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The Atticus Diaries
Bibliophile - atheist - reader of religious texts - B-School Grad - math-hater - part-time poet - wannabe bodybuilder - couch-potato - animal lover - non-vegetarian - software engineer - technophobe - day-dreamer - basketballer that never was - cruciverbalist - Indian - SriLankan - neither - marketing grad - financial analyst - another confused clueless speck living it up on good ol' earth!!

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Sunday, January 09, 2005
On Collateral Damage...

Throughout the '80s and '90s, The War held the attention of the family adults in its vice-like grip. It lived, moved and breathed fire like some monstrous being just beyond the horizon - its sinister presence announced in disturbing growls, gasps and roars carried into our living-room on transcontinental radio waves beginning with Veritas of Philippines at 5.30am and drawing to an hesitant close with the BBC's Tamizhosai at 10pm. Parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts writhed in agony, desperation, fear and anger as armored vehicles and rocket launchers moved back and forth through dense forest, disfiguring that beautiful island of their youth... Vavunya, Batticaloa, Trincomallee, Jaffna - every bomb dropped hit some memory-lush nook of their minds... Every killing left something dead inside them…

To me and my sister, growing up in the midst of a war fought hundreds of miles away was strange business. There were sacrosanct rules – "Nobody talks during the "Ceylon News" part of any news bulletin!", "No jokes for hours after particularly high death tolls!", "Keep your distance from Dad when skirmishes inch southward toward the central province...!" Words like "curfew" and "vanseyal" (a rather rare Tamil word for violence) were part of our playtime vocabulary. Horror tales overheard during hushed late night conversations were further colored and delivered as stunning first-hand accounts of bravado to friends. But, though The War hung heavy and phantomlike around us and gnawed at places from a life we'd never knew, we weren't really hurt or sad. The War's impact on a young and impassioned Atticus was more lasting and ghastly - it made me thirst for revenge against the unknown enemy.

To me, the Tiger was something stealthy, fierce, mysterious and majestic - a gun-toting, slim, dark youth on a crusade for vengeance and justice. The Tiger stood for freedom and the much-sung Tamil rising - the Che Guevera-like romance of brave young men seeking a Utopian homeland with AK47s and RDX. And in the simple cause-effect world of ten-year-olds, it seemed there was a lot of "setting right" left to be done - "revoked minority rights, marginalization in one's own country, butchered brethren, wronged women"... Wrongs that had been "set right" by blood and gore since time immemorial.

That I guess was The War's most disturbing damage! It taught me the same lessons glorified by movies and mythology - the heroism of climactic blood, gore and vengeance! It made the child I was believe in murder as a solution! I bayed for blood with all the linguistic-fundamentalist fervor my young soul could muster. As the men from the country of my birth regressed into gory games like animal herds, I stood at the sidelines, cheered and kept score!!

Today I look back on those years with shock and disgust. Now I detest any widespread violence. I vehemently hate any bid to even wear identities on one's sleeve, let alone fight for them! We tend to think of the War as something that politicians bring on and soldiers at the border fight. But a bulk of the violence is fuelled by the "Us Vs Them" undercurrent in public opinion - Hindu-Muslim, Chechen-Russian, Israeli-Palestine and Tamil-Singhalese! Our implicit or explicit endorsements drive these shameful killings. Think of Gujarat...! Think of the US and an election fought on who's the better warlord! Think of all the 911-engendered madness! It all happens because these things didn't strike us hard enough to shake us away from the comfort of our daily routines. It all happens because somewhere somehow even the well-educated and worldly-wise amongst us think "These Pakistanis deserve it!" or "America had it coming!". Though we seldom face the fact, it's true that the buck stops with each one of us!!

Now, when people ask me what I think of the LTTE and the Lankan ethnic conflict, I tell them I take life's side... The side where no teenage girl is dragged out of her home and gang-raped by the army... The side where her 12-year-old brother is not handed a gun and a cyanide-capsule to avenge her!

