India's foreign secretary took the first tentative steps today towards normalizing ties with Pakistan. It is an important step and a necessary one. In the news analysis of this event, Pakistan media has been repeating its standard accusation that India has framed all bilateral dialogue with terrorism and the Mumbai attacks of 26/11 as its focus and that Pakistan itself has been a target of terrorism. While I sympathize with Pakistani civilians on the Peshawar incident, I have found the Indian explanation of focus on terrorism to be inarticulate and impersonal. So here is mine ..
Quite simply put, Pakistan can forget any meaningful progress on all fronts until the trial for Mumbai attackers isn't brought to its rightful conclusion. Thats exaggerating things a bit, but its more or less true. A lot of people in Pakistan and certainly a lot of people from its intellectual class find this stance rigid and unreasonable. So here is why we wont budge without 26/11 resolved. Trial or not - judgments or not - the attacks of 26/11 will never fade and heres why -
We love Mumbai. To the Mumbai born, Mumbai is our introduction to India. It is the first sound of our conscious voice. It is a DNA inherited love for rains, chai and music. It is a collection of experiences inseparable from our own identities. Experiences rich and vibrant, exhilarating and exhausting, as varied in its shades as the colors of the city itself.
It is the smell of popcorn at Eros where we watched the first movie after a lecture bunk. It is the hypnotizing sound of track changes as a fast local to CST takes speed. It is the sheer joy of changing sky colors as we chat endlessly upon Marine Drive. It is the smell of yellowing train passes we preserve. It is our ability to tell local stations from looking at the crowd. It is the weight of shopping bags from fashion street. It is the sensation of wet sand in our toes from countless walks on Juhu. It is the flavor of insanely delicious paani puris on the beach and a love of strong winds from midnight drives on the sea link. It is the half priced pirated books at Fort and the scent of kerosene on xeroxed study notes. It is the sound of Radio Mirchi with 3am burji pav. It is an irrational addiction for a female voice that makes our train announcements. It is the endorphin high of a Tendulkar straight drive and a love of all things Madhuri Dixit. It is the thrill of scoring a window seat and the sound of Shaan in our earphones.
These places and streets are not landmarks - they aren't our tourist spots - they are our childhood friends - as alive and as articulate in their personalities as our flesh and blood friends. The attack of 26/11 is not so much a distant over analyzed tragedy as it is a scar on our right palm, you only have to write, or type or wave or move to feel its presence. It is not to say we dwell in the past, as much as it is to own our past. Mumbai has been the constant and steady witness to our life events. It is where we grew up into adulthood, where we learnt about the world and where we fell in love. It is this generation that will soon come to power in the halls of politics. You can rest assured, that they all have a scar on their right hand.