It has been a depressing few days for the nation as a whole. We have been as sickened by the sounds of gunshots and explosives as by the incessant voices on the various channels especially those of politicians. It was something you wanted to run away from and yet could not. It seemed that sitting before the television and hoping for the drama to end soon was all you could do to express solidarity to the people who were trapped inside, engulfed in horror and for the brave men who were going about their job unaffected by the cameras and mayhem surrounding the scene of action. Over the 60 hour period, emotions changed from shock to horror to gratitude to relief but catharsis came finally through tears. Copious tears shed for the loss of some of our best officers and the young commando from one's own city, for all those who came to visit this country and never went back and for the staff who took care of their guests till their very last; and for baby Moshe who doesn't know the immensity of his loss and all children for whom living with terror might become a way of life. Heart-breaking stories and tales of real heroism.

It is all finally over but somehow you know your world has changed forever. When you wave goodbye to someone and say 'take care' it is no longer perfunctory, you mean it. When people are unduly delayed or when some one is traveling, you do tend to check the television news often and there is a feeling of unease until they are safely home. Nothing is certain anymore except NOW.

And then there is anger, a lot of anger:

- at the evil gunmen and their masters. Their death came too soon, you want them rot away slowly pleading for mercy. Did the lone survivor say he has no regrets? Oh, we will see about that and by the time we are through with the investigations you will have plenty of that don't worry!

- at those who had intelligence of the plot and chose to ignore it. Why? How could they take something like this lightly? Every false alarm is worth investigation. You can never be too sure considering what the city has suffered recently.

- at the men who groveled for our votes but now choose to sit in their comfortable chairs and say that in a big city such things are bound to happen. Really? So remind us again why do we have a government and why do we pay our taxes?
I'd be happy to see their heads roll and that is not in figurative terms.

- at the politicians who try to get some bandwidth out of a brave young man's death and making a mockery of his funeral disrespecting the sentiments of his grieving family.
No wonder his father could not handle it anymore when the Kerala CM and home minister came visiting. He simply ordered them out of his house.

- at our neighbor - who still refuses to see that it is in its own interest to act on evidence presented and not hide behind rhetoric. How many such incidents do they need to see that terror is no longer a local phenomenon and collective action is needed to confront and quell it or it may be their turn next. How long will they turn a blind eye to it?

- at the media - well not exactly anger but irritation at the way you all went overboard with your reporting. yes,we heard that you were risking your lives to bring us footage of the scene of action. But I am not sure if we needed all the information you gave us. Frankly, what was the need for a minute by minute report - it wasn't a match happening there. So many media persons around might actually have been a distraction and added stress on the administration. Even otherwise, you could just shown us the pictures and let the camera speak. We could have done with less of your incessant chatter. Arnab, Barka and Rajdeep, your lung power is simply amazing. But next time, follow the simple rule: If there is nothing new to report, that is your cue to shut up. And you don't shove microphones before worried and grieving people to give you a sense of what is going through their minds. Not done. ( edited to add: Gnani Sankaran, Tamil writer raises some very important points on the lopsided media coverage of the attack here.)

So did we hear the politicians say that the nation stood united in those moments of terror? That moment is apparently over as they have gone back to their old bickering and pettiness. Calculations must be on to see how this disaster can be converted to votes or seats. Looks like life is back to normal.

Only normal is not so normal anymore for the man on the street.
27 Responses
  1. Blogeswari Says:

    //It is all finally over there but somehow you know your world has changed forever//

    - So true, Usha! Sitting in a theatre in the distant suburbs, I couldn't think of anything else but "what would I do NOW if terrorists storm into the theatre now? which seat would I hide under?"

  2. The sense of disgust one develops when any of these politicians appear on TV is immense. Everytime they have had a calamity in Mumbai, natural or manmade ( though sometimes one can replace the other ), to all politicians , its about handing out money. Vilasrao Deshmukh, declares a 1 crore gift for Abhinav Bindra, but the government disallows import of ammunition for the state shooters , pre olympics, and Karkare goes to his death, ill protected by gear , the purchase of which, is bound to have filled someone's pockets. Nothing here is normal. the definition of normal has changed, and I suppose today, we are abnormal. Our rulers continue to do what they normally did before........

