the fatwaif diaries

the workings of a wandering mind

Thursday, July 13, 2006


it will be one year tomorrow, says my host. the cops will be up and about. my heart nearly skipped a beat. what if... mental note: try to avoid peak hour. mental note 2: stop being paranoid. don't let the fear take over and the terrorists win. after all it's 'us against them' isn't it, whoever they are.
well, so much for mental notes. night comes but sleep does not. i try to trick myself every way i know. i attempt what little i know of meditation - hoping the stillness will let me drift into sleep - but it makes me want to scream and kick my legs violently. out of courtesy for the old friend sleeping next to me, i settle for some frustrated but feeble tossing and turning.
i hear the birds chirping, i feel my pulse racing. my thoughts are going wild at four in the morning when all i really want is sleep. by half past four i abandon my mission, say goodbye to megs who was surprise but too sleepy to ask questions, and venture out into the first light.

the street is silent and empty with the sky suspended above like a pink-purple curtain on a film set. i feel crumpled and inappropriate in clothes from the night before and slippers too noisy for the morning. A lone man unloading a truck makes a lewd comment but my loud slippers drown his words out.
the first train to victoria. and then a fifteen minute wait outside the london underground for it to open. sniffer dogs. cops everywhere. people waiting to get in. my eyes burning and bloodshot by now, my skin dry from lack sleep. but the fear even at five a.m. was palpable and it gets me by the throat. i contemplate a hot chocolate.
i look at the people around me. fat white couple kissing unmindful of place, time or bad breath. impoverished bangladeshi man and skinny wide-eyed son with massive suitcases. grubby american backpackers who just don't care about how dirty the ground is. elderly man with cane. east european lady in fishnets. and then i see them looking at me. fatigued indian girl with a worried face and messy hair who stares at everyone else. it's strangely reassuring how we're all different but in some human way, all the same.

the morning metro looks ominous with a black border to mark the anniversary. eerily happy faces look out from the smudgy pages. people who passed last july 7 . im sitting in a near-empty underground train, the first train out on the first anniversary of the bombings reading about the bombings and the latest terror threat - this will happen again. spooky.
could it happen again. it could. please dont let it happen again. please god. my faithless mind surprises itself by conjuring up prayers.
i feel sick in the stomach and long for my bed. the sleep deprivation does crazy things to my mind as i walk through the tunnels of the underground. i make it to canary wharf and i feel relieved if only momentarily. as i walk through the empty mall, i think target, target, target. 9/11 remember?!
i get on the dlr and my heart begins beating normally again. i see the river in the morning light and it looks peaceful. i feel the breeze hold my hand as i drag myself home. i feel immense gratitude for being safe and for reaching home. i crawl into bed and sleep finally washes over me.

july 11. i turn on ndtv and watch as policemen wash blood off the road in srinagar. bomb blasts. i notice that they use water and a jhaadu. how practical, i think. i feel an all-to-familiar distant kind of sorrow, but i'm impatient and i change channels.
i eat a healthy breakfast of oats and wheatgerm. wash dishes. run the washing machine. watch a couple of sitcoms. check ndtv again. seven blasts in bombay. or were there eight. trains. people dead. people injured. chaos, madness. barkha dutt in the studio barking at a bewildered reporter. the same mms footage, grainy picture of injured/ maybe dead man. "please be aware we aren't censoring the images that we are receiving at this time"
the toll rises sickeningly. the same familiar-distant sorrow but this time im shocked into feeling more. more, but not enough not to feel guilty for not feeling enough.
the same panic prayers in my head, but this time they are truly faithless. oh god. oh god. i feel a dull thumping in my veins. i'm alive. i'm alive.