A former roommate asked me a question once. She'd said, "Why are muslims so violent?"
I felt insulted by the question, but looking at her face, I realised that she was asking because she really didn't have a clue.
Calmly, I put down my newspaper, and delivered a little lecture on history and current affairs.
She persisted. "But why are all terrorists muslims?"
I mentioned the LTTE. And the various armed guerrilla groups in the north-east. I told her about the Khalistan movement. About Ireland and about Nazism. About how fraught the word 'terrorist' is...
But I don't think she was persuaded. She probably still believes that muslims are aggressive, violent, murderous.
Now, we've had Tuesday.
For the first two days, I was so tired. Because being afraid is one of the most exhausting feelings I know.
My first reaction to the news was fear. Sitting safe at home, watching the news, listening to the high-pitched newscasters announce yet another, yet another... I was afraid. Not just of what might happen in Delhi. Not just of what might happen to family and friends in Mumbai. Not just of riots. Not just of a backlash.
I was afraid because once more, I was stuck with trying to distance myself from 'them'. Once more, millions of people like me find themselves ashamed because their name, their group, their community, their identity has been hijacked. Stolen by murderers and cowards. So that some will feel compelled to denounce and decry events they're not responsible for. So that others don't go on thinking of muslims as a violent murderous terrorising lump of homogeneity.
Through my exhaustion and numbness, I have read some nonsense about why Tuesday, why July, why now, why not other places, why not 'muslim-dominated' suburbs?
For one aggravated minute, I wanted to launch into a little lecture about Mumbai's communal demographics. To point out that there are few suburbs that are Muslim-dominated, but there are some where large numbers of them are concentrated. Mira-Bhayander, for one. Jogeshwari for another. Bandra (east) for yet another. Do they sound recently familiar? I wanted to point out that almost everywhere, victims of 'muslim' terrorism are muslims. Certainly, in Kashmir. And in Iraq. And in Somalia. And in Morocco. I wanted to say a lot of things about a lot of things.
But I was just too tired.
Note to friend with whom I've had warm debates about insecure youths in terrorist outfits: Cold-blooded, pre-planned murder is cold-blooded, pre-planned murder. You can call it a riot. Or you can call it a terror-strike. Murder, by any other name, would be just as unjustifiable.