Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moving ahead

I have been away from my blog and my email account for the past few days ... checking them on my phone and not replying. After being glued to them day and night for the past many days I felt that I had to have something substantial to say in my next post. I just felt that I couldn't easily slip back to writing about trivial things in my life; that I couldn't suddenly be normal after everything that has happened. I should not have worried about it, all around me people who were affected have found ways to be and remain a part of this - whatever 'this' is. Overwhelmed is the emotion I have now, next to the grief and anger I talked about - the help and support that people have poured out in every way possible makes me feel like a part of a large whole, it makes me feel hopeful. I was afraid ... what if I got caught up in life and let 'this' die. I should not have worried.

All you guys, we didn't start this but we are going to keep this alive.


Last Wednesday I went to Town, Town is what we like to call South Bombay. It was the longest drive ever - literally and figuratively. I had planned to meet a darling friend and her mum and also wanted to go to the peace march. A close friend didn't want me to go, his point was that there are other ways to help ... still on my way I had thought that I will go to Gateway, what he doesn't know can't hurt him (or me). There are things you need to do for yourself, this just seemed like one of them.

I was scared, I just wasn't sure how I would feel going back to the streets and places which for me are Bombay. I live in the suburbs in a very well-planned township which is cosmopolitan, has all the conveniences and joys which most parts of Bombay cannot afford like open spaces, parks, malls, movie halls, restaurants, nice looking buildings, minimum filth etc. - everything within a 5 min. walk radius. For living, this is the kind of place I would like to live in but this township could have been in any part of India. For me its the colonial structures, the oval maidan, the marine drive, the arched corridors at Fort, the painters at Kala Ghoda, the bustle at causeway ... these are what make it Bombay. The years that I have been here in this city, I have spent numerous days walking about and absorbing the feel of the place and they just keep me coming back. Even the book sellers who aren't there any more, Churchill, Jimmy Boy, NCPA, Rhythm House ... they all are such a part of this city for me that I was scared for what I will feel when I go back this time.

I did feel that heavy sadness which just settles on you, I felt the anger at the thought of these madmen roaming the streets of my city, I felt the sting of tears . But it was some other feeling that took over very soon. I saw the sea of humanity surging towards Gateway, I saw people of all ages, people from different walks of life, people with laptops and people with children, people in groups and people walking alone, people with banners, our flags - they filled the very streets where the terrorists had roamed less than a week back. With rumors still rife it may not have been the safest thing to have over 2 lakh people gather in a not so large space but it did not seem to matter. I was stuck in the traffic for almost two hours and even those who tried to walk it were a part of a pedestrian jam and never reached till Gateway, it hardly mattered though. I have to say that I have never seen or felt anything like it - that traffic snarl and that logistical nightmare was the nicest thing that happened to me after those days.

The movie Halla Bol has this dialogue which I completely love, Pankaj Kapoor (playing Siddhu) says ... Apne Jism pe chot lagne pe to janwar bhi rota hai, insaan wo hai to doosre ki chot mehsoos kar sake - Even an animal cries when there's a wound on its body, a human is one who can feel someone else's wounds.

Sometimes you just need to know that people are affected, that they will walk to a crowded Gateway to speak up - even if that's the only thing they do, that you live in a world where 'everything doesn't go'.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Can anyone guide me on this?

My aunt who lives in Sydney is a very active member of the India-Club and has also been relaying the sentiments of those in Bombay to the community there. She wrote to me regarding the procedure to help those families who have suffered. I am posting her message here and would be thankful if any of you can tell me how to go about this.

Her Message:
A friend of mine would like to raise funds for one particular Police constable from Uttaranchal (Dehradun) who was amongst first casuality - his name is Rajinder Singh. She felt his family may find it very tough to survive financially so she intends to raise substantial amount for his family, especially for the education of his children. What are your thoughts on this? If we do this, how we can make sure that the money reaches his family and does not get lost in the system? Your advice will be very valuable on this.

They key questions are:
  • How to find and contact Rajinder Singh's family?
  • What is the best way to send this aid?
  • How to make sure it reaches the family directly?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Helping Us Heal

The physical scars are easier to see and with time do heal. Its the mental and emotional trauma that is not always easy to identify and even if you do, difficult to deal with. In such times, professional help can help the healing process. This thought was driving me to find a way to help the people who have and are going through the trauma of the current crisis, so when I read Minal's comment on Ser's blog , I immediately talked to her.

Minal is a clinical psychologist and a counselor for animal-aided therapy. Also, she has provided the details for other doctors who might be able to help. I am giving the key details here and are also a part of her message below.

For Trauma Counselling and Psychiatric help :
Minal : 9987509102 and 9421004291
Dr.Machiswala (Head Psychiatrist - Masina Hospital, visiting doc for JJ hospital) - 9820081884

Please refer those around you who may have been rescued, are the victim's families or the people and families involved with the rescue operations to the given numbers. They may or may not be aware that they are in urgent need for this help. Also send any more contact numbers for those who can provide Counselling and Psychiatric help and I will update the given list.

Minal' message:

Serendipity's blog is a reflection of what most Mumbaikars and their families must have experienced in the last six days. Extreme stress, anxiety, loss, fear, trauma etc. It is very easy for us to quote the "Mumbai Spirit" where we go back to work the next day, but it is very difficult to overcome the deep trauma within that does not show outside. Post traumatic stress can set in soon after or even gradually , after a n extremely traumatic situation. Many people find it difficult to cope up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and many simply fail to realize that they are suffering from PTSD. After trauma, extreme fear, helplessness, or anxiety are normal short-term reactions that generally dissipate over time, as individuals cope and adjust.

