Sunday, July 17, 2011

Anatomy of Grief

What was your first reaction when you heard about the Mumbai terror attacks?  Let me answer that for you – you texted your near and dear ones in Mumbai to find if they were ok.  With a sense of relief you continued surfing through news channels for updates.  Of course there were none, instead your senses were assaulted by morbid images of death and despair.  You flinched at the sight of the young boy’s face contorted with grief, bodies strewn around in a mangled heap.  You shuddered at thought that just 10 minutes back these bodies were someone’s father, brother or son.  The cacophony of the shrieking voice of the anchor and the angry eye witness accounts only added to your bewilderment.   You were seized with helpless rage. 

Fact is we are never prepared for violence, hatred and death.  It always takes us unawares.  That Wednesday was no different.   Serial bomb blasts left behind a pile of bodies.  The response was delayed and chaotic.   Tears and blood melted into chaos and mayhem.  It took an hour for the police to put up barricades. Forensic teams arrived in droves only to contaminate the scene of crime, the ambulances were nowhere in sight.  It was the residents who had to take up the task of rushing the injured and the dying to the hospitals in tempos, taxis and even handcarts.  Teeming crowds... TV channels swooping in like hungry vultures in their bid for glory...the clueless police doing nothing to assuage the panic...  the elected expressing their well rehearsed lines of condolences and the sickening finger pointing at ‘others’ to explain administrative failures...

And we were left wondering weren’t things supposed to change for the better post 26/11?  What about the lofty promises made for implementing pre-emptive measures and managing consequences better should such incidents occur?  Just empty words to placate an angry nation?

The truth is most of the proposals made after the horrific attacks are gathering dust on a bureaucrat’s table.  Plans for installing over 7000 CCTVs have yet to see the light of day but would things have been any different if we did have them all over the city?  Do we have IT linkages and enough personnel to process footage on an hourly basis?  Look what happened to the seven high-speed, bulletproof boats that were purchased spending crores post 26/11.  They are lying idle at a private dockyard for want of trained policemen and fuel.  Mumbai police still does not have bullet-proof jackets. Maximum City despite being a soft target for repeated terror attacks still doesn’t have an Emergency Medical Service.  So why should things be different this time or in the future? 

We are used to getting let down by our leaders. 

But what gets my goat are the paeans sung in honour of the resilient spirit of Mumbai.  Look at these brave souls; they don’t let tears get into the way of a business called life.  Hail the Mumbaikar   who is in a hurry to move on rather than look back and grieve for its dead.   A load of crap if you ask me!  For an average Mumbaikar each day is a struggle for survival as he elbows his way through local trains to get to work, wades through rain deluged streets, battles with food inflation, water scarcity, and pollution.  His list of woes is endless and the blasts are only a fleeting setback. So don’t you insult the people of Mumbai by romanticizing the hardening of the soul!  As if he has a choice!  As if anybody has a choice in any other city or town.

And I feel the much touted resoluteness of Mumbaikars is merely an excuse that the system uses to cover up its ineptness.  Our elected would have us believe that we are strong enough to take care of ourselves, so why bother?  So what if we can’t protect them, let’s fill them with a false sense of well-being instead.  

For the next few days, we will continue to debate the hows and whys of 13/7.  We will conduct a ruthless post mortem of the tragedy; demand justice and berate the failure of a system that is supposed to protect its citizens from harm.  But for how long?  Soon we will resume from where we had left off.    

And that’s what our elected rely on – our short lived memory.  We prefer to forget until next time. How many next times will it take till we say enough is enough and demand our rights as citizens? 

Unfortunately we are caught in a loop of inaction and predictable reactions.  26/11... 7/06....13/11...  Every time we are taken by surprise, we go into a state of shock, grieve for the dead, sputter in rage and vent our angst at the leaders.  And then we move on to the next headline.  

