Sunday, October 30, 2005

Delhi blasts

They're estimating that more than 50 people have died after three bomb blasts rocked markets in Delhi. For a good synopsis, see the BBC story or the CNN story.

Paharganj -- near one of Delhi's railway stations, and a great place for foreign backpackers to score drugs (or so I hear) -- was hit, in addition to Sarojini Nagar. Sarojini is a sprawling market I've always loved for its delightful export seconds, and also attracts a goodly number of tourists.

Lots of people were out shopping in preparation for Eid and Diwali, which...of course, the destinations were targeted in a calculated decision.

No one I know was hurt, but a few of my friends were ostensibly covering the carnage. It's still incredibly difficult to make sense of; actually, I suppose there's no reason even to try and make sense of what is being called a terrorist attack. In the words of a photographer who spent the night shooting, "I don't want to talk about it. It's so stupid. No one is taking responsibility for it, and in a few days no one will even care anymore. They'll just forget that it happened. Except, of course, for those whose friends or relatives were killed."

It's a disspiriting thought, but really, I have to agree with him. The media will cover it for a few days, then it will fade into the annals of history. Another bomb will explode, or another train will derail, or the earth will shake again, and we'll move on to the next big thing. It is particularly difficult in this case to be a journalist covering the event. On one hand, you're being incredibly insensitive, barging into a tragedy, asking people to share their lives when they already have death and depravity and longing to deal with. On the other hand, you're just doing your job, a job which, in some way, if you forget about all the corporate bullshit and whatnot, is about telling the stories of those who would otherwise be consigned to the margins. How, how do you weigh the two impulses? Are you a god or a monster?

But beside these considerations, I am personally divided. I am, of course, an American citizen. I remember 9/11 as if it were yesterday, but it was all in the abstract. I knew that the planes were an outright attack on the idea of America; still, I didn't know what I thought of America, if I thought of America, and I really had no concept of New York, having never visited the place.

For me, these blasts are much more personal. I cannot, of course, compare the two events in terms of magnitude -- it would be cruel. But I've been to Paharganj, I've been to Sarojini. When my friend describes where the bomb exploded, I can visualize the juice stand that he is talking about, by the two shoe stores that are always crowded by women shoving each other to get the latest in hooker footwear, all stacked heels and see-through straps. For me there is more at stake in Delhi, there is more...more there for me than in New York. And thus I am saddened, worried, about what this all means.

If it means anything at all.

1 comment:

Shivam Vij said...

What perturbs me about your post is that the terrorist can turn around and say: This was eactly what we wanted to say. That it hurts only when it hits home. Where were you when we were being tortured by the Indian army all these years in Kashmir?

I don't buy that of course, but it is still an argument that you must pre-empt.