I am a Mumbaikar: In Prayer and in Solidarity

Posted on November 28, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Disasters, Foreign Relations
240 Comments
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Adil Najam

I, too, am a Mumbaikar today.

I wish I could reach out and for just one moment hold the hands of the woman in this AP photograph. Maybe shed some tears on her shoulder. But I do not know what I would say to her. I do not think she would want me to say much. The expression on her face matches the feeling I have at the pit of my stomach and in the depth of my heart. I think – I hope – that she would understand how I feel. I can only imagine what she is going through.

And so, in prayer and in solidarity, I stand today with Mumbaikars everywhere. In shock at what has happened. In fear of what might happen yet. In anger at those who would be so calculated in their inhuman massacre. In sympathy with those whose pain so hurts my own heart but whose tears I cannot touch, whose wounds I cannot heal, and whose grief I cannot relieve.

The solidarity I feel with Mumbaikars is deep and personal.

The first time I ever visited the Taj Mahal Hotel was with my wife. We had been married just weeks and were not staying at the Taj but went to the historic “Sea Lounge” at the hotel for tea and snacks during a short visit to Mumbai. We went to the Oberoi Hotel the same visit in the naive and mistaken belief that we would find Bollywood bigwigs hanging out there. In later years I would come back and stay at the old wing of the Taj – down the corridor from where Ruttie Bai Jinnah and stayed – I would even present in the grand ballroom whose pillars, supposedly, had been brought from her father’s estate. Each time I passed through Victoria Terminus I stood in awe of the pace as well as its presence. In awe of the architectural structure, but also of the sea of humanity around me. I cannot hear of terrorists attacking these places without my own muscles twitching in anger.

But my feeling of solidarity with Mumbaikars is much much more personal than these few fleeting visits over many years. Deeply etched into me are the horrific echoes of 9/11 in New York and the string of terrorist attacks on Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar and all over Pakistan whose reports have become all too familiar – but never bearable – on this blog. I know what living with terror feels like. I have thought too much and too deeply about what it feels like to be the target of violence propelled by hatred. I know the pain of helplessness one feels as one stands stunned in grief, wanting so desperately to do something – anything – but not knowing what to do. This is why I identify with the expression on the face of the woman in this picture. This is why, like so many others in the world, today I too am a Mumbaikar.



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This is why I stand with Mumbaikars everywhere, in prayer and in solidarity. At a loss for words but with an urge to speak out. My words of condemnation will not change the actions of those who have committed such heinous murder and mayhem. Nor will my words of sympathy diminish the agony of the victims. But speak out I must. In condemnation as well as in sympathy. To speak against the inhumanity of hatred and violence. To speak for the humanity in all of us that we all must hold on to; especially in the testing moments of grave stress.

But, today, I have no words of analysis. What words can make sense of the patently senseless? I do not know who did this. Nor can I imagine any cause that would justify this. But this I know: No matter who did this, no matter why, the terror that has been wrought in Mumbai is vile and inhuman and unjustifiable. And, for the sake of our own humanness, we must speak out against it.

And, so, to any Mumbaikar who might be listening, I say: “I stand with you today. In prayer and in solidarity.”

240 responses to “I am a Mumbaikar: In Prayer and in Solidarity”

  1. Zecchetti says:

    @ Nasir,

    excellent video. When the heck are Pakistanis going to realise the US is the sworn enemy of Muslims..

  2. Shaheryar Azhar says:

    The Death of Common Sense and Intelligence

    By Shaheryar Azhar

    What happened in Mumbai was no abstraction for me. Having visited it thrice; basked as a guest in the old-world charm of Taj Palace Hotel and Towers; played a diligent tourist in this multicultural cauldron of ‘maximum city’; having partaken of its great shopping and some of its finest cuisines; having friends and relatives who are ‘Bombayites’ through and through, which means they can not dream of living anywhere else; and, not the least, being an ardent fan of Bollywood movies and film songs from my earliest memory as a child – seeing the horror unfold on November 26th was extremely personal in many ways.

    What Churchill said of English and Americans may be paraphrased about Pakistanis and Indians too – they are divided by a common race, cuisine, language, values, culture, emotional make-up but above all by a sense of humor, which is typical to the South Asians. Increasingly, the people of these two countries are realizing their shared heritage even if their leaders, lacking in both imagination and courage, are unable to convert this sentiment into an appropriate and more friendly foreign policy.

    As I became progressively sadder watching the perpetrators of carnage in Mumbai monopolizing the world attention for three days on TV, it occurred to me that the greatest casualty of President Bush’s version of the ‘War on Terror’ has been the death of common sense and intelligence itself. At the risk of appearing ‘soft’ on terror or ‘liberal’ in the face of an existential threat or ‘unpatriotic’ at the time of greatest national peril, we have all been forced to abandon common sense and normal intelligent questioning.

    A $300,000, 19-man operation on September 11, 2001 has already seen a response from America, which the Nobel-prize winning Economist Joe Stiglitz calls ‘a three-trillion dollar war’, not to speak of hundreds of thousands of causalities (ours and everyone else’s), millions of innocents displaced from their homes and a world that, after all this investment, has become much more unstable Geo-politically and economically. This doesn

  3. Monkey says:

    AMAR

    You are very right. We need to work together and all this nonsensical behaviour needs to be put under check! On both sides of the border. India is a strong country, and on it’s way to becoming stronger I hope, and can be of great help in the crackdown against terror.

  4. Monkey says:

    JYOTI

    I don’t see any sense of bringing in Musharraf in the middle of this. As much as I admired him as a leader, the man is not coming back into power, trust me and he has nothing to do with these attacks. He’s just enjoying his life playing golf and travelling and lecturing at universities. The man has no hold over the army/ISI/anybody. It’s just a conspiracy theory.

    As I read the situation, if anyone has anything to gain, it is the right-wing Hindu nationalists.

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