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2

I have posted enough for today and I really need to get back to work. No amount of writing is going to repair this devastation in my heart. Yet, as I read this article about Raj Thackeray's response to the Mumbai terror crisis, I can't help but write. He would probably understand this as a fiery response. After all flaming emotions seem to be his forte.

I get the impression that Karkare saved Mumbai from the seige. Not to get me wrong, I applaud his deidcation and bravery, but hey, he died as the curtains rose on this show. No comment on the NSG? Or are they disposable since they are not Maharashtrians?

I wasn't too bothered about all the sarcasm about his being MIA in the time of his beloved Mumbai's crisis - after all, what could he do? His strength is not in fighting, and while its possible he could have talked the terrorists to death, I doubt if Mumbai was willing to risk time on it.

In a time when the country is shattered with this unexpected and unbelievable massacre, Raj actually seems to be a step ahead of the other politicians in making selfish and inane comments. "The officers of the calibre of Karkare and his colleagues Salaskar and
Kamte who led from the front in combating terrorists had done
Maharashtra proud with their supreme sacrifice."Not just Maharashtra, idiot! The country, the world, every humane person on this planet.

What put me into this flaming gear is "What needs to be condemned is the politics played by the ruling coalition in directing ATS to go after Hindu organisations and in the process ignoring the real danger of 'Islamic terrorism' that held Mumbai hostage." To be fair, its a common ailment of all politicians. ATS is not your (or anyone's) maid servant or pet dog. You can't 'direct' them to 'go after' anything (or at least shouldn't be able to - though I guess vandalizing a few places will make them cautious out of concern for this country).

For all these politicians, I'd like you to understand politics is politics and investigations are investigations. If you can't respect those boundaries, if you can't resist manipulating where you shouldn't, stop pretending that you are interested in the welfare of the country. You wouldn't like cops telling you how to run the country. Stop telling them how to keep it safe.

More than that, quit using the country's pain to peddle your political interests.

If you really respect the sacrifice of Karkare, read this and understand how politics hinder the process of keeping this country safe. "I don't know why this case has become so political," was one of Karkare's first comments. "The pressure is tremendous and I am wondering how to extricate it from all the politics."

Where is your humaneness? Where is your shock, sorrow, concern, uncertainty, caring....?

2

I just can't seem to let go my anxiety about terrorists capable of spewing bullets indiscriminately and running around loose. A part of me has been alert all through this crisis to be reassured that all these guys are out of action. No luck. Not even sure how many they are.

How many are they really? All kinds of conflicting information from the interview on the one guy in hand - Ajmal Amir Kasab/Qasad/Qasab. When it came to Qasab, Mumbai went bonkers - right from the man on the street, media, cops, army officials, intelligence people......

While names and distribution details are available for only these 10 Kasab names, the number of terrorists killed/captured and "batches of 5" rather than "split into two groups" makes me think that the "16 fidayeen" from the ATS source, or "39 colleagues" from one version of Kasab's interview could be likely true.

How many were killed? Take a look at this timeline(1) - all data from this unless linked specifically.

Wednesday 26th November 2008:

  • Taj: NDTV reported (also mentioned in the timeline) on the 26th Nov that seven terrorists had been killed at the Taj earlier.

Thursday 27th November 2008:

  • Mumbai in general: "11.51 am: Five terrorists killed and one captured in Mumbai, says Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil outside Oberoi Hotel." couldn't possibly refer to the Taj guys, as the one captured was at Girgaum and five is less than seven, so it isn't an inclusive number either.
  • Nariman House: "12.39 pm: One terrorist holed up inside Nariman House in south Mumbai killed, says police. Six more ultras suspected to be inside the building."
  • Taj: "4.25 pm: A terrorist has been reportedly killed in Taj hotel. Reports say that commandos have started barging into the rooms of the hotel."
  • Taj: "8.00 pm: 4 more terrorists killed at the Taj. Another mammoth explosion in the Oberoi, starts huge fire."

Friday 28th November 2008:

  • Oberoi: "12.50 am: One terrorist killed at Oberoi, one still remaining."
  • Oberoi: "11:12 am: Two terrorists reported to be killed inside Trident-Oberoi hotel." <-- this could simply be an update from the earlier one killed one remaining.
  • Oberoi: "12.10 pm: Terrorist reportedly killed in crossfire at Trident-Oberoi." <--- same one?
  • Nariman House: "7.40 pm: Two terrorists killed in Nariman House."

Saturday 29th November 2008:

  • Taj: "8.32 am: The 59-hour siege of old Taj Hotel ends. Last terrorist killed" Followed by "8.42 am: Four terrorists killed at Taj Hotel; number of other dead and injured there still to be ascertained, says Mumbai Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor." and "8.49 am: Director General of National Security Guards, J K Dutt, briefs media, tells three terrorists killed in the latest operation at Taj Hotel." <--- is it four or three?

Ooooookay.

Oberoi is the easiest with the different reports probably translating into two terrorists being there and killed.

Nariman seems to have three - one killed on Thursday and two on Friday.

Taj is more complex with 7 terrorists killed on the 26th (wednesday) + one and four (assuming the later number includes the earlier reported "one") so counting it as four and not five (thursday) + the final four (saturday) = 15 in all.

The five killed and one captured that the CM speaks about, I don't know what to do with. I know one got killed and one captured in Girgaum. No clue on the other four. Seems unlikely that they were killed in other places and not reported, so one possibility is that the 7 thought killed at Taj on the previous day were actually 4 (someone teach people how to count)

This article brings more clarity:

"The terrorists were challenged by security men near the CST railway station - the heart of the Indian Railways. One terrorist was killed and another nabbed near the metro junction.

Five other terrorists were killed - two each at Taj Hotel and Chowpatty and one at Nariman House, he added."

However, there is no mention of seven terrorists killed in this article.

More confusion here.

Coming to the "summary" statements of this episode, we have "Describing the mission as successful, the NSG sources said that 11 terrorists have been killed in the mission and one has been caught alive." The one alive is a no brainer, but the eleven killed? Shouldn't that number be higher? Or, who died when terrorists were reported killed in some instances?

How many were captured?

One in Girgaum, yes of course - our one well quoted guy.But where was he captured? Girgaum Chowpatty (most likely), CST or Taj?

What about:

  • "Highly-placed police sources said two other Pakistani nationals had also been held in the course of intense fighting on Thursday. All three, the sources said, identified themselves as members of a Lashkar fidayeen squad." from 3 Lashkar fidayeen captured
  • The mysterious 9 or so? with British passports and Pakistanis of British origin? They don't seem to appear on the action timeline, so information is quite vague.
  • Who is responsible for the taxi blasts? The cops think that the bombs were planted in the taxis used by the terrorists to prevent information about them wrecking their plans, but that doesn't explain the reports of grenades being hurled in Santa Cruz - planted bombs don't hurl grenades..... right? Or were those reports rumors?
  • If only 10 terrorists entered Mumbai hours before the attack, who in the world booked the room 630 in the Taj, stocked ammo and got visitors for four days? Kasab seems to be the source for both stories. He has a split personality?

All in all, I'm confused, and watching the media for more information.

Update: The media reporting on this incident is a monument in incompetence. matched only by the CWG reporting two years later.

4

So many things to write about, so much to do. I describe myself as a nomad. The life of Nomad is one that is home everywhere. Many things are happening in life, and some synchronicity is leading to insights about myself as a woman. The role of women in Indian society is all crap, as we know it. Each person has their own fantasy of what society "allows" without halting to reflect that it is them that collectively create society. Anyway, all that is irrelevant to my current ponderings.

