Thursday, November 27, 2008

Madness in Mumbai

I saw a movie called “Slumdog Millionaire” that opened yesterday. Set in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), this Bollywood production is about the stirring story of Jamal Malik, an orphan who has witnessed and experienced unspeakable horrors but who goes on to win 2 crores of rupees in the wildly popular Indian TV show called “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

Jamal was born in the teeming slums of Mumbai. When he was about 5, his mother was killed by a Hindu mob in a burst of communal violence. He and his older sibling Salim are “rescued” by criminals whose “business” consists of turning helpless slum orphans into lifelong beggars and prostitutes, and a constant source of income, by disfiguring and brutalizing them.

The two brothers manage to escape and a harrowing sequence of events and escapades follow, with Jamal finally, and improbably, facing the arrogant game-show host. Each question is the source of flashbacks about how he came to acquire its answer through the hard knocks of life that he had to endure. While the older Salim becomes the goon of a godfather and loses his soul (eventually he redeems himself), Jamal retains his integrity in adversity while nurturing a keen aptitude for factoids. Not only does he win a gigantic pile of cash, in the end he even gets the girl. Bollywood melodrama notwithstanding, all of us came out of the theatre smiling.

The smile did not last. With life imitating art but in reverse, on the very same day, Muslim terrorists attacked luxury hotels, train stations, a synagogue and even hospitals in Mumbai, killing over a hundred people and injuring many more. These nihilists fired at random, apparently with “serene smiles” on their faces, as bodies fell around them.

No definitive details have emerged about them yet, but it is difficult to even imagine how human beings can become so brainwashed and turn into such cold-blooded murderers.

The murderous rampage by a few Muslim terrorists have made Muslims everywhere, particularly Indian Muslims, angry, frustrated and vulnerable. The last thing India, and the world, needs is Hindu-Muslim violence. Terrorism threatens us all. It is against all the values that we hold dear. It is against everything that gives life its meaning, irrespective of religion and culture. Terrorists have their own "religion," no matter what they may call themselves, and the essence of that "religion" is to hate and kill. We must unite against it. That is the only way we can defeat it. There is no other way.

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