On an achingly beautiful lush hillside on the Maharashtra coast, I have a minimal and intermittent cellphone signal, but enough of an internet access signal that I can write and post this. Last evening, I sat and watched the sun set while several people around me chanted "Om". Chanting is not something that particularly interests me, but there was a harmonious, almost heartfelt, resonance that these folks managed with their "Om"s. It was not the cacophony I might have expected from half-a-dozen random voices, but an almost miraculously coordinated symphony.
I listened, and I looked around. On the distant beach watered by long slow waves, I could just distinguish two figures walking, their dot of a dog in the water. Far overhead, a lone plane drifted past, its hum like a troublesome mosquito. A barely visible skein of egrets made their way home past the patch of palm trees fronting the beach. Birds chirped from the trees on the hillside, and that croaking, was it a frog? That "deee-doit, deee-doit", now that was definitely a lapwing, the elegant bird known in some spots, because of that call, as a titodi. Behind me a voice speaks in, of all things here, Tamil.
And it's in this setting that a few of us have been talking about such things as war and terrorism and hatreds. It's in this setting that, with my weak internet signal, I got an email message via a list I belong to, and this person writes: "there is no dearth of prominent muslims in India and powerful people at that! We must keep them under some form of surveillance as there is a threat from within."
Been wondering, too, about the incongruity of such themes in such surroundings.
And yet somehow it is these surroundings that make me think about some other themes, like finding your strength, and what it means to be united, and how you punish great crimes, and how you deal with hatreds that drive men to turn against each other, to kill innocents.
Is war an answer to some of that? No, because it is the soft option, the easy option. It is what the terrorists want to provoke from us. The truest measures of their success are if we start chafing to go to war, if we start turning on each other, if we start suspecting each other, if we start widening the divides we already have. The more those things start happening, the more the terrorists and their masters must be giving each other high-fives (if they could) to celebrate.
Instead, our strength lies in demonstrating to terrorists that we will be unbowed. That we will build the kind of nation where they can never succeed, that they can never break. That they will lose not because we have more guns and tanks, but because we are Indians. All of us.
Because sometimes, sometimes, you get a symphony.