I kept erasing and writing this blog-post several times — what name should I give to this post?
I was not a direct victim or a hostage, I was not the security personnel fighting against their lives to save the TAJ, Oberoi-Trident and Chabad House, I was not a politician coming to bank votes by taking the sole credit “for our men” and collecting junta for votes, I am not the Human Rights Activists who shout slogans against the “oppression” of armed forces of the so called “human-beings” (terror-perpetrators), I am not the intellectual panelists carrying star-power and aura challenging the Government to do something– talking relentlessly regarding the flaws of everything that exists in the system (something which probably didn’t occur to them earlier), and neither am I the media which at times risks its life for “brave-reporting”, romanticizes events and at other times just cold-shoulders very important happenings. I am not the actors who need the consolation of their blog spots regarding the 30mm guns that they hide under their pillows to avoid a possible terror attack on them. I am an average citizen who stands to see worriedly her own house set ablaze, watching at a distance, on the television set, the destruction of a place which has emotional significance for people. I don’t even know the “legend” of JRD that ghost-haunts the mighty Taj. I am just watching helplessly the hostages and the victims of the buildings from afar and thinking it could have been me, my father, my mother, my brother, sister, husband, friend — anyone. I imagine the attack as an attack on my home, my country, which I have thought is the safest place in the world. In fact in all those hours of anticipation, those faces wreathing with wait and fear, something bound us (the TV sets, the viewer, the reporters and the people out there facing terror headlong) with a common bond — the bond of pain and tragedy.
It’s been a turbulent 50 hours wait for the entire nation. I sat in the TV room of our hostel for these entire 3 day long operation, unfolding in what have been unforgettable moments of my life. These three days I have just come out for a quick tea and some noodles to keep me up through the long nights and the ticking-clocks. At one point of time, I thought I will come back and pour my feelings out on paper — but that was not possible and unwarranted too, when your fellow human-beings are in the clutch of utterly calculating, remorseless terror-perpetrators who have no scope for emotions, it was not entirely justified to pour them on paper. These emotions needed to be stored for the last leg of the operations. As visuals after visuals came from the media, the anger, pain, tears slowly died down into a complete numbness–physical, mental and emotional.
I have had strange disastrous associations with the TV room of our hostel. I don’t go and watch television ever in that room, since each of the hostel inmates has a different taste for channels and there is no point in battling for that one remote control, which rarely comes to your hand. I had spent three long days in that room, in darkness, in hunger and in fear when we had joined this institution on 26th July 2005 — the day when flash-floods hit Mumbai, and our rooms got flooded. After that debacle, this 26th November night to 29th November 2008, I have spent the other three long days of my life in that room. In the first case, it was my personal tragedy and in the second I was a mute witness to the tragedies of people around me. The TV room however was my comfort-pillow because there were many others’ like me who just kept night-long vigils by the TV set to show that we are human beings and if we can do nothing for you, at least we stand by you as mute supporters in the most difficult times of your (and perhaps our) lives. Anyone who has witnessed the entire episode unfold on their television sets in the course of past three days can understand and empathize with these feelings. We needed human company in that room just to be assured that we are not alone in the times of terror. Sometimes the events and turn of sequences, the lull inside Taj or Chabad house or Oberoi got so excruciating, that the inmates of our hostel those who were constant viewers of the live reporting just burst into loud angry analysis, speculations and points-counter points. We sometimes discussed the technical details of the episode and sometimes the general — what must be happening, what must be happening to the hostages, what pain for their families, where are the terrorists, how many of them actually, what are the NSGs (National Security Guards) strategies. But somehow these arguments and angry outbursts were more than what they seemed — this was our way to vent out the extreme emotions, burn passions, the pent-up pressures that kept building within us constantly. With Live reports and Breaking News streaming in with horrendous vividness, it actually felt that our house was ablaze and we were all watching it battle from inside at the closest possible vicinity. It was not just symbolically but literally “watching my house ablaze” .
