I have only been to the Oberoi Hotel and Taj Hotel in New Delhi and Chennai. They were an oasis of tranquility that I gladly sought when I needed refuge from the hustle and bustle of the two metropolitan cities.1
After hearing about the recent attacks on its sister establishments in Mumbai, I questioned the veracity of my recollection. Was it ever tranquil, as I thought it was, or did it merely offer an illusion of tranquility?
Whatever the answer to the question, the attacks reminded me that by and large Malaysia and Malaysians have enjoyed some semblance of peace and order for a large part of this nation’s existence.
Revised @ 30.11.2008: No doubt there have been occasions in our past when we have descended into fury and madness. But we seem to discover the best in ourselves whenever we manage to look beyond the usual labels which divide us. This state of rapprochement is only attained when we converse with one another and discover what common ground that exists between the communities that make up Malaysia.
In that sense, I suppose of all the freedoms within our Constitution, the most fundamental is probably the freedom of expression. This encompasses the freedom to voice out our support on any issue or dissent on any issue. In fact, it is even more critical where dissent is concerned that dissent should be expressed in this ‘civil’ sense lest it manifest itself in a more unruly and physical manner.
Averting once again to the mayhem and murders in Mumbai, permit me to extend my deepest condolences to those who may have lost loved ones in the present tragedy. And for those with family members away in Mumbai, I pray that they come home safely.
The following ghazal penned by late Agha Shahid Ali aptly reminds us of what is most important as reason ascends and fury descends:
Ghazal in A Time of War
What spoke to me, that wasn’t words at all
but like a language, understood by all:
Ducks arrowing their way across the small,
dark pond I passed, graceful emblem of all
I like to think is Spring, their pace a crawl.
My own unhurried progress—after all,
awaiting me was just the usual,
the ill who are my daily “chores”—was all
that I could muster, kids on bicycles
zig-zagging by, a Russian couple all
wrapped up in smoky conversation, tall
oaks pointing out the white sun… Was it all
just my imagination? I recall
those sounds of the world, the joy of it all,
the toddler whose face was a miracle
as she chased her red ball. Please, save it all,
I think I prayed, above the distant bombs’ shrill
descent; please, please, remember that we’re all
one people, one body, one chance not to kill.
A stray gull cried, but that was not all:
I saw where I was going, past the arsenal
and past the land-mine, to the land of all,
past the archangel and the syllable,
toward our human heart, toward the love of all.
Tags: attacks, India, mumbai
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