My friend Viji Ghose forwarded a message to me from a friend of hers, Indrani Robbins. I don't know Indrani, but I wrote to her immediately asking if I could post her heartfelt e-message on my blog, and she very kindly agreed. I have not changed a word of her e-message, but I have added a space between the first and second paragraphs because they ran into one another after being pasted here.
hello my friends: i received the following from
another friend and it sort of disturbed me. no one can
disagree with the problem here, but the solution. ah
the solution. well, given all this hoohaa about
democracy and me a citizen of the largest democracy,
etc. (who of course has never voted because one might
have attained the age but attaining a ration card or a
voter identification card... that's another epic
heartpour), i thought i'd present my pov on this prob
of our times.
why am i doing this to you guys? this long laborious
email? this rant about a situation that we seem
powerless to do a thing about? to the point that we've
almost stopped caring? because i'm disturbed enough to
want to talk about it, write about it, and being my
friends you gotta suffer. lots of love
POV 1: this is what i received
"I am an Indian citizen. One among 1 billion of us.
When somebody bombs us we die. Just like Americans did
when the Al Qaeeda drove their planes into the WTC.
Just like Londoners did when terrorists attacked the
city last July. But while Americans have the right to
retaliate and bomb Afghanistan off the face of the map
because the terrorists HQ was based there, we Indians
have to negotiate, talk, send peace buses, and "build
confidence" with the government across our border -
the Pakistanis who are supporting the terrorists with
money and explosives.
The world applauds how resilient we are in the face of
our tragedy, how quickly we go back to "normalcy".
Ironically we ourselves applaud our resilience. The
fact is that the world expects us to be less than
human - hey you fella, so what if you lost your
colleague, friend, partner, husband, wife or brother,
get on with it old chap, that's it my boy! No time to
mourn. No time to fume and rail at the injustice being
meted out, no time to even call the terrorists the
filthiest of names, no time to give incompetent
politicians and policemen, intelligence agencies and
the powers-be a piece of our mind. (Shivraj Patil, our
honourable defence minister said something to the the
effect that we knew that an attack was planned but we
didn't know the time and place.
Really! What did he expect - a phone call from the
terrorists giving him the details of the local trains,
timings and compartments in which the explosives would
be kept! We also have to prove to the world that we
are RESILIENT. Be happy with Musharraf's "quick
condemnation" and go back to the business of dealing
with old betrayers. After all we cannot "change the
region's positive course", as LA Times' editorial put
it. So what if a few hundred Indians die - Indians who
are not into big time negotiations. Indians who just
want to earn their living and return home to their
families after a hard day's work. But well no,
Musharraf and his terrorist friends will deny them the
luxury of going back to his family because en route
the train blows up! And our incompetent politicians
and policemen will let terrorists do their horrific
jobs and launch a hunt post-facto...
So Bombayites died for a cause: for the peace of the
region! As did Delhi-ites last year before Diwali. As
did people in Bangalore when Pakistan-supported
terrorists hit the city. As did Indian tourists who
had gone to Srinagar for a holiday....And as many many
more will die...Wow, that's some consolation! If you
feel as angry about what's happening to us, please
feel free to pass this on. If your reaction is: "hey
nothing is going to change - this is India," feel free
to delete the mail! "
POV 2: here's what i'm thinking.
i was born in what we call independent india. my
earliest memories include hiding in darkened corridors
in our home in duliajan, assam during the '65 war with
pakistan (earlier of course, my mother along with me
and my 2-month old brother had to be evacuated from
assam during the "chinese aggression", while my father
stayed back to blow up the oil installations and
storage tanks in case the chinese marched right up to
them. needless to mention he and a handful of his
colleagues were prepared to sort of die in the
process). then came the '71 war, the creation of
bangladesh, memories of rushing out of the car on
parliament street, new delhi to take shelter as
pakistani bombers flew low over us. later, in 1980 we
lost our father in the midst of yet another strange
sad war between two peoples of this independent india.
what was stranger re the last incident was that our
fam didn't raise a cry of "badla badla badla" a la all
good hindi films one had ever seen. all my mother
wanted was to raise us in peace.
but even before all this, i think my subconscious
picked a word that i'm today struggling to bring into
a more visible, conscious place. and the word is,
"partition". no this is not a nice kashmiri walnut
wood screen. this is what happened to, dare i say
these words? guess i will: my land, my people. why it
happened and how, we could again go on and on about.
but to whom it happened. to our grandparents'
generation, our parents', yes, but did it end there?
the madness, the mayhem, the hatred that starts at the
bottom of our being, almost genetically coded: muslims
are bad bad bad, hindus are kaffirs, sikhs are this
parsis are that. did it really end there?
i am told more than 90,000 people have died in the
kashmir tragedy. we know people die every day in our
country, thanks to the unfriendship we share with
pakistan (and bits of bangladesh). and yes it is
bloody unfair that the americans can do what they have
to any place on earth they've ever felt like doing
anything to. i know we are always uncomfortable when
we meet a pakistani, sometimes even a bangladeshi. i
keep hearing the "pakis" are our enemies, no doubt
they believe we're the original baddies of the world.
so what should we do? let's go to war. again. let
people die. again. let bbc and cnn make money. again.
let's not solve the problem. sorry for this tautology,
but yes, again.
or. take a look at that word we say so easily:
partition. take a look at what it did to us. how it
hurt us, all of us who live in our fabulous
subcontinent (c'mon guys, eat the food of our nations
and you'll know no mean small culture could have
thought up that stuff). feel this word, yes feel the
sadness that was and is "partition". swords, knives,
blood, trains filled with bodies crossing borders,
fathers beheaded, sisters raped, daughters abducted by
the "other" and forgotten by their own, lahore never
to be visited again, dilli gone forever, goodbye
mymensingh, farewell kolkata, mindless anger, flaming
red rage, miles of tears, not a single smile anywhere,
what a time it was that time. only 59 years ago. yet
to most of us on my mailing list it's just a word. a
fact. the begininning of lifelong enmity.
my mind keeps saying it is time to look a "paki" in
the eye and feel our real feelings. we are one people,
torn asunder, still bleeding. time to heal. time to be
intelligent and strong. not with guns. but with
it's time to seek forgiveness and forgive. "partition"
needs closure (yesyes i don't like this v irritating v
american word, but in this case, i think it works
beautifully, so ta america). and it's only after that
we can really start talking. without clutter and
confusion. no we won't be able to resolve all our
probs, some yes, the others we'll agree to disagree on
and carry on as most friends do, with differences but
not mindless hatred.
and it's definitely time to stop looking to our
politicians for any kind of anything.
so what's going to happen if three or two or one of us
feel this way? how will it change things? i don't
know, just this something in my head heart gut that
keeps saying these things. it says war is yesterday's
thinking. anywhere on earth.
once upon a time there was undivided india. today we
are pakistan, india, bangladesh. three nations, could
one day be three great nations.
if we are truly independent india, let's free
ourselves of our baggage. here's to all of us.