Those of us who have lived in fear of terrorist attacks will empathize with the people of France and especially Parisians because we know the feeling firsthand.
We know that life changes and a fear sets in that when we step out of the house to go to the market or for an evening outing, anything can happen. When we see the police barricades on the road and a bunch of similar colored vehicles parked on the side and police officers checking the papers, we know that Intelligence has sounded an alert.
Cities that have witnessed serial bomb blasts and terrorist activity in India turn into high security zones during Independence Day and major festive holidays and after 8 years, one is immune to the sight of police and army on the streets and the announcements in newspapers and television about staying secure and who to call if one sees a suspicious package. We are always on alert.
After 26/11, I feel more comfortable having my car checked when I go to a Mall or a Hotel. I don’t mind waiting a few minutes while the bonnet and back of my car are checked and even under the chassis. I don’t mind driving at a snail pace through police barricades because it means that there has been an intelligence alert and someone is doing their job to keep me safe and alive.
But when one gets news of a terrorist attack even if it is thousands of miles away in another country, the memories that we push to the back of our minds to enable us to live in an Ordinary World resurface.
Ordinary Days that turned Nightmares
Delhi is no stranger to terrorist activities. I still recall the attack on the Indian Parliament in on 13 December 2001 and the sense of indignation that the symbol of democracy and sovereignty of India had been attacked. I saluted the people who died trying to protect the building and the country’s elected representatives in Parliament.
We demonstrated and showed determination to live normal lives.
I remember the 2005 Delhi serial bomb blasts and shudder when I recall that we were watching a comedy play at a famous venue just a few short kilometers away from one of blast locations which incidentally was my favorite shopping place way back in the mid-80s and a well-known Delhi haunt which was busy with shoppers because Diwali was around the corner. Our first inkling that something was amiss was when we were driving home and saw the lots of policemen on the streets. Imagine our horror when we reached home and saw the news.
I remember the serial blasts in Delhi in on 13 September 2008 and then again 2 weeks later. That evening we had 2 important art show engagements in 2 different parts of the city. About an hour before we were supposed to leave the house, my back started hurting and I had to lie down. I couldn’t move. I told my mother to take a cab and attend both functions but she refused because her heart told her that she needed to be with me and instead, after settling me on the sofa, she went to the market to quickly pick up the clothes she had give to the dry-cleaners.
I turned on the television and the news made me go cold. Serial bomb blasts had taken place and 2 of the locations were near to the venues where we had to go. I called my mother on the mobile and told her to come home immediately. By the time she got back, another 2 blasts had taken place and Delhi was on high alert as were other major cities.
The strange thing is that once the blasts were over, my back returned to normal. My mother considers it Divine Intervention to make sure that we didn’t go out that evening. I think she may be right.
One of my friends told me how her brother had a morning client meeting at one of the Twin Towers on the fateful day that history remembers as 9/11 which was suddenly cancelled minutes before he was supposed to leave for the meeting and he escaped a horrific death.
I remember the night of 26/11. As is our habit, we put on the television to check the news and there was nothing exciting going on and we went to bed. We awoke the next morning to find 3 days of terrorism had been unleashed on Mumbai. One of the victims was killed in her hotel room at the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel by the terrorists and was known to my parents. It tore at the core of our heart.
Each of the major cities in India has witnessed serial bomb blasts in the last 2 decades and it doesn’t matter which city is attacked. It cuts to the core of one’s Soul because the heart feels pain.
Friday, 13th November 2015 was also an ordinary evening. As ordinary as the night of 26/11 or the morning of 9/11 before history changing events unfolded.
The week had been one of festivities starting with Dhanteras on Monday and Diwali on Wednesday. In fact the 13th was another Hindu festival – Bhai Dooj. An uneventful day and an uneventful evening while I worked on my new Kindle book on Wakeup Calls, determined to complete it over the weekend. I also engaged in a bit of banter on Facebook between friends and in the Groups that I participate.
I still remember chatting with my friend Roslyn about some more comments that I needed to respond to at my guest blog post on her website that week. We joked about Jason from the movie Friday the 13th. Shortly afterwards, I went offline and to bed. I woke to the frightening news the next day.
The rest is history as news channels and the internet covered the incident in Paris the night before. Such was the power of the event that many people did not realize of a similar attack in Lebanon the day before.
Where do we go from here?
Frankly speaking, I have no idea but I believe in the power of prayers and the Love of the Divine.
The politicians and heads of States will do what is required with military intervention. There will be bloodshed and fighting in the fight against terrorism.
The families who have lost their loved ones will grieve and the world will join in solidarity with posts on social media and vigils and then return to their lives leaving these families to cope with their loss as they rebuild their lives which will never be the same again. If they are lucky, they will get grief counseling and support to move on.
Media will share stories until it is yesterday’s stale bread and move on to the next happening event.
We will forget until we are reminded again.
What I do know is that this is time to remember that the human spirit is resilient.
Some of may decide that prayer and forgiveness are the best way to cope with the incident.
Others may choose to defy terrorism by stepping out and going about their work every day. They will be alert but they will not allow heinous acts to make them cower with fear.
This is what the people of Mumbai, the commercial capital of India did in 1993 when a series of 13 bomb explosions on Friday, 12 March 1993 shook the city to its core starting with the first blast at the Mumbai Stock Exchange.
The coordinated attacks were the most destructive bomb explosions in Indian history and the first of its kind serial-bomb-blasts across the world. There were 357 fatalities and 717 injuries.
What I remember with pride is that the people of Mumbai showed up the next day going to work and while there was much rebuilding of the city required and care for the injured and helping the innocent people who had lost members of their families, the spirit of Resilience showed.
There was no Facebook or Twitter in those days so there was no coloring the profile picture with the colors of the Indian flag or sharing breaking news with friends and followers although media carried the stories and nations condemned this abominable act. It would be years before the masterminds were brought back to India and punished under the Indian legal system giving closure to those who had lost loved ones in the blasts.
People used telephones to contact each other and share the word that all was well.
In the new Millennium, we hold candlelight vigils near India Gate and condemn what has happened. We use the power of social media to protest against the abuse of our human right to live in peace.
We remember we are a secular country and that terrorists who kill people in the name of God don’t look at the faith of the innocent person. For them it is a numbers game.
And the best way forward is to show up every day, even when we are scared and frightened because true humanity wins the numbers game any day.
That is what we do when hit with serial bomb blasts in India and what Parisians will do once they come out of their 3 day national mourning.
And the world will join us in our vigil. We need to keep the spirit of Resilience alive so that the tomorrows will be more peaceful than the today that has shaken us.
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