Sunday, November 30, 2008


And so, another ordeal has come to an end. The ten terrorists, monstrously rearing up from the sea, have been killed or captured. The freed hostages will pick up the pieces of their life as best as they can. The families of the dead will mourn. There will be body-counts and postmortems, investigations and blame-games, tales of heroism and horror.

Mumbai, which collectively held its breath for three days, has sighed and moved on, grim and mourning, scarred and somber. The hate of a few cannot kill the hope of millions, and Mumbai, or any other city stunned and crippled by horror, will slowly go back to normal. The lust for death cannot defeat the instinct for life.

The fascinated horror with which we sat glued to the TV screens has been replaced by fatigue and a whole lot of confused thoughts and emotions.

Incomprehensibility - not how this happened (the security lapses are obvious enough), but why? WHY? Why go into open confrontation for so long, why take hostages, why plan carnage if there are no ideological messages, if no terror-group is gloating openly, if the jihadis made no bargains or demands? And, also, of course, the total incomprehensibility of how a human can metamorphose into a death-spewing terrorist?

Fear – Are there more? Who or where is next? When? Every day is a Friday the 13th. We may do a post-mortem on the terror-trail, but we can never really predict, or pre-empt, where it will flare up next.

Sadness – So so many lives lost. The Jewish rabbi and his wife, dying on their son’s birthday, the young NSG officer, the staff of the hotels dying to fulfil their duty, the wife and children of the GM of the Taj, the policemen and railway employees, the tourists, the people at the long-distance platforms dreaming of their homes….Not just the well-known and the well-heeled, but all of them.

Anger – No punishment is too much for the masterminds of terror. Not even death a million times over. If they are sheltering behind Islamic ideology, if they are indoctrinating impressionable minds with imagined slights and victim-complexes, if they are promising heavenly glory for the murderer-martyrs, they are actually doing irreparable damage not just to their so-called enemies but also to their own religion.

Paranoia – Can you trust any stranger anymore? Can you look at a person carrying a backpack without fear? Can you travel on trains, check in at hotels, walk into restaurants without looking over your shoulder time and again? Can you even look at the sea without suspicion? Terror has tainted us, our streets and buildings and even our sea, the seafront which is the Mumbaikar’s pride and joy.

What do you feel?

Friday, November 28, 2008


Terror has struck again, but using different means and modus operandi. In the 2006 peak-hour serial blasts in the suburban trains (the lifeline of Mumbai), the terrorists hid explosives in the first-class compartments, and were, presumably, absent when the blasts took so many lives. Which is why the subsequent investigations could never really satisfactorily discover who were the masterminds and who were the follower-hands who carried out the plans of ‘maximum destruction with the minimum means’.

But this time it is different. Here the fidayeen (which word has a truly spiritual meaning twisted horribly – as terrorism inevitably destroys whatever it touches) have faces which are being flashed on our TV screens. Snarling baby-faced youths roaming the streets and storming crowded places with guns and grenades, disguising their deadly purpose under jeans-tees-haversacks, the ordinary uniform of young people.

Unmasked and unafraid, after causing carnage in CST (the terminal raiway station) and Leopold CafĂ© and Cama Hospital, some of them are dead, and some of them are holed up in two hotels and a highrise, armed with guns and low-intensity explosives, taking hostages and opening fire. This is war – there is no escape but certain death. The only victory for the terrorists will be the number of lives they take and the extent of property they damage.

We might feel that the earlier modus operandi (of placing explosives on the sly) is a dastardly one, where the face of terror remains masked in anonymity. But this is not cowardly, this kind of out-in-the-open attacks exhibit a degree of desperation and dementedness which is so scary because there are no boundaries anymore. The crazy courage of this handful of terrorists is testing the efforts of the best of our security forces – the police, the army, the elite commandos of the NSG. And we are all watching, fascinated, as the forces of order try to fight out the insane insurgents.

Mumbai has been in a state of suspension for the past 40 or so hours. I have a cousin who stays in Colaba, the battlefield of terror, and she has told me of the continuous gunfire, the noise of explosions and of the helicopters flying low.

Her vulnerability is symptomatic of India’s defencelessness under the onslaught of repeated terror attacks. In the USA, 9/11 remains a one-off, here, every year there are various repetitions of the terror-trauma, changing venues, changing faces, changing ways and means and methods, but all succeeding in bleeding the nation and destroying so so many innocent lives, every single time.

The terrorist (who may reside next-door, or who may come across the sea) and the terrorized (always caught unawares) – that seems to be the great divide in India today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The other day I was invited to the "Zonal Sports Meet" of the Montessori (Nursery) section at my daughter's school. Her school is part of a chain of privately-owned Christian schools. They actively follow a distinctively Christian orientation in their approach, apart from the usual secular curriculum. I have no problems with that at all. I am too much of a sceptic and a pantheist to have any issues with any religion, unless it propagates violence and bloodshed.

What amused me very much was to witness the way in which the little children were taught songs and dances about Jesus, but in a very trendy, rock-n-rollicking, fun-n-frolicking manner - JESUS JAZZED UP, you may say. For instance, there was this song, which the kids performed very enthusiastically, jumping and prancing to rhythmic (and very loud) electronic beats:

Yesu hamey chhuraega paapo ke jaal se
Yesu hame bachaega shaitan ke chal se

(Jesus will save from the web of sin
Jesus will save us from the Devil's din - pardon my translation).