  3. usha..i feel your pain deeply. this type of violence is uncalled for and solves nothing, and we should be more vigilant of the warning signs....crimes perpertrated under the auspices of religion, leave a rancid tastes, these people cannot believe in anything, as life and the respect of life has to come before all else, if you have issues there are other forums, in which these can be addressed, nothing justifies this horror.....

  4. hillgrandmom Says:

    OH Usha the sense of horror is indescribable. I too was watching on TV and wishing the nightmare would end.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    usha, you have said everything that has been going through my mind for the last few days.

    This has been one of the most disturbing times and I feel concerned about the future of the country, the future of the world ..

    such irresponsibility from the politicians..they are responsible for the mayhem which takes the lives of brave young men like sandeep and then they give their sound bytes about such things happen..i do hope the demand for accountability from them doesn't die down..completely agree with you that collective action is needed..i am also from there something that you think we can do towards this?

    as for the TV media, they are absolutely irresponsible, feeding all those sound bytes to the world..i wonder if we can all raise a petition and forward it to barkha, arnab, rajdeep, etc, about their absolute lack of concern and responsibility, i just couldn't handle those 'what is/was going through your mind' questions from barkha and arnab et al with their verbal diarrhoea about being responsible and at the same time focussing on the commandos, perhaps endangering them. i felt exactly like you..that keeping abreast of what was happening was in some way not running away from it, expressing solidarity, but felt so disturbed at the same time..


  6. Praveen Says:

    And did I tell you about how the Times Now correspondent in the city entered the crematorium as if it was a film launch party!!!

  7. Hip Grandma Says:

    Mumbai was so very secular and neutral and these terrorists could not let it remain so. Lives lot do not seem to count to those in power. Disgusting is the word.

  8. Smitha Says:

    Wonderful post, Usha! You have hit upon all the relevant points. Our politicians have gone out of their way to show that they care 2 hoots about the people who have elected them. They are yet to come up with a comprehensive list of action items that will ensure that this will not happen again. As for the media, you have rightly pointed out their unneccessary rehtoric and utter dis-regard for the feelings of some the sufferers.. Would it not have been more humane, more dignified to just let them alone. Though the media has been going on and on about politicians using this as an opportunity - I can't help but feel that our media has been doing pretty much the same..

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I think we have gone beyond the point where we don't have any more questions. we need answers. We need these elements to be killed, destroyed, eradicated, plucked out from the root completely. I hated media at this time, same news over and over again, was disgusting.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Terror's class divide was breached this time in south Mumbai. you only had to watch the telly cameras stationed before the 'iconic' structures ignoring the VT deaths and the women delivering under the shadow of guns at CAMA hospital to get its drift.A shame among other shames.

  11. hijabiamma Says:

    What a horrible series of events, and i know that my condolences cannot be enough. It is disgraceful the way the mayor's funeral was treated, and that the minister had the media with him when he went to give his condolences to the father, after not one was there for the funeral! How could the Times even think of intruding upon a moment like that! The poor father!

    I hope you find solace, and that the country reacts to this tragedy in a better way than we did. I feel for your political situation. It seems all politicians are the same.

  12. ~*sim*~ Says:

    edit of what i've already put up on facebook/my blog ( ):

    I wanted to point you and your readers, Usha, to one specific instance in which the print media (in my opinion) completely botched up its responsibilities and its credibility -- the Hindustan Times' Delhi edition of Friday, November 28, 2008, which carried a front-page ad from the BJP which solicited votes based on the idea that the present "weak" government is "unwilling" to stop, and "incapable" of stopping, "brutal terror".

    (I don't know if it's significant that the Bombay edition the same day did not carry the ad in question.)

    This sort of content is mistimed, misplaced, and totally unnecessary.

    I have sent a note along to several of my friends, on Facebook and via email, and have heard back that several people have chosen to write to the HT in protest (as have I).

