The war has just begun. Make no mistake about it.

 As the last layers of smouldering ashes and half-burnt wooden panels are doused by the fire-fighters…and happy relieved faces walk back to the embrace of their near and dear ones or head for the quickest exit route from the country I can’t but feel helpless sitting before the television set and wondering what is wrong with us…us as Indians…us as a nation … unputdownable, unwilling to be pushed around and poked about….where did the founding fathers of this nation go wrong…when they etched the thoughts of unity in diversity…a million questions keep pounding my head and a million answers swim about a sea of hopelessness.

There have been attacks on us with sickening regularity…and we prefer to talk of the spirit of Mumbai and sleep under its safety hood…but for how long? For how long will a city continue to be crippled and stand up as if nothing happened…for how long do we want to hide its wounds before the one last time…after which there will be no next. 14th march 2003, 11th July 2006 and now 26th November 2008…”How many times must a man turn his face…pretending he just doesn’t see?” The answer is sadly blowing in the wind for the last several years and we care not about it.

This time I have learnt a few new names for terror. Before I could get a grip over my emotions and come to terms with the developments through the night…I learnt that foyers, lounges, ballrooms, porches, balconies, corridors, freight elevators and dark staircases had become new names for horror. For stuck in these places unsuspecting guests and visitors at the rich and famous hotels of Mumbai were living their worst nightmare. Face to face with staccato gunfires, blinding noise of hand-grenades, blinding lights of torches and nauseating fumes of gunpowder, explosives and human flesh they babeled in the veritable urban hell.

I felt for the first time my home has been invaded…the private places have been broken into and my bubble of safety molested by perverse acts of barbarity. Its not an act of terror…its an invasion…a city under siege…emotions of an entire nation held hostage and an entire generation of people left to live with the traumatic scars of a dark night when the ballrooms of festivity turned into a dance of death.

My heart goes out to those dead. If I could I would replace the mother of the little baby who lay close to his father’s heart. If I could I would obliterate the word ‘fidayeen’ from the urdu dictionary. If I could I would have done so much to undo just those 60 hours of mindless violence. But then I am…what I am. And that makes me like a crippled, crawling piece of insignificant nothing left to despair at the happenings of the day and feel a numbness make a hole in my heart. There is a gall of anger rolling up my guts and wanting to erupt…. “arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh”

I stand up and salute the ATS, Police and armed jawans who laid their lives for my sleep today. I pray for their families. I am that son every mother lost in the last three days as I cant help wondering at the faces of bravery unheard of before. They were not in the armed forces or were not compelled to get involved in such acts of bravado. But they did. And today bravery has a new addresses…a laundry boy at taj, a taxi driver at villa parley, a hotel manager at the heritage, a ballroom manager at oberoi, the NSG jawan who took the bullets, an English tourist who refuses to leave Mumbai and let terror win, the lawyer from Calcutta who promises to go back to Oberoi and check on those who helped him and many more.

It is perhaps because of these selfless, innocuous, unsuspecting faces of bravery that we survive. My salute to them. I have never felt that tears could be so salty till I realized I was when a channel flickered the image of an old hand folded for help.

But after all these…we will go on back to our normal lives. And the radio will hum out “Zara Hatke Zara Bachke Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan” … but please don’t forget that the war has just begun. God bless my people. God bless India.

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