It seemed a normal Sunday. Went downtown, studied, waved to Dad who was off on a trip to Delhi, and fell asleep reading Vikram Seth.
Then suddenly, it was anything but a normal Sunday. Dad called at around 1900hrs and very coolly remarked that although he was fine, the flight he was in (Indigo Flight# 334, Goa-Delhi) had been hijacked and had made an emergency landing. My first sleepy impulse was to ask whether he was joking. My next impulse: shock and a mingled feeling of helplessness and determination to do something. Anything.
Hijacks, terrorists, shooting, trauma- words that reverberate through every living room in the world. Mine too. The closest I would have got to the terror of terrorists is through my wild imagination. One of my childhood nightmares was the thought that someday, we might have to call one of those railway helpline numbers which would flash on Doordarshan and scrouge for information. Blasts in Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kashmir would glue me to the television, phone and email and wrench my insides as the entire country watched real-life tragedies unwind on air.
But that was it. Not more. Slowly, as many others in the blogosphere have pointed out, we as a people are perhaps becoming immune to bad news. But I am sure that there are still people around the country whose blood boils every time they hear of such incidents, but are unsure of what they can do to help.
Help. That is what I wanted to do. Desperately. Sitting in Goa. With my father in a supposedly hijacked plane surrounded by NSG commandoes in an isolated bay in Delhi.
I think that is when the reality of what is happening around the world struck me. It is one thing to watch and read about terrorism and conflict situations, another to be a part of the entire situation. There is an excess of anticipation, where each cell is tuned to every syllable of information that can be gleaned from NDTV and CNN-IBN and family in Delhi and elsewhere. There is fear, of course. But overriding everything is that rush of adernaline, which made me want to do something. Anything. Co-coordinating folks in Delhi on the phone is one thing, being below the aircraft strategizing to capture the ‘unruly element’ and delivering the passengers and crew to safety is another.
Yes, there are better people handling the situation, and everything is under ‘control’. As I write, Dad is waiting for his baggage in the airport complex. The passenger who threatened to blow up/hijacked/traipsed drunk/______ (insert random reason) has been detained by NSG Commandos and the Delhi Police is also on field. And oh, his 1730 hrs text message ‘reached dilli’ just arrived (Jai BSNL). My brother is anxiously waiting for him to come out, although less anxiously than we all have been for almost five hours now.
Everything seems fine, the ordeal or the ‘mid air drama’ as the news puts it, seems to be over.
But somewhere, deep down, there is a fire which has blown out of proportion. A fire which will only be strengthened by news coming in about the grit of the pilot, passengers and security forces in Delhi. A fire which even days, months, years after this incident will not be doused.
I have read, thought, wrote for what seems like a previous age -that we are one country. Terrorism or activities mimicking the infliction of trauma is a problem which could affect any of us, that the victims never asked for anything they got.
There..my first lesson in 2009.
It could be any of us. Anytime. Anywhere.
There is no amount to the planning we can put in, precautions we can take. People I know avoided flying over the UAE in the nineties for fear of disruption, a friend visiting Delhi was prohibited to shop at the markets bombed last year. But there is a need, an inherent need to have systems in place. Which Delhi has handled really, really well. I shudder to think what would be the plight of the passengers if the route was Delhi-Goa, for I somehow cannot see such an effective response mechanism being activated at the earliest in this susegad land.
Kudos… and grateful appreciation.