Can I live please?

bloodI went to Barakhamba Road yesterday. I was standing at the exact place where the bomb blast happened last year. I moved my right ankle in a semi circle to displace the dirt on the road. Maybe I was trying to see if it was still red? I went there to meet my very old friends whom I was meeting after a gap of 7 years.  While standing there I realized how fragile my own life was. I have a lovely family, adorable friends, a good job and some dreams, but someone can press a button and everything will vanish in a second. I just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Moving around in Connaught Place yesterday gave me this creepy feeling. I loved that place! I have some beautiful memories of C.P. but now there is always this fear that its not a safe place. The old warm feeling has died. Its gone.

Whom should I blame? Whom should I blame for embedding this fear in my heart? The fear that I might have to see a mingled, limbless, burnt body of a family member one day? The fear that I, who just want to lead his normal life and live happily ever after with his family and friends, might be blown apart the very next second?

Should I blame the Indian Government? Indians have a “Get used to it” attitude towards everything. Someone is littering on the road. Get used to it! Spitting? Get used to it! Corrupt policemen? Get used to it! BOMB BLASTS? Get used to it! Ofcourse, the Government officials also suffer from the same disease. It took thousands of people flocking the roads of Mumbai and carrying derogatory posters to wake up the government and to make them realise that there is a difference between butchering humans and butchering goats, to make them realise that they were chosen to protect us, to make them realise that “Get used to it” is not going to work this time. We, the citizens of India, choose politicians and give them bullet proof vehicles and 50 black cat commandos each from our hard earned money, not because they can feel safe and forget about the common man who is as vulnerable as he always was. Thinking and mulling over something is good but there comes a point when action is required. How long did the Pakistan Government took to sack its National Security adviser after he confirmed that the lone surviving terrorist is Pakistani? And how long did the Indian Government took to decide “something” about what Mr. A.R. Antulay said? The difference is stark and naked, and THAT is the problem with us. Having a pessimistic and defensive approach does not work when your neighbouring countries are a breeding ground for terrorists. War can never be an option, but can the  government at least come strong on our own security agencies and the police force? 

Or should I blame the Pakistani PM? He is trying every trick to make the world believe that its an internal problem of India. Infact, after his latest statement today, which says that – Why is the world more concerned about the Mumbai attacks than the killings in Palestine? ‘‘We have to see that the world does not have double standards. See how many innocent women and children have been killed in Palestine. Why is nobody talking about that? Why is the world silent on that?’’, I have decided not to follow the buffoonery anymore. Its tormenting. I think its high time that the Pakistani PM stops using the forced and mindboggling euphemisms and tell India to go to hell. That would be at least honest, if nothing else! Whether it may be Mumbai or Palestine, you would be glad to know Mr. PM, that it is me, the common man, who is dying.

I don’t care about the political mud slinging matches which Indian and Pakistani politicians are indulging in right now. I don’t care about and I am not a part of the various religious groups which are fighting their mindless and stoical wars by killing innocent people like me all over the world.

I just want to live happily. I want to love the city I live in. I wan’t to roam fearlessly in C.P. I want to believe that I will live to see my dreams fulfilled and will not be shot through my head while celebrating a friend’s birthday in a hotel or when I am at a railway station to receive a family member. Am I asking for too much? Is it too hard to achieve this? Is it too hard to stop fighting over pieces of lands, stop turning terrorism into a profession, stop waging wars in the name of religion?

Or is everything too complicated now to move it backwards? 

The Book Thief

“When everything was quiet. I went up to the corridor and the curtain of the living room was open just a crack….I could see outside. I watched, only for a few seconds.”

He had not seen the outside world for twenty-two months. There was no anger or reproach.

“How did it look?”

Max lifted his head, with great sorrow and great astonishment.

“There were stars,” he said. “They burned my eyes.”

The Book Thief is a story told by the Angel of Death, the surreptitious soul collector who is haunted by humans and who was very busy during the Second world war. He encountered the book thief thrice and it was a pleasure which he cherished forever. The Book Thief is a story of many people narrated by the soul collector.

It is the story of Liesel Meminger, who stole the first book when her brother was being buried by the gravediggers. The Gravedigger’s Handbook started her love affair with books in the troubled Nazi Germany. Her first act of thievery in many more to come. Liesel was sent to live with the Hubermanns, her foster parents, who lived on Himmel Street in Molching. Himmel means Heaven. 

It is the story of Hans Hubermann, Liesel’s foster father. A kind man and a Jew lover who was not afraid to offer his services to a Jew whose shop was vandalised. It was Hans who taught Liesel to read her first stolen book. Every night when Liesel woke up screaming from her nightmares, Hans sat with her and they read the Gravedigger’s Handbook. He whitewashed the wall in the basement so that Liesel may practice her spellings on it.

It is the story of Rosa Hubermann, Liesel’s sharp tongued foster mother, who called her husband and her daughter by names like Saukerl(bastard) and filthy pigs, to display her love. Who beat up Liesel when she did a mistake and loved her equally. Who sat with her husband’s accordion clutched tightly in her arms as moonlight swayed over her and as Liesel watched her from the door of the bedroom when Hans went to fight in the World War.

It is the story of Max Vandenburg, a Jewish refugee, who turns up one fine day on their doorsteps and change their lives more than anyone could have imagined. The Jew whom they hide in the basement of their house and who stayed there for so long that when he had a glimpse of stars, they burned his eyes. The Jew who painted the pages of Mein Kampf in white so that he could write his own story on it and present it to Liesel on her birthday. The Jew who was bound to Liesel with his own nightmares in which he fought the Fuehrer in a boxing ring.

It is the story of Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s neighbour on Himmel street and her best friend. Rudy who was crazy about Jessy Owens and madly in love with Liesel. Who jumped in the river to get her stolen book back, stole apples with her and helped her to steal books from the Mayor’s house and always asked for a kiss in return, which he got eventually at the end when it was too late.

After The Kite Runner, this was one book which again touched a raw nerve. I picked up this book because I liked the name and reading it was like living with all those people I have mentioned above. The book sucks you in and you can feel the pain and smell death. You actually see the Jews being marched on the Himmel Street. Starving and waiting to be killed. You see the Mayor’s wife, who lets Liesel steal from her huge library by leaving the window open. You see the people of Himmel Street bundled together in the basement of a house when the air raids start while Liesel reads one of her stolen book to them to divert their minds from the fear of death. There are so many timeless pages and memorable characters in the book who will always remain with you. The central theme of the book is Death and words. As Liesel learns how to read, she realises that its words which have held people in Hitler’s spell. She begins to understand the spell which words can cast to bring love as well as destruction. 

Written like a dream, this was one book which I had to recommend, although I have read many books after The Kite Runner. A powerful book of our times which should definitely be made into a movie.

Rating – 4.5/5

Author – Markus Zusak