Home » Current Affairs, Featured, Miscellaneous, Terrorism in India

The nonsense about the “spirit of Mumbai”…

29 July 2006 422 views 7 Comments

Post the bombing in a calm moment, I came across this email, �Dear terrorist��, it began, ��you cannot defeat us�we are Mumbai-kers�(our) spirit is very strong and cannot be harmed�

Where did we get this fatalism? Because that is what is � it does take a great deal of courage and a soul of steel to go back to work the next day after an attack like this � but that is not what Mumbai-kers have � they go to work the next day because they have to � there is no moment to pause and think � about what we should do�how do we prevent this from happening again?

But the �luxury of (time and space for) thought� is a thing that few Mumbai-kers can afford.

And even those that can will pretend that nothing has happened. Someone I know and who can afford this luxury said to me, ��we will not be defeated� � perhaps not in the literal sense of the word.

But believe me if two hundred of your fellow city dwellers are dead � for no reason except that they were at the wrong place at the wrong time – and you still get up the next morning, behave and act is if nothing has happened, you have already been defeated�

� the enemy has broken your spirit � the enemy has taken away the tears that should flow � the enemy has subdued the rage that should boil over � the enemy has already won over your soul – a soul that feels compelled to go to work the next day and pretend as if nothing has happened.

This is the same soul which will go to work the day after India gets �balkanized� or looses it identity � this is the spirit of defeat and fatalism, of utter hopeless-ness. This is not Mumbai�s spirit � it is the spirit of a city that is so wretched and so in despair that it does not know how to react, that feels so helpless with rage that is prefers to forget and move on � a city that is in denial � a people that want to forget and � will forget � until the next time there is an attack�

Where did we get this spirit?

In a land of Krishna and Arjuna where arms were borne for a just cause, how did we sink to this level?

I came across this interview of Sir V S Naipaul � where he talks about this�

I feel all of this tells people that they should be defeated again, it�s good for them to live with defeat, and that somehow beauty comes out of defeat. I don�t think beauty comes out of defeat, I think the Indian wretchedness comes out of the Indian defeat, and this idea of experiencing is utterly wrong. I don�t think the Sanskrit texts pre the Muslim conquest, dealt in this kind of negation. I think this negation has come with the years of squalor and defeat. Defeatism, denial and helplessness have become the defining Indian traits and this is the battle that needs to be fought.

Francois Gautier � at the time of the parliament attack in December 2001 wrote a piece titled, �The Kurukshetra war of the 21st century The article was written in the context of enormous pressure that was brought to bear on India to not to engage in hot pursuit as this would lead to a nuclear war with Pakistan.

The logic of the pressure was bizarre – to say the least. India should avoid a showdown with Pakistan as Pakistan � if forced into a corner � may use the nuclear option.� Instead of putting pressure on Pakistan to never use nuclear weapons as first choice, the world community forced India to avoid taking matters to their logical conclusion � even though India has publicly and repeatedly maintained its �no first use[i]� policy on nuclear weapons.

As Gautier puts it, this was nothing but �nuclear blackmail� by Pakistan � and it succeeded because we were too weak-willed to call Pakistan�s bluff.

To those who argue that it would not be possible to accept rational decision-making from Pakistan in case of war with India, I would only point out how meekly (and quickly) the Pakistani leadership agreed to side with US in the run up to the bombings in Afghanistan post Sept-11 � even though this was a regime which they had fed and nurtured for several years � and even though public opinion was virulently anti-US as it continues to this day.

Francois suggests that:

�Two factors appear to have inhibited the Indian courage to face adversity when faced with threats: the first is Buddhism, which made out of non-violence a rigid creed; and the second is the Mahatma Gandhi�s equally unbending theorem of non-violence, which may have precipitated India�s partition.

And this is why maybe, under the guise of non-violence and peace, so many Indian intellectuals and politicians have shied away from war since independence, witness Nehru�s refusal to heed warnings about China�s hostility, which triggered the humiliation of the Indian army in 1962.�

He then poses the question whether there is likely to be a nuclear war with Pakistan:

But will there be a nuclear war? Musharraf�is an intelligent man: he knows that if he does manage to drop one nuclear bomb on Delhi or Bombay, there will no more Pakistan worth the name,�Islam, who has made of the use of violence a near religious practice, understands the language of violence: see how it kept quiet when America showed its muscle after the 11th September attack, or when the Allies� invaded Iraq.

