November 30, 2008

Us, Mumbai, Them, Us

I met T. outside the lift in the library today. T., a management student from Lahore whom I had first met, ironically, on the morning of Nov 26. I hadn't heard about the Mumbai attacks then, or maybe the first shots had not been fired at CST yet. The world was different, but how different was it?

That day, in the student lounge, we talked after I'd heard him speak on the phone and - as so often happens here: we recognize each other and feel strangely happy and foolish and make bold - asked, "Are you from India?" People from Pakistan and India sound quite similar. People from certain parts of Pakistan and certain parts of India. We do. And I felt the same naïve kin-affection for T. that I feel for V. from Bangalore and P. from Calcutta. At least P. and I have things in common. Others from India(n subcontinent) have successfully made a claim on my sweet affections even if we'd never exchange two words in Bangalore or Calcutta. Yes, it is silly. I discovered this halka sa chauvinistic side to myself when I came to Notre Dame.

It turned out T. was also an ex-student of a friend's husband who teaches at LUMS. I've never met the latter, but it was comforting to hear T. reminisce about his class. Then I hazarded a "Let's meet up one of these days," and felt a little foolish again, and didn't even think about T. till I ran into him today outside the lift.

He didn't meet my eye and mumbled something, a greeting. My smile ricocheted off; he was already looking away. We stood stiffly in the lift. I wanted to say something to break the ice. Like, hey, I don't blame you at all. Or, no hard feelings. Or, it's okay. Anything would have sounded terrible, inappropriate.

So I just stepped out at the fifth floor with a half-nod, an almost-nod, an absentminded nod as though I was nodding to myself.

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