Now this is the kind of hero-and-villain concept that every child can relate to, set to beats which set their tiny feet tapping spontaneously.

There was another song which goes

Better than Superman, better than Spiderman
Better than Barbie...Jesus is a superstar

I like the way this song covers all bases, (Barbie for the girls, of course, and the rest of the hero-pack for all of them), and then pitches Jesus as the biggest superhero of them all.

This was a far cry from my idea of Christianity as a religion celebrated through solemn psalms and lilting carols, sung by serene choirs, resonant with Hebraic holiness and the tolling of church-bells.

But, I guess, any religion is only as good as the effect it has on the mind of the religious. It must appeal to our hearts and souls. And what better way to capture the attention and affection of little children than with thumping music and jumping dances - with NOISE and energy and rhythm and beats? And of course, by making Jesus a dashing crusader who can fight demons and save us from various fearsome devils.

I'd really be interested to have your views on this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


2008 has been a BAD year for Roger Federer. He began with illness and defeat at the Australian Open and ended similarly with sickness and slump at the recently concluded Masters at Shanghai.

For Federer-fanatics like me, it’s been a year-long low of watching and hoping, and then wincing at each unexpected defeat. You see, defeats were unexpected from Federer, till this year. Oh, there have been flashes of flair and grace of movement, and touches of perfection in shot-making, but the consistency’s been missing for quite a while. Except in the by-now-familiar shake of the downturned head, in defeat after defeat.

I am all admiration for the huffing-hardhitting tenacity of Nadal, and the goofy bang-on mimicry and success of Djokovic, (even Murray’s laidback scruffiness is fine), but Federer is above mere admiration. When in top form, he evokes the jaw-dropping awe and the breath-taking adrenalin rush associated with sheer, supreme, seemingly-effortless perfection. Gliding to victories, soaring into record-books, he made his fans coast along on a heady tide of invincibility for years, minor blips at the French Open notwithstanding. If Agassi could say, grass is for cows, Federer-fans could add, clay is for potters. He was winning everything else, anyway.

Till we came down with a series of thumps this year. From the ritual-humiliation at the French Open, to the agonizing-albeit-classic encounter at Wimbledon. The only bright spot was the US Open, where the Federer-aura was humanized by the underdog-edge and the emotions were as much on display as the sublime skills.

And now, in 2009, will Federer be able to surpass his past? He has both defeat and victory to motivate him. The defeats of 2008 can be avenged to teach the brat pack the lessons of the maestro. Victories will raise the records-bar even higher.

We’ve lucky to witness his rise and his glory. Now if Federer has to fade away, please please please can he do it with a BANG and not with a whimper?

Friday, November 14, 2008


Simple things make me happy. Sure they do – a bar of fruit-and-nut chocolate, a head massage, crisp clothes dried in sunlight, a cuddle from the kids, appreciation from…you get the drift?

But complex things make me happy, too. Especially if they come in small packages. Especially if they click photos/play music/ring alarms/keep reminders and, of course, take and make phonecalls.

I’ve got myself a new phone. Not an extravagance, but an essentiality (both, actually). My last phone, a cute white-and-red Nokia, was ruthlessly kid-handled. You know what kid-handling does to a phone, don’t you? The back cover was cracked, the alarm stopped ringing, the phone would ring only whimsically (this got me into a lot of trouble from the spouse…as many of his calls would go unanswered, simply because the obdurate instrument refused to ring). And, as it was a slide model, my young little copy-kitten would slide and unlock it and merrily send blank calls and sms-es to as many people as possible before I managed to wrestle it away from her.

So my Nokia 5200 had to retire. And perhaps nothing is as devalued and depreciated as a retired mobile phone. Even old newspapers offer better value for money.

But, I’m a heartless employer. I’ve already got over the earlier phone and am now totally in awe of my new Nokia. Ah, the wonders of science…how happy it can make us if it wants to!

Only thing is – technology is also tech-KNOW-logy, and I’m yet to KNOW my new NO-kia. The various daunting extras with the phone (the, er, USB, earphones and another wire which I’ve yet to decipher) and the even-more-daunting literature (at least 5 manuals of various thickness in English and another one in a foreign language – all Greek and gobbledygook to me) are a challenge I’m yet to crack. I can make and take calls and send and read sms-es and also take photos, but that's about it. The higher stages of tech-happiness I've yet to attain.

Ah, technology – the kingdom of bliss open only to the initiated…unfortunately, at the moment, I’m loitering outside the gates of paradise, waiting for an angel to guide me to the promised N-joyment of the N-series.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


We returned a few hours ago from Kolkata. Mumbai welcomed us back with a glimpse of the still-fresh-faced Juhi Chawla at the airport (reel-life star-gazing) and still-endless-traffic jams all the way to Borivili (real-life tyre-gazing).

Now the children and spouse are fast asleep (real life dream-gazing), the bags are unpacked, the letter-box cleared, and I'm once again in front of my favourite screen, wriggling my fingers experimentally and typing (virtual-life screen-gazing). The sense of upliftment, of excitement, of brain-eye-hand in tandem performing linguistic gymnastics (not of a very high order, though), that sense of relaxation and thrill juxtaposed....

I love writing, I really really do. Don't you?