Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oh, don't look!

What is it about human nature that even as we build layers around ourselves to keep out the wretchedness of the world, we continue to be fascinated by the morbid? Remote control in hand, we switch channels to get the "best coverage" of recently exploded bombs, even as we shake our heads in disbelief at the depths of human depravity. I cannot explain why, but the images of the two airplanes hitting the twin towers of the WTC stubbornly persist in being able to send goosebumps down my spine. Yet, i am re-drawn to those images, even as my heart plummets, everytime i see those moments captured by amateurs, just as those buildings did on an unforgettable day seven years ago.

When i logged into this space this morning i was wondering about what it was that i wanted to get out of my system today. And promptly got distracted. While i continued to be wrapped up in pending work, with a reluctantly consumed cafe dosa for company (which, by the way, was utterly foul), and with moments of introspection interspersed with general gossip and thoughts on what not to do this Saturday evening (which would insolently have me presume that i have lots to choose from!), news just in tells me that there has been another blast in Delhi, this time at Mehrauli. I can hear colleagues arguing over how many have died... "do? ...nahin yaar, paanch.... nahin doosra channel laga ispe toh kuchch nahin dikha rahe hain!" reminiscent of a snippet i overheard two long Saturdays ago. "Site pe chalein? .... nahin yaar kya fayda wohi sab kuchch...abhi toh bheed hogi, police wagerah.. nahin toh hospital bhi jaa sakte hain.."

They say some people, in the course of their specific nature of the job, get immune to blood and gore. Or that violence inures, as it comes with its own antidote: apathy born of repetition. But i still believe that no amount of familiarity with death can prepare you for the fragility of human life. Or the cruelty of the senselessness with which it is sometimes taken away.

In the last few minutes, i watched, again, the by-now familiar images on TV and listened to excitedly screaming reporters and play-acting news anchors who were breathless beyond belief in their affected attempts to give us a callous run-through of the carnage. Sorry, but that is the only way to describe the insensitive reportage which lacks all occasion-propriety.

(Note: what makes Indian television reporters think that it is only by standing in the middle of a straining crowd, and shouting at the top of their lungs, that they will catch the requisite frequency to transmit their banal banshee-like analysis via distant satellites to presumably deaf viewers with strong heart muscles?)

And there they were again, stunned thoughts from a fortnight ago, which were crowding in on me once more, asking me questions for which i still have no answers. How do you explain an act for which even the supposed motivation defies all logic? How are you supposed to just pick up your car keys and drive down to the nearest market (as opposed to a sterile mall) for a kathi roll? How are you supposed to limit your on-the-spur-of-the-moment weekend excursions to a 'not so crowded' area? Most importantly, how do i reconcile my need for freedom with my fear of being caught all alone if one of those things has my address on it? Having heard the sound once, how am i then supposed to command my heart to be still everytime a bus's silencer whoops past my car, or when a truck loudly hits a pothole on a very silent night outside my window?

So as i go through the motions, calling and checking up on those near and far, while assuring them that i am safely ensconced in office, here's yet another Saturday making me terribly weepy and sad, as i mourn the loss of my right to just be. Here. Now. In the city i love beyond its myriad idiosyncrasies and often only because of them.

Oh, my Delhi! Where will i go when you, my true home, can no longer wrap your safe arms around me?

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