Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The newly awakened

Would the Mumbai attacks have caused such a furor among the public if they had been directed at the usual targets? There is no doubt that these attacks are completely different from those in the past, both in their nature and their intent. But they are not so different when it comes to the body count. The serial blasts in Mumbai claimed more lives. And as for the symbolic value of the targets, they are definitely not more important than the parliament. So why is it that this time we are so angry about it? Is it because this is the first time that the victims are not just the common people on the streets or trains? Is it because this time the victims are the people who "count" in our society, the ones who actually have a voice? People died at CST just like they died in Taj but I do not hear about their miserable fate on TV. Our society has traditionally shown a strange kind of apathy whenever the nameless and faceless people have been affected by violence of any kind. Take the last serial blasts in Mumbai. The media sang about the spirit of Mumbai for a day or two, the authorities offered condolences and things went back to just the way they were. The people who survived the blast just took the same train to wherever they had to go the next day. There were no protests, no vigils and no calls to change the system. This time things are different. TV screens have been taken over by celebrities who have suddenly woken up to the threat of terrorism. Chat shows are filled with current and has been Bollywood stars talking about how unsafe the country has become. Media is filled with accounts of how angry the people are. I do not understand who are the people they are talking about. The "aam aadmi" has been frustrated and frightened for years now. Who are the newly awakened people? Are they they people who are not affected by bombs in trains or richshaws because they do not travel in them. Have they suddenly started to realize that they too are vulnerable? If the answers is yes, it is both pathetic and encouraging. Pathetic because there is this vast segment of society which just does not matter, people whose lives and deaths do not evoke any reactions from any one who has the power or the position to better their lot. Encouraging because maybe finally, the two classes are identifying with each other. All that remains now is to unite the political class with them. Or will they have to become victims themselves too before that happens?

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