Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I came across this while looking for something else.


To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, it is an adaptation of a poem published in 1905 by Bessie Stanley.
I like.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The aftermath

It's almost exactly a week, to the hour, since it all began. Since India saw the beginnings of what would turn into 60 hours of unending horror.

I was in a conference in Chennai all of Friday and Saturday, and had told my father and my friend to keep updating me. All my friend would keep saying in her SMS' all through Friday was "It's still not over." Saturday morning I was about to leave the hotel when I saw the Taj catch fire again on the ground floor and first floor. Half an hour later, en route to the conference, I got the news: It was over.

My brother's friend's uncle. My friend's aunt's friends. My dad's former colleague's nephew. These are not people I would have ever met. But they're impacted. Greeting people online in the past week, we haven't been saying "how're you doing?"; we've been asking, "is everyone you know alright?"

It's hard to put down thoughts about all that has happened. I could talk about how anguished I am at all the deaths and the injuries. I could talk about how awed I am at the courage displayed by the hotel staff of the three hotels, all the NSG commandos and to some extent, the journalists who were out there for three days, telling us what was happening. I could tell you how grateful I am to know my immediate near and dear ones are safe. I could tell you how weird and guilt-inducing it feels to realise that we are back to our regular lives, when for so many, life will never be the same again.

Or I could tell you how sickened I feel when I hear R R Patil quote DDLJ, or watch Naqvi talk about "paschimi poshak". How exasperated I feel when I watch the Congress and the NCP squabble over who could be the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra. How disgusted I feel when I hear about Narendra Modi offer compensation to the widow of the man he said all kinds of things about when he was alive - well, that I don't really need to; you all know I hate the man.

There are, however, three things I would like to say.

First of all, the BJP has no bloody business talking about the Congress' ineffectiveness against terror and demanding the whole government resigns. Their Prime Ministerial candidate, L K Advani, was Home Minister when the IC 814 hijacking took place; he didn't resign when his Foreign Minister escorted those terrorists to the border. He didn't resign when Parliament was attacked; he didn't resign when hundreds of Muslims were killed in Gujarat. So, no, I'm not particularly impressed with the Congress, but the BJP has no right to say anything.

Secondly, there's been a lot of comment all round on the role of the media in this entire incident. I am impressed with the courage they have shown, and if not for them, we would have had no idea about what was happening. I watched only three channels all through the events - NDTV 24x7, CNN IBN, and Times Now. Of the three, I thought NDTV was the sanest, Barkha Dutt's increasing stupidity notwithstanding. I could have whacked all the channels on the head for showing minute details of the rescue operations while the operations were on, but that's 24-hour news channels for you. They don't think terrorists with satellite phones have access to cable television.

What is annoying me, however, is the way they're carrying on after the attack is over. By carrying on and on about how ineffective our government is, they're pretty much telling the whole world the state of our country, and scaring the people of the country even more. So the terrorists might be dead, but you're just adding to the success of their mission, aren't you?

And finally, this entire campaign that the citizens of India have begun. Candle light marches, rallies in all the metros, and a strong desire to make our authorities understand what we need.

Here's my question: why has this come about? Because the "elite" of the country were hit. You can talk all you want about wanting a better India; the only reason this is happening is because the moneyed people have woken up to the fact that they are vulnerable as well.

The TV channels were up in arms talking about injustice to Jessica Lall when Manu Sharma got acquitted; other than Tehelka, name one newspaper, magazine, or channel which even mentioned the Dalit killings in Maharashtra? Plenty of soldiers die everyday in J&K and in the North East; which politician goes to visit their homes?

For three days, we saw cameras focused constantly on the Taj, the Oberoi, the Trident, and Nariman House. Can someone tell me the sequence of events VT station? How many people died there? What really happened at Cama Hospital? I don't know. Because amidst all the media reports, the blog entries, everything, these events are barely mentioned.

I can understand the focus being on the Taj. The people trapped inside for 58 hours, the commandos who went in and battled it out - they all have my utmost sympathies. But don't forget the aam aadmi in the concern for the rich.

If this campaign by the citizens lasts, I'll be extremely happy. If it achieves some good, I'm all for it. But please, be honest about why this has happened.

And on a lighter note, here's Jon Stewart for you: