Saturday, July 14, 2007
11 Jul 2007, 2005 hrs IST, http://www.timesofindia.com/
On a Shanghai -Los Angeles flight, it was not the threat of missiles but a 24-hour-45-minute boredom that threatened to kill. But thank god I was saved. On my left was seated Maria, a chirpy young girl who was returning home after spending a month with her Pakistani boy friend who runs a software business in China's best known industrial city. It was like a John Grisham novel unfolding 30,000 feet above the ground level. Maria met her boy friend at a seminar for young wizards in the IT sector in New York, found him "interesting", rebelled at home and got her grand ma's approval to visit him in Shanghai. And now, having spent a month there was returning a little worried. The first reason that made her anxious was the sweet little bunny she purchased from a village near Shanghai and couldn't resist taking to LA. The second reason for her anxiety related with humans and we shall talk about it later. So the well-being of her bunny -- kept in the cargo by ruthless airport staff, as they wouldn't allow her to keep him on her lap and to be subject to a month's quarantine before finally handing him over in LA -- took up our first three hours. She wanted to cry. Bunny seemed to have possessed her like a roaming spirit. And suddenly, while we were talking more about her bunny, the plane got deep into a real bad air pocket and shook as if a witch from Harry Potter's latest had collided with it head on. It was a real horror and almost took our lives. Passengers screamed. And for the first time I sensed a creeping fear of death emerging in me, nimble-footed but sure. And my poor neighbour. She turned white with fear, wept, folded her hands in prayer, bent on her knees, defied the air hostess' instructions and put her head on my lap and began confessing: "Supreme and adorable Majesty, God of heaven and earth, I firmly believe that you are present" What she said was hardly audible but she was offering her last prayers for sure. After a couple of minutes when the plane began to stabilise a little, she calmed down and thanked me profusely for "saving her life" at a very critical time. She felt death moved away after her true confession, and felt, perhaps embarrassed as happens with most of us after such traumatic situations when we are unable to control emotions and may be to overcome that feeling of embarrassment, she wanted to thank everyone for saving her. So after me, it was the steward, passengers who had gathered around her and then her grandma and parents in that order, though the latter ones in absentia. "So you like your grandma most?" I asked. "Yes, and Bunny next" she giggled and said, "Yes". "And your Pakistani friend?" "Yeah sure." Then she raised her voice, "did you listen to my confessions? You know it's a sin to recall them or to tell anyone." I tried to make her feel comfortable honestly: "I couldn't understand a word of what you had confessed." "But now I want to tell you something that would unburden me," she said. "Can't even tell my grandma this." Ok, I was willing to know what was bothering her, about which she wanted to speak at the first instance but gave only a vague hint. That was before the air pocket arrived. Having seen death so close, she became bolder, perhaps. "You know, Vijay, everything is fine with him. He is very nice, very decent." "Your friend?" I wanted to be sure. "Yeah, he," she replied. "So what bothers you?" "Nothing, but I saw a picture of Osama in his wallet and when I wanted to know the reason for this, he ignored and changed the subject never allowing me to know why on earth a nice gentleman like him was admiring of that rogue. So much that instead of keeping his parents' photo, he keeps one of that bearded, wretched person. Vijay, you come from India, can you tell me what attracted him to Osama? I love him, but I can't accept Osama as well in his pocket. That time I simply tried to calm her down with some Indian stories of saints and said that perhaps her love could change him. She was not convinced and now after the Bangalore incident I feel her mind was more focused. As a normal, common westerner she was a sensitive, caring and a transparent believer who loved anything that looked nice and decent. Like her bunny, like her boy friend. And she trusted them both. But she wouldn't let her emotions overpower her logic and hence a photo of Osama bothered her more than Osama's men killing 60,000 Indians in my country has bothered us. Rather we try to obfuscate the real issues, chant the mantra that all religions are equal, refuse to see the real source of hate and violence and skirt the demands of the times to analyse why even highly qualified persons, educated in the most secular environs of learning centres, turn traitors to their country and fellow citizens of other faiths just because they believe it's more important to "serve" the cause of their religion through bullets and bombs than anything else. I don't know what happened to the nascent love that began taking shape between Maria and her boy friend, because though she sent me photos of her