The only ones who will carry the memories to their grave is the wife who lost her 44 year old husband in Zaveri Bazar, the children who lost their parents at Taj, the train blast victim who has spent the last five years in bed grappling with a destiny carved out of hatred.  

So what can you do?  I’ll say let’s be proactive and demand answerability from politicians and bureaucrats on a sustained basis.   Let us have a unified forum through social media where we can expose the lack of governance.  Let us be more vocal about the disenchantment, the daily bribes we have to pay to get things moving, the councillor who is all words and no action. Why suffer silently? 

The media, for all its tabloid tendencies and obsession with TRPs, has still played a pivotal role in mobilizing public opinion and shaking the authorities out of their complacency – be it the legislative, the judiciary or the executive.  People in seats of power are increasingly uncomfortable about getting exposed.  The media can be our constant watch-dog and inform the public about the promises that were forgotten conveniently!  Why do we have to wait for a bomb blast to stir into action? Why can’t we have a sustained campaign and demand accountability?  Our leaders need to heed a public interface where we can air our grievances instead of treating us just as faceless ballot papers.  You were elected to serve us and it is your duty to listen to us.  And let us use social networking sites to show our support for the few honest politicians, bureaucrats and police officers so that they can complete what they set out to do, instead of getting ‘transferred’ whenever they become too hot to be handled.  God knows we need them and they need us.  

Change doesn’t happen in a day so why wait for a next time.
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  1. "Change doesn’t happen in a day so let’s not wait for a next time." half of me is optimistic and wants to be a part of making that change happen and the other half is skeptical about it.
    Yes, we forget. When the time to vote comes, we will vote for the candidate who comes from our caste/religion/region. Politicians use petty issues to blanket the real ones. Raj Thackeray blamed migrants for the blasts. I guess the skeptic side is winning right now. :/

  2. Since few days the posts I'm reading are all about Mumbai terror attacks and everywhere I read the same old thing.. government failure to stop such terror acts. But than what are we doing as the citizens of this country? Why don't our nationalist parties or the civil society groups call for a nationwide strike? None will go to school, college or at work until the government takes the responsibility for the attack and acknowledges the loophole in the system. The strike would continue till the government promises of altogether checking a stop on such horrendous attacks. And, if it fails, then there must be a law of upholding the right of the area MP, MLA, state CM and country PM of contesting for the election for next 10 years.

    Weakest LINK

  3. I say, lets not take it to any forum, lets take it personally, lets take it as an assault on our own safety.

    But if you ask me anything beyond that, as to how? I have no answers. Sorry. I take back my words.

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  4. The government is surely using the resoluteness of the Mumbaikars as an excuse for its ineptness. Nevertheless they deserve credit for the courage they display. Maybe the hardships that they endure on a daily basis have made them so.
    We can question the government but the answer is known to all of us. Our leaders just don't care about national security. They are too busy filling their own pockets with money.
    I don't think that these bomb blasts have become fleeting set backs for the Mumbaikars. For the people in Kashmir they might have

  5. 'Resilient spirit of Mumbai' is the worst joke I have ever heard...

    problem is that most of the Indians, including us, are too busy to survive tomorrow...we do not have time for revolution...

    wonder how many more deaths will it take till we learn to stand united and raise our the answer blowing in the wind?


  6. Yes, it's high time that our political leaders are made to understand that they are accountable to the people, that they are responsible for the terrible state of affairs...

  7. We will all rage about it in the social media and feel that we have done our bit since there is no concrete immediate solution in sight. After a few days we will forget and move on and the cycle will continue..

    Even the political class has realised that the middle class is not a vote bank that matters...

    Sad but true..

    Just read the poison spewed by Subramaniam Swamy in today's DNA. This is what our 'leaders' specialise in. Promote hatred instead of finding solutions.

    Sad but true..

  8. Very well written. I just keep pondering, why do we have so many dates but the US have only 9/11. May be the US government were ready to take action, Maybe the people were not ready to forget or maybe they were not used to the regular news of such attacks.

