In a super charged week Boston went from being the scene of a cowardly attack on its marathon to a 24 type manhunt and resolution, with the killing of one and capture of another of the attackers. What drives young people in cities such as Boston, New York, Mumbai or Bangalore to launch such attacks remains a mystery. My brother-in law just wrote from downtown Boston "Rough days for all. Outpouring of emotion everywhere. We have just stepped out towards the site and there are hordes of people milling around."
An acquaintance of mine here in Bombay told me that two days into the Boston saga a fellow runner friend of his sent out a BBM message to all in the group saying "Pray for Boston", to which my acquaintance dryly replied "I presume you prayed for Mumbra as well?" Mumbra? Who or what is Mumbra?
Mumbra is a township on the outskirts of Bombay consisting of rapidly constructed ramshackle buildings on marsh land, thanks to the connivance of corrupt city officials and builders. Though only 40 km outside of Bombay, mentally Mumbra may as well belong to another universe, and for South Bombay-based runner types the goings on in Boston hold much more importance than a township filled with creatures of a lesser God. Seventy three (73) people died two weeks ago in a collapsed building that had arisen after only three months of construction.
Though physically here such people as our runner friend are mentally more often than not there, in Boston or New York or London. "Oooooooooooh!!!", an Indian woman squealed in delight in December of our first year in Bombay. "I just loooooove the sight of Christmas trees, it reminds me of home!" 'Home' in her case was London, SW1, or at least used to be.
Two days after the attack in Boston there was a bomb attack in Bangalore in which 16 people were injured. Our runner friend is not known to have sent out a BBM message saying "pray for Bangalore". Indians come cheap, not just in life.
In fairness, it's Indians themselves who attach the least value to the life of fellow Indians. When Mumbai was hit by bomb attacks at Opera House and Dadar in July of 2011, a year after we moved here from Chicago, it was our friends in the U.S. from my days at the International School of Amsterdam and our days with KLM Cargo in Chicago, who within minutes mailed to ask if we were o.k. The global interconnectivity sometimes has a faux air to it, when it is touted as a way of demonstrating that you have been, or would rather be there, but thankfully there are plenty of examples of genuine cross border care and concern.
There are those rare moments in life that you actually pray for memory loss, for some type of amnesia, for an Orwellian 1984-ish, for a Men In Black type 'stare into Will Smith's pen and forget what just happened' blank out moment, for an ability to forget what just transpired, or what you just made happen.
For me that moment occurs about once a year when I set out to transform fresh figs into that for which God originally intended them: crostata di fichi, fig tart. As the transformer, the baker, the primus interparis between mounds of butter, sugar, eggs, freshly ground almonds and yes, a few figs, all held together by a nominal amount of flour, you pray for the ability to forget. Thankfully, no such Men In Black moment is really required because when with the first bite of the hard and flaky short bread crust, followed by the warm and moist taste of the marzipan - like filing of almonds and sugar and the caramelised pieces of fig blends together, all is forgotten and forgiven.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.