Posted July 13th 2011 at 4:22 pm by
in Perspectives on Current Events, The unknown paths from point A to point B

Trying to Call Home after a Disaster

Are there any impediments in the way of a terrorist?

I am not sure how many of you connect to my story. But I am sure, some of you do- some of you who have lived through September 11th in the U.S., November 26th in India, or many more such dates that I can’t recollect at this moment.

Right now, as I am writing this, I am shaken, shaken to the point of not being able to type as fluently as I do every day when I work on my laptop.

I have come to MIT to pursue my graduate studies, away from my home in India. Just this morning, I heard that there were 3 major bomb blasts back in India, in my home city, Mumbai, coinciding with Ajmal Kasab’s birthday- the only living convict responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. I know the places where the blasts occurred. They are either close to my residence or home to many loved ones I know back in Mumbai.

My parents usually call me every morning. They haven’t done so today. I have been trying to call them desperately. They are not online either. The phone lines are jammed and so is the case with the Internet. The incident has already brought back terrible memories of the 26/11 blasts that I experienced intensely because of my work as a journalist covering them.

Trying to maintain my sanity and cool, I am trying to get all possible connections to work to reach my loved ones back home. I haven’t seen anyone I know from India coming online for quite some time. I have logged into my Gtalk, gmail, Facebook and Messenger. You name it, I have done it.

I have finally managed to get in touch with a journalist friend who is making phone calls for me and confirming for me that my family and friends are safe. She has a list of those who are dead/injured and she is ensuring me that none of us we know are there on the list.

Living at a distance, apart from your loved ones, and not being able to get in touch with them when you know that they could be in danger is difficult.  I am sure that a lot of people who have had friends or relatives stuck in locations that have been hit by a natural disaster or a terror attack have gone through the same.

So what’s the solution? I know a lot of people from my country who keep blaming the government for the attacks. Do we keep doing that?

Today, we probably all know that a terror attack is a given. When two countries are warring, we know the enemies. A terrorist is faceless and boundary-less. Enough has been said and written about a terrorist. But the question I can hear every person back home asking is, what’s a safe place? As I read through newspaper reports and blogs, I find myself looking for solutions to these concerns that the government would think of.

Trying to Call Home after a Disaster

There have not been attacks on small towns or unheard of villages in India. It’s the cities that have been the targets. It is probably the case with the U.S. too. What is it about the cities that make them so susceptible? Cities are economically powerful, commercial centers, crowded and more diverse and extrovertly tolerant to different ethnicities and communities. It probably makes them attractive for terrorists to cause massive damage. Rapid media coverage of such incidents probably further fuels it and gives terrorists an incentive to spread the fear. It’s the same media that also allows me to cross hurdles and get in touch with my loved ones to see if they are safe.

Do you think it’s a feasible solution to spread out and make less of an epicenter of a city? Would this make cities less of a terror target or would this create more terror targets? Are there any impediments in the way of a terrorist preventing the terrorist from reaching point B?

Post by Alpita Masurkar. This post is part of Transit Secrets: The Unknown Paths from Point A to Point B, a current series on CoLab Radio.

6 responses to “Trying to Call Home after a Disaster”

  1. Aditi says:

    I hope all your loved ones are okay. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I do not know Mumbai as well as you do, but when I was there, I always felt like the city was indestructible…it was so big, dense, crowded, diverse, chaotic, extreme…and yet everything managed to function just fine…getting from point A to B always worked out. It saddens me that it these qualities that terrorists feel the need to destroy…

  2. Great post Alpita! I thought of you immediately this morning when I heard of this terrible attack. I am very glad to hear you and your family are safe. You will stay in my thoughts and prayers.

    -Mike

  3. I’m reminded of a much smaller incident in Akihabara, Tokyo, where a man drove his truck in from an outlying region and ran over/ stabbed several people. Back then, people kept saying it was because the Tokyo and it’s various spectacles/well-known neighborhoods were the ‘ultimate stage’ for social outcasts or ideologues who wanted to express their frustration and recieve as much attention as possible. It’s interesting how much urban terrorism is caused by people coming into the cities from outside, as was the case I believe with several previous attacks in Mumbai. to generalize, it is often not the urban dwellers, who live in the live versions of the famous places of major cities that are the disruptors, but those who live outside and instead consume these places as fantastic images, places to accomplish their dreams, whether constructive or destructive. Cases of this kind of violence say something about the dichotomy of urban/peripheral as well as the real and the imagined. Capital cities especially, are often the symbol of their nation, the motherboard of nationalism, site of media production, and the production of hopes and dreams, as well as catastrophe and apocalypse. It would be difficult I think to remove the spectacular aspect of the city that inspires violence from the spectacular aspect that draws people to them and creates their dynamism and excitement. Perhaps one way of tackling the issue is to promote projects that ease the tension between the real and the imagined… in the audiotapes of the previous mumbai attackers, when they exploring the city before starting the attack, the dominant emotion seemed to be awe and amazement at the scale and luxury of their surroundings; exploring various ways to turn this shock into comfort and hospitality instead of threat/something to lash out at might be one way to ease the sense of urban unreality, which creates the ‘distance’ that makes violence possible. Of course fundamental economic inequality may be the most foundational factor in terrorism and the hardest to tackle.

    Best wishes to you and your family & friends in India

    -Nick

  4. Christina says:

    Alpita, thank you for sharing your experience and perspective. I am glad that your family is okay. My thoughts go out to everyone impacted by this senseless violence.

  5. Nancy says:

    I love how this piece is urgent, emotional, personal and news worthy. It is so important to focus on the particulars of a news event without losing site of the whole. Thank you!

  6. Alpita Masurkar says:

    Thank you so much all of you for your comments, wishes and blessings. It means a lot.