I read Germaine Greer's book - Sex and Destiny, where she talks about the role of our sexuality in out life and the impact of the world on us based on our gender. The book is an awesome read as well as a life changing line of exploration, but what is currently on my mind is the chapter she wrote on "a child is born". She describes a "western culture" which admittedly is unfamiliar to me, yet some observations strike a chord. I have started seeing this whole business of contraception and family planning as a wholesale cultural hatred and negation of a woman's fertility. Identifying goals as a working woman in a relationship with a man has taken a whole new meaning. No? Think about this:

Pregnancy is a normal state of being for a woman - yes/no? If it is normal, why doesn't anyone trust a pregnant woman to know what's best for her?

We see having more than the "prescribed number of children" as a socially embarrassing thing and consider an excess of children to be a drain on personal and national resources. Never mind if a rich man can afford a hundred kids, or a poor man can't afford one. No one thinks that a rich man having plenty of kids will eventually lead to an increase in the population of rich people, or the division of the wealth between them will lead to decreasing differences between the rich and poor. Thinking is superfluous - the statistic is the allowed fertility.

  • A woman's fertility is unacceptable and needs to be allowed only in the form of "planned pregnancies" where the focus is not so much on her being a fertile woman as it is on planning ovulation, contraception and then living by the word of some expert (earlier it was midwives, which graduated to doctors, and now its, gynaecologists, sonography techinicians, etc) who knows better what she should do with this alien state of her body till it is rid of its alienness through birth of the child.
  • Contraception is a way of removing the consequences of intimacy and reducing the requirement for commitment. Yet, how many females want to remove the requirement for committment? How many males are willing to take responsibility for their intimacies? I don't know, but my hunch is that by solving the symptom on the physical manifestation level, we have left an entire culture vulnerable to emotional consequences.
  • As I sit here staring at my screen, I am wondering what impact these insights will have on my life. Will it mean a more meaningful intimacy with my husband, where awareness of the implications of the intimacy between us as man and woman open up an entire world of beauty? Or will it be a hesitation to rock the boat, where we continue to see fertility as a thing to be "controlled". Can we acknowledge that as a woman and man, our fertility is a part of it?

7

I'd written about people pestering smokers, now its the government doing it. There's a whole list of "public places" that people can't smoke in, in Mumbai. Apparently, some people are more equal than others. If you don't want to inhale smoke, you don't even need to move away a little anymore. The government takes care of it for you.

I was really surprised to know that you can't smoke in the premises of the society you live in. Open air really blows all the smoke away, so where is the logic in this? Its not like smokers find vulnerable non-smokers to blow smoke in their faces, you know?

I find this quite disgusting the way some people (read government) think they can decide for an entire population. Has the number of people dying from passive smoke exceeded those dying from diseases spread by mosquitoes and flies and rats? Where are the fines for lack of pest control - not newsworthy enough?

I see India going the phobia way straight into paranoia. Everything that scares you (whether real or imagined) needs to be destroyed. Smoking causes cancer. Awesome. Get rid of smoking, quick! Project every fear of ill health out of your control and get rid of smoking and fantasize that you will now not get any illness.

A few decades ago, it was the Hindu-Muslim riots, where Hindus thought all Muslims were basically killers who would get them one day and vice versa, and went ahead to get rid of them. Look what a beauty that was.

The desi ghee that was once liberally served for promoting good health, is missing from the tables of many families I know - for good health. No one is really bothered to know how that uncle of theirs could drink a glass of it everyday and lived into a bright old age.

People want black and white. If I do this, I will always remain safe. Never mind if it is an illusion. I want it to be true.

So now, it is the turn of smoking. Something that has survived centuries is bad for your health, until the next hype hits - it prevents Alzheimers. Then I guess, health conscious people will begin smoking that one or two cigarettes a day as "medicine", like many heart patients have their glass of brandy (or whatever).

I'm feeling really disillusioned with this tendency to not just be a part of the herd, but get rid of all the non-herd possibilities.

