Tag Archives: terrorism

Black Humor

Daniela brought home a joke from work last night. Apparently, there is a bit of black humor making the rounds of our employer’s Bangalore office.

Q: What do you do if you need to lay people off?

A: Offer them a free weekend at the Taj.

A surreal Thanksgiving

Did hear about the attacks in Mumbai last night?

What attacks?

That was at the bus stop this morning. I had rolled out of bed and gotten the kids off to the bus stop. I had seen the headline about the attacks in Mumbai, but frankly had ignored it. It was an understated headline and lately there have been a spate of communal attacks by Hindus there – with an ensuing scandal involving the BJP – and I thought it was related.

Then Sharon told me that a hundred people had been killed and it hit closer to home.

So I went home and checked the news. Dani and I been glued to the news all day; switching between television news and the internet. The news is pretty much nonstop downtown Mumbai. Life here in Bangalore is going on as normal; though the topic of conversation is universally Mumbai.

In other news, we’re going out to dinner in a short bit. We don’t have an oven and cooking a turkey would have involved cooking it in the neighbors’ oven (we did find a source for turkeys); but given that they are Brahmans, that would not have gone over well. Between watching the attack coverage on the news and going out to a multi-cuisine restaurant instead of cooking at home, this is a surreal Thanksgiving.

Back – Kind of…

I’ve been offline for the past five days due to a screwup at BSNL, my ISP. They have been interesting. The bombings kept everyone at home all weekend it seems. The newspaper even showed a photo of a “deserted” MG road that still had too many people for Daniela’s taste. It was however a fraction of the usual hordes. The kids can now find Gudjarat on the map. Newspapers talk incessantly of terrorists; what is wrong with the government’s attempts to root them out, how which groups work, the lucky and unlucky stories. There is even a wikipedia article on the Bangalore attacks, as well as the ones in Gujarat on Saturday.

I’m actually starting to get sick of terrorism. Honestly, I’m more interested in what they are doing about the electricity and diesel shortages in Karnataka. This part of India gets a big part of its power from hydroelectric dams. Until this week, the monsoon rains had more or less failed to make it over the mountains, meaning the reservoirs are low and power production is reduced. There are scheduled blackouts lasting several hours a day. This being India, people are prepared for public infrastructure to fail. Everyone and their pet monkey has a diesel powered backup generator. Palm meadows has kept our blackouts to a minimal duration, though even they seem to run out of fuel on longer outages (and always just 5 minutes longer than my inverter can hold out for). This sudden surge in home generated electricity also means a 50% spike in diesel usage; something that the gas companies have not been able to supply.

So we have a water shortage. Doe to the water shortage, we have an electricity shortage. Due to the electricity shortage, we have a diesel shortage. Most gas stations (called “bunks” here) have shortages. Those that have diesel develop long lines reminiscent of the 1973 oil embargo. My driver spent half a day last week finding fuel for our car.

I never dreamed that the amount of rainfall could affect my ability to get fuel.

Call me cynical, but I think that it is safe to say that more people have died in July due to food poisoning (that would not have otherwise happened if the power had not gone down for an extended time, making refrigeration unreliable) than terrorism. Tens of thousands die every year in India from bites of the common krait and russel’s viper. Terrorism kills a number in the low hundreds. People won’t go to MG road for fear of further attacks, but they’ll walk barefoot in the dark – risking snakebite – and the non vegetarian will risk e.coli tainted meat in an environment where refrigeration has become unreliable. People everywhere it seems worry most about what the newspapers are worrying about and energy shortages are last week’s news.

Ah and it finally started raining in earnest this week! FINALLY!!!

An interesting day

We had an interesting day today in Bangalore. Terrorists, likely one of two militant Muslim groups (the SIMI or a Kashmiri group calling itself the LeT), set off a series bombs in downtown Bangalore. It is still early and not everyone agrees even on the most basic facts. Some reports say that there were seven blasts and others say nine. They were all low powered bombs it seems. Two people were killed and a score or so wounded.

Five million others went home early.

Naturally this caused some excitement in our household. About an hour after the bombs went off, news reached Daniela, who promptly called me and let me know. I then started calling around to the parents of our kids’ classmates to see what was going on with the school. Would they be sent home early, or might they be held at the school. These were relevant questions as the real action with terrorist attacks in India is often not the bomb blasts, but the follow up rioting as Hindu hotheads go out into the streets and take their anger out on any Muslims – or indeed anyone – they find. Trying to reach anyone was virtually impossible as the networks were jammed with traffic …or so I thought at the time.. Eventually one of the parents told me that the busses were sent home an hour early, so I already went to the bus stop to wait for the kids. They were only about twenty minutes early. They had staggered the actual release of the busses from the school and the police had an extreme lockdown on bus and truck traffic.

The kids seemed both frightened and exited; probably more the latter. The news of the blasts and the teachers’ caution during the ride home (there is a teacher on each bus) imparted the seriousness of the situation. It did not impart a great grasp of the facts. The things I learned from Charlotte include:

  • The bus ride took so long because the road had been destroyed.
  • All the trees were burnt black and had lost their leaves.
  • No birds were singing.
  • To listen to Charlotte, Vartur looked more like the western front during the First World War than… well… Vartur. Never fear, the closest blast was at least 10km (6 miles) away from any of us and the kid’s school is even further from the center of town. It is really out in the countryside.

    Our driver’s usual route home takes him through a neighborhood that was bombed. He took an alternate route to avoid that neighborhood and downtown in general in case there was any rioting. It turns out that the mobile phone networks were being jammed by the government to “prevent the spread of rumors”; which to me sounds like a euphemism for “prevent the formation of mobs that might run amok all weekend and kill another hundred”. This seems to have had the desired effect so far. Interestingly, while we were waiting for our kids at the bus stop, one of my neighbors had an interesting observation. Traditionally, Indians have rioted after terrorist attacks; but this has abated in the past couple of years as, sadly, Indians have become used to them.

    I’m sure that jamming the phone networks still doesn’t hurt.

    Holger’s flight back to Germany is tonight. The taxi picked him up at ten. Tonight is likely the safest day of the year to fly. The terrorists have already done their thing and security is extra tight; as it always is after the attack. He should have interesting stories about the airport.

    Seriously, what did these people hope to achieve by killing a poor woman at a bus stop? I’d have expected terrorists – at least the “professional” kind – to go after one of the tech companies to try and scare off foreign firms.