It was just another day of school. However, one that would change the way each one of us looked at the world. We all walked into school wondering as to how could such a thing be even remotely possible? How can a small group of men walk into our country and hold it hostage without any qualms? November 26, 2008 will remain etched in the heart of every Indian and especially the heart of every Vincentian as the day when the ‘Idea of India’ was challenged. Needless to say, India showed the world that why we as a country are too unique to let anyone harm our identity.
Countless heroes were martyred on that fateful day. It is the story of a young chef at Hotel Taj which brings tears to my eyes. 28 year old Kaizad Kamdin was shot by cowards in the midst of a noble deed. Kaizad chose to stay back and help every last person escape from the emergency exit in the hotel’s lobby.
Everyone did; except Kaizad.
Kaizad was a budding chef at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Having passed out from the prestigious St. Vincent’s High School in Pune, he was described as a wonderful student by his teachers. A 6-feet tall gentle giant, he was the goalkeeper of the school’s hockey team. He was a brilliant example what St. Vincent’s stood for.
“Dare and Do, and Win” goes the school moto. Kaizad Dared to Do what most in his situation would not have. Movies may say what they want to say, but reality tells us that few are ready to forfeit their personal safety to save others from a fatal end. In real life few gems shine as brightly as Kaizad who elucidate perfectly what humanity stands for. And Kaizad Won, in more than many ways. He Won in the hearts and minds of all those who believe that humanity will live to see another day. He Won in the eyes of every Indian and every human who lives with the optimism that there is a silver lining in every cloud; even if that cloud was the smoke of the Taj Hotel Dome or the Twin Towers in New York.
Sadly, he isn’t here to celebrate his victory with all of us.
Calamities like 26/11 are unfortunate but each of them have their lessons to teach. Life goes on for the rest of us. But the lives of those individuals who were directly affected by it, changes drastically. Apart from just waking up on yearly anniversaries, much more can be done to commemorate such bravehearts. For instance, it isn’t tough to greet a policeman or soldier with simple smile and salute. It sparks in them, a proud feeling that says, the entire country is backing them no matter what.
Millions die due to terrorism everyday. None of them chose to. The sad reality is that many countries in the world choose to toy with the idea of ‘Good Terrorism’ and ‘Bad Terrorism’. Countries like Pakistan which perpetrate terrorism as an official state policy in the form of 26/11 and eulogise cowards who slaughter without fear. It is people like the Muslims of Mumbai who give a fitting reply to such countries when they refused to allow their cemeteries to be used for the burial of the Pakistani terrorists.
The Idea of India is too deep and large a narrative to be cowed down by bullets and bombs. Time and again, India has shown the world that even if anyone dares to harm us physically, no one can dare to touch our identity.
In the words of MJ Akbar, “The Idea of India is stronger than the Indian. But the idea of Pakistan has proved to be weaker than the Pakistani.”