Can we face it people? We are not immortal, there are no guarantees. We all have one life which each of us would like to live how we want. Can we stop making unnecessary rules without first researching their need, the impact of their lack and their consequences and only make them where we are convinced that their lack is a bad thing and making them will resolve the issue? For example, I wouldn't be whining so much, if I had data on how harmful my cigarette smoked in open air is to the people living in the house nearby. Don't give me guesses. Give me data. Tell me how many people in lung cancer wards are there because of the presence of a smoker in their immediate vicinity. Compare that with an estimated number of all passive smokers and give me that dangerous percentage that convinces me I'm killing people.

While you are at it, do put a ban on the religious fires with people sitting right next to them, or you'll count their victims as passive smokers and ban cigarettes again. Went to a ceremony last week, and my seasoned smoker's lungs near burned out in the smoke in that hall. I was certain I was going to faint. I actually walked out till the fire business was done. I wasn't the only one. People were heading out for a breath of fresh air at regular intervals, eyes streaming, make up washing away. So now what? Any one want to take an initiative into measuring the carbon monoxide levels in that ill ventilated hall?

6

A friend of mine was being pestered by another friend who wanted her to give up smoking. To make a long story short, this is an ongoing thing and I have come to associate the presence of that man with anti-smoking propaganda rather than a friendly conversation.

I am certainly not saying that one should or shouldn't smoke, just commenting on how tedious it can get to have a whole bunch of brainwashed individuals who think that if you smoke, that's the worst thing you can do for yourself.

I have smelled street air in Mumbai and it seems as bad as a cigarette and doesn't even pretend to relax anyone. I smoke on occasion myself, and as an outdoor person, (ab)use my body beyond what many well wishers know as possible. I have yet to find myself incapable of doing something I could before I started.

Of course, I don't deny that there are bad results that can happen from smoking, just like there are bad things that can happen if you drive. I think such decisions are personal and it is a person's choice whether the harm outweighs what they get from it or not. I don't see how anyone else can understand what my happiness is in walking for days on end in high-altitude. Surely it holds the fear of death, frost bite, natural calamities, danger from animals and humans, etc for the pleasure of being there?

And why do I consider anti-smoking enthusiasts misguided or brainwashed?

The key to that is understanding where they get their information from. No matter what the source, is it likely that such a popular occupation has absolutely no health benefits? Yet, how many of these are they aware of? I am usually suspicious of black-and-white stories and the anti-smoking campaign is one which raises every alarm I have. I find it impossible to believe that something that has lasted centuries is entirely evil, and if it is shown like that, I feel that I am being manipulated to live a decision someone else has made.

Many people feel relaxed when they smoke. Is smoking for relaxing worse than the heart attack from the stress it gets rid of? Who decides this for others?

How many of those who make these "prescriptions" have actually researched their subject in detail?

Among the people who died and reached hospitals for illness, in my acquaintance, there are three smokers (one died at the age of 63, two didn't - one got jaundice and the other had an accident). Others are completely "healthy" individuals who don't smoke, don't drink, eat carefully and sleep adequately (out of these, 17 died - aged relatives and 16 didn't). And yes, I actually sat and thought of everyone I knew who had died or had fallen seriously ill in the last 2-3 years. Part of this may be that I know more non-smokers than smokers, but certainly the difference is nowhere near this ratio.

I remember an old man from my time in Manali who was 93 years old and had lived a long and healthy life. He was mobile enough for his daily needs even then. He used to smoke. One day he had a chest pain, and the doctor told him to quit smoking. He asked the doctor, "I am 93. Is it possible that I may be dying of old age and not smoking? Smokers aren't immortal until nicotine kills them, you know?" He continued to smoke, and as far as I know, was alive and well for 2 more years at least until I left the mountains to come and live in Mumbai 5 years ago.

I would be interested in the results of surveys of the percentage of smokers among the patients in a hospital and see if they are the same as those in the outside world. My hunch is that they are far less. Yet we blindly believe that smoking is what will land us there.

Smoking may be bad, but it certainly isn't the only bad thing humans indulge in.

This certainly doesn't mean that I suggest that you start smoking. What it means is that I suggest that you stop bugging smokers.