    What we the mango man (aam admi) needs to learn is to vote for your security. dont for vote politics. then maybe we will have a government who will take action. if we dont forget something leaders will do something about it. and may be somettime we will feel secure in our own country.

  9. I think , we all write and blog about it ..what I personally feel is what we as a citizen of India ..doing ..its easy to blame other but are we are also equally not to blame ..I know the lapses are there post 26/11 , what govt says are never implemented ..reason are trivial the main is corruption i.e what is set and proposed never reached the stage where it has to be ..its all within us make it happens..

    There are few easy and effective measures we can draft and ask the govt to take the actions on them.

    1) Having Mukhbirs within locals to collect info.

    2) Security instrument installation @ entrance as well exit of the crowded places and Bazars.

    3) Weekly Audits on the status on security front.

    4) Recruiting the best IT security ( ethical hackers)experts on roll , to take charge of Internal security of the country( from cyberspace).

    5)Creating a Forum where people of the country can give valuable inputs on inputs time to time for increasing security level.

    There are more things we can add-on .these are some in my mind ..some more ppl some more creative thoughts we instead of pondering on what happened ,we need to think what need to be done i.e action plan to focus on.

    P.S : Coming to ur space ..after a gap ..quite a transformation cool.

  10. The last line, leaves so much to think about Purba.

    Nope, Change doesn't happen in a day. Sadly, in this country, it doesn't happen in a year or even a decade. Its sad, but true, that all our fingers are pointing at someone or the other. Even the elected are trying to point fingers.

    Also, don't you think the country is unequipped to handle such situations? Everyone's clueless. I believe its a lack of protocol.

    How does one imbibe a protocol, into a country who swears against it?

  11. We are indeed looking for a change. A change for the better, an escape route from the politicians who shed crocodile tears every time there is a bomb blast. And to say Mumbaikars are the bravest people on planet earth is a mockery of our civilian rights. We have to do something, anything to bring accountability from bureaucracy that is bogged down by red tapism and politics ruled by nepotism. 7000 CCTVs wasted...are the ones installed working properly and in order? Definitely not. What happened to the NSG force specially deployed for Mumbai? Have we ever heard of them after 26/11? No. We have selective amnesia when it comes to such blasts and we conveniently forget about the lives snuffed out. MOBILISE PUBLIC OPINION. Let us bring the erring bureaucrats and politicians to book...The fourth estate is more interested in selling rather than pushing for a change. Above all, there must not be any compromise on NATIONAL SECURITY. How many of us know that 1/3 or Kashmir is occupied by Pakistan ( POK) and another 1/3 occupied by China ( Aksai Chin)? And what is the Congress Govt at the Centre doing all these years? Ruling the balance 1/3....WHAT A SHAME!

  12. How helpless are we and why? Why are we not able to do our bit. Why do we always wait for somebody to lead? These are other questions we should seek answers to.

  13. A very though provoking analysis of the Mumbai Blast. Yes, the memory of citizens is short lived as we all have responsibilities to take care of.

    But if we as people citizens don't say "enough is enough' the cycle will never break.

    The Media is doing its job of bringing the reality to the comfort of our homes. WE, the people have to the stock and fight it out. We have shining examples like the Jessica case where the perseverance of her sister paid off.

    Let us get inspired for our nation. A good job Purba. You made us all think on those lines ....

  14. Talking about the indomitable spirit of Mumbai,is actually taking the focus away from the BIG problem at hand.Check this out Purba,

  15. Agree with Vivek.I think Mumbaikars can give the upcoming citizen journalism a try..I am planning to do so.May be the panelists have some ideas how common citizens can make a difference.What say?

  16. its just like train accidents now. Everytime it happens, we go in shock, but life goes on.

  17. All that the media does is expand and extend the impact of the blasts. The same news keeps running for days. Although more people die in train accidents every year, the media keeps repeating videos of the blast sites. Some lives in India are more precious than others.