    No matter what your personal politics are, I hope will you recognize that my aim here is simply to raise awareness -- to highlight how the world of politics has already begun leeching off the events of this past week, and how, too, certain sections of the Indian media seem to be more about money/TRPs/ad sales than the objective, sensitive, non-partisan dissemination of information. Yes, emotions and stakes are high during elections, but higher when national security and citizens' lives and liberties are at risk. Now is hardly the time or the occasion for rabble- (and vote-) rousing -- especially by a party which has been unable (or unwilling?), during its various stints in power, to circumvent several acts of "brutal terror".

    I have already written to the Hindustan Times to put on record my disgust that they would choose to run this ad at all (the political clout of the ad's sponsor notwithstanding). If you would like to contact them, too, you can do so at:


    **UPDATE**: The feedback@... email address seems to be bouncing messages. You can email, instead -- and be aware that this is the "Letters to the Editor" column, and your content may (if they believe in representing all angles of feedback to their publication) appear in print.

    HT Media Limited
    Hindustan Times House
    18-20, K.G. Marg
    New Delhi - 110 001, India

    Phone : +91-11-6656-1234
    Fax : +91-11-2370-4600

    If you have a few minutes to spare, join the movement, small though it be. Make a difference in (y)our world.

  13. "Politics", as Sir Ernest Benn said, "is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy".

  14. dipali Says:

    'Normal' feels like a distant dream, Usha. This particular attack seems so randomly malicious, evil beyond belief.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    9/11 was not covered on TV channels and I heard (correct me if I am wrong) that media took a conscious decision not to cover the details. Such a humane gesture.

    It was sick to see Pranoy complimenting his team on how they spent sleepless hours to cover this for us - disgusting.

    Gnani has wonderfully summarized all our anguish and anger and I hope media reads and responds to it. They keep asking for apology from all, when are they going to apologize for mishandling events. Last night CNN covered the human angle - a 13 year old boy who lost 6 members of his family at CST and is still not aware that he is orphaned. Sorry if if I have gone all over the place..... with this comment..

  16. hijabiamma Says:

    @ anonymous
    9/11 was covered on T.V. channels, live. They played the footage of the planes crashing into the towers for days, and talked to experts concerning the accident. Interviewed families regarding their loss, etc. etc. It was just as bad. There were loads of propaganda commercials paid for by the government designed to get people madder and more upset than they were. It was at that point I stopped watching the main stream news and went to worldpress, NPR, and associated press.

  17. WhatsInAName Says:

    Normal? Usha, I have been waking up at night in fear of another attack. I feel scared to send my kids to school. I cant trust politicians. I cant trust Media. This is just not fair!
    What have we done to deserve this?

  18. Mahadevan Says:

    Eloquent, Usha, eloquent - not the Politician's platitude type, but almost the Marc Antony variety..... It arouses the onlookers. Brilliant.

    I am afraid, the politicians,humbled as they are now, would find new ways to divide people. They thrive on discontentment and dishormany.
    If you can, please read
    M.J.Akbar in today's Rediff. Akbar is certainly a true champion of Secularism.

  19. Usha Says:

    Blogeswari: Absolutely. These kind of situations seem so real in our lives now that we need to prepare ourselves and know what is the nest thing to do under such circumstances - it seems that we all need some sort of a drill to train us.

    Ugich:What a sorry state of affairs. they say we are always one step behind them; it seems that we are many steps behind them. And that is what is scary!

    Rouhana: What can you discuss with people who are deluded that they are doing this for martyrdom. They want to kill and they want to die - they have been utterly brainwashed.

    Sue: Terrible isn't it? and it seemed to go on and on and on.And it isn't all over yet.

    Usha2: There must be something more concrete than protest marches. I received an email today about a group called dhvanisamuha. It seems that they are palnning to come up with some concrete action plan. Watch this space :
    and join the group. may be we will be able to put our heads together and think up something.

    Praveen: Everytime I think I have seen the worst they come up with a new record.

    Hipgrandmom: Terrible.

    Smitha:These media persons do this every time - why doesn't anyone tell them how disgusting they are?

