I’m not giving in

Sonali Kudva

This summer I returned to Mumbai. I had lunch in the Leopold Café, I shopped along the trendy Colaba Causeway and wandered to the harbor to have a look at the Taj Palace.

This was the scene of it all. I wanted to know if it looked different. I wanted to see if I felt different. These were the places where peace was shattered by gunfire one unsuspecting evening last year.

On Nov. 26, 2008, the usual hustle-bustle of South Mumbai’s posh localities was shattered by the sounds of gunfire. In the United States, along with my best friend and some family, I celebrated the American Thanksgiving holiday.

As I sat in the Leopold Café with my shopping bags around me, I felt the same as I usually did. But as I sipped my fresh lime soda, a macabre part of me wondered what it felt like that day.

The noise comforted me. The hum of Mumbai city life comforted me. It lulled me back to the present, where everything was OK. Tourists and locals sat around me sharing beers, breaking bread. Waiters brought food and receipts to the table. A couple of girls occupied a table close to mine.

Yet a niggling little voice in my head reminded me that all it would take was one guy with a gun. Shut up, I told the voice in my head. Go away. I will not live in fear.

That was the crux of it. Terrorism had invaded my peace of mind. It tried to make me fear it, and as a human being, I was afraid.

As the events of last year came back to me, I remembered that while we celebrated Thanksgiving here, one of my close friends could hear gunfire. This was different to me. Terrorism was a concept, but that day it became real, for it had brought fear to my mind.

As I watched everyday life go on in Mumbai, six months since the terror attacks, I reminded myself that terrorism reminds you of the fragility of life and, more importantly, the fragility of that sense of peace and security that everyday life gives us.

But should we give in to that? No. The city of Mumbai refused to give in to those who sought to upset this peace. I decided to follow its example. I was not going to give in to a fear that terrorists from across the sea had tried to bring to my peace of mind. They sought to instill in me a suspicion of my neighbors, a belief that anyone around me could turn on me. I was not giving in to that.

The city had mourned for those who lost their lives. Policemen, ordinary citizens going about their lives and returning home to families who loved them and tourists who came only to experience my country. They were not forgotten, their deaths not forgiven. But their lives were to be cherished.

In their honor, I sat and drank and ate and lived my life as usual. I felt they would have wanted that.

Sonali Kudva is a graduate journalism student and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].