In one such extremely tensed moments, we went downstairs to the canteen (before it closes) to get a last cup of tea for ourselves in order to keep our nerves steady for the rest of the night. On the black board adjacent to our canteen, we spotted someone has scribbled “terrorists are human beings like us, please have mercy on them.” At that point some broke down completely — sobbing, shrieking and shouting and some scribbling madly — “yes those of you who say that they are human beings have not had your fathers, your mothers as their hostages. Your brothers or your fiances are not fighting as commandos inside. Our lives are the lives of cockroaches to be mashed into pulp according to the whims and frenzies of organized criminals and utterly senseless politicians. Some pseudo-humanists like you (referring to the anonymous scribble) are eating us all up.” Some one in the TV room shouted: “the terror-perpetrators are androids, they have no human heart, they are just a bundle of wrongly gone brains. Individuals who have no human heart have no right to be called human beings.” I did not get to hear the response from the other end of this argument, as there was no counter retaliation. There was commotion and anger for those few minutes , but that soon faded away with the next round of gun shots, explosives going off with the nail-biting intensity of the operations. These are some of the positive aspects of watching a tv live in a community place — it gives a feeling to the place.
Another comment that I heard in the lunch table discussions, was certainly more appalling: “good there has been the operations…India’s population is getting beyond control. At least, these are population-control measures.” Another one was like the following: “what is the D company? Who are Al qaida?” No words to retaliate. These statements come from people who don’t even know what exactly is going on in Mumbai at present, what exactly is the geographical location of India and those who come from their extremely “busy-schedules” to spend some time chilling out in the TV room and catching the “tamasha” on TV for some moments and looking at you as if you are wierdos, watching some arbit news channel for so many hours. In a fiery discussion one of the students said: “Why will then be not a vote-bank politics? If the highest layers of our society talks in this thorough callousness, why can’t the lower economic strata not be bought by utterly undeserving politicians?” Such then were some comments from a few of the so-called intellectual class of Indian society — the creme de la creme.
Today after the last-leg of the operations were concluded, I felt no happiness no jubilation. Others waiting for the conclusion were momentarily delighted. But no celebrations. Yes, the Taj was finally unharmed, yes the Oberoi still stands tall — but what of Moshe’s parents? Who will return them back to the 2 year old baby? What of Sabina Saikia? Who will fill up her gap? What of Hemant Karkare, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Gajendra, Salaskar, Kamte and others’ who though left the world, but left back their families and their departments to mourn? With these questions we came back to our individual rooms to spend the rest of the day in helplessness. I kept thinking about one of the experts comments on media: “they want to terrorize us and we don’t refuse to be terrorized.” My response after some thought was: ” yes we are terrorized — frankly terrorized, because we are not “trained” and “seasoned” like the terrorists calculating and drugged to handle so much of human casualties and deaths. For God’s Sake! Those who are dead are human beings, may not be my own people but someone else’s people.”
Don’t know if I am analyzing it right, but if you see the body language of Jawans and commandos who have seen these operations to their conclusion, they don’t seem to be too happy either. They must have witnessed the worst part of the entire operations — elimination of hostages by terrorists, the visual image that they have been through comes on the faces of these commandos. In the hostel too, people who have witnessed this gory drama unfold before their eyes for this entire period, prefer to keep silent. I preferred to write because I don’t know of any other way in which to pay my tribute to those killed and injured.
It’s now 2.30 am of 29th November and as I am concluding my post, I hear some air crafts taking off somewhere in the vicinity (are they choppers?). They maybe carrying those tourists from abroad who are living on, safely back home (wherever in the world that is). We live on!
I am feeling a little better now — maybe I should weep.
P.N.: I dedicate this article to the souls of the people who got stranded in various locations of Mumbai and were mercilessly killed by terrorists. We love you wherever you are. I dedicate this article to the warriors who fought to free the Taj, the Oberoi and Chabad house and to those who became martyrs fighting for us. We salute you!
1. I am indebted to those media persons who spent almost four nights and days to bring us live coverage. They have done very objective reporting this time.
2. The pictures that I have used here have been taken with my cell phone during the Live telecast of the operations at Taj, Nariman House and Oberoi by the Times Now News channel.