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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fear Factor

This morning while coming to work it seemed that I was in Mumbai, not because of the recent terrorist attacks, but the heavy downpour which after days of humid heat was welcome but as long as I was indoors. Stepping out, the lanes had transformed into canals (nothing Venetian about them, your Gondola would get stuck in the floating mass of rubbish) and the roads had more water than the Yamuna at the height of summer.

No umbrella, drenched and late for work. The situation aggravated by the long detours to avoid watering the leather in my shoes (decent shoes cost a lot and you've make them worth every rupee even though the ads claim that the leather weathers) only to be splashed by zooming Delhi drivers unmindful of the watery environs. The robbers masquerading as auto rickshaw drivers tried to make the best of the situation, but I was determined not to give in to them. Raindrops on myopia-correcting glasses made it difficult distinguish bus numbers. After a long wait, the conductor's cries announcing my destination reached my ears and I scampered aboard, and got a feel akin to a crowded Mumbai local in rush-hour.

Last evening was similar, the pungent smell of sweat suffocating the passengers in the overcrowded Blue line bus - Delhi Metro Rail seems like heaven, but it's still years away from this part of the National Capital Region. As the bus slowly crawled with more than it's unfair share of commuters, a female voice resounded from somewhere in the ladies' seats asking everyone to read what's written on the rear of the seats of city buses in Delhi, "Look under your seat. There could be a bomb. Raise alarm, earn reward." But, Delhi men will be Delhi men, the sniggers were very much audible. Someone asked for the amount of the reward. Three young men, behind me, joked that there was a bomb in the bus. I told them the simple fact, "If there's one and it goes off. You wouldn't even know."

This brings me to last Sunday's column in the Hindustan Times by George Menezes, cajoling Bombayites/Mumbaikars to be afraid ... very afraid. I understand the author's sentiments with the feeling called fear, something we have all experienced at different periods of our life. But there's a big difference in our ordinary fear and cowering before acts of terrorism. The people of Bombay boarding the same train the very next day to go about doing their business, isn't an act of bravado, but a necessity. A necessity which fear cannot cripple – the necessity to earn a livelihood. Shutting shop and remaining indoors whenever there is an act of terror only adds the label of success to the dastardly act. The idea behind the blasts is to make people afraid, the government afraid. It is the politics of fear being played down the ages. Osama incites fear and so does Bush. The atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were meant to instil the fear of the United States of America in the world, but the Vietnamese were not afraid.

Cautious we should be, no petrified. The common man has no weapons to strike back. His resilience is his only weapon. Asking him to give up even that, saying

"There is no shame in being genuinely afraid. We need to admit it and make a loud and continuous noise about our fears otherwise we shall be taken for granted and nothing will change."

will only encourage the perpetrators. Ask someone who has experience in street fights. He'll tell you that displaying your fear is three-quarters the battle lost. And the fear of losing to the terrorists is a big fear, which we wouldn't want materialised.

[I had earlier refrained from blogging about the Mumbai blasts, because unlike the news channels blowing their trumpet about being the first to be there or borrowing a date format that isn't ours, I had nothing to say. Numbed. I didn't want to react. Couldn't.]


dwaipayan said...

a thought provoking post..very well written..the way u transformed it from a light account to a serious affair...well done!!

Soumyadip said...

Dwaipayan Now that you've mentioned it, I'm looking at it that way.