So I was in Hyderabad last weekend, and returned on Tuesday. Friday, news comes in of a bomb blast in the Mecca masjid, right opposite the Charminar, right where I was standing. There I was, with a bunch of friends, innocent and vulnerable, hardly aware of the risks we were taking just being there. A narrow escape, very narrow. Two days before the blast, I was standing right opposite the Mecca masjid, trying to bargain with a roadside vendor, for something he called a rose stone, which looked really cool. I found out that the stone was priced at over 300 bucks, and I'd offered the guy something like 30 bucks for it. And while we were haggling over the price, and he was trying to explain the processes involved in shaping and polishing the stone, neither of us knew that in a couple of days, the Charminar area would be in the news for all the worst reasons.
Over the years, I have found myself in situations that promised great bodily harm, and yet I have escaped unhurt from almost all of them. When I was in primary school, I'd gotten lost in Kurla station, and a neighbor of the family ran into me walking on the train tracks, towards chembur station(at least my sense of direction didn't fail me!), so she got me home sans any mishaps along the way. A few years later, the terrible mumbai riots happened, and I managed to get stranded somewhere on the Matunga railway station bridge, with a violin case in my hands, and no idea of why people were running around screaming. I don't remember much of what happened, but I remember walking all the way back home, thankfully in one piece. I remember the neighborhood watches that were organized after the riots, with people taking turns standing guard on the terrace of our building, armed with loud whistles, hockey sticks and all kinds of assorted weaponry. Wish we had some guns back then, I was probably the most qualified to use guns, because of my encyclopedic knowledge of the Clint Eastwood/Kirk Douglas/John Wayne westerns that I used to watch. Gunfight at OK Corral...ah, those were the days. But I digress.
Phew...thinking back a few more years, I was in an auto rickshaw, with a cast on one leg, coming home from the hospital, and the local rickshaw union thugs declared a sudden strike. They were stopping autos forcibly, pelting stones, using hockey sticks, etc. I'd almost reached home, when a group of said thugs tried stopping my auto. Being in the state that I was, there wasn't much I could have done to stop them from tap dancing all over me, but I remember my auto driver swerving at the last minute and reaching me home. More recently, the train bombings, and the BEST buses acting as remote controlled explosives, all are adding up to the dangers that we are forced to deal with.
Now before you come to some absurd conclusion that I am some kind of ninny, paranoid schmuck who's permanently looking over my own shoulder, let me get to the point that all these events intend to support. All these events could have potentially ended my life. Add to these the fact that I've been biking for as long as I have, and the conclusion stares me in the face. I've probably outlived my projected life expectancy. In a city like mine, in a country like ours, we can kid ourselves forever about economic growth, political stability, the triumph of the democratic process, blah blah blah. Nobody talks about how meaningless the loss of a human life has become. The sanctity of human life has been eroded to the point of no return. People survive natural disasters, and do not complain when so many of their friends and relatives are washed away. Human beings orchestrate terrible events in the name of religion and freedom, killing their fellow countrymen in the hundreds...nobody is surprised. After all, whats the loss of a few more lives. This is India, after all. People are used to dying meaningless deaths. The administration is hardly troubled by news of yet another disaster, that claims even more lives.
Enough ranting. The words that you read now, are those of a man who in all probability should be dead. By pure chance I, and so many of you, have avoided becoming statistics, victims of some utterly senseless disaster, one among many. Forgotten when alive, only to be remembered by some over zealous news correspondent, in death. Make of this what you will, just don't get all depressed about it. I intend to live forever....so far, so good.
(Steven Wright..you da man!)