I know, I'm not posting anymore. I'm going against my own strictures because I think that in the face of what happened in Mumbai (Bombay) yesterday, it might be a good idea for us to throw down our petty grievances.
I received this email from Caitlin last night, and she has given me permission to publish it here. I have edited it for some typos, but otherwise is as she wrote it. This is from my kid, so naturally, I find it to be a compelling read. Maybe you will, too. -Daniel
I get around, apparently.
This is a day I'll remember forever. The three and a half hour
from Colaba to Bandra gave me plenty of time to think, if not just about the
immediacy of my situation, but also about the world. Today I went out on my
own, and after some apprehension, I actually felt safe traversing Bombay
solo. Bombay can be quite intimidating. There are well over 14 million
people and Bombay is home to the largest slum in Asia. Behind the crumbling,
but nice, facades of businesses and shops, one can see the shanty towns
stretched for miles: rows of shacks with metal sides and blue tarps for
roofs. When the Monsoons hit, the shanty towns are swamps, the one-room
huts flooded, thier inhabitants wading waist-deep amongst their meagre and
floating possessions. Bombay is a city cooped up and boiling, and bursting
with life, beauty, and pain. It's hanging on the edge of chaos. It's both
wonderful and horrible at the same time.
Today I went to Colaba. On
my own. I wanted to go alone. There's nothing
like travelling alone to teach you about the world. When you're white, and
blonde, and American, being alone in a city like Bombay can be quite
startling. I've never felt so strange in my entire life. You attract
attention when you're that foreign. If it wasn't lepers or children begging
for change at the window of my taxi, then it was the catcalls of men
shouting 'Barbie!' or the boys trying desperately to sell me 'Indian' tablas
and oversized balloons. But I had fun in Colaba, on my own, because when I
travel I like to be in charge, and sometimes being alone is the only way to
really be in charge. Not only that, but you end up talking to people and
experimenting with experience. It's what makes real character. Today,
however, was the real test for solo travel.
I've been having an interesting experience here that is largely
Morocco was tame compared to this, though. I'm staying with some friends in
Anderie. They have a nice flat in a high rise. But in Bombay, resources are
tight. Things that we take for granted in the West are precious commodities
over here. When there's no rain, that means there's no water, which means
there's no flushing toilets and plenty of cold water bucket baths (which are
actually quite nice in the heat). It means that doing daily things requires
more thought and planning. Disposing of a tampon is a pain. You don't let
the water run for no reason--ever! The other day the warden of the apartment
complex told us the water would be on for one hour. It was like Christmas.
It has made me realise how wasteful we are in 'the West'. Wars will be
fought about water, and we leave the taps on, steep ourselves in bubble
baths, wallow in extravagant pools--water is precious. When you have to go
without such things as water, the whole nature of existence changes.
But the food is amazing. So much spice! I'm in heaven.
Eating here has been
my favourite pastime, but it's not for the weak of stomach or mouth. I'm
having my share of lassis, daal and paneer that puts brie to shame. Kafeel
and his beautiful girlfriend Priyanka, and wonderful flatmate Rida, are
showing me an awesome time. In Bombay, every other person is some sort of
artist, or is involved in show biz somehow. I've met actresses, the top
model in Bombay, a couple fashion designers, some musicians, the list goes
on. People in Bombay are artsy beyond compare!
I've come to love this place. Even today can't phase me.
I was in a cafe, dining alone, when Kafeel texted me: 'Babes, head
Some chaos happening. Bomb blast. Head to Bandra, I'll meet you there. Keep
texting me.' So, I did as I was told. I didn't know exactly what happened.
The news was on in the cafe, and there were gasps in the room, but I don't
read Hindi. I took the first cab I found, and had to fight off a boy selling
tablas who wanted a lift to Bandra with me. The ride took forever. I sat for
an hour without moving in Myeem. Then it started to monsoon, which was the
only time I got nervous. 'Great,' I thought, 'a terrorist attack and a
flood!' My cabbie spoke no English, and my phone stopped working as the
networks became clogged with people attempting to contact one another. I was
marooned in more ways than one. I kept asking the cabbie, 'Where are we?'
and he kept replying, 'Yes.' I gave up on asking.
