for Hollywood movies, where one of the most talented engineers and doctors come from, where even those who live in slums flaunt cell phones…. you’ve got to wonder how come officials of that country are so lacking in resources? Why don’t they have sophisticated arms and ammunition to prevent such attacks? Why are they poorly paid and hence not willing to excel at their jobs? Why do they fall prey to corruption and bribes? Where does all the money go? I agree that’s capitalism for you. Money remains and circulates in the private sector, but what about the resources that are allocated for national security and infrastructure? What happens to it? By the time it gets to where it was supposed to be, it has changed so many bureaucratic hands that a major chunk disappears in this exchange. That’s the way things have been in India for ages and the “chalta hai” (doesn’t matter) attitude invites attacks like these.

As I watched the news, no where in there did they say that this is because of religion. No where do they mention that people of one religion have absolutely no tolerance towards people of another. I am not pointing a finger at any one particular religion. I am saying that people of any religion do this. Everyone thinks their faith is the best and the only one that’s “right”. Their is no practicing of what the religion really preaches, like the values of love, humility and acceptance. None at all. I am not even saying that only fanatics do this. I know educated people who in a social meeting criticize people of another country, another state or another religion. I have been prey to such criticism myself. People are quick to point out mistakes in others that don’t speak the same language, that don’t have the same background, that have a different definition of God…. the existence of which is debatable in the first place. So why fight over it? I fail to understand.

I hope this time is not like all other times, when an attack happens and things go back to normal as if nothing ever happened. I hope this shakes those in-charge up and forces them to act. I hope this brings to fore the real problem and gets people together to find a solution. I hope this doesn’t just go back to the usual finger pointing, bickering and political games. I hope this marks the times of change, the times of finding answers and solutions. I hope this forces everyone to see beyond their clan, their religion and come together and really give meaning to the phrase “Unity in Diversity”.