  18. Prateek...Now is the time to relaunch your forum - Second freedom...

    Rachit...When was the last time an elected representative actually spoke to us. When the PM chose to break his silence he met only a select group of editors. Why can't they look us in the eye and admit they failed...

    Anshul...We can discuss it among friends, raise awareness..I know it's only words but we can always keep trying.

  19. thebrokennib...There's so much squabbling with in the ruling party. The opposition instead of coming up with suggestions is more interested in demanding a resignation from the PM.

    SUB...We don't want to look beyond our backyard. We are content to be armchair revolutionaries.

    matheikal...There's a growing disillusionment with our elected - but what are the choices we have?

  20. magiceye...I read that article too. And to think he was faculty Economics at Harvard.

    We need to relocate him to Pakistan.

    Rohit...The US takes the security of it's citizens seriously.
    Unfortunately our country gives us the feeling that we are dispensable.

    Vivek...Good to see you back. I agree when your suggestions but how can we get these point across to our elected?

  21. Pzes...It all stems from lack of sincerity, lack of love for our country.

    Cloud Nine...That's why we prefer not knowing - why? because it's convenient for us.

    SRAyyangar...You got it bang on - we prefer following rather than lead.

  22. Abha...And Social Networking is such a powerful tool to mobilize support. I wish we are more vocal about our disenchantment. We are happy leading a blinkered existence.

    Sharmila...It is people like you and me (the educated middle class) who can raise consciousness and fight for our rights denied . And I am glad you are thinking of giving citizen journalism s try :)

    Will be going through the links.

    Anonymous...It's because they have nothing new to say. Even the panel discussions have the panelists trying to outshout each other.

  23. People who mocked at the resilient spirit of Mumbai and the ones who praised...none of them would bring them bread!! So they had to move on! by choice or by fate!!

    And whoever were not directly affected by it! Some of us tried to express our prayers and some tried to analyse some tried to complain! But when would all of us actually do something that makes sure this doesn't happen again!!

  24. It is just plain sad that common man's life is cheaper than anything else in this country.

  25. @purba you have correctly said that the opposition instead of giving suggestion has been demanding the resignation of the PM. I would like to comment here that if suggestions are given to deaf ears the the one suggesting something is an idiot. The PM was suggested on 2G allocation by his own ministers but he did not give any importance to it. As Hazare says the remote control is the government. Maybe by his resignation we get a PM (from any party) who is more responsible for his deeds.

    I know this comments is off the topic but just wanted to mention. No feeling if it is not published.

  26. well we can do it ..if we wish to , some forum like Indiblogger , where we can ..come together and ask the media to cover the event and put forward our point that will help putting out thoughts to the govt ..if the existing govt wouldn't who will ..then ..they have to act then..

  27. As someone who lives in Mumbai, I think the name BOMBay was more appropriate, I am utterly appalled at the complete failure of Intelligence, and the total lack of a professional response system.

    I know that no city is safe from a determined attack, but the repeated assaults on Mumbai clearly establish that the city is a soft target because of the sheer density of population, and the utter incompetence of the political leadership and law enforcement.They are rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic, by passing laws on upping the legal drinking age, and shutting down dance bars and arresting young couples for indecent dancing in a private club. You cannot expect more from a bunch of self serving nincompoops.

    I am also amazed by the short attention of the public in general, to the extent that a major train accident in which many more died, got buried by this terror incident, which in turn will get buried by the next big thing, whatever that may be.

    I dont have any solutions, but hang my head in shame for the entire generation, which pillaged and looted from our own children any chance of a safe and secure future.

    Apologies for this depressing comment..but then you started it Purba

  28. Cindrella...Beautifully put :)

    Akanksha...At least we can voice our thoughts...what about the man on the streets? It's even worse for him.

    Rohit...You have raised a valid point. Why would I delete it?

  29. Well maybe it's just about putting words to action.. politicians, police citizens and netizens as well...

    Change cannot happen in a day, neither can it happen over a bunch of people taking things "Hands-on"...

