Friday 27 November 2009

A Diary Entry From One Year Ago

Wednesday 26 November, 2008
7:45 pm. My younger brother, on his way to his best friend's wedding, phones from the check-in counter at Heathrow Airport. He is about to check in but, he says, could we check the news? A friend just rang him to say Terror Strikes in Mumbai, don't fly. But how bad is it really? Is it even true?
Panic stations. My mother, feverishly scanning the internet, her wild unhappy heart reading the article aloud, it's true, don't fly. Don't go. My brother's voice calmly interrupting, can I get an aisle seat? and the nice lady at the other end of the line gives him his aisle seat. And he checks in. Relax, he says (to us, not her), it's Bombay. By the time I get there the city will be back to normal. And anyway I have a lay over in Abu Dhabi. I'll be fine. Don't worry.
8:09pm, text message. Hey babes plane about to take off say a quick prayer for me i will call when i get to abu dhabi ok. If things are really bad i will just catch a flight home from there so tell mum not to worry.

Later that night
My older brother phones from a flat in Colaba, in Mumbai. Don't worry, he says, I'm fine. He had not gone directly to the Taj Hotel as expected; he had stopped in at a bar first, to chill with other friends. Busaba. Next to Leopold's. When gunfire exploded next door they stayed where they were. He is as calm as his brother. Just tired. It is 5am his time and he is off to bed.

My younger brother's fiancee phones from a flat in Singapore. It is 6am her time. Did he fly? My father, wresting the phone from The Women (my mother, myself), calmer even than my brothers, assures her Bombay is a civilised place and not to worry. So we are all not worrying now.

Thursday 27 November, 2008
Time crawls by, edgy and tasting strange. The phone rings. It is the younger one back at Heathrow Airport and time starts to move sluggishly forward. My father smiles a little, my mother a lot.
Later that night back at his flat, he rings again and we watch the news together.

Friday 28 November, 2008
The news is skewed to British interest. Like are the terrorists British Muslims? And it feels like the straight planes of time have just curved into a circle.
Fifteen years ago this month, we arrived in England seeking refuge from anti-Muslim riots, fire and fear. This year I am thirty years old and bearing a Muslim name gets no easier.
And I try to think back to a time when Muslim meant good. And ironically (or not) I think of Emperor Shah Jahan constructing the Taj Mahal in honour of his beloved wife Mumtaz. In the poetry of his grief he created something that has survived four hundred years of human catastrophe and destruction.

Photo: Serena Noorani


RNSANE said...

I remember that day so well. I was afraid for all my Indian friends in Mumbai. Thankfully, all were safe and sound.

Terrorism is a fearful thing. Irrational fears erupt, as well.

Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

I love your Dad....taking the phone. ..It's a civilized place....
yes it is.

I love you dear dancing girl. So much to bear and bare.

Today my last full day in Chiang Mai. You know, there are direct flights between Chinag Mai and Singapore. How 'bout that?

Aristarkhos said...

Didn't know Rizwan was in town and so close to Leo's...freaky.
Was glad I was no where near that place that evening...Colaba is a favourite haunt for wife and I. The roads were empty and so silent on those days. It was totally depressing. I never felt this way even when the serial bombings took place during our board exams. Probably because I did not fully understand...

Jeannette StG said...

This is hard to read, Shaista. My parents moved our family to Holland because the Muslim riots in Indonesia. In Holl. we were safe and financially it went well, but my parents never adjusted to their new country.

Maxine said...

Wow. 'In the poetry of his grief he created...' and you, too, have created in the poetry of your own.

Sharon McPherson said...

Your story was important to tell. Thank you. The rest of the world hear what the media want us to hear; usually.

I liked your brother saying 'tell mum not to worry.'

'Not to worry' ... impossible - mums worry. I am a mum myself. I WORRY. I am glad your brothers and family are safe. :)

Your story is special and your poetry is beautiful.

ramble said...

The amount of hate and paranoia we humans are capable of is not funny. When we will ever be able to live without fearing 'others'?

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