Monday, December 31, 2007

The year that was

We are saying goodbye to 2007 today. So far, things were going fine--despite the subprime crisis in the US, the news was good for Asia. The Asian economies have been doing well. Things were looking up. Though there were some immediate issues that bothered us all--Modi's win in the Gujarat elections, Pakistan's and Thailand's political turmoil, the Indian discontent in Malaysia--we were hopeful that in time the issues will be resolved. People will learn to live with them or create better conditions.

Then came the news of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

That evening I came home after watching Wang Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights. I had enjoyed the movie and thought that it was such an assured work. Wang Kar Wai's earlier films had a lot of energy in each and every frame, the stories were so pulsating--but here, with this film, he had shown to have matured a bit. The characters seemed to deal with their situations in a calmer manner (even though some scenes betrayed the director's restlessness). Was it because this was a film about American characters? And in many of the scenes and characters, I could see how there were overlaps with what we had seen in some of his earlier films. But I was generally happy with my experience.

My wife was watching the BBC World and Benazir's news was just being broken. I was suddenly engulfed with a sense of grief. My immediate reaction was to share it with others I knew. I sent out some smes. Some of my friends expressed dismay at the news. "Oh, don't tell me this," said one. What?!, said another. Those who were aware of the news sent me cold, resigned smes.

I remembered, when Benazir was Pakistan's PM, she was regularly connected with India's then PM Rajiv Gandhi--both were young, descendants of slain national leaders and were now they were leading two big countries. Who had imagined both will die the same way, as victims of terrorism.

There are many things to talk about today (like how I recently took my two-year old daughter to watch the film The Golden Compass and how she got bored within half an hour in the theatre) but I leave you with these questions from filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, and I will talk to you again next year:

Who killed Benazir ? Suicide bombings were unheard of in Pakistan before 9/11. And before the US ordered Musharraf to send his army against his own people in Pakistan's western regions to flush out the Taliban. Why ? The supposed reason was to look for Osama Bin Laden. But that was EIGHT years ago, and Osama could be dead of natural causes by now. No one talks about him anymore in any case, and the Keyword has become Al Quaeda, about whom no one knows very much. Because Al Quaeda has now becomea 'philosophy of terrorism ' as an acceptable tool of warfare, rather than a cohesive organization anymore. It is the usual construct of the Western World looking for simple answers to vastly complex problems of cultural divide, religious divide and harsh economic disparities......

And if Al Quaeda is now a philosophy of warfare, then how is it helping that Musharaf sends his troops to fight his own people, and causing huge alienation by killing civilians and calling it collatoral damage ? The philosophy of suicide bombings is merely being exported out of the region by alienating people and encouraging them towards terrorism.

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