    It won't take a Mumbai, and a Bihar, and a requires "The India"!

  30. Vivek...That's a wonderful suggestion Vivek...

    Menon...I was reluctant to write about the Mumbai blasts because I felt I had nothing new to add. But the truth is all of us share a similar sentiment - of mottled rage at the failure of a system that we elected.

    indigenou...You are right...its not about Mumbai, it is about all of us. I've stopped going to malls on festival days. Crowded markets make me nervous. Give me the assurance that something is being implemented for our safety.

  31. Hi Purba,
    I wish we could do more than express our anger n regret over such matters...
    Everyone's seething with disgust-but also helpless-that's the sorry state of affairs...I really wish there could be more action n less words!

    Very strongly viewed!

  32. >> And I feel the much touted resoluteness of Mumbaikars is merely an excuse that the system uses to cover up its ineptness >>

    I completely agree with this.

  33. apt post .. but what makes me angry is that so many learned people have commented here and I am not learned but still commenting .. All say the same thing YET no one does anything ..

    WE all know what needs to be done YET it doesnot happen..

    media is bought by the leaders hence the articles on resilience NO one has bothered talking to the people whose near ones died on 26/11 and no will as kthe ones who are left behind this time ..
    we make our own assumptions and carry on ...

    I am sure we have all got tired of complaining too, what makes me angry is the people who still say there is hope, and who are still wiating that things might change .. HOW WHEN .. 60+ years gone by , I pity those who think things will change ...

    as you mentioned nothing that was promised after 26/11 has happened and yet here we are asking again .. and we will next time this happens ...

    so many times people have got together on USELESS yatras or WALKS organised , How cum none of them have got up to organise such a walk or demonstration.. WE all blog and have our own circles why cant we get together and Write about it , Set a date and Each one writes on it Everyday till something happens ...

    If we are not saafe in our OWN COUNTRY how can I feel safe here in foreign land..

    Where is the so called SHIV SENA it was quiet vocal about MUMBAI earlier on I dont hear anything, why cant it get security sorted make sure the govt takes notice, NO they wont do it for if things get done they will be the first one to be questioned ...

    I can write a whole post .. WE got independance and threw away the british because everyone stood up or lets say majority in there own way till that happens this will keep happening FIRST STEP is to get rid of our leaders FULL STOP..

  34. Well written. this is not one person job, not even hundreds or thousands. Change is certainly required and it is not just the Govt, people should have the awarness and should act. The first and the formost, we need a strong Govt, for that people should elect suitable person rather than going by the history of his political party or anything else other than his character, ability... Likewise there are so many things that needs to changed... how & when... is a big question...

  35. When will it stop.... ?This is not the last one, sadly.
    Need of the hour is action by those who matter...stricter laws, more surveillance, police reforms, better policing, busting politician underworld nexus,and above all a common political will to fight terror.
    Great post.

  36. Suruchi...I call it impotent rage.

    Aativas... A lame excuse for us being sitting ducks for terror attacks.

    Bikramjeet....Shiv Sena is always conspicuous by it's absence at times like these. But it's quick to use it for political mileage - let's blame the migrants, how dare Shahrukh host a party.....

  37. Sunil...Agree..we are to blame too. We need a sustained campaign to demand a change.

    Alka....I was reading somewhere terror organizations are outsourcing these attacks to local hands. So its a petty criminal with no ideology who is planting bombs to kill his own...Sad isn't it?

  38. Media, as a watchdog, has played a crucial role. But many times the watchdog oversteps for its commercial objectives. Then, who will watch the watchdog? We need to have a strong Media Regulatory Authority, not to limit their freedom, but to ensure ethics.

  39. I was not very far off the sites of blasts in the sense I am back in Mumbai. I was as perturbed as a human would get at the massacre and even wrote a post only to consign it to the recycle bin. Yes, we can froth at the mouth at the ungrateful, desensitized lot we have become but, sadly, the things are going to get worse from here unless we scrap the rotten political system we have trapped ourseves in.