But most of acute trauma sufferers, however, develop symptoms lasting longer than 30 days. Symptom duration distinguishes PTSD from normal acute stress reactions. PTSD's hallmark symptoms include re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance and/or emotional numbness, sleeplessness etc.

The best way to tackle it is to seek some kind of ventilation to the emotions (Catharsis) resulting from the trauma. A comforting hug from a dog is one way of letting out your pent up stress. This is called Animal Assisted Therapy. Animals are unconditional and their touch is soothing. Most of the time people in trauma or in a state of shock don't want to talk as they re experience the trauma. With animals you do not need to talk. Even if you hug the therapy dog, it provides you immense comfort and reassurance. It also helps in catharsis or venting out of emotions. A person may cry on hugging the dog as it releases the emotions locked up inside. Also the animal is non judgmental. An animal will not judge you for what you do or say, hence providing a very open environment to express oneself.

Please let me know if you know anyone who has been rescued from the Mumbai terror blast, family of survivors, or was a part of the rescue operation. Our NGO Animal Angels Foundation, comprising of counselors, therapists and trained Therapy Dogs are offering free counseling and visits by our therapy dogs for all the survivors, rescued/injured people.

You can contact me on 9987509102 and 9421004291. You can visit our website

You can also contact Dr.Machiswala (Head Psychiatrist - Masina Hospital) - 9820081884.

Looking forward to hear from you.


Call for help : Help where it is needed

"Don't waste on candles, bring us fruits and biscuits for the wounded,say doctors".

This small news piece in my HT today made me feel so foolish, I am so caught up in my anger and in what can make me feel better that I am forgetting something. While the political circus goes on, the news has been overtaken by it and may be so has been our efforts. While I don't say that we stop protesting and raising our voices, let us please not forget that along with the 100s that died, many 100s are wounded and lying in hospitals. They need our help and fast.

In terror attacks like blasts which have a sudden but large impact, the response from the public and the aid is faster to come as they are the first ones to start rescue efforts. In the current scenario, the fact that it went on for 50-60 hours the fear psychosis has kept a lot of people away and the hospitals have not received as much help as in some of the terrible fates this city has seen in the past - even in terms of blood donation the help has been lesser.

The doctors in this news piece say that these are govt. run hospitals where the funds constraints mean that nutritious items like fruits are not a part of the meals given to the patients. Also, at times the patient and especially the children shy from eating these meals well given that they are meant to be healthy and not tasty. In such cases even a packet of biscuit is a help in giving them supplements. "A good diet helps overcome trauma faster."

This is an appeal to everyone out there wanting to help, to all those planning to go to South Bombay for the Gateway Vigil tomorrow - please do what you can. Lets not just mourn our dead and forget our living.

DO NOT bring cooked food, bring only dry packaged food or fruits. Please bring/ send fruits and biscuits to the following :

  • JJ Hospital. Dr. Jaidev : 23735555
  • St. George Hospital. Dr. Ashok Shinde : 9869050622
  • GT Hospital : 22630553

This is what I got from the newspaper, I'm not sure if they require medicines or any other supplies, if any of you are aware please leave a comment. I will try to find out and update this.



Linking to Parul's post here as it links to some useful pages. Do check this.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lets Speak

This is a comment from an anonymous person on my blog, will consider it as a guest post. Thanks, stranger. :

I am amazed at how much I take for granted. When did I start believing and living my life as if I will surely not die before I turn 60 (or maybe 70)? That mundane events like heart-attack, diabetes etc. or absurd horrors like terrorists doing their "aakas" bidding would not cut short my "entitled" long life.

I have read several articles exhorting politicians to do something. "Make sure this does not happen again?" How? I have a hard time believing that the my government can save me from people hell bent on killing. Maybe, I should train and become an NSG commando. Shouldn't we all, just to remain sane and got out for dinner secure in the knowledge that we are much better prepared for our own safety?

It makes me really depressed to realize that for almost 99% of our existence, mankind has not had the luxury of assuming that they are safe in their homes--that there is a government or an NSG commando out their to protect us. What is the difference between the guys who attacked Mumbai, and Alexander or Ghengis Khan who wrecked havoc on the lives of people half way across the world? Maybe, Alexander is great only in the comfort of our living rooms.

We would like to believe that these terrorists who attack us are misguided? This gives us the hope that maybe some day they will get weary of being a lunatic by choice. Because we sure cannot stop them without our entire country turning into a huge army--at best next time we will be able to "sanitize" the city within an hour with only one person dead. Is that a success? Does it make the pain any less for Hemant Karkare's family that 179 other people were killed?

I am filled with rage not only about these attacks but also at the thought that the biggest issue obsessing Raj Thackrey and his goons before these attacks was how non-marathis were stealing jobs in Mumbai and how to terrorize them into leaving Mumbai. If the government is responsible for ensuring my safety, it is my duty to ensure that they are not distracted by lunatic sideshows periodically created by Shiv Sena. I am not trying to trivialize the issue about the "Darwinian" struggle for resources in Mumbai. The very idea that I have no other option but to hope that the government/army/NSG commandos will arrive in time protect me and my family, fills me with despair.

I hope this does not happen again. That's all I can do.

Last year Praks and I went to the Elephanta festival, on our way there in the ferry as we looked back, the sun was setting, two Spanish women were singing a haunting melody and there was the Taj, in its awesome glory, dwarfing the Gateway. That moment and its feel will always stay with me but right now it moves me like never before.