Saturday, July 15, 2006

Is ‘Resilient’ the new ‘Metrosexual’ ?

Every once in a while, a new word appears from nowhere, and before you know it, everybody is using it like it has been around forever. The hottest new cliche is ‘Resilient’. Which means ‘an ability to recover from misfortune’. Since Tuesday, it must have used by every Tom, Dick, and Harry; from news anchors to celebs to activists to politicians.

Bombay laid claim to this title many years ago, when it was serial bombed in response to the Babri Masjid demolition. Since then many a small incident, like the Mulund/Ghatko blasts, the Gateway blasts and now the Terrible Tuesday blasts, and the moniker is firmly Mumbai's.

Even before the pyres were lit, everybody had been falling over each other to congratulate themselves about their resilience, and how they are able to get back to work without skipping a beat. But did we really ?

Take a look at how Bombay reacted. First, the phone companies were blasted for networks getting clogged. When calls started getting through, people ensured that they and their near ones were safe, and promptly started bitching about when the trains would get working.

The fact is, bombings are very finite acts. Either you are hit, or you are safe. And once you are safe you aren't really concerned because it ain’t happening again. It is very easy to talk tough, when the enemy has already left. The much bandied 'you can't keep me down' spirit was missing just a couple of days before when the Sena held the city to ransom. Not knowing what to expect, everybody stayed indoors. Don't want to ding my car, do I ? Going for a drive on Sunday required more balls than getting on to a local train on Wednesday morning. 3 million people travel by the western railway daily. Probability of getting hit could have been the definition of zero. On Sunday night at 8:00 pm dadar wore a deserted look. There was no spirit to be seen, unless it was being consumed indoors.

In 2004 when the metro was bombed in Madrid 190 people were killed. You know what the city did ? 2 million people went on strike in Madrid (population of 3.2 million), 1.5 Million went on strike in Barcelona (population 1.6 million) saying they were not resilient. They said they wouldn't take it in their stride. Overall it is estimated that 28% of Spain's entire population protested on the streets. They wanted answers, and they wanted action. Three days later they voted the incumbent national govt. out of power, saying they wanted somebody to do something.

Here are samples of what our leaders said: In Mumbai, the top cop A.N."Pg3" Roy came out with a blinding pearl of wisdom, "These seem to be planned attacks"(source : ticker on NDTV). Planned as in not for fun? Not spontaneous? I bet the Mumbai police won't be able to set off 7 firecrackers in 7 different locations in a spread of 10 mins. The Chief Minister : "We want the world to know Mumbai is not worried about such events." Not worried ? He was right, we are resilient. When asked about intelligence failure, he said, "Let us not talk about such things today. We need time to conduct investigations." (source : front page article in Business Line, 13/07/06) Such things ? Yeah. When there are bar dancers to be hounded, why bother with terrorists.

So go on Bombay, go back to work. Pretend like nothing matters to you. After all what is 200 people out of 12 million getting blown to bits, as long as my 8:34 shows up on time the next day. Burning buses for a vandalising a statue is ok, but when it comes to bombing trains we don't mind, we need new ones anyway.

Tiger Memon is running businesses in Dubai. Miandad can track Dawood down to marry off his daughter. We don't care. The accused in the Ghatko/Mulund bombings were let off because of shoddy investigations. Does anybody remember? Or is resilience about amnesia as well? The Israelis are still arresting Nazis in Argentina, 60 years after the Holocaust. I guess they refuse to be resilient. Bloody morons. Learn to let go from Mumbai. A N Roy will get promoted. He is being praised. An enquiry will be launched. 500 muslims will be arrested. Then Medha Patkar, Shabana Azmi and Arundhati Roy will protest that minorities are being victimized.

So all my resilient Mumbaikars, I hope we get bombed again. So that we can again engage in self congratulatory forwarding of 'Dear Terrorist' emails.

Nikhil Pednekar


Entropy said...

here is M J Akbar's editorial on the same topic -

In today's Asian Age , there was also a nice article by Anish Trivedi on this topic.


