Video: What just happened in Egypt
It is 2300 hours on February 10, 2011, and Mubarak has just finished unarguably his most infamous speech in nearly three decades as the Egyptian head of state. Khairat, a blossoming opera singer, is stunned, to say the least. As are the several hundred thousand gallant revolutionaries who have been camping in Cairo's Tahrir Square for 17 days and nights since they began one of modern history's most outstanding people's uprising on January 25.
For the first time in these 17 days and nights, there was hushed silence as powerful amplifiers around the Tahrir Square began to broadcast the audio of the president's much-awaited speech.
But soon as the people realised that Mubarak had zero intentions to show them his back, their anger ratcheted. Thousands pulled off their shoes and began to show them to the loudspeakers, the deepest insult in the Arab culture. You see, until just an hour back, everyone across Egypt had thought denouement was at hand.
After borrowing every trick from the Universal Dictators' Manual to subdue the irrepressible people of Egypt in the last nearly three weeks, Mubarak had led all to believe he would quit as President before the clock would turn to February 11. (As is all over the news, the CIA's director Leon Panetta went right ahead and made that thought public well before Mubarak defied all advice and logic and spoke hostilely to the Egyptian people, refusing to step down.)
I befriended Amina two days ago after interviewing her at Tahrir Square; she met me for soda and long political discussions the next evening; tonight, before Mubarak dropped the bombshell, she and I had been hopping around Tahrir Square for nearly two hours; she as a citizen-journalist for UNI TV, the premier Indian TV news agency which has sent me to Cairo, and me carrying her lady's bag.
The defiant Egyptian people's mood was tonight ultra festive and extra buoyant. Their excitement had already infected me virtually from the day I landed here a week ago, on February 4. Tonight, it was making me downright delirious. Amina, Raju, the cameraman, and I literally danced around the Tahrir Square; interviewing people, bear hugging friends made in the last few days.
Presently, I jostled my way to a spot under a bright light where a remarkably cheerful woman in her twenties was dipping her brush in the palette to paint the Egyptian flag's colours all over people's faces. Grinning my widest grin, I offered my cheek: "I am Indian, and how I wish this Revolution would occur in India." Splashing my cheeks with the red-white-black, Egypt's flag of Arab Liberation, of 1952 vintage when another, bloodless coup had destroyed Egypt's monarchy, she laughed: "I am Italian, and how I wish we would revolt, too, in Italy."
For the rest of the world, what's happening in Egypt is a noun: Revolution: an exciting drama on the grandest possible scale, a sort of live theatre. For the people of Egypt, what they're doing today is millennial. It is a verb: Revolute. It streaks through every bone, vein and muscle in their body. They're doing it, they're living it: they're it. Pity the fool who thinks that the Revolution is at Tahrir Square, a large yet nondescript roundabout surrounded by hotels, government buildings (one black with soot after protestors burned it down), the world-famous Egyptian museum that has the mummies, and shops, including the Kentucky Fried Chicken, outside which now runs a small field hospital, abuzz with young doctors in white coats tending to patients and their ailments.
No. Tahrir Square is only the assembling point. People all over Egypt are "Revoluting". And people from all over Egypt are living here at Tahrir Square. And people from all Cairo and Egypt are visiting Tahrir Square throughout the day, every day, and through the night. Mohammad Al Balshy, a teacher of English in the province of Monafiya, Mubarak's native place, is camping on the roadside with compatriots from the city, dirty blankets under and on top of them. "We came here because we don't want anyone in the world to think that people in his hometown possibly support Mubarak," Al Balshy had told me two days ago, screaming in my ears to be heard over the general din around. "Mubarak loves no one. He did not even join the funeral when his mother died back home."
Many people in the world, especially the news networks such as BBC and CNN, might think that this Revolution is all about toppling Hosni Mubarak. Actually, they couldn't be more wrong. Imane, a 38-year-old feisty teacher of French, hails from the northern historic city of Alexandria and has lived in Cairo for a year-and-a-half. "We don't want Mubarak, we don't want any other dictator, we don't want army rule," she tells me, for the nth time, lest I forget the central message of the Egyptian people. "We want democracy, we want the right to have political parties, we want a new constitution, we want elections, we want free speech, we want equality, and we want everything that makes a society great."
As I write this, the news networks are reporting that the Egyptian Army has said it is ready to lift the state of Emergency that has been in place for the last thirty years in Egypt and whose brutal laws have destroyed tens of thousands of lives and their families among this great nation's 85 million people. As Mubarak's regime will fall, as indeed at will as no power on earth can stop a people from achieving success for a just and peaceful Revolution.
For the last week, Raju Yadav, the cameraman, and I have spent days and nights at Tahrir Square, capturing the unprecedented mood and spirit. This is the page where to see all those amazing people, living their cherished dream, willing to die for it.