I once saw this photograph of an armless child in the Gulf War... Indo-Pak, Islam vs Christian, Tamil vs Singhalese...Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Eelam... Nothing can ever justify doing this to a child! Nothing is worth this - not wronged nations; not marginalized religions; not unavenged blood-relations!!!
The next time you think of Pakistan or America or Japan or Libya or Iran, try to imagine a child there. Think if that child deserves the hatred and violence that we actively or passively endorse! If you do think so, then amen to that!

August 21, 2006   11:48 AM PDT

Thanks Mohan... :)
August 18, 2006   09:33 PM PDT
accidentaly came across your blog.... great work... keep writing
-indian-sri lankan-meditating down under.
January 12, 2005   05:45 PM PST
yes, catch 22 was brilliant indeed.
January 12, 2005   05:29 PM PST

There are two awesome works that drive the point in beautifully...

1. the movie "No Man's Land "

2. Catch-22... Never has such a funny book had such a touching message about the absurdity of war...

Those of you who haven't tried 'em, really should...

January 12, 2005   05:26 PM PST
@ Osty:

Thanx Buddy... Didn't have to think much about this post... Have been pretty worked up lately over the fact that after killing hundreds in a 20-year war in SriLanka, the so-called "Tamil nationalists" are fighting among themselves for power... So much for the living memory of dead "patriots"
January 12, 2005   05:22 PM PST

Yes sis... It's not even the stronger western powers against the poorer nations, as some see it!

There are good folk everywhere and bad ones too... One'd think it's clear enough for anybody.. but alas :(
January 12, 2005   02:28 PM PST
I find it terribly ironic that as a civilisation that has seen enough war-caused-destruction, we still REFUSE to learn our lessons!!!

There is never a justifiable excuse for war....and it's indeed sad when even today people blindly "support" one side over another...and I find this India good and Paki bad attitude the most ignorant take on the issue!

An excellent and very thought-provoking post, Atticus! One of your best!
January 12, 2005   11:35 AM PST
allow me.
indeed no one has the right to take anyone's life and innocence for that matter. whatever nationality he maybe. no one wins in the war? what is the basis winning in such? the more soldiers up determine who won? it's not only the children being considered. how about the wives losing the husbands, or parents mourning for the loss of the children who are faced in the battle.
but then again, war is war. the greedy, the shameless soulless people cry for war for.. vengeance, for greediness, for history.. and so many others.
what's left in this world? i dont know. if we could only kill the root of this all. not only killing the head coz its easy to put a replacement, but kill the heart of it. then maybe.. hopefully..
everyone deserves what the others deserve. dont only point US, Japan, Russia..
life is so precious.. don't keep hatred.
January 12, 2005   11:32 AM PST
never mind is kinda numb right now
January 12, 2005   01:57 AM PST

Does violence ever restore real peace? Not sure... Guess it invariably leaves some side nursing its wounds and bidding its time :(
January 12, 2005   01:53 AM PST

Guess the man's anger and frustration at his child's loss will be justified... But should it be directed at similar innocents on the other side or at perpetrators of such atrocities who sit high and mighty on BOTH sides?

A distressed man rises against "the unknown enemy" because he's been conditioned to do so by propaganda and his own unthinking acceptance of it all these years.

Had he paused to analyze the cause of the conflict and to ponder who has real interest in prolonging it, his anger might then be directed at other targets...

Still agree with you that this thought process cannot happen post-facto :(
January 12, 2005   01:48 AM PST

Sorry.. Kinda lost track thr... Please elaborate... :|
January 12, 2005   01:45 AM PST
@ Yoss:

Hey, welcome back buddy...

Me finally into job-hunting mode here... So brushing up jargon to con interviewers :(

January 11, 2005   11:14 PM PST
Sometimes violence may be the only solution to restore peace. Am not saying that I support violence.
Also, I agree with you when you say that normally sane and intelligent people restore to Paki-bashing as well as...religious discrimination.
January 11, 2005   11:00 PM PST
The side of life is the side to fight for...but I dont know if we r capable enuf.....

