Kasab…. and thereby hangs a tale!
“ Kasab ko latka do…” Done. Kasab has been sentenced. He is to hang. Will he? That’s a million dollar question. Even if Kasab leapfrogs over fifty other prisoners on death row, whose mercy pleas are on hold with the President of India, he could be left cooling his heels in the clink for the next ten years. This 22- year- old ‘menace to society’, will then be a decade older – that is , if no one gets to him before that. The general feeling , at least in Mumbai, is that ‘latkana hai to jaldi latka do.’ Forget the monumental expense of keeping this guy alive and well- fed in our midst, the trickier part is to keep him – period. It is not his safety alone that is at grave risk, it is the safety of the city, and more importantly of the country . Kasab by himself is a complete nobody. His minders would have preferred him to die during the 26\11 terror attacks. It is his misfortune and ours that he survived. Despite the stupendous job done by the Mumbai cops ( in particular, by Rakesh Maria who headed the investigation ), the Kasab story remains incomplete and on many levels, entirely unconvincing. This was exactly what the master minds in Pakistan had hoped for – unleash violence, create an atmosphere of insecurity, mislead the people of India…. and then watch the fun.
There is not a single destination left on the planet that is ‘terrorist proof .’ The world was witness to what happened last week in the heart of New York. And to think, that audacious attempt was engineered pretty effortlessly in a country that prides itself on all the deterrents that kicked in post 9\11. Once again,the watching world looked on in disbelief and horror, as a crude bomb nearly went off in Times Square,engineered by
Faisal Shahzad , who was on the verge of nonchalantly escaping to Dubai from JFK terminal before being picked up. There may be hundreds where he came from. Just as there may be half a dozen homegrown Kasabs waiting in the wings to strike at the first opportunity. Opportunity? Ha…. There is one in India every second minute. Somehow, our mindset is against the sort of security measures that prevail across the globe. We resent the very people whose job it is to ensure our safety. Since I travel constantly, I can tell you, our airports remain our weakest links. Why? Because security efforts are a bit of a joke, and we ourselves treat them lightly. Last week, while returning from a short trip to Goa, I was silly enough to carry a doggy bag with my favourite fish curry in my hand luggage. There is no way one can pack curry into a suitcase, right? Yup. Absolutely right. But…. think about it…here’s a person ( me!), who knows the rules, is perfectly aware that liquids cannot be taken on board ( if over a 100mls). Did that simple thought even cross my mind as I happily set forth with 500mls of curry to enjoy back home? Nope. So… what happened at the security check? A lady cop giggled, shrugged and pointed to her senior ( a burly guy), who came up to ask what it was that I had in a plastic container. I brightly said, “ Fish curry.” He licked his chops before mildly scolding me, “ But madam… you cannot take it on the plane.” My disappointment must have been obvious, because his face softened as he came up with a solution. “Madam, you can eat it here …no problem.” That would have been a first for me. An unappetizing first. Seeing my tepid response, he made another suggestion, “ Why not empty out half the curry and take the rest?” Oh heavens … I admit I was desperate, but not that desperate! By then five more cops had gathered around the plastic container to offer assorted advice. Some had abandoned their posts to participate in the curry debate. Other passengers were being waved through casually, their belongings checked in a cursory way. One of them could have been the new Kasab\ Faisal . Ten minutes later, the burly senior cop strolled away with a smirk on his face. That was clearly the signal the juniors were waiting for. The lady cop all but winked at me before stamping the security tag on my handbag and whispering, “ Theek hai , theek hai madam….drama kar raha tha.” I mean…. Seriously. Come on! Rules ought to be rules, no matter who or what ! That blessed curry was giving me indigestion… a severe belly ache by now. And I said to myself, “ This is so dumb.” Equally, it was so dangerous. Technically speaking, I could have held up the plane with that fish curry. I could have temporarily blinded the unsuspecting crew, forced myself into the cockpit and flung some more of the chilly heavy gravy into the captain’s face. It would have rated as the first plane hijack in the world accomplished by a woman wielding nothing more lethal than delicious Goan fish curry.
I cite this comical, farcical almost surrealistic incident only to highlight the sorry state of our basic security measures at airports… and our own ludicrous attitude to them. We regard checks as somehow being of high nuisance value. The same desis who wordlessly and passively strip down to their underwear at American airports, look deeply insulted and act seriously affronted when much milder procedures are enforced back home. I have witnessed countless “ How dare you?” moments, and wondered at the miracle that has so far saved us from a gigantic calamity. Five star hotels , malls and multiplexes generally employ desperate youth, incapable of holding down any other job. Their ‘training’ is a joke as is evident when you watch them go through the motions in a robotic fashion. What happened at the German Bakery in Pune, is but one example of our own absurd attitude to safety.
Do Indians have a death wish? Sometimes, I feel hapless enough to believe we do!