Tuesday, 3 March 2009
End of innocence?
Someone asked a long time ago - is nothing sacred?
Well, it seems that even cricket - that fabled game of flanneled fools (or smart-talking, bollywood-looking ueber-sportsman) - is not immune to the rat-a-tat-tat of the AK-47 and the sickening crump of the thrown grenade.
This morning 10-12 gun-men ambushed the Sri Lankan national cricket team in the heart of Lahore, just as they were about to arrive at the stadium to carry on their batting on the third day of their test match.
That result is moot now - as instead we have at least 5 policemen dead, at least 5 Sri Lankan cricketers injured - and the scene of a Pakistani military helicopter landing on the cricket pitch to evacuate the rest of the Sri Lankan team.
Who are the attackers? Who knows. Their military precision and boldness, their back-pack wearing, high-impact weapon toting audacity brings the sad memories of the attacks on Mumbai last year.
Now in the heart of one of the great cities of the Sub-continent, one of the few joys that many average Pakistanis savour has flickered out. Which country will now send their team to this troubled land?
Rushdie in one of his writings talks about "Pakistan, that strange bird, two wings without a body, broke apart" (Midnight's Children). The sad irony of the picture is only worse since Bangladesh broke off in 1971. The further disintegration of Pakistan seems sadly ever more likely with deals being made with Taleban supporting tribal war-lords on the Afghan border, and the dogs of war - the multiple Kashmir-focussed militant organisations proving that they can use their military hardware to strike at will.
In our family prayers this morning we considered the ring of nations around us. Nepal with the Maoists now entrenched in power, Bangladesh which has just seen a terrible mutiny aimed at a putsch, Sri Lanka where what seems to be an end-game with the Tamil Tigers is being brutally carried out. We prayed for the different situations - our voices a small twosome but which we believe are being joined by others across our region.
Its good to think soberly about who we are and what our countries mean to us. To root ourselves in place and relationships. To carefully query and examine the tangled strands of history that have brought us into today.
Someone has said that the wheels of history grind slowly - but they grind very finely. Nations and civilisations have certainly risen and fallen over the past millenia. What we see today is no guarantee about what we will experience tomorrow.
Amidst this gloom we have today's announcement of our general elections in India. The die is cast - from the 16th of April till the 16th of May we will have our 15th general election since Independence. Who will win? No one is sure - but one of the many fascinating aspects of this election is that both main blocks have a back-up man. Behind the incumbent Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh is scion of the Nehru line - Rahul Gandhi. Perhaps more ominously, behind the BJP led NDA block's candidate of Mr. L.K. Advani, is the current chief minister of Gujarat - Narendra Modi. Judging by the posters up already - we see a lot more of Mr. Modi in Thane town than we do of Mr. Advani. For Congress, we have always seen the Gandhis much more than our beloved Dr. Singh...
So we come back to the dangerous neighbourhood that we live in. As Indians we are very, very grateful for the basic rule of law, the apolitical armed forces, the active judiciary, our national and regional press and the basic freedoms to speak, meet, worship that we enjoy.
We may continue to live through turbulent days - and we pray that our liberties will not be reduced, but will rather be used to see God's good light shine into the often dark situations around us.
There never was an end of innocence for us - because we were never innocent. But that does not mean that we cannot see positive, real-life change take place at scales small and large.
We look forward to a day when today's attack on the cricketers will no longer be a memory - not because we have buried it, not because 'worse' things have happened, but because of the fulfillment of the Kingdom at whose centre is a tree of life whose leaves give healing to the nations.