So my friends, 2015 has arrived amidst much pomp, splendour and a fresh bunch of terror-attacks. Certain paradigm shifts that swept into this world in the past few decades seem to have finally achieved a definite shape with the arrival of this frosty month of January.
Going by recent world events, I have drawn some very sad and solid conclusions. When people shoot bullets these days, their faces hide behind masks and their identities are dictated by the religious beliefs of some trigger-happy fanatics. They prefer to remain anonymous not only to avoid being apprehended by angered authorities for their cold-blooded lust for death and sadism, but also because they choose to highlight their 'cause' rather than their own names or their personal angst.
The last three days saw a terrible bloodbath in France which began with the murder of some cartoonists who made apparently insensitive jokes about Prophet Mohammad. I read headlines, tweets and Facebook-statuses that declared that the pen was clearly no longer mightier than the sword. This felt like a personal defeat to me, because I regard myself as a woman whose life and sanity pretty much depends on the ink that flows out of my pen.
Two years ago, I drove from Geneva to Paris with two of my closest friends. We crossed gorgeous vineyards and quaint French towns on our seven-hour drive to my favourite city in the world. I still remember that we reached Paris around eleven in the night and the first glimpse we had of the Eiffel Tower that night happened to coincide with its daily sizzle that can charm even the snootiest of tourists. Those lights and that wonderfully elegant architecture left me with no option but to fall head over heels in love with this great city all over again. We spent some very memorable days in Paris, and when the time came for us to leave, I vowed to return soon and relive the lovely time that I had here.
To me, Paris will always be best defined by that hauntingly cheerful accordion that plays at the very start of Midnight In Paris (which I believe to be Woody Allen's finest film till date).
That music instantly carries me to those outdoor cafes where we feasted on buttery croissants, to the cobbled streets of Rue Royale where we realized that we needed far heavier wallets to be walking around in this part of the city, to the densely packed Avenue des Champs-Élysées where we shopped until our wardrobes had been effectively revamped and our hunger levels had hit a record high, to the intensely gooey macaroons from Ladurée that made us forget that we had just paid for a dessert that cost more than a round-trip bus ride from Bombay to Poona, to the supremely stubborn and fearless pigeons of Paris that refused to budge despite an adult human being threatening them with angry hand gestures (at least until they had been bribed with some edible goodies), to that magical feeling of walking down those streets at midnight in stilettos that practically tortured your feet but you didn't have the gall to care for comfort when you were in the fashion capital of the world.
Those, among several others, are the memories I bear of this great city in my head.
So, when I saw Anderson Cooper wearing a grave face on TV and telling the world about the horrors of the worst terrorist attack in France in the past half century, I asked myself if this was the lowest low that humanity could reach. Is this the most intolerant slough that we, as a species, have ever waded in? Have we forgotten how to laugh, or is it a forced ban that seems to have been newly imposed on us by these demonic Kalashnikov-bearing fractions?
Do we follow their cleverly laid down path and abide by this horrid rule that they have seemingly set down for us by curbing our sense of humour and extending the courtesies of being politically correct even into that very free, ambivalent world of comic books and laughter?
If you ask me, there's a rather clear answer in my head that pops with the urgency of a bursting corn kernel in a pressure cooker.
Courage is the most attractive and desirable quality in a person; it is also the quality that sets us apart from these cowards that hide in caves and fight an apparent 'holy war' against peaceful innocents the world over. A war is fought on a battlefield, where the fighting armies are prepared mentally, and equipped with adequate ammunition to defend and attack. They have said their goodbyes and their families know what to expect in a worst case scenario. It isn't fought in a marketplace or a magazine head-office, where the people who have been killed were possibly simply out to either buy some groceries or to spend another routine day at work.
The need of the hour is for us to be brave, for us to be unafraid of laughing in the face of pure evil, for us to stare these inhuman souls deep into their hollow eyes and let them know that we shall not change. We shall not cower before their guns. We shall not bow before their black flags.
We shall not let them win, because this is not a war. This is cold-blooded murder.