The answer to that question is obvious…. and has been responded to by countless others. We know ‘why us’…. Mumbai makes an attractive target…. that’s why. But so many days later, we are still reeling... unable to come to terms with what we have been through. At least, I am not. Perhaps it is a ‘woman thing’. The female response to terror is very different from the stereotypical male one. The night Mumbai was blasted, we were at a small sitdown dinner. The men present were far slower in their reactions – which surprised me. They wanted ‘official’ confirmations that the city was under attack, when we could clearly hear the damn blasts and grenade attacks!! Most of the women sensibly followed their gut instinct, summoned chauffeurs and rushed to the safety of their homes…. to be with their loved ones, often young children, who needed them during this unprecedented crisis. The men continued to work those infernal cell phones ,checking with other men what they were doing…. staying put?? Having another drink?Or waiting for a divine signal instructing them on the next plan of action? I can tell you it was frustrating in the extreme.So, what did the women do eventually? Most of us were shouted down – the argument being, men always know best, especially under such unambiguously macho circumstances. I asked, “ But are you guys from the NSG? Have you received specialized training in guerilla warfare? Would you know what to do incase those terrorists walked in and chucked a grenade or two at our group, as we stood around in the foyer of a five star hotel, debating on the seriousness of the problem?” No answer. But several scowls.
This was a story I heard repeated by several women I spoke to in the aftermath of the attacks. Their men totally ignored the far more practical suggestions made by the ladies of the house, and spent most of the time net -working with other guys, as if they were the commandos directly in charge of rescue operations. Oh yes….. just as it happens during cricket\football\baseball matches, men watching the chilling television coverage, had all the answers and were busy giving instructions to people who couldn’t hear them in the first place!! “ What are you doing, you idiot??? Turn left…. turn left…. arrey baba, the terrorist is on the sixth floor, not the fifth. Tch tch tch…. attack from the back…. crouch, crouch… oh ho…. I knew you would miss… aim properly, yaar.” The side show was worth filming. Meanwhile, women were mobilizing support, comforting children and thinking of ways to help the wounded in hospitals. Initiating blood donation drives, collecting food and medicines, clothes, bandages and other useful articles required during emergencies. They were doing their bit, quietly and efficiently, leaving the house- bound heroes to remote control the operations from the comfort of their bedrooms! It is not my intention to ridicule male reponse to war-like situations in an urban setting…. but I can’t help noting how radically varied women’s reactions are under pressure.The big difference I believe, is that men tend to personalize crisis – it is always about them and their immediate priorities (“Oh shooooot….. there goes my meeting tomorrow…. I’ll have to reschedule my flight…. what about that conference call?”). Women rarely think of their own safety – it is their last priority. If they have children, their first concern is saving them, everything else comes next. Terror attacks have a strange way of polarizing society once the worst is over. When lady Mumbaikars go into reflective mode (now!), they tend to get mushy …. over sentimental (“ Imagine….my little Chintu was right there at the Gateway just two days earlier! My nephew’s colleague’s son-in-law escaped by God’s grace when he took an earlier train from CST that night!”). That is when our men come to the fore by allowing their rational selves to take precedence over such meaningless talk. They soberly discuss action plans and accountability. They don’t stop at lighting candles and holding hands…. they trawl cyber space, to look for stuff that shows where our intelligence failures let us down and how we can plug these loop holes in future. A distraught girlfriend called a day after she and her family were rescued by firemen nine hours into the seige from a suite at the Taj, right next to the one occupied by the terrorists. “ Had it not been for the two men with us, we’d be dead…” she said through tears. Well…. she was fortunate to be married to an ex-Naval commander who knew the military drill and insisted on his wife adhering to it.He has always been her hero – and after this experience, she has fallen in love with him all over again. Terror has its uses….. ???? You tell me!!