Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Discussion on Terrorism

Esther David

Open Space held the second session of its Book Tasting Club in Lucknow at the premises of the NGO Saajhi Duniya on Monday, 28th July, 2008, at which an excerpt from the Ahmedabad-based Indian Jewish novelist Esther David's novel The Walled City (1997) was read out to pay homage to the victims of the Ahmedabad blasts and to initiate a discussion on terrorism and communalism. The excerpt was as follows:

A sultan once saw a rabbit turn on an attacking dog, where the kankaria lake now stands and this convinced him that it would be the ideal site to build a city - a place such as this, where even something as timid as a rabbit could fight a dog. That was the day that Ahmedabad was conceived in a vision of violence. The roles are being reversed all the time: strange animals, half-rabbit, half-dog, each eating the other.

Curfew, riots, bloodshed. A river of tears separates us from one another. all that remains of the walls of the old city is a crumbling mound of bricks. I think of it as Ahmedabad's Wailing Wall; it watches over the tears of its people. Nobody visits it or prays to it for help and not even the pigeons find sanctuary in its crevices. Perhaps rats and ants have made their homes at its base. Perhaps Ahmedabad's soul still lives here. Perhaps it is dying like an old grandmother and it needs our help or perhaps it could help us.

The gates stand like lone sentinels with nothing to protest. The curfew slithers between one gate and the other like a constricting python entangled in heavy military boots, guns, water cannons and tear gas. There is no traffic on the roads and in the silence, there is a threat. who is the victim and who the aggressor, one cannot tell.

The Sabarmati becomes the focus of a strange exodus. There are families searching for a corner where they can be safe. The river separates us from the old city, in the same way that it had separated us from the Granny. It looks like a river of blood with cloth dyers washing red cloth in a dying river. Crossing it becomes important. There are questions and more questions churning inside our minds. What is good? What is safe? We live in conflict.
(Esther David, The Walled City, EastWest Books Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, 1997, pp. 186-187)

The session concluded with the reading of a portion of an Urdu poem written by Anwar Nadeem:

बड़े यकीन से कहता हूँ साँस लेता है
हर एक सच्चे मुसुल्मान में एक ईसाई
हमारे अहले-ऐ-वतन के विशाल हृदय में
जगह बनाई है इस्लाम की हिदायत ने
पयाम-ऐ-वेद-ऐ-मुक़द्दस की अज्मतें अक्सर
हमारे आपके अफ़कार में झलकती हैं
न जाने फीर ये ताआसुब कहाँ से उभरा है!

1 comment:

Nabila Zehra Zaidi said...


I am Nabila Zaidi, a freelance writer for HT. Would love to know more about your Book Tasting Club. If, you could mail me a brief at, that would be really nice.