Signs of Terror
Some people believe in signs. They believe that everyday, everywhere around us, there are signs through which the universe communicates with us, pushing us to come out of our comfortable boxed in lives and see what is going on. Some things, trivial in retrospect, caught my attention in the days leading up to 25/07/08 that made me feel that things are not all right in our world, in Bangalore. Perhaps these were the signs those people like to talk about, because, uncannily, at the end of an entire week of thinking and feeling that things are not quite right, the bombings took place on that Friday. Thankfully, Bangaloreans did not experience much more than some inconvenience and fear. We all certainly felt Ahmedabad’s pain much more keenly, having come so close to a similar outcome in our own city.
First, it was the weather. Talk to people who have lived here for years and they all agree that it is crazier than ever these days. In the course of one day it can be hot, cold, sunny and then enough rain to cause semi-flooding conditions! Is Bangalore yet another victim of global warming? In fact, The Hindu reported on July 31, 2008 that "…this July has been unlike any other that the city has witnessed. Well, at least in 60 years. The rainfall registered this month so far is 276 mm, according to the meteorological centre here … This year, the city has recorded more than double the amount of rain that is considered normal for July (110 mm)."
Ironically, in the same time that Bangalore was receiving record rainfall, surrounding areas were suffering through a suspended monsoon, leading to a shortage in the power supply. As frequent power cuts threatened businesses and inconvenienced homes around the city, diesel consumption reached new heights with everyone freely taking full advantage of their diesel powered generators, blissfully ignorant of any long term consequences. The diesel shortage again made me wonder to myself just what is going on here. How is it possible to simply run out of fuel? What happened to planning and foresight? And the shortage affected all of us, not just corporations and businesses. Moms at school actually stopped grumbling about their children’s eating habits to confer with each other on the best places to buy diesel fuel. The diesel shortage struck very close to home indeed.
Then there is the unreasonable 11:30 p.m. deadline for service in bars and restaurants. Now this debate has been going on for some time. But in the week prior to the bombings, the Times of India ran yet another article about this issue, offering different viewpoints from Bangaloreans from all walks of life. It was nothing new: young call center employees and restaurant owners campaigned for a later deadline, while seniors and family oriented citizens appreciated the early deadline. But again it made me hmm and think to myself that this deadline is not quite right for a city like Bangalore. It is much too conservative a view for the modern, progressive, cosmopolitan Bangalore that is infamous all over the world. It is this Bangalore that continues to attract international companies to open new offices in our city, creating additional jobs, and improving quality of life for its citizens. An 11:30 p.m. curfew just doesn’t fit in with that image. Safety is unarguably of prime importance. Here is yet another point to consider in this ongoing debate. I have observed that an early deadline encourages people to fill up rather fast on their alcohol in order to achieve their desired level of intoxication before the bar shuts down for the night. This actually leads to a more dangerous blood alcohol level than if people were able to enjoy and pace themselves over a period of time, for instance, if the bars closed down later. The unfortunate result is actually a higher incidence of unsafe driving on the roads following the early curfew, exactly what the conservatives are seeking to avoid.
All these "signs" and finally it all culminated with the bombings in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, a sign loud enough to catch our attention, to tell us that things are not all right in our world, in Bangalore. There is plenty of discontent alongside the booming prosperity that we see, causing people to act out unreasonably, unpredictably, unnaturally. Time has gone by and things seem to be pretty much back to normal. Everyone is back in their safe, secure boxes. But let us not forget how fragile those boxes apparently are.