The reason? I felt safe in Mumbai, the city that has been home to me for the last seven years and in which I found education, acceptance, friends, employment and so much more.
That night, however, I felt waves of uncertainty rock my notion of safety, as the TV screen flashed with updates of the terrorists' atrocities against Mumbai and her people. I watched with disbelief as images of CST, the Taj and the Oberoi appeared above messages of explosions, gunfire and lives lost... I felt anger, fear and helplessness tear at my thoughts even as my heart wept for the injured, the dead and the bereaved.
At present, the terrorists have been neutralised, hundreds injured, many lives extinguished and substantial economic damage reported... lots of emails and text messages are doing the rounds exhorting us to join candle marches, hop onto email chains and send petitions etc. Honestly, I haven't been able to bring myself to join any of those...
I'm not going to be content or feel even a bit better by lighting a candle in front of a poster on which is scrawled "We miss you, Hemant Karkare". This has happened all too often in the past. Candle lightings, marches etc. have marked the aftermath of some catastrophe... but the memory and implications of that incident have been forgotten, quite like the melted wax that dots the floor tiles on which the candles flickered for a short while. I do NOT intend to forget this incident and its meaning.
If we must light a flame, let us light it within ourselves. Not the fire of anger, which only clouds our minds, but the light of awareness, justice and vigilance. Let us remember the sacrifices made to rescue the survivors and be aware of the grief that shrouds the lives of those that survive the deceased. Let this awareness make us lift our voices in a demand for justice and open our eyes to be more vigilant. It could just be taking note of the security system in your apartment block, or the school your child goes to. How safe are those? It could be learning about the security mechanism of your city/state and making sure everyone in your household, right from your children to your domestic help know about the same. If you really get down to it, there will be a LOT to think about and get done along these lines.
It's time to examine the laws around us and not turn our eyes away in the classic "chalta hai" style that marks people all over this country. It's time to wake up and stay up! I think this is what the slain Karkare's wife wanted us to think when she refused the 'compensation' offered to her. The only compensation for such loss is for us, the nation, to awaken and help the system work... help it make sure that innocents do not suffer for the follies of a few. Even ONE life lost to these misguided terrorists is a price too steep.
I love this city, and I love my country dearly... much to dearly to ever forget this act of outrage against it. Don't forget it either. Crumbling under the weight of gloom is what many of us could go through, but the answer is to take strength from this experience. We need to turn our grief, indignation, outrage and dismay into a wave of action that will make our nation safer... starting with ourselves and our immediate environment.
We need to wake up...