Wounds and Wonders

November 30, 2008

I did not plan to post tonight after a 19-hour long trip back to Jaipur, but here I am.

The Bombay carnage is over and we are counting our dead.

As usual, India is accusing “the foreign hand”, ie Pakistan. There will probably be some renewed tension between the two countries, and it will be interesting to see how the Sharif-Zardari duo handles it.

My point, however, is not to state whether Pakistan is or isn’t behind these attacks. The “Pakistani factor” is irrelevant. Because wherever these attackers were from, what matters is that they managed to enter India with a full load of weapons and to plan a massive operation of death without being caught. Yes, I was told, but they came by boat. So? Did I miss something? Is there a law somewhere that states through which way terrorists can and cannot enter a country? Actually they did not all enter India on that boat. Some of them had been renting a house in the city for a month, pretending to be students.

If admittedly sea coasts are hard to fully control, what about the planning of the operation? It was a meticulous job and it involved a lot of people, for a long time ahead. Didn’t any information leak? In a country like India, where everyone is watching their neighbours and commenting on their smallest moves, how come these guys managed to go unnoticed?

Then the attacks themselves. The horrendously inefficient and embarrassing performance of the Indian authorities. The commando plane delayed 12hrs in Delhi. The anchorwoman telling the whole world, live, where the Special Forces were, how many of them there were, and how they were entering the Taj ? What about such profound, utter daftness ?

I still cannot fully grasp the extent of the horror. 195 dead and 295 wounded, say the French papers. I think of Bombay, where I was less then a day before the attacks. It was a city bursting with life. Millions were running, struggling, breathing this dark air with its hint of sea breeze and rushing up, always up, towards a better life. There was craziness around, and wickedness surely, but horror, I don’t think so.

I wonder what will happen to the Wicked City now. Will it ever go back to normal? I know attacks happened in many other spots than the Taj and the Oberoi, but because of the number of foreigners trapped and killed there, the hotels got an overnight morbid publicity that I doubt they’ll ever manage to shake off. Or will they?

Oh, I am so sick of this, I wish it was just a nightmare.

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Bombay, 36 hours later…

November 28, 2008

36 hours after the beginning of the attacks, this is still not over. Typically, the authorities have been telling the media that “everything is under control”.

Amazing.

My grandmother uses this trick all the time. She used to tell me : “Sweetheart, if you are too cold, just keep telling yourself ‘I’m not cold, I’m not cold’, and I promise you, you’ll feel warmer”. I just didn’t think I’d ever hear an echo of my Italian grandmother’s rantings from the mouth of the Indian Police.

I am so angry at the government, at their cowardice, at the way they take their people for idiots.

 

My hands are shaking while I hit the keyboard: I woke up to countless text messages about Bombay: mother, sisters, friends… I turned the TV on and stared, aghast. I just can’t believe it. Colaba is in flames, nearly a hundred people have died, and there are still hostages. The very places I visited on monday: the Taj, the Oberoi, Leopold Cafe, plus a train station, a hospital and markets. Ten sites in total. What the hell?

Since I arrived in India, there have been bombs nearly every month. I had just left Jaipur when the blasts happened, in May. I was in Delhi when bombs exploded in September, not so far away from the markets where it happened, but thankfully, safe. And now Bombay is hit. I was there yesterday, at these very spots.

What does it feel like to live in a country where such things happen?

It feels like a weird mix of hope and anger. Hope: I wish I had faith. Anger: who did it? Why? How can a police be so absolutely useless? As usual in India, people are left to fend for themselves. They are scared, and they are angry. No wonder then, religions are so easily instrumentalized.

To finish with, I just wanted to point at the numbers: blasts in India kill hundreds of people. They happen nearly every month. A month afterwards, not one single newspaper mentions it. We in the West mourn or victims for years: think London, Madrid, even Paris. The last blast that happened in Paris was in 1982, if I am not mistaken, and we still commemorate it. Maybe this is why foreigners are being targetted now: it is the only way for the terrorists to ensure they get an international coverage.

EDIT: The last bomb blasts in Paris happened in 1996, and not 1982… Thank you Esther!