Thursday, November 27, 2008

What the Mumbai attacks taught me this Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, one of the most popular American holidays where people spend time with the family and cook an elaborate meal. Every family has its own ritual. Aside from gormandizing on the delectable Thanksgiving spread prepared by my husband’s aunt in Maryland, I follow another ritual for this holiday. Every year, I take out moments out of my chaotically busy schedule to create, at least a mental list, of things I am thankful for. My list usually represents a flavorful mix of serious (the publishing of my first book of poems, Pabulum; my wonderful family and friends; the birth of our beautiful niece, Noyonika; the new, Democratic President –elect in the White House etc.) and comic (Sarah Palin’s existence: Saturday Night Live wouldn’t be as much fun without her; Priyanka Chopra’s devotion to Bollywood despite her esoteric choice in movies and series of flops etc.) points.

I am a creature of habit. Until last afternoon, I had my Oscar list ready that read, “I am thankful for ……” but the heinous attacks in Mumbai, India changed everything.

Call me selfish, but in moments of panic, we all think first of our dear ones. I am thankful to God that my friends and family are safe. I am thankful that I cherish life—both others and mine. I have a heart that is human unlike these coward terrorists who callously kill innocent people and are nonchalant about their own death. And, for what? I am thankful that my parents gave me the right values, so I am not blinded by skin color or religion, but can you imagine the hate wave such situations create? To quote my friend S, “They r making it difficult for moderate Muslims to live with any respect!” I am thankful I don’t use culture and traditions as an explanation for every mistake I make. I am thankful I am aptly educated so no one can convince me that killing others is the path to nirvana. I am thankful that I have a mind that seeks answers. But mostly, I am thankful that Mumbai is a resilient city. India will emerge stronger even after these attacks. There is nothing stopping us!

But I am fuming because the Indian army is still planning its next move. What? 20-hours of non-stop violence hasn’t given the government enough time and reason to plan strategy! The terrorists have broken into homes in Colaba and taken people hostage.

One of my best friend’s cousin was caught in the firing at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus and lost her kid for sometime. She and her family are fine and at home now, but her trauma is indescribable. One of our relatives, like most others in South Bombay, heard the gun firings and mistook them for firecrackers. I understand we are a country of over 1 billion people, but that doesn’t make our lives are any less precious! I want to see Indian government officials at the scenario assuring people--the way ex-New York mayor, Giuliani took charge on 9/11. I want answers like the rest of Indians. How did these miscreants enter luxury hotels with all that ammunition? What happened to the security?

In a heated debate, I was told that the Americans like to exaggerate situations, and so everything is blown out of proportion when some calamity strikes the US. I say, maybe so, but seeing the SWAT team, FBI, cops, and marines makes me feel safe. I need to know that my life matters. Who is making Mumbaites feel safe now? Definitely not the politicians watching the drama from the comfort of their own homes.

This Thanksgiving, I urge you all to cherish your near and dear ones. We live in a volatile, unpredictable world.

More until next time.


Copyright © 11.27.2008

Gratitude is the memory of the heart. ~Jean Baptiste Massieu

1 comment:

Sahar said...

Very well said...I too am thankful to all the above and upset about the slowness of response and the lack of real leadership to comfort the people at this time of crisis!