I’ve never lived in a world where you have to always be cautious. It scares me. (Lala, Spring 2010)
I was sitting in Lala’s reading chair in her room tonight, chatting with her as I do a few times a week. She was on the floor, nestled in her beanbag, playing with her bellybutton as she has done since she was an infant. We solve many pre-teen woes this way and I get a good share of middle school gossip.
I’m craving a trip out of Delhi, so I asked Lala if she would like to see the Golden Temple in Amritsar with me. This is the most holy site for the Sikhs. It’s north of Delhi on the Pakistan border.
She asked if we had to take a train and I said, yes.
No, I don’t want to go there, she said.
How about Calcutta, I offered? We fly there.
Worse! She declared.
And then, her kicker: I’m trying to think of a happy place outside of Delhi that won’t get bombed.
She settled on French Polynesia. (Save that for your lover, not your mother, I told her.)
The conversation continued: Lala said that when she sees Indian men on the side of the road carrying a bag, it scares her. I asked her what she imagined to be inside the bag. “Guns”.
I’m scared of terrorists. (Lala, Fall 2010)
Six months ago, after the bombing of the German bakery in Pune, the embassies here issued repeated warnings, some “imminent” of planned attacks on area markets. I wasn’t foolish but it didn’t stop me much from my daily activity – but on weekends, when all of humanity hits the shopping centers, I did keep the kids away from the fray. All three knew about the threats from their friends at school and they came home with the right vocabulary: bomb, bomb, bomb. I didn’t tell them much about the situation but they picked up the mood around here. Drive into any hotel and your car is stopped, the hood and trunk opened, a mirror placed underneath. Walk into the mall and you enter through a metal detector. Everyone is frisked. Rifle toting men dressed in fatigues patrol the perimeter of their school.
Now, with the Commonwealth Games just two weeks away, trucks of military police and security guards line the roads.
And sadly, on Sunday, gunmen opened fired on a group of tourists in old Delhi. Two people were shot. Hours later, blocks from the same site, a crude device exploded inside a parked car and it burst into flames.
India has a huge domestic security issue. There’s the Indian Mujahideen, an internal Islamic terrorist organization, the Maoists who are picking off Indian paramilitary, terrorizing villages and blowing up train tracks. And of course, you have angry citizens in Kashmir, demanding independence, opportunity, enfranchisement, equality, freedom from years of indecision. There’s also Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT, a militant group from Pakistan responsible for the attacks in Mumbai in November, 2008. That same year, several markets were bombed simultaneously in Delhi by the Indian Mujahideen.
Despite all this, I have never felt unsafe here. India is poised between doing a pretty good job maintaining security and potential tragedy. For me, traffic and mozzies and bacteria are the greatest threat.
For Lala, fear is her terrorist.
And that breaks my heart.
Eddie’s teacher asked for a photo of him reading. We couldn’t resist tweaking the opportunity.
This is the sort of thing that I try to ignore but simply can’t. If you zoom in, you will see that this guy crouched on the ground is trying to soften-up the end of what appears to be a PVC pipe with a lit piece of paper. I’m not joking when I tell you that you are looking at one of the most exclusive markets in Delhi: Khan Market.
My cub scout. This is the child who has refused to join any group activity but he has taken to scouting like a pig to poop.
And me, still frequenting wine club. Jim teases me for this “unpopulist” past time. I am reminding him from where the title of this blog came… I will never lose the common touch.