It is the Thanksgiving weekend. While Mumbai is dealing with endless hours of terror, we (especially those of us who do not have CNN) are flooded with advertisements for local Black Friday offers. My cousin, her husband and her adorable young daughter were visiting us after many months of failed attempts - random events coming in the way of their plans each time. India's 9/11 on 26/11. We talked about it to each other on the phone. Emailed friends who had relatives in Mumbai. I read news reports and blogs and watched NDTV's coverage late at night while the rest of the family slept. You read and read and read...yet that reality is so far away. You can feel the terror in your bones when you are physically there. But it feels almost farcical to think that I actually feel the terror that the people there in Mumbai felt. Life here goes on as usual. What do you do? Do you not entertain your guests? Do you not let your children enjoy a holiday break? You feel and yet you go on. And that makes you feel like you don't really care. Very unsettling feeling.
Prices slashed big time for plasma screen TVs. It is all over the news. Advertisements bombard us on TV. In all the years that I have lived in America, I had never stepped out on Black Friday for shopping deals. I am not much of a shopper but I had been curious about the Black Friday frenzy always. I was amused by tales of how an Indian neighbor of one of our relatives stormed into some department store to grab the rice cooker that was selling for $5.00 or some such insanely low price but had to contend with another hand placed on the only piece left, a Chinese person who loved rice just as much I suppose. They battled it out and the Indian person had the satisfaction of emerging the winner after experiencing the thrill of the chase when in fact he could have afforded to buy a very expensive rice cooker at full price.
I watched NDTV late into the night. I could not believe my eyes when they were showing this one commando on Nariman house shooting away - I was confused if this was the norm - to show such strategic operations on live TV?! I read blog posts and newspaper articles and went to bed very late at night. I had wanted to get some thing in particular for my cousin's daughter and I knew that I would not have much time during the day to go get it for her without her insisting on coming with me (in which case my cousin would have insisted I not get her one more gift). I knew Kohls was opening it's doors at 4.00 a.m. for Black Friday specials and I thought it would be a good time to go and get it over with before the kids woke up. I woke up at 5.30 a.m. and got ready and drove to Kohls at 6.00 a.m.
My first time going to shop at such an unearthly hour. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the parking lot completely full and I had to go around and around and finally found a spot in the far end of the lot. I walked in and saw that there were no shopping carts or bags available. I didn't need one since I was only going to get some trinkets for my niece. I paused and looked at some, didn't find what I had in mind and decided to walk to the children's section. I got there and saw that people were all standing in line and shopping. Wait, no - they were not shopping. They had finished shopping and were waiting in line to pay. That was the line snaking through three long sides of the store leading to the cash registers. I had never seen anything like this before. And honestly I didn't even think these were any great deals. I instantly decided to return home since it was just not worth standing in such a long line to get a couple of tee shirts or trinkets.
It was early dawn when I was driving back home. It was Shobha De on NPR talking about the Mumbai situation. About how she used to stand outside the Taj hotel when she was a little girl and wonder if she would ever be able to afford even going into that place let alone be married there. And that her daughter was to get married there 10 days from now and that she "absolutely" would go ahead with those plans if the hotel were to be back in business etc. Mumbai on my mind all along. Even as I blankly drove to Kohls and back. But in a strange way so removed from it all. Like there are times when you know someone you love is no more but the reality does not sink in at all because you are so far away from it and just cannot feel it physically. I had that feeling when my cousin passed away from sudden complication from her cancer, a month after my father passed away. My father's demise was very real to me because I saw him physically that way. But my cousin, I still cannot come to grips with that reality. That when I go back home, she will not be there at her lovely home.
I came back home and went upstairs to see what the kids were upto. KB had woken up to go the bathroom and had asked for me and had cried when he saw I was not home. But he calmed down in a minute and was in bed just when I walked in to the room. I did not even wait to change back into my night pants again. I just got into bed and asked KB to come from his little toddler bed and sleep in our bed. KG was asleep in her crib. The room was dark. It was nice and cool. I pulled the comforter over myself and KB and snuggled close to him. He has had a cough for a week now. He coughs mainly as soon as he wakes up or is in the lying down position. I made him sleep in an inclined position on two pillows and rubbed his back. I thought of the little child and her mother who were rescued. I really did feel for them. That kind of terror when you don't know if your child is going to be safe the next minute must be gruesome. I honestly felt a feeling of thanks - to the powers that be - to have the pleasure and privilege of being able to snuggle next to my child and provide him the comfort for a minor cough and feel a sense of home in that moment. I wonder if the terrorists know of such feelings - is it that they were not loved? Why would they do this to innocent people? To innocent children? The world is too complex, the questions too many, answers too few. But that moment felt full and happy and I clutched at it thinking once again about how vulnerable we all are and how people must have been enjoying such moments when terror struck them in Mumbai. I can never comprehend the mind of such terrorists who would be willing to destroy families mercilessly. With such conflicting emotions, I pulled KB closer and prayed for their safety in this cruel world and fell asleep for another half an hour.