If there is a war between Pakistan and India, whatever the politicians say, it will be a war between two brothers, for except for their religion, everything unite Indians and Pakistanis: their colour, ethnic origin, food habits, language… In fact, some Indian Muslim soldiers might have to shoot on some Pakistani cousins, or uncles. Will they pull the trigger when their commander says so? Will not their conscience tell them that it is wrong to shoot on one�s brothers? Does not that remind you of something? Did not Arjuna face the same dilemma five thousand years ago in Kurukshetra? Did he not throw his bow on the ground and tell Krishna: �no I will not fight, because war is such a horrible thing and I refuse to kill my bothers�.

But what does Krishna tell him: �not only you are not killing the soul, but merely the material body; but also sometimes, when all other means have failed and it is necessary to protect one�s borders, wives, children and culture, war can become dharma.

And that brings in the final question: is a war against Pakistan justified? Would it be dharma? Well you have to decide for yourself: for nearly twenty years Pakistan has waged a proxy war against India in Punjab, in Kashmir and now more and more in the North-East; it has killed thousands of innocent people, raped women, dismembered children, mutilated Indian soldiers in the most horrible manner… Several Indian Prime Ministers have made one-sided attempts at peace, without getting reciprocity from Islamabad.Indeed, a war between Pakistan and India might be the Kurukshestra of the 21st century, the ultimate war which will set right fifteen hundred years of Islamic terror and both redeem the Hindus� karma of cowardice, as well as the Muslims� karma of bloodshed..�

But honestly, do you think it would ever happen? Not really, because �we Indians are like that only�� or to couch it in �drawing-room speak� � our spirit is indomitable and indestructible�.really?

The last one thousand years of history certainly doesn�t suggest so. The reality is what we have is not indomitable nor indestructible but a scared sprit hiding under a veneer of nonchalance that cloaks the fears deep inside it.

When you dig deeper, it is not the indomitable spirit�what we have today is a spirit that tolerates injustice, unfairness, indignities�.and still keeps moving on��searching for �moksha�.

Because no matter what we do, what is bound to happen, will happen and if it is in our �karma� to die, we will die�why bother about �this life� when the next one could be so much better?

And this is the spirit that we need to fight � before we fight any wars against Pakistan or whoever those �across the border� people are.
Also at http://jaidharma.sulekha.com/


1. A good reference article http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/india/nuke/

2. e.g. see http://www.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2002/02/27/usat-poll.htm a survey that reveals Pakistan as the country which �hates� the US the most even as they both supposedly �strong allies� in the �war on terror�.

7 Comments »

  • 1. Manoj Singodia said:

    I also came accross that email and rubbished it instantly.

    I like the idea of linking kurukshetra with the current situation as this is something which can work. There have been wars fought against pakistan in past and this sense of dharma can change views.

    The ironic thing about Mumbai (or for that matter any other Indian city) is most of the population are middle class or poor people who cannot do anything at the expense of their livelihood, so although they would like to do more than to return to work they cannot and that is why your reference the other day about waiting for a bit more prosperity is the only hope!!

  • 2. Apollo said:

    I was incensed when i saw that email. i wanted to throttle that fellow who wrote it and wanted to shoot all those who actually forwarded it.

  • 3. Kanchan said:

    That e-mail must’ve been written by someone whose family members reached home safely the night of bombings. Well, about the Mahabharat against Pakistan….The Sena is ready but Arjun is missing though Krishan is present in everyone and asking for last so many years to pick up the weapon and perform the right act. One strong decision of war and Pakistan will be off the world map forever.

  • 4. Rashi said:

    Loved your article and what is funny is that it still holds true after more than 2 yrs. I have blogged on the same thing in light of the recent events and have linked your blog too. I hope you dont mind.

  • 5. Ajith said:

    great post…Non violence and gandhigiri will not work, its time for kurukshetra, we need to fight our relatives as they have given us no other option.

  • 6. Rationalist said:

    Sometimes I just think the only thing saving me is “Probability”.
    All hail to “Our Saviour PROBABILITY” which puts my chance of being found dead in such attacks to a minuscule number.

  • 7. Rationalist said:

    In US they say “Bringing knife to a gunfight”
    In India we should say “Bringing flower to a gunfight”

Share your thoughts below.

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Share your opinions responsibly. Stay on topic. Please note that by posting a comment, you indicate consent to the terms and conditions of this site. First-timers, please read the comments policy here

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.