I went to sleep on Tuesday in a world that seemed well, barring the normal hitches and glitches that one has come to accept as part of the deal of living in today's day and age: a school girl crushed under a bus, traffic snarls leading to incidents of road rage, noisy election drama replete with empty promises... one could have said all is well in the kingdom of...
Morning dawned and I went about my usual chores. I settled in front of my computer to take on another day. A few minutes later a skype call from my daughter living in London shook me out of my comfort bubble: Mumbai was under attack and this was not your isolated crude bomb that blasts in some innocuous area and kills a handful of innocent souls, but a coordinated attack that would seem more real in reel life! Swanky hotels, gun battles, hostages, indiscriminate firing, encounters, chases on high seas, assaults and all that makes a good pot boiler script. It went on through the night, the day and the night again and was for real: Mumbai, India's commercial capital was under attack!
While the battle raged on, and Mumbai smoldered in more ways than one, a bunch of children in perhaps one of the most deprived slum of India's capital city were busy watching a street magician as he conjured one act after the other. These were children from all faith, caste or creed linked by one simple reality: poverty. Like all children they have dreams and like all children they dream big, still unaware of the harsh fact that dreams come at a price they may never be able to pay. Like the magician they can still conjure their dreams, fuelled by what they see around them on or the screen of the small TV that is the pride of every slum home.
They will one day grow up, and most of them will accept reality and learn to survive; some may drown their broken dreams in easily available hooch, others may vent their frustration on their loved ones. But as I look at these children I wonder how many will be tempted to take the wrong turn and seek quick gratification by resorting to petty crime and how many will fall prey to predators seeking young minds and bodies to perpetrate their heinous agendas.
The pictures of the young men responsible for the horror in Mumbai are chilling. They are of your regular kid next door, the branded jean and tshirt. The kind you would smile at. And yet they are the ones willing to lay their lives on the block for the cause they espouse.
How many of my kids could turn to this if no one was there to guide them, soothe them, mentor them and above all ensure that they get some of their hijacked childhood back. The plight of the slum kid is no bed of roses: beaten at home, caned at school, riled by his peers, rejected by others, sometimes hungry for food, for love, for understanding he lives a lonely life and sees his dreams crash one after the other. How hurt and humiliated do you have to become to cross the line. I do not know, but the fact is that some if not many do.
Once again we are faced with the question that needs to be asked but that no one is quite willing to, let alone answer. Who is responsible?
Some of the terrorists will be caught. They may even be tried and punished. But are they the true perpetrators? And come to think about it who are the real culprits: the predators lurking with their indoctrination spiel or a fractured society where dreams of some can never be fulfilled, where hate and animosity are easily ignited and stoked?
Disturbing questions that nevertheless demand urgent and honest answers.