Thursday, November 26, 2009

26/11 - Living in Paranoia

It's 26/11 again.

One year has passed since that gruesome bloody night.

That was a night when I stayed up awake, afraid and sad. That was probably the first time in my adult life that I was actually so scared that I couldn't sleep a wink.

It was a sad spectacle to see CST in blood - if it was CST, it could have been the Churchgate station as well, that I had used only a few hours before the carnage started. Had it been Churchgate and had I left office an hour later, I could have been in the line of fire.

The Marine Drive promenade, was where I used to take my customary walk, post-lunch. That is where the fire was blazing.

It was a scary night, a sad night, with teary eyes begging to weep, but couldn't as all of it was happening so fast for my numbed mind to gather and assimilate.

The eerie silence on the New Link Road, which normally bustles with traffic till 1-2 AM, was a shocker. With rumours of firings taking place at the JW Marriott (which is barely 5 kilometers from home) and a blast in a taxi outside the airport (where I was supposed to be at 6 AM to catch a plane to Hyderabad), I felt I was staring terror in its face and trembling.

And channel after channel blared the news that the top cops of Mumbai Police had been eliminated. The sense of this wave of lawlessness and despair was overwhelming.

And then the images of a crying baby Moshe emerging out of Nariman House and the para dropping of commandos on the building went on to show how anti-Semitism, sadly, had reached our shores, after 2000 years.

The charade that followed on television shows made terror sexier than sex itself. Socialites after socialites, corporate honchos after corporate honchos and hotel hostages after hotel hostages were prodded, provoked by the likes of Barkha Dutt in meaningless debate on security that she can barely comprehend one year later.

The channels sponsored, provoked and initiated inumerable petitions, candle-marches and campaigns for silence till "we, the victims" were heard. The cause degenerated quickly into a page 3 event, with the gathering becoming a grand avenue for celebrity spotting. I don't think "we" were ever heard, but the charade went on ad-nauseam till the TRPs were high, and was soon forgotten thereafter.
The ammunition that our forces fought with, or rather without, became the topic of huge debates. Terms like the MP5s entered our vocabulary - no, I am not talking of an advancement of the MP3 or MP4 audio-visual formats, I am talking of the MP5 rifles.

And in the aftermath of 26/11, Jewish establishments have become strictly off bounds. No longer can I ever visit the Knesset Eliyahu Synagogue at Kala Ghoda that truly mesmerised me, that convinced me that Bombay was truly a melting pot.

Right now I am flying back in to Bombay from Delhi. And this was despite stern warnings from Neeti and everyone at home to be careful, to be on the lookout for anyone, anything suspicious. And as I write this piece, I notice three veiled ladies across the aisle, loudly playing with "cellphones", despite repeated and angry warnings from the stewardesses. These actions were certainly not above suspicion.

And I wondered, could they be carrying weapons? Were they frisked properly?

And it dawns on me that paranoia has come to be a part of our lives, ever since 26/11.

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