Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Terrorism in the Indian context -- I


Responding to my anxiety over the well-being of my near and dear ones in Bangalore in the wake of the multiple blasts, my wise colleague assured me: “Don’t worry . . . nothing is going to happen to them, unless of course it is written in their destiny. If it is so, unfortunately, then no amount of taking precautions will stop it from happening”. I had to very strongly resist my urge to ask him why then he goes to a doctor when sick – isn’t it useless to gulp down those pills when everything is in the hands of destiny, after all?

It goes without saying that we need to shed this fatalistic attitude completely. Safety and security is our birthright, and also being vigilant citizens is among our most fundamental duties towards our country. I must admit that fatalism has its plus points too, in a morbid way. In terrorism-stricken situations, India behaves like a mammoth that refuses to respond to pin-pricks, which is surely not what the terrorists desire. They want India to suffer visibly, to moan, to try to get up and fight back, and in the process suffer even more. Not much pleasure stabbing a corpse! To make India stir, they need to hurt it in a grand scale… and this is what they are up to now.

Having said that, what a citizen has every right to demand is answers to why even a single life has been lost, why a single family has been destroyed. Is it not the responsibility of the state to provide safety and security to all its citizens, irrespective of religion or ethnicity?

The Policymakers

Our policymakers – the lawmakers and the bureaucrats -- they either cannot think of a comprehensive policy because they personally live a well-protected life (do they know how it feels to live everyday in terror, as scores of Indians have to do?) and therefore cannot comprehend the situation, or do not really want to act pro-actively (to turn the table on the terrorists, to hunt them in their own dens and not to wait till they hunt us), as this will affect their oh-so-important vote banks. Our PM famously spent sleepless nights worrying for doctor Haneef who was arrested in Australia (a country where you can expect a fair trial), but was he so forthcoming with his anguish at the plight of Indians working in Afghanistan or even in the Indian states of J&K (the Hindus) or the North-East (the Bengali and the non-locals)? At least I do not remember him (or for that matter anybody else) doing that. The so-called nationalist opposition party, the BJP, seems unable to rise above municipality-level politics – they have even invented a conspiracy in the recent attacks, hatched by their political opponents, to divert attention from the cash-for-vote scam in the Parliament!

Hopeless situation -- needless to say!

The Intellectuals

Come to the most deplorable part – the role played by our bleeding-heart intellectuals. It seems their hearts bleed truly only for the terrorists (never heard of organizations like SAHAMAT shedding tears for the victims of terrorism); it is the human rights of the perpetrators what they are only bothered about. Many so-called human rights groups are actually frontal organizations of the terrorists.. we hear of the MASS (Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti) of Assam. I also cannot forget that a leftist Bengali intellectual once acted as an independent election observer on behalf of the Hurriyat Conference of J&K a few years ago, knowing fully well whose interests they represent. I can remember those times when huge rallies marched through Srinagar streets and letters dictating leave-the-valley-or-die were slid under the doors of the Kashmiri Hindus by the mob … did any human rights-wallah’s heart bleed then? Again, did it do so when Hindus were dragged from buses and gunned down in Punjab? Or when Assamese youth mobbed Guwahati’s city buses to hunt out the Bengali passengers and then play football with them (the method used to sort out was simple -- passengers were told to count from 1 to 10 in Assamese – the accent was always a clear giveaway to who were non-Assamese, particularly Bengalis).

(More on another day…)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


As usual, baba was in a hurry. He was getting late for his college. Mother said wryly, just wait a minute, he will back soon. And of course she was right, within minutes he was back… he forgot to carry something. This time it was his umbrella. It might be something else on another day -- his handkerchief, his glasses, the bunch of keys – anything.

So he was that much forgetful. We grew up under the shades of such a person, and we adored him more for this endearing quality of his. I remember him once groping in the dark for the torchlight with the flashing thing in his hand, or on another occasion looking for his glasses with them on – our initial puzzlement used to give way soon to queries like: think you are not looking for the torch? Or your glasses? “Yes, yes, can you find them for me?”

Mother could not match baba in this front, though I do remember her cooking her most delicious dishes and then simply forgetting to serve them, or preparing to go to a wedding in her best attire but with rubber sandals on! It was always didi’s job to have a final checkout before dear mom left the house!

My cases are no less legendary. I’ll cite the two most embarrassing episodes. long back, in my hostel days, we friends watched the movie Chit-chor, a superhit movie of that time, and I was so bowled over by it that I invited my uncle and aunt (who were my local guardians there) to see the movie the next Saturday, on the evening show. I was supposed to buy the tickets in advance and wait for them in front of the hall. To this day I hang my head in shame to think of it that on that fateful day uncle and aunt enthusiastically returned early from their offices and flocked to in front of the movie house, but I was nowhere there in sight! They had to go home after waiting for an hour for me. I remembered my promise just before going to bed that night and did not show my face to them for almost a month!

Next comes the li’l gopal’s birthday to mind (his parents were our landlords then). It happened here in Delhi. The celebration was a low-key affair, inviting only a few of gopal’s friends for the evening. We went out of home early to save them the embarrassment of not inviting us. All the same, when we returned at night, they called us to their home, just to have a little refreshment. A plate was served before us (probably they were short of plates!) with pairs of each item –cake, sweetmeat, etcetera, on it. I immediately attacked it with gusto in front of the watchful eyes of our hosts. At the same time I continued talking gibberish as, for some unknown reason I always tend to feel that it is my responsibility to continue the conversation in an assembly.

Wife did not get a single bite that evening. It did seem a bit strange to me why they served so much to a light-eater like me, but it never occurred to me that half of the stuff served were meant for the wife! That night, after coming back to our home, I had to skip my dinner and she had to cook a full meal for herself (because she cud not skin me and eat me lock, stock and barrel instead). To this day, she cannot forgive me!

So this is my family and me.

Under the circumstances, I got a little rattled after my marriage on finding my in-laws not being forgetful exactly of that grade. There were little incidents now and then, but nothing to write home about. Chalo, you cannot expect all to be similar, I said to myself.

It occurred that my parents-in-law paid us a visit recently and stayed with us for a month during which period we were pampered to no end. But as all good things have to come to an end, their day of departure also finally arrived. A taxi was called and I and father-in-law carried the luggage downstairs. Surprisingly and a bit annoyingly, my wife and MIL were taking a much longer time to come out of the house than usual… we saw them locking the door when we started. They arrived at last and my wife shoved something quickly into her father’s pocket. Not being a good observer of things, I did not take much notice of it. The secret was revealed to me by my wife after their train left the platform….. Papa-in-law in fact forgot to take his money! Wife remembered that just in the nick of time and had to go back and fetch his wallet from the almirah – that was the reason for the delay.

Oh, I sighed in relief! After all I married into the right family….:-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wifeless in the City!

The stark fact stared back into my face from the liquid contents of the cups that I laid before me today morning. Shash was away from me for almost twenty-four hours now and I began believing that I got used to her absence by this time! Also, looking back, I didn't make any mistake while measuring the rice for my lonely dinner last night -- measured just enough for one person. But today morning, still feeling sleepy, I prepared the usual two cups of tea, and only when I was finished pouring that I noticed I have poured an extra cup!

Shash, my wife of eleven years -- I noted with a chuckle when I returned to an empty home last evening -- was all over the place. Her office sent her to Punjab for a couple of days under the shortest possible notice. She had to hurry back to home from office and just had half an hour in all to herself to pack and change dresses. Her train was to leave at 2:40 PM. The resulting mess was all over there . . . the shirt she changed lied on the bed, one of her purple socks on the floor, her trousers casually thrown atop a bag nearby, some tissue papers and one of her business cards strewn on the floor. Apparently she changed her handbag; I picked the one which she left behind from the floor and carefully put it inside the cupboard. I clutched her shirt and smelled it, as I always do when she is not with me for days. This smelling business is something I picked up form her only – it was what she told that she did when I was away to office and she was alone at home … that was long back, we were just-married and she was not on a job then.

Funny how husbands go all ashtray when their wives are not home for days. On other days we reach home almost at the same hour and after that it is quite a disciplined life till we hit the bed. But last evening I again indulged in cigarettes – bought not one but two – after an abstinence of almost a complete month! Lighted one of them and then talked to Shash on the mobile (she was still on that train). Then a feeling of emptiness gripped me. Totally forgot that I had planned earlier in the day to make good use of my lone hours in the evening by finishing the task of washing all dirty bed sheets piled up in the clothes bin for quite some time. Instead I jumped into the bed with the Dog Stories of James Herriot and it was not before 8.00 that I stirred again! Husbands like me do badly need a wife by their side always to keep them on track, it seems!

In the meantime, Shash has reached her destination and made herself comfortable in a nice hotel -- she told me over phone. It was raining there while we had an overcast sky but with no rains. We talked again before going to bed and wished good night to each other.

What I forgot to mention was that I also once made faces at her last night, in absentia, and I wondered, on the side of certainty, if she also did the same at me there! Chuckle, chuckle!! Since our marriage we have been at it, and now it is quite a developed art between us! We have devised various shapes of grimaces over the years, and also have spiced them up with matching sounds!

Good heavens Shash will be back by tomorrow noon. We will be hugging and cuddling, and above all, making faces at each other soon again!