I am not a perfect person to pass this comment.....but will a Palestinian who has lost his 2 year old child to an Israeli raid really take up the side of life???? I dont think so....

and I also dont know whether I, had I been that unfortunate man, would have had the strength of character to take the side of life.

hate feeds hate and starts a vicious cycle that leaves innocents dead....can it be broken?? It can be...the root cause of hate is deprivation and inequality...these issues need to be tackled.
January 11, 2005   10:58 PM PST
George bush deserves to dieeeeee.
anyway,,, what u upto... am back... drop in if u can........
January 11, 2005   09:17 PM PST
us vs them? come on atticus u n i both know that WE are the US from another perspective. sitting back and passing the buck is not gonna help.
January 11, 2005   04:24 PM PST
Here even people who have sat out the "civilizing" influence of more than 15 years of education consider international issues an essential Us vs Them situation.

Glad there are others with strong opinions on the subject.
January 11, 2005   04:18 PM PST

Thou art welcome :)

Guess it is okkie to react to personal insults or taunts. The problem is only when individuals tend to generalize these things into national/regional/religious issues :(
January 11, 2005   12:14 PM PST
@ aditya- there is a lot that could have been said with regard to this post, but somehow the topic angers me so much hat i avoid talking or htinknig about it. no , we the people ( quote unquote) have no right to pass judgement on the not so innocent either...but power crazed megalomanics sure love to play god..ergo the human spoils of war.
@ atticus- you know yesterday i got a forward in my inbox that was totally paki thrashing. it gave me a sick feeling. i am sure the real pakistani kid doesnt answer a question paper that demands him to calculate how many drugs he has to sell to make a was vicious.
January 11, 2005   10:25 AM PST
Hey I forgot to say thanks for this yesterday..:P Reading it again...
I am trying to relate it tht kannada Songs bekhaar incident.....Was I unnecessarily reactive? I dont know:) But will defenitely say AMEN to the side of life...

January 10, 2005   06:03 PM PST

Yeah, The Making of Atticus would be a twenty-year plus mega-serial :p
January 10, 2005   06:01 PM PST
Guess the media has a big role to play in it. The only Pakistanis I know are newsmakers like terrorists and extremists... They, and not innocent average Joes, are my pix of Pak when it's at war with India... :(
January 10, 2005   05:23 PM PST

Is there justification for killing the not-so-innocent?
Dosen't 'an eye for an eye' leave us all blind?
Are we innocent enough to judge others?
Not having the power to give life to the dead, do we have the right to give death to the living?

~just a thought
January 10, 2005   12:20 PM PST
i totally agree with you on this one atticus. theres no justification for killing the innocent.
January 10, 2005   09:37 AM PST

No offence taken for linking...

All offence taken for never bothering to send me ur blog's link
January 10, 2005   12:47 AM PST
am linking this post to on my blog. hopefully no offence shall be taken
January 10, 2005   12:43 AM PST
A big CAM
How hollow is our education becomes clear from the ease with which people at this respected post-graduate institute are provoked.
All it took was for one of the audience members to answer 'azad kashmir' as the answer to a question about their premier and the flow of profanities from the gentleman sitting besides me was enough to even wake a deep sleeper like me out of my slumber.
I guess I'd rather have a friend in 'birla' - the eternal follower of laxmi - rather than some of the pak/muslim/christian basher but much more popular folks around here.

As another thought, could the reason for these feelings be that much of the batch we have around here is hardly in their (very?) early 20s and with not much close experiance of life's other half - death - at close quarters? Exhuberance of youth with skewed information by over-zealous media and endividuals can lead even the best of minds on a wrong track.

Glad to know that there are a few on this campus who have thoughts similar to mine. (hopefully, the small grp that went to pak recentlty included!!)
January 9, 2005   11:54 AM PST
Two reasons for this post:

1. A friend recently sought my opinion on LTTE and regionalism, religious identities etc.

2. Even at a respected post-graduate institution I find people who blindly tow the "India - good, Pakistan - bad" line!

Opinions, suggestions, discussuions please...

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