Tuesday, 10 July 2007

07.07.05 – The Day I Walked With London

This 7th of July was the second anniversary of the London Bombings.
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(photo from www.bbc.co.uk)
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I leafed through our newspaper in search of some article, some little picture of someone laying a wreath in memory of those who died, and I found nothing. The world (to be fair, the world as reported in the Malaysian news) was too busy with Live Earth and the Seven Wonders of the World to recall the 52 lost lives of 7 July 2005.
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I am usually quire realistic about news coverage – the media has a short-term memory where events fade into the distance and people forget all too quickly. The world has become such a place that there never is a lack of terrorist acts, calamities, and catastrophes to report on. After all the London Bombings are not new news, and I’ve painfully heard many people say that the death toll was hardly anything major.
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But since I was there when all of it happened, my relationship with that day is a little different.
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I have my own little ritual for remembering that day: I prepared a simple altar with pictures, candles, an aroma jar and a repeating Jaap track playing in the background. I meditated on the day, two years ago, when together with the 7 million or so Londoners, the event had unfolded before me.
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I had left home looking forward to the day; it was my first day on my summer internship, Surabhi was coming back into London with her mum, Laavanya and I were hoping to catch some Shakespeare in the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park that evening. It was summertime and London was infected with the sun and picnics and boat rides and sales and tourists and everyone smiled.
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All that changed in the space of a few hours; suddenly I was a part of all the confusion and uncertainty and frantic calls to people I knew. News came in fragments, first it was a tube bomb and then a bus or was it both and then there were three no four bombs and the death count kept changing 35 no 42 no 60 wait 52 depending on who you asked. Russell Square was close to uni, Edgware Road close to home, I knew these places inside out and now there were bodies. My home was under attack and I felt angry, confused, doubtful, insecure, afraid and helpless.
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The one memory that will be forever carved in my mind is of The Journey Home, in the evening, when people left the workplace for their homes. The tubes were out, busses were being checked thoroughly so only some ran on a restricted service, cabs were scarce and not many people drive in Central London.
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(photo from www.bbc.co.uk)

And so London walked. There were hundreds of people on the streets, heading one way or the other. I knew it would take me a while to get home, and so I chose the scenic route. You may think it inappropriate considering the events of the day, but that was precisely why I was reaching out to every bit of beauty I could so as to not lose faith that people are good, this world is good.

(photo from www.royalparks.gov.uk)

I walked along the Thames where birds flew above and there was an endless queue of people waiting for the ferry, up to Trafalgar Square where laughing children took pictures with the fountains, through St James’ Park where old women fed squirrels and tourists pressed their faces to the bars to get a better look at Buckingham Palace, in Green Park where the canopy of trees shaded little boys in games of catch and people lazing in picