“I guess it’s time now for us to decide whether we want to continue to be an Ancient Civilisation or a nation.” The last line of my uncle’s mail and the link he sent in it suddenly resolved a vague train of thought that started in Victoria Terminus, the first of the attacks on Mumbai.
There have been so many bombs in the recent months that we’ve gotten used to that sort of news now, though not inured to it. But this was different. Terrorists don’t hold out and fight back. Nobody walks into VT with machine guns. Rabbis don’t become hostages in Mumbai. Leopolds is a relaxed evening. Colaba Causeway is a casual stroll. The Taj and the Oberoi are… inviolate. There are many accounts of guests hearing the noise but assuming it would be sorted out. Well, of course. It’s what I would have done too – you’re at the Taj, after all. I think it was the cold dismantling of emotional institutions, more than anything else, that made this particular one stand out.
Though I have only contempt for the practice of labeling everything “9/11”, the spurt of real fear when I first heard the news echoes what I felt that Wednesday evening, standing at a bar in Muscat with a similarly TV-less friend, watching in silence as the Trade Centre collapsed. They have since showed it over and over again, until the visuals have lost the sting. That cannot change the enormity of the moment, when you knew the world was going to change, something was going to give.
I don’t know if we will come through for ourselves finally, whether our collective Indian consciousness will be able to look up from writing editorials, memorials and letters of complaint, and actually do something, but we’re definitely going to come closer than we ever have before.
Pictures were taken from a forward I got. I have no right to them whatsoever.
Democracy, Leonard Cohen, Album: The Future, 1992
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