bunny, safe and happy in her California home, she never spoke about other things including the young Pakistani. But the Bangalore experience has not only proved many of our more cautious friends right, who were blasted as hate mongers till now by even the closest of their fellow travellers, it has shaken the faith of a common Indian in his neighbour, who would have been quite vocal in denouncing America's devilish designs and hence in a way justified what the "boys" do in anger. This one is an oft-repeated "logic" heard universally from Karachi's food bazaar to Nabi Karim and Chandni Chowk's paanwallahs. No sir, the problem has to be sourced in the education that creates a mindset ready to bomb his very own - country or people -- for the sake of "faith". America or for that matter any other western country comes handy to be blamed for every evil, but why the "evil empire" creates a blood thirsty anger in one community alone and not in a hundred other people who can also claim to be equal victims of the US' "arrogance" and "colonialist attitude"? And what did the US have to do in our valley that made "brave Jihadis" (read it with red mosque surrenders) to kill little kids, old men and women? What drives them to rape and maim innocent defenceless fellow citizens in Jammu, Rajouri and Doda? Here are a few lines from a news channel's website that discussed an issue of vital importance for us -- Who were the two Bangloreans caught in the act of terror? Says the English TV channel, "An aeronautical engineer by profession, Kafeel Ahmed and his brother Sabeel Ahmed, a qualified doctor in UK -- both were born and educated in Bangalore. They possessed top-notch degrees, joined the best professions in UK, and were the most qualified in their respective fields.' Why were they where they were, as terrorists? It further said that, "Most Islamic countries are autocratic and despotic in nature and do not allow freedom of speech and expression. So, does that mean that a community must use terror as a method to express its disagreement?" "There have been Communists, Fascists etc who have conspired against the country they have lived in. Now since there is a whole way of Islamism propagated by terrorist masterminds like Osama bin Laden, some Muslim boys have also got caught up in that. These people are a minority and we must see why they got into such destructive acts," Lord Meghnad Desai said in response. Now Lord Meghnad is not a RSS buddy, nor an Indian citizen. Yet, his views are candid and without mincing words he has hinted where the problem lies. I must also quote from a recent report on the terrible changes occurring in Indonesia. It's from a lead article in the Far Eastern Economic Review by Sadanand Dhume, a Bernard Schwartz Fellow with Asia Society. Writing about Indonesia, which has a modest original Javanese Hindu population famous as Balinese Hindus, he says, "Barely 10 years ago it was a poster child for the East Asian miracle, lauded by the World Bank for having pulled tens of millions out of poverty, and increasingly mentioned in the same breath as Korea and Taiwan. Today, to the degree that Indonesia occupies the world's attention at all, it is as a cesspool of corruption, buffeted in turn by natural disasters, medical emergencies and terrorism.' He further adds, "it is radical Islam or Islamism-the ideology that seeks to run 21st century societies according to the seventh century Arabian precepts of Shariah law-that poses the biggest danger to Indonesia's future. Islamism already threatens Indonesia's founding principle of non-sectarianism and its proud tradition of pluralism, and hobbles the country's efforts to modernize its economy." Whether it's the Osama photo in Maria's boyfriend's pocket or his men killing Hindus in Kashmir and turning Malaysia and Indonesia into cesspools of inhuman barbarities on non-Muslim minorities, they all point to one source of hate and intolerance -- i.e. Arabian Islamism. It has endangered the existence of democratic, human and caring societies who love to give freedom to all shades of civil thoughts. These values of pluralism are under severe threat from violent Islamism shielded by an escapist attitude that denies Jihadi inhumanities in the name of a fake secularism, often described as negationism or Dhimmitude. Unless we prepare ourselves to face this truth squarely the solution too will continue to elude us making the globe more unliveable each passing day.
An Osama in his pocket
Comment:nice story pal .. I aint an Osama fan .. but u gotta to look at both sides of the coin and try to gain some knowledge about Islam as well before commenting on Islam.. and ya STOP LINKING ISLAM AND OSAMA ACTIVITIES .. IF YOU ARE EDUCATED THEN ACT LIKE ONE.. hope u r brainy enough to understand.
13 Jul, 2007 0815hrs IST
Comment:Very well-written. I agree with what you have written about pesudo-secularism. The sooner it is dealt with, the better.
13 Jul, 2007 0459hrs IST
Comment:Awesome Article...Love the way Tarun writes.
12 Jul, 2007 1955hrs IST
Comment:An eye-opener!Well written.
12 Jul, 2007 1237hrs IST
Posted by Tarun Vijay at 5:49 AM