I did not participate in the Halloween festivities this year. Instead, I flew home to be with my family, to grieve the death of my uncle. The youngest of nine siblings who should have been the last to go, ended up being the first.
When I first heard about the magnitude of the New Delhi attacks, I was shocked that any of my family members had been affected. I thought to myself, “In a city with a population of 13.8 million, the probability that any of my family would be among the hundreds affected is very low” – and that is when it hit me. After reading about war and terrorist attacks on a daily basis, we begin to think about human life in terms of mathematics. Casualties become merely numbers instead of people with lives, people with families. The more casualties we read about the more numb our hearts become to the loss of humanity.
This weekend my family was directly affected by terrorism. On Saturday evening in New Delhi, India, my uncle, his wife, their 13-year-old daughter Ranya and their nine-year-old son Hardick (yes that is his real name, but that’s not what this story is about), had gone shopping at Sarojani Nagar, a market where I shop each time I go to India. At this time of year, the markets are bustling with holiday shoppers preparing for Diwali, the biggest festival of the year, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil. After finishing their shopping, they placed all the newly purchased gifts in the car with the taxi driver and decided to eat some chaat, a snack that is specially prepared at Sarojani Nagar.
Within three minutes of leaving (as told by the taxi driver), the explosions occurred. They never returned to the car. The terrorists strategically planted the bomb in a small pressure cooker near a row of gas cylinders where the chaat is prepared with hot frying oil. The bomb went off, igniting the gas cylinders causing them to explode. My uncle died instantly with a blow to the head, probably by a piece of one of the metal cylinders that burst into pieces. My aunt is in critical condition with 80 percent of her body severely burned. It will take months for her to recover – if she survives. As for the kids, both have sustained broken bones and have 40 to 50 percent of their bodies severely burned. As far as I know, they have not seen their mom and have no idea that they will never see their father again. I hope and pray that they did not watch their father bleed to death. My biggest fear is that they will grow with hatred in their hearts for what happened to their parents.
So, why did I write this? Not because I want you to offer your condolences. I do not wish to obtain your grief nor do I want to convince you that the world is evil. My goal is to challenge your false security; to destroy this idea of invincibility that you have. Not a single one of us is invincible to tragedy and just because it has not directly affected you, does not mean that it won’t. This is a problem for all of humanity. All over the world people are killing each other, and in the process they create their own enemies.
Violence perpetuates the cycle of hatred. This is a social epidemic.
What am I asking you to do? Embrace all of humanity as your own family. Don’t turn your head to those who are suffering. Tomorrow when you read the paper, there will be casualties induced by some terrorist attack in some far away country. Who knows, maybe there will be a terrorist attack in this country – it has happened before. Don’t simply read the headline, and turn to the entertainment section. These casualties are more than numbers. They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, lovers and friends. Each of those people who have died will be terribly missed by someone. Don’t remove your cloak of humanity because you think that you are helpless or that it doesn’t affect you, because whether you like it or not, it does.
Lori Nigam is a third year biopsychology major.