I cannot put it more simply and I do not want to try. It HURTS. It hurts and the images refuse to go away, maybe because this time I chose not to try. Yes, this time there wouldn’t be that filter of calculated indifference, skilfully deployed while reading the daily news in this day and age. Today, I wanted to feel rather than think, write rather than wonder and lend words to images that existed only in my mind. Because today more than ever, I wanted to take the time to understand why these images wouldn’t go away.
French images from Chennai, when I stood waiting outside the classroom for the lecture underway to finish, even as my parallel Tamil lecture had wrapped up early in the adjacent room. I eavesdropped eagerly at the soft-sounding words and phrases; “Merci bo-koo madhaam”, they all said in musical unison just as the French lesson ended and I sauntered in wondering what it meant. It was all so feverishly exciting and exotic and completely captivated that little school girl’s imagination for years to come.
French images from Nice, twelve years later, when I sat at a coffee place overlooking the supremely scenic promenade at Nice, sipping hot coffee, where time stood still and I made elaborate retirement plans that involved admiring the water, the benches, the asphalt and the view. They called it “Café au lait” on the menu , which that school girl’s imaginative French proficiency would have happily translated to laid-back coffee.
French images from Hong Kong, five years after that coffee, are easy to create and are almost predictable. They include (for the most part of the last 2 months now), a French dictionary, a grammar book, some pronunciation videos and me. “La vie est belle”, a beautiful life, an image of a beautiful life.
Then there were other images today, ones in which little school girls lay dead on the road next to their dolls. (Image source: Reuters)
Indifference had become my go-to survival tactic for today’s world where terrorist cowardice targeting innocents have sadly become far too commonplace, the ensuing social media rage between different ideological camps, far too polarising and the yearly anniversaries with candles and peace marches far too worryingly characteristic. Indifference that usually stemmed from a mix of helplessness, resignation and prioritisation of immediate and individual problems – “Its sad but I have lots of work to finish, that geyser to fix, milk to buy”.
I searched desperately for that mask of indifference that would help me get through the day and endure some sort of normalcy. I couldn’t find it. That piece of work in office lies unfinished, that carton of milk that should have been in my fridge remains at the store. The delicious, fresh cup of coffee it would have made tomorrow morning somehow seemed much less important, than penning all of this down urgently.
It is imperative now, more than ever, to stand up and be proud of the way we live, share our individual and collective dreams, continue to travel, learn, work and be inspired by the beauty of our world. If you have actionable solutions to counter terrorism and have a voice that can be heard by those who can make a difference, shout with all your might ! For the remaining amongst us, lets not be bogged down by the deplorable miscreants who seek to destroy it and make us live in fear.
I am going to go back to learning French, with a vengeance. You? If you like, you could start by learning to pronounce cacahuètes – (Kaka-wet I think). Its sounds adorable and it means peanuts. Remember? The ones that we eat, as we sip our wine on the balcony, overlooking the Eiffel tower and with one leg resting over the other – because thats just who we are, who we want to be, and no one can take that away.
May the souls of the innocent rest in peace.