I was never afraid
for my life, and this is why: Firstly, I wasn't on a
train, I was in a taxi. Secondly, I thought back to 7/7 in London, and 9/11
in New York. I thought about what I would have done, had I been in either
place at the time, and how I would have felt. And I realised that the fear I
was feeling was only the fear of being in an unknown place. If the same
thing had happened in London, I could have just walked home, I would have
known the way. The only thing scary about being in Bombay was that I didn't
know the place. But when I looked around at the others stuck in the traffic
jam, there was not fear, so much as annoyance, written on their faces. They
weren't scared, and so I shouldn't be. These things can happen anywhere, and
it's much scarier when it's in a place you're unfamiliar with, but as soon
as you realise it is only the unfamiliarity which is the scariest part, then
you can relax a little. A little, but of course, not completely, because
there were still bombs exploded, there were still lives lost, there were
still people whose lives were now forever changed. There's a war on out
there, and it's a different kind of war than any of us are used to fighting.
It's disconnected, and disjointed, and not a part of an wholistic--anything.
It's a postmodern war.
So, this brings me to the philosophy of it all: we need
isn't beyond us. We have to stop asking ourselves what to do, and start
creating the change we want to see. But the time has come to realise, that
peace will not be won with the blast of the bomb, NOR through the barrel of
a gun. Neither terrorist attacks, NOR wars, are the answer. They get us
nowhere and comunicate nothing but hatred. The people who destroy others on
trains with bombs, are just as guilty of wrong-doing as those who kill
others in 'legitimate' wars with tanks and guns. Haven't we evolved, as a
species? Haven't we grown away from all these barbaric tactics? Well, if
not, it's time to. How did we get to here? I guess, a more important
question is how do we get out. Have we really learned so little? The world
does not have to be such a painful place, but when you come to places like
Bombay, and you look around, it's written everywhere. Yesterday, I saw a
one-year-old child eating some unknown substance from a garbage heap while
three other children under five slept on a mat next to an open fire. While
fleeing Colaba, a leper showed be his deteriorated arms and begged for
change: 'Madam, madam, madam. My arms please, my arms.' I wanted to throw
up. And when I look into the desperate eyes I encounter, I can understand
the desperation of any human being. I understand the desperation of those
who fight these un-named wars. You grow up here, you become radical. It's
like breathing polluted air, or smoking, someday you'll get the symptoms of
the disease, and the disease of desperation is radicalisation, is being too
repressed and depressed to think beyond the immediacy of violence. But there
are other possibilities. There are other ways of doing things. There has to
be. Or maybe, the world is futile, and God is definately dead, and I should
chide myself for being so naive. But we can't give up hope, not yet. And
until we find the solutions, there's only one thing we can do: bow our
heads, and remember, and respect those who suffer daily, those who die and
perish, those who mourn the losses of love and life. We must acknowledge
those who live in poverty, and desperation, and hunger, because there's more
of them in the world than you know of, and this is a more important war to
fight than any other, and humanity will hopefully, one day, be a cause worth
fighting for. We must realise we are lucky, without becoming complacent.
Today, 139 people have died, after seven bombs on one of
Bombay's ONLY train
lines. Many may still die.
I'm trying so hard for this not to
be the most cliched email you have ever read, but
I've had a hard day, and my cliche filter is not working. How are all of
you, by the way, if you've managed to read all of my really long email? If
you have read all of this, thanks for putting up with my ramblings...
*Typepad has had some issues and I have lost this post and all the comments. I have seen some comments from around the blogowhatever, some very complimentary, some, well, less than. I will only answer thusly:
Those who rail against this person from comfortable environs have no idea what they are talking about. She has been to more places on this earth than most people can dream of and has absorbed more in her young life than her detractors could imagine.