Monday, May 02, 2011

an interesting turn of events

In an interesting turn of events, both Finance and Big Brother are in India this week.  Big Brother is still en route, but Finance arrived two days ago.  It is an interesting turn of events because Osama Bin Laden was just killed (murdered? assasinated?).  Here is what Finance wrote me this morning from his phone:

I think I must start by saying that being in a majority Muslim area of India hearing this news has not given me any particular insight. Rather, perhaps selfishly or naïvely, I feel more uneasy about the event than I would have had I been safely at home in New York. I heard the news less than a day after reaching Hyderabad and it hit me a blow not unlike the oppressive heat and pervasive poverty here. At first I was bewildered and elated, but then, and this is when the selfishness kicked in, I realized that this put me in a precarious situation. I was mere moments from leaving my hotel to take in the madness of a nearby Indian market, but realized that being an American abroad had changed to include a level of danger that hadn't existed mere hours before. My fears were confirmed by the American State Department by way of a strongly worded warning for US residents abroad to stay in their homes. In an interesting turn of fate, that was out of the question for me as I had minutes earlier checked out of my hotel and had a few hours to kill before I could meet up with a friend of a friend who's apartment I would be staying at for the remainder of my time in India. I tried to unobtrusively sit in the lobby of the hotel to plan my next move. This was effective for a while but then I began to get constant requests by increasingly well dressed employees as to when they could arrange a taxi to take me away. I must admit that I was a little panicky. I could not impart the State Department warning or my own, perhaps unjust, fears upon anyone. Eventually a dapper fellow in a suit insisted upon knowing my plans. I told him I would just wait a while longer, then eat lunch there (so as not to appear to be a freeloader) and he looked at me incredulously,  this being hours before the restaurant would open. I was wondering how these people felt about the death of Osama Bin Laden and what they thought of this ridiculous American trying to hide in their lobby. Eventually I hit upon the idea of asking if their bar was open. I could use a drink, both in celebration and out of the erroneous assumption that it would calm my nerves. They were amenable, if slightly nonplussed about opening their bar at 10 am to a single patron. I then took up residence in their dark bar, nursing Kingfisher beers, and eventually writing this rambling missive on my phone. I turned on the television and began to consume news reports along with my beer. Hours before they would even wake or hear the news, I sent confident messages to my fiancée and family saying I was fine and keeping my head down, to not worry about me and that I loved them. I began guessing that this was a gross overreaction to the situation, but it soothed my nerves and I'm hoping theirs. What somewhat helped me cope with this newfound uncertainty was the arrival in the dark bar of the hotel management. Three impeccably dressed Indian men who came in and harangued the bartender, the only words I understood were CNN and TV. After flipping channels for a while, they then asked where I was from, and upon hearing the reply lit up in smiles and began vigorously slapping me on the back and shaking my hand saying how happy they were in India and how, again erroneously assuming at least in part, that I was drinking this early in celebration of this momentous event. Perhaps the most striking facet of the Indian news coverage has been the villainization of Pakistan. Headlines kept flashing: PAK's Lies Exposed, ISI Builds Mansion for Osama? and Pakistan Caught Red Handed?. I wondered if this had something to do with the positive reactions and distinctive head wobbling of the Indians I spoke with. As I write this one of the men in suits returned and said, "Big celebrations in US, yes?" With my poor imitation head wobble I said yes big celebrations and started to explain that I was also nervous about potential reprisals, but quickly realized that the language barrier was too great to convey anything but feeble agreement. Again and again I saw images of Washington and New York in the throes of celebration. If I were at home I would have enjoyed, if not joined in the celebration, but sitting here in Hyderabad, I just felt uncomfortable with the death of a prominent Muslim, despite his mass murder and general loathsomeness. I worry about martyrdom, and retribution, but perhaps as an American who's father has spent extensive time in Afghanistan in recent years and like many Americans keenly felt the blow of 9/11, I should just embrace the positive. Whether Pakistan will now be declared a terrorist state or this will effectively end the "War on Terror" I can't say. All I can say is that a monster has been excised from the world and because of my own situation I can't tell how to feel about it.
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