Entropy said...

wow... Tavleen Singh and I agree a lot:


Entropy said...

sigh. For many, many more such rants, some of them at least
significantly better written, see:

Also, on the backlash question, this discussion on the Guardian blog:


Entropy said...

Here is my quibble with Nikhil. Totally agree with most of what he says, and the need to get behind the perpetrators of the blasts.

But I am slightly uncomfortable with the communal overtones towards the end. As it is, one of the things I was worried about after the blasts was whether the Shiv Sainiks would cause communal riots the next day, and whether there would be a retaliation by the families of those the sainiks killed and so on and so forth. Thankfully that did not happen. (every once in a while, the sena surprises me pleasantly.)

Think there is a huge difference between Muslims who are terrorists and those who are not. and statements like the one Nikhil makes just fan communal biases unnecessarily.

Nikhil, you bum, return from your weekend and I will take this up with you.


Entropy said...

Nice contribution. I would chose the word 'apathy' and not 'resilience' to describe how well the city handles rains, bomb blasts et al and think
nothing of asking the powers-that-are how come they screw up so consistently.


Anita B

Entropy said...

there are no communal overtones. i am simply stating what i think is going to the predictable prognosis of this event. it is not an indictment of muslims, or a racist comment. It is a matter of fact. The cops will arrest only muslims. Are you saying that they wont? Then they will fail to chargesheet for 6 months. then the usual activist suspects will say muslims are being victimised. Then the HC will scold the cops, and let the suspects go. the BJP will call for revival of POTA. And we will forget about it like we forget everything else. Return to normalcy will be completed.


Entropy said...

It is a very tricky situation for cops and the government. The perpetrators will be Muslims, as has been the case for all such events in the past (Laloo's joker committee on Godhra notwithstanding). To find the perpetrators and punish them without appearing to be communal is not easy or simple.

For terrorists this is a win-win outcome and a lose-lose for Indian Muslims. Either law is not enforced or it is. If former occurs, India looks like a week-kneed/soft state, thus increasing the morale of terrorist cadres. A lot of Kashmiri terrorists are recruited with the message that "India is about to give up Kashmir. They are scared and tired of losing people." Of course, BJP/RSS will scream of minorityism and a large amount of the majority community will agree, worsening the majority's attitude towards Indian Muslims.

If law is enforced, it is hard to imagine it being done in a way that cannot be construed as communal. A communal perception of law enforcement will ensure more fresh recruits for terrorists. If the perpetrators are caught, they will turn out to be Muslims which again gives fodder to those after muslims in India.

The whole drama can be summarized by a cliche - "Prevention is better than cure". Clearly, this government was not on top of prevention. Removing POTA is one thing, opening borders with a malicious neighbour another.

Btw, who was surprised by Sena's response to statue desecration? I don't think anyone should be. They have a history of idiocy. But why was the statue desecrated? I would not be surprised if it was to get the temperature high before the blasts and incite large scale communal riots. It reminded me of Godhra. A very very unnatural event. Unlikely to be a natural outcome of a frenzied mob's actions.


Anonymous said...

Hey Zenobia

i ain't a sena supporter but i do think that the party has been often unfairly blamed..


Anonymous said...

Rahul Bose says it isn't apathy but just moving ahead of the last calamity. "It isn't denial.It's a full-blown acceptance and the first stirrings of pride in our powers of resilience."

Mohit said...


I agree to a degree. I agree we do need to react- to respond in some way, without the self-congratulatory hurrahs.

My take on the city being held to ransom is different- if we are accosted by external events, like the rains or terrorism, we bind together. When we are overtaken by events where we may not trust our neighbor, we are at our weakest.

P.S. I am glaaaaaaaaaad to catch u here!

Entropy said...

Hi Goldilocks,
Yes, lots of people responded to me on email with the same opinion as you. One commented on my unnecessary political correctness. and another led me to Gaurav Sabnis' blog, same as you.
All in all, a very interesting discussion.