Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai - Some loud thinking....

It looks like the battle in Mumbai is coming to an end. After nearly 70 hours of gun battle, horror, seige and drama, the terrorists may finally have been silenced. The taj, it seems, has been taken back, the nariman house, re-captured and oberoi flushed off the pests. Several lives have been lost and sacrifices made. A large section of the nation has sat glued to the media, some with real concern, some with a passing interest and perhaps some - if the cynic in me is allowed to say this - with a perverse excitement. 

During this time, the mini-battle for the TRP was being waged among the news channels. Sensationalistic headlines, like 'India under attack', 'War on Mumbai' and one channel even went to the extent of branding it 'India's 9/11' rather than calling it what it was, were directed at capturing that valuable media share during this time of 'bumber fest'. I am so sick of the headlines and branding that is going on that i couldnt bring myself to think of a title for this piece. News channels showing live feed of 'strategic' commando operations - and thus, quite possibly compromising it - were, quite ironically, blaming the lack of responsibility of the political and bureaucratic system. As the eyes and ears of the country, I suppose they have no one to answer to.  

As is typical, debates have raged on. The Raj Deeps of this country, seemingly passionate and overtly expressive have dissected the process, the system and the people behind it all to express barely contained outrage at what had happened. Eclectic groups have been assembled and opinions heard. If finger tips shot out laser beams, every section of our indian society would have been fried by the accusations being shot out. SMSes from serious, concerned Indians kept pouring in and emails have been written on what went wrong and what could be the solution.

Quite naturally, the government and its bank of inept ministers as well as the political leaders and their parties have seen the brunt of the attack. Calls for resignations have been heard. Pleads to the political system have been whispered. Angry threats and frustrated rants about the 'corrupt indian politician', which have been a popular feature for quite some decades, were heard with the renewed vigour of overused cliches. A few even dared to blame it on the lack of training and skills of the people who were asked to rescue the hostages. Some made subtle references to the training and equipment or the lack of it as being reasons why it took more than 2 days and a couple of hundred dead before ending the ordeal that gripped the city. 

I have experienced some of the horrors of a city under seige syndrome in the past. I was living in Coimbatore in 1998 when the series of bomb blasts ripped apart what was a quiet, growing city at that time. I was in class ten at that time. Small city that it is, the attack was monstrous in proportion. It was more than sufficient to make the city come to a grinding halt. I could sense the incredible horror and fear that gripped us for that period. We spent the nights gaurding our communities and looking for suspicious strangers. Schools were off. It was harrowing. But it was also enlightening. I have never seen the city come together so collectively and unite so strongly like it did at that point. I remember the images of a bomb diffuser, clad in his explosion suit, deactivating a huge bomb right in the middle of one of the city's commercial heart. And I still remember the images of the armed forces and bomb disposal squads being given a heroes send-off by the entire city. There was a poignancy in it all, somwhere, but overshadowed convincingly by the sheer horror and sadness of the situation. Back then, with admiration for those men, i was just glad it was all over. A little sad, perhaps, that i had to go back to school next week. However unlike now, I either didnt sense all the polical and media drama being played on the side or it just was a little toned down.

To be fair, it is not just the media. I can sense the outrage in my friends and relatives and see their passionate response in terms of suggesting something incredibly revolutionary. I have seen an incredible amount of abuse being turned on our political system which is undeniably corrupt and ineffective. One of my friends was so taken in by the events, that he was suggesting that someone needs to take up arms and bring down the whole political fraternity by sniping them off, one by one! It is a little funny though, to realise that, no one - not a single person i met - considered themselves even remotely responsible for what is happening to our country right now. There is a sort of righteous anger among us and no sense of guilt!

A country's political system, its services, its armed forces and its bureaucrats all evolve bottom up. And however outrageous it may sound, the current political system is reflective of us as a nation. If they are corrupt its because me and you are. If they dont seem to care its because me and you dont. If they are accusing everyone and not taking responsibility its because we are doing the same thing as well. 

I dont buy the argument that the youth of this country, the so called younger, more qualified men and women of this country will be more responsible leaders and the ultimate answer to all our ills. At least, I am yet to see any evidence of that. I have seen people passing out of elite institutes conviniently failing to pay their education loans, despite the fact that they are earning a very fat pay check. I have come across very few people of my generation who even have a voter id or have voted in one of the past elections in this country. I have seen people who fail to even follow the simple rule of paying road taxes for a state (me included) and then bribing the cop when they get caught. From failing to stop at a red light to trashing a public place it all adds up. In a sense we are accountable for the events that happened in Mumbai over the last 70 hours and its time we realized that.  


Vibushan Lakshminarayan said...

Nice post. Quite new to your blog. It indeed is some loud thinking. After seeing all the profiteering happening at present done by the politicians aiming at gathering votes for the next election, it only worries my heart that the responsible citizens of India can only cry, write blog posts or somwtimes do both.

raju said...

@vibushan - responsible citizens can do more..if they (we) really want to...