‘Nice tie!’, the husband greeted our colleague walking in to work today. It was a red, blue and white tie with a beautiful Bald Eagle on it.
‘Oh, that’s for September 11, at my previous company we lost six of us that day’, our colleague, a former US marine, somberly explained.
Snatches of coffee table conversations I overhear all day tell pretty much the same story – WTC, loved ones, loss, hijackings, war, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bush, Mcain – each hushed word a tragic tale in itself. And last year, there was the ‘Good Morning’ announcement, a stark reminder to all – ‘Never forget’.
Not that the Americans I see around me need reminding, I tell myself. How difficult is it to remember the one attack occuring in your homeland in so many years? As for me, an Indian and a Mumbaikar, what all do I remember? I remember 6th December and 13th March and 7th July but what about the blast that ripped through a local train at Mulund station? And the one in the BEST bus at Ghatkopar? And Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Malegaon and Akshardham? What all CAN I remember? But does that mean I should forget?
Horrific though the 9/11 tragedy was, guilty though the American government may be of excesses in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, longdrawn and misguided though the war against terror might seem, there’s one thing I admire about the country I live in right now – there has been NO attack here, big or small, after 9/11, has there? I admire that spirit and commitment, the value it places on human life.
Some might ask if it’s only American lives that are worth protecting? But at least their government cares for and protects its own people! What about ours? How long will our Prime Minister offer empty condolences after yet another attack? For how long will our police point fingers at the all-too familiar foreign hands and shadowy Islamic groups? What steps are they taking to prevent it from happening again? And why don’t they say or do something that will truly reassure us?
Someone else might ask, how can I, an ordinary and selfish individual living and working in a foreign land to better my prospects, point fingers at my government? Do I devote my time to public service, do I have a loved one in the army, do I even pay my taxes in my country right now?
True, I don’t. But isn’t that why we have a government in the first place? To do what ordinary citizens cannot. Or we would have situations like the one shown in ‘A Wednesday‘ coming up every other day. (A must-watch Naseer movie, by the way.)
I know it is a a tough task for a populous developing country like India to follow America’s example in the fight against terrorism. We have so many other pressing problems that plague us. Farmers commiting suicide, violence perpetrated in the name of caste and religion, children dying of malnutrition…
I don’t see what can we do. So for now we live on in hope. And sometimes in fear. Do you see something I don’t?