In all honesty, such incidents have never really made any significant or lasting impact on me, perhaps because I've been fortunate to not have any personal connection to them. The Charlie Hebdo case was disturbing as it seemed to impugn the right of free expression everywhere, something that matters to me a lot as a writer.
I was in Paris for three days, and left a day before the attacks happened. After a pleasant day in Bruges, as I was unwinding with a bottle of wine from Paris, a friend asked of my whereabouts and warned me as I had posted pictures with the Eiffel Tower. Meanwhile, someone I knew ten years ago commented on my Instagram picture of wine - "Are you celebrating the shootings?"
I cannot imagine any soul who would celebrate such a thing, except those responsible.
Some would say a three-day period is hardly enough to get attached to a city as huge as Paris, but I felt a connection nonetheless. something I would write about later - as that isn't the point of this post.
I could hardly sleep that night, and incessantly kept on following the news, reading articles, statements and tributes.
I saw people using social media posts as a license to go on with their lives. "Okay, I've shown my concern. Let's get back to forwarding asinine jokes." Then again I asked myself, what more can they do?
The plan was to move on to Amsterdam next, but the morning after I felt so sick I couldn't get out of bed. Some it was probably the wine. When I told my friends I don't feel like traveling at all now, I was baffled to hear them ask why. Does nobody care?
Had all this happened a week ago, I would have reacted just like them.
Is there something we can do?
In course of all that reading, I came across a number of blame games as to who or what is responsible for the terrorism - Religion, Muslims, Refugees - you name it.
As for my opinion, frankly there isn't much I know or understand.
Do I have any idea how to defeat ISIS? No.
Do I understand religion? No.
Do I understand God? No.
But I wouldn't be doing this if I don't see a purpose, something I don't see much of in changing a profile picture temporarily or using a hashtag.
It is easier to look at things with lesser variables. In this case, things can be reduced to simply love and hate.
Every act of violence necessarily needs to be motivated by hate. Without that intense urge to really hurt someone, no act of violence can be performed, least of all one of terrorism. This is something that is inculcated in a person through the course of his/her life. So many of us are inclined to fight fire with fire. You break my pencil, I break your pencil box. You curse, I curse. You kill, I kill. I wonder whether this is how the phrase vicious circle came about.
Is there something we can do? YES. We cannot take on any terrorist group as common men and women. Nor can we enforce the highest levels of security to avoid such attacks in future.
But we can fight hate. Not someone else's, but our own. Your age, sex, religion, beliefs - do not matter. There will be times when you wish the worst ills inflicted on someone else - your class bully, your colleague, your boss. Be an example to those around you, and learn to forgive.
I request all readers to please, please read this comic, which is anything but.
Think of what South Africa and the world would have lost had Mandela chosen hate over forgiveness.
It is a feature in fiction as well. When Harry raises his wand to Voldemort for the last time, it is only to disarm, not to kill. Readers may remember he asks Voldemort to try some remorse first.
The only difference between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is one succumbs to hatred, and the other doesn't. And both suffered despairing losses initially. The choice between forgiveness and hate made the difference.
I feel for all my Muslim brother and sisters, for the stereotypes and accusations they have to face every single day of their lives. The abuse of free expression on social media has gone completely overboard. Please stop sinking to their level.
A few weeks ago I was at Oslo Central station, playing the public piano. An officer came to me and said it's time to close.
"Where are you from?", he genially asked.
"India! We are neighbors, then, I'm from Pakistan!"
There was genuine warmth in his response, something even an actual neighbor may not show. This is the need of the hour.
Why pray only for Paris?
Regarding the hashtag #PrayForParis, good lord, what a needless outrage! Every single person who has used this has been absolutely blasted on social media. "Why not Lebanon? You don't care about us." "Last night in Paris is every night in Palestine."
You have a case when it comes to the Facebook safety feature, which undoubtedly should be available for acts of terror/natural disaster everywhere. But prayers? Pray, what good are they? Not praying for Lebanon is not equivalent to ill-wishing for Lebanon. When a mother prays for her kids' safety, does she wish any misfortune upon any other kid in the world? Does any other kid come and complain why she's not praying for them? It's like asking picture credits on Facebook - they do not translate to any meaningful contribution.
No one is claiming any life to be more worthy than the other. Weren't all of us just apes a few gazillion years ago? I wish peace for everyone, including ISIS
Today is a time of sorrow, but we have to think of tomorrow. With all this hate on social media, we are festering it in not only ourselves but the generations to come. As a famous man once said, "We create our own demons." (Courtesy Iron Man 3)
Let us stop wasting our energy pointing fingers at our Muslim brothers and sisters, religions, and other countries. We know very little of the truth. Let us not be a catalyst of vicious circles of hate, but of love and forgiveness. Inspire your friend, your son, your daughter to be the next Mandela or Gandhi. The world has enough haters.
"Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love." - JK Rowling
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." - Nelson Mandela
We can do this.