26/11- the new emotion I learnt

I was in Bangalore when the attacks happened. Was in front of the TV when the first shooting spree in Mumbai was reported as an internal gang war. Soon, the country woke up to an impending sixty hours of horrendous terror. Restless, I switched from one news channel to another. Watched every news report, analysis, press conferences and live coverage endless trying to comprehend the terror unleashed on the city.

As day one progressed, the intensity and the intended magnitude of terror sent tremors to the world. I went for work but the attacks loomed over all our minds. We discussed and contemplated all day. Feeling helpless, I made few calls to friends working for the media in Bangalore to know whether there was anything I could do. Could not find any means to contribute.

As night progressed, I saw a familiar face in the evening news. I last saw him last three to four years back. That evening’s breaking news was the death of Major. Sandeep Unnikrishnan. In the face of tragedy humans turn into numerals and statistics. Numbers tend to disassociate the emotional quotient of life.

Few days later, a memorial service was held at Frank Anthony Public School, Bangalore, for Sandeep Unnikrishnan. He studied in FAPS. It was an open event. My friends and I took off from work to attend the memorial service. Common emotions trickling through everyone’s mind was immense sadness, very unfortunate that he got shot, feeling awful for his parents. I entered the school ground and was overwhelmed by a tsunami of emotions that rushed within me. It was heart wrenchingly beautiful.

My perspective, patriotism, priority changed that day. I learnt about Sandeep’s zeal, his deep rooted, undying love and committee for his country. Friends and teachers recalled Sandeep’s antics and his student life. I tried very hard to control my flood gates. Sunglasses, looking down at the ground none of these tactics worked to hide the grief or the reality. The crowd broke down intermittently at the memorial service.

Sandeep’s father said a few words. And that’s when the flood gates rushed open for many of us. Heart wrenching to watch and hear a father recall his son. I learnt a new emotion. That of grief when combined with valor, pride and patriotism. It is amazingly powerful, dynamic and can change lives.

Next few weeks, frustration and disappointment consumed me. Terror is such that it shakes the foundation of everything you believe in. Sandeep’s father’s words and a vehemently sobbing mother frequented my mind. It never made peace with what I was seeing on the news – Ram Gopal Verma visiting the Taj, comments from the Home Minister, senseless banter from the ministers, bullet proof jacket scam, power struggles within the state which affected the NSG and much more. All we do is talk. We talk and talk and repeatedly talk.

Most of our lives returned to normalcy within weeks. Over a period resilience and patriotism covered everything that was inadequate and inefficient.

I signed up for coaching class to write the Civil Service exams. Rewinding for clarity – I thrive on news, foreign affairs was always my specialty. After the terror attacks, the moves of the external ministry left me bewildered. I decided I wanted to be in the system, join the Indian Foreign Services. The clarity I had at that moment was soul strengthening. The fervor was illuminating, the desire was pure and I couldn’t wait for class.

(to be continued….)

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