  40. You echoed all our sentiments Purba. Quite honestly, I don't know how long we can continue to splutter in rage about the unfairness of it all. But will our forums, media publicity, morchas make a sustainable difference? Short term steps are taken like you said in the wake of catastrophes, then the files rot on bureaucratic tables. What happened to the anti corruption drive? LokPal is still pending. Perhaps the media is the answer, perhaps military rule or revamping the judiciary is another answer.But frankly, I no longer think the common man's opinions count anymore.

  41. Personally, I'm both happy and sad the way media works in this country. They have done a decent job in exposing corrupt politicians, but they only pickup stories which benefit them in terms of TRP. It's the same media that mourns the attack and the very next day glorifies the people for moving ahead.

    Very good article, Purba. Thanks for adding my blog to your reading list - I was so overwhelmed with joy when I saw my blog listed there.

  42. sibi....True...there have been instances when they have misrepresented facts...There has been growing disenchantment with the media as well.

    umashankar...Writing about such issues is cathartic. You shouldn't have trashed your write-up.

  43. Richa...I sometimes feel the country should be run like a corporation. Only the best will be hired to do their job and thrown out if their performance is not up to the mark.

    Joshi...I love your sense of humour :)

  44. Hey Purba,

    Well written post! I liked the part about accountability. But I am still a little skeptical about the real world changes that the people in Mumbai would have, post this attack.

    I'm honestly quite fed up about THe "resilient Mumbaikar" tag- I dont think anyone deserves to go through life like that- constantly worried.

    Something about the political landscape of our country that makes me uncomfortable too- we are diverse- very much so - so the politicians can be very selective in who the listen to- Mayawati, Deve Gowda, Yeddyurappa, Digvijay Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Narendra Modi (Think Godhra), Karunanidhi, VS Achutanandan (The "Dog" Comment when Maj. Unni was Martyred) - All have grown to power and stature by listening to voices other than reason. And this is going to come back and bite us in the back time and time again.

  45. 'its the same old story eveywhere'(and everytime).
    and yes the select few(politicians and bureaucracy) who are not tainted from the vices are faceless statues amidst the crowd of a hundred corrupt faces.

  46. 'its the same old story eveywhere'(and everytime).
    and yes the select few(politicians and bureaucracy) who are not tainted from the vices are faceless statues amidst the crowd of a hundred corrupt faces.

  47. good. glad you wrote these. Precise and strong words.

  48. You wrote the words for all of us Purba. Unless we completely scrap the political system of the country and start from scratch, things will keep going from bad to worse, because every political leader is as bad as the other.
    we need to translate the rage into action -- of throwing out every one of them. I agree with you, we need to run the country like a corporation. But how?

  49. Rohit...You've raised a very valid point Rohit..Regional politics, vote bank, dissent with in the party, take away attention from real issues that plague our country.

    A grain of sand...India shining is a dream lost.

    Kartikey...Thanks :)

  50. Purba,

    There have been a few posts on this and in all I have said that it is WE, the people, who have to unite without any thought about religion or region to fight this menace. WE, the people, need to make our respected politician leave their petty mindedness and join hands to find solution to this criminal activity instead of going for blame game. But will they, their vote banks will suffer. But still it is WE who need to come together. Do read what Restless ( myworldmyperception ) said on this here.

    Take care

  51. Well written, but the sad part is that we have become immune to everything. Its not resilience its sheer indifference because of our population. At 1.3 Billion, we simply don't care if we lose a few hundreds.

  52. Zephyr...I wish I had the answers. But I see a growing awareness, disenchantment and restlessness. Hoping it will soon translate into action.

    Jack...And I had no intention of writing about this issue but my helpless rage got the better of me.

    It is WE the educated middle class who can make a difference.

    Vikram....It is inconvenient to be otherwise. We mope, shed a few tears and move on.


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