Rukmini Iyer
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Rukmini Iyer

A Prayer for Humanity

A quiet prayer for life, and for Baby Moshe (well, he probably wouldn’t like to be called baby now; I hope he’s a healthy, happy teenager)...
Today marks 12 years of the Nov 26 attacks in Mumbai, that changed how we Mumbaikars viewed life, and death. Somehow, till that day in 2008, Mumbai had this spirit of bouncing back from adversities without a pause, perhaps without much-needed reflection and mourning.
I remember growing up through the Babri Masjib riots in 1993, numerous gang wars and the infamous 'encounters' on the streets, a lot of which happened in full public view... the attitude perpetuated by the 'commercial capital' of India was to get back to business as soon as possible. Once in 2003, there was a bomb blast in another compartment in a local train I was commuting in. I remember the brisk, unemotional response a lot of us had: we climbed down from the train onto the track, walked to the nearest station which was very close by, and simply waited for the services to resume. Somehow, we were trained to mind our own business, help others where possible, and get out of the way and on with your life, when you could not help.
The Nov 26 attacks changed that. I had just moved back to India, and was still contemplating if I wanted to stay here or move elsewhere. Safely ensconced at home that evening, I realised something was wrong when a couple of people called to check if I was ok and hoped that I was not at some of my regular hangouts. As the news of the terrorist attacks built up over the night, and the next morning, and the next... something shifted. For the first time, it was not one encounter, one killing, one blast that would shake us up for a few minutes till we moved on for a few days till the next incident. It lasted 3 days and did not permit business as usual to return.
Over the next few days and weeks, the loss and grief slowly seeped in. A friend narrowly escaped her building when she saw on TV that the terrorists had entered it and were hiding somewhere. A few other acquaintances were helped by courageous staff members at the Taj hotel to make it out alive. A couple of young men I had taught the last semester in a business school in Singapore bled to death at Leopold’s cafe after being shot. One of them was to get married a week later.
I don’t remember how and when I started praying for Baby Moshe. He was then around two years old, the child of the Rabbi and his wife who were killed at the Chabad house. His nanny had the presence of mind to whisk him away and escape, after she found him calling for her, sitting in a pool of his parents' blood. Perhaps it was out of desperation that I prayed; I hoped that the little one had not had to see his parents being tortured and killed with his innocent eyes. Perhaps it was out of fear; I really did not want him to grow up with hatred for those that orphaned him.
The prayer has changed and evolved over the years, but for some reason, has sustained. Today I pray that he feels nurtured and cared for, and has it in his heart to understand the pain of those that killed his parents.
Wherever you are Moshe Holtzberg, I pray you trust your own humanity, and honour the life that flows through us all.

#RukminiIyer #Nov26 #MumbaiAttacks

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