    Dinesh:Do we have the ability, the will and the determination to do all that?

    Maami:As someone was saying, when it happens to the common man he is expected to be resilient and report to duty the next day. When it happens to the masters it is 'enough is enough". Wonderful, isn't it?

    Mystic_life:The hurt is still fresh and the wounds are raw. All we see is the anger of the moment and knee jerk responses. I truly hope this is the last of such events anywhere in the world.

    Sim: I am appalled! i hadn't imagined that even political parties will sink so low. And don't these newspapers have any ethics at all? Will join hands in condemning this.

    The RF:And to think we entrust them to make policies good for us and our security is a scary thought!

    Dipali:Weren't we always told that good triumphs over evil - will we ever see it in our time?

    Anon: Let them not apologise - at least let them pledge to mend their ways and be a little more responsible and sensitive in future.

    Havah:Our channels ape those of yours in every way.

    WIAN: I totally understand your terror. We do not deserve this at all.

  20. Usha Says:

    Mahadevan: Thank you for the link. Will check it out.

  21. Tell me about the media, Usha! I live in US and CNN was covering it day in and out. I really don't understand what is the necessity. I totally agree with "your cue to shut up". If you don't have anything to say why simply beat around the bush and keep telecasting the same thing 1000 times over. CNN always does this, they simply bank on other people's misery. The same happened during the Viriginia Tech shooting. Ranting by all the analysts, shrinks, legal buffs etc. I personally feel that media people (indirectly) like if something this bad happens. Now that everything is over in Mumbai, I don't see any follow up here. Some local robbery/homicide gets the attention and they are back detailing what Obama is doing at this moment. For them (or any media for that matter) the Mumbai attack is just like any other story and they have capitalized it to the maximum extent possible and they move on to the next issue. But it's people like us and the real victims,(like Mr. Gnani has mentioned aam admis, injured, survived, relatives of both) who are dumbfound and cannot come to terms with reality and their lives changed forever.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    “at our neighbor - who still refuses to see that it is in its own interest to act on evidence presented and not hide behind rhetoric. How many such incidents do they need to see that terror is no longer a local phenomenon and collective action is needed to confront and quell it or it may be their turn next. How long will they turn a blind eye to it? “ Some people choose to live in denial until it happens to them first hand. Only God can help them.

    “at the politicians who try to get some bandwidth out of a brave young man's death and making a mockery of his funeral disrespecting the sentiments of his grieving family.
    No wonder his father could not handle it anymore when the Kerala CM and home minister came visiting. He simply ordered them out of his house.”
    The utter arrogance and callousness our politicians is so sickening. I am not articulate enough to express completely the disgust and loathing I have for our politicians.

  23. Preethi Says:

    I like the way you end it.. yes normal is not so normal anymore.. made a few posts on this this past week.. I am so appalled.. we cant live in constant fear can we? but with a government so disgusting? An infrastructure that is almost non-existent! Intelligence so lax.. how can life go on? On whom do you place your trust?! Having said that I am really thinking hard.. how can we change this? How can we sweep our political system clean.. for that is the root of all evil in our country!!

  24. Preeti wrote:
    >>> How can we sweep our political system clean.. for that is the root of all evil in our country!!

    No, I disagree. The politicians, the intelligence, and the police, may be guilty of omission, but not commission.

    Behind this evil are the Jihadis, the Mullahs, and the Ayatollahs. And, they are inspired by the root of it all - Islam. Please read the Koran!

  25. Doli Says:

    So true Usha. Life has changed a lot since the Mumbai terrorist attacks. I had chance upon your blog through someone else's blog and ended up reading all your posts right from day 1 and have come till present today. Your writings are thought provoking and really inspiring.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Usha,

    Unless our entire current culture (that is the way of life) changes, there'sn't going to be much hope.

    It is alright to blame Pakistan and everyone around us... but what have we all -- each of us -- done to be good, responsible and sensitive citizens.

    Terrorists are just exploiting our indiscipline and disorderliness as as a society.

    -- PRADEEP