The terror attacks on Bombay / Mumbai

This was the first time, I guess in all my life so far (at least since the COEP/IIT hostel days) that I watched TV for more than 5-6 hours / day. It kept my attention rivetted to the TV screen… It all was so shocking and plain different…

But war, was it? How can that be?… I mean, the question is: Can we give the respect due to a soldier—even an enemy soldier—to these terrorists?

The resignations of Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. R. R. Patil have brought out the essential difference of the Congress political culture from that of the rest of the parties in India.

BTW, as powers that be (politicians, as well as the media [please note!] and govt. bureaucrats [please note this too]) come to occupy the center-stage, I now no longer watch TV. Before closing this para, I have to note a few things: (1) There cannot be any excuses, but I also found it disgusting that all the channels (without exception) put words in the mouth of RR Patil—things he did not quite say. In particular, he didn’t say anything along the lines of that movie dialog “Bade bade deshon mein aisi chhoti chhoti baaten toh hoti hi raheti hai…” What he did say, unfortunately (for him) is, by his exact words alone: “Itne bade city-mein ekhaad baar aisa ho jaataa hai, iskaa matlab yeh nahin ki total intelligence failure ho gayaa hai…” But if you include *the way* he said it, i.e. his gestures, the emphasis of the unspoken words also into reporting—something that was not done by a single journo—it was clear that Mr. Patil was grappling to find words which would correctly express this idea that there inherently was something of an asymmetry in such kind of attacks… The poor fellow simply didn’t find the right words and didn’t have the politician’s presence of the mind—the thick skin, if you will—to handle this kind of a media situation… But at least, at the moral level, he made up for it through his resignation… What about the “worthies” currently occupying the opposition benches? Will Arun Shourie, for once, focus on them a bit honestly? At least for the moment? And how about media? Is it that their profession permits them to drop context anytime they feel like? Or is such a thing mandated by the lure of the lucre? (2) Here, the media also includes the goverment media (and bureaucrats also include the highest level ones at the central government level). For instance, Doordarshan news *showed* pictures with text of 162 dead, and then, 183 dead, even while the newscaster was, in his voice, actually uttering a figure of 195 dead… Why this fascination for 162 and 183?… Not just that news, but also a Secretary-level bureacrat was telling us 183 dead at a time that the JJ Hospital Dean was telling a figure near 120… I mean, do our bureaucrats and TV censors love to play not just with budgetory figures and the figures of estimates of monetary loss, but also with how many *people’s* lives have been lost? Has the cynicism (arising out of that irrational Indian fascination for, say, numerology or the lex-kind of “messages”) become that deep and ingrained? Mind you, the reports were honest for the first two days, when the action was still going on… The cynicism began to show its head as action came to end… (3) I do not further write about politics because it, and its expression in the media, are both too low… One will end up writing reams and still it would not be enough… (4) But yes, unlike last week, Barkha did conduct her yesterday’s show with dignity… (But she, and many journos, I think, labored unnecessarily long hours during the crisis… Don’t they have substitutes or shifts?) (5) Finally, a minor aside. I use the words “Bombay” and “Mumbai” interchangeably, and I mean the same city by either word. (I do not insist on any one usage but use it more or less randomly—on the basis of whatever comes at the tip of the tongue.) In India, there may be (nay, indeed are) many other cities that are both “modern” and “cosmopolitan” (as Prof. Dipankar Gupta today describes in ToI). But, Bombay is unique in that it has a specifically Western and capitalist character. It was founded in, grew, and acquired its definitive character in the ninteenth century. The men shaping it brought and imparted the specifically Western culture and character to this city. As the Marathi author P. L. Deshpande has pointed out, there was no Indian *city* existing in earlier times at the geographical location of Bombay. (This is unlike, say, Lucknow.) It’s entirely a British (read, a Western) creation. (… Much like Calcutta. Cal also is essentially a Western city in ways that Madras/Chennai was not and is not…. The difference is, Bombay has also always been far more Capitalist—it was not the capital of the British India, but a city that grew entirely on its own strength, i.e. on the strength of its world-wide trade.)… This all is so obvious, but then, what can an ordinary Indian intellectual do (and I do not single out Prof. Dipankar Gupta alone here) when he has a standing command, as if it were, not to identify anything Western inside India?


In some sort of irony, I happened to have written, right on Nov. 24, some thoughts on the need to strengthen the proper functions / institutions of the government in India. Such institutions included the police force. I was planning to post it one of these days, but then, this thing happenned in between… Guess I will now revise my writing before posting… The basic points will remain the same, but I will have to change the particulars a bit. I will post it here, may be a few days later.

Before I close, of course, my salute to those who died fighting this terrorist attack. May their souls, and also the souls of the innocent victims, rest in peace or experience “sadgati,” or so… My prayers go to them.