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Home > News > Columnists > Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

11/7: We MUST remember

July 12, 2007

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It was a rainy, dark evening.
Quite like another one not so long ago.
On a ride home from Mahim, past Matunga, Dadar and Parel, the scenes were ordinary. Very everyday.
Knots of tired people waiting for buses under their dripping umbrellas. Throngs of office-goers hurrying across thoroughfares to get home. Traffic inching relentlessly ahead in the drizzle. Stereos pumped music from cruising cars and laughter, curls of smoke and happiness rang out from others. The shops we passed were bright and humming with late evening sales. Strings of lights lit up a building for a wedding or some sort of celebration.
Suddenly the so very ordinary look to the day was depressing. Sadness welled up.
The city famous for its 'return to normalcy' was taking this business of normalcy too far. It hardly cared to pause or stop to remember tragedies that crumpled its spine. No, it was business as usual. There was no time to look back. 
It was as if 187 people had never died in seven bomb explosions in seven trains exactly one year ago. Mumbai did not wish to remember. Life had to go on.
That's incredibly admirable from one standpoint.
And grossly intolerable from another.
Many of my journalist colleagues had knocked on the doors of families of victims to talk to them, see how they were faring and get their stories. Doors were quietly and firmly shut on them. They were told that the family did not want to speak. Did not want reopen last year's wounds. Or remember the past. Completely understandable for these families who have had agonising times.
But journalists and politicians are always accused of taking advantage of tragedy either for sales or votes. Of reminding people of 9/11, 11/7 and the '93 blasts. Of marking anniversaries and raking up old calamities.
I don't agree.
True, journalists are seldom the victims. Nor do they suffer the agony of the injured.
But they are the bystanders. The people who stood at the bedsides of victims frozen into coma for the past year. Or waited at morgues, hospitals and sites of blasts, right there on the frontlines, watching a parade of death and scenes that sear your soul. Or know the touching, soul-wrenching stories of the helpless few for whom that famous normalcy will never return.
If you have stood for hours covering a tragedy, mutely witnessed blood, tears, fatalities and the death of humanity, you wonder in sad bewilderment how can anniversaries, or another 11/7, go by without all of us not wanting to remember what Mumbai has been through! 
We must remember, lest we forget goes that oft repeated line. It is perfectly true.
July 11, 2007 did not deserve to be an ordinary day.

It is a day of anger. A day to respectfully honour hundreds of citizens -- who could have been you or me � killed in the space of minutes. Of lives lost. Of homes shattered.

How can we not remember them?
One feels loads of anger too. Anger that cannot be directed anywhere but instead ricochets around the place like steam in a tight pressure cooker.

Anger at the helpless state of our times where just mere weeks separates blasts in Glasgow from bombs in Ankara. Who will be next?
Anger that fools believe that God wills them to kill in his name. If there indeed was a God would he have allowed honest, kind people to be ripped to bhurji. Or innocent young children to lose the gentle souls who were their fathers? Or pay back hard-working, good people with death and destruction?
Anger that we do not care to remember the scores of people who died like flies. Are we too busy making money, catching buses, vulgarly struggling to survive? Has that deprived us of some essential humanity? Or are there too many of us and if a few fall off the bus it just means more space for the rest?
I do not want to forget what happened 12 months ago. Nor be philosophical about karma or be resigned to fate. Nor do I feel this is a day to childishly, crudely rant and rave against other religions and faiths.

Human life, or any life for that matter, cannot be in vain. Life must be respected. We are not inhuman. I want to remember what we have been through and quietly shed a tear for those lives needlessly, heedlessly lost.
I believe Mumbai too must stop and pause in silence for the 187 people lost to this city on July 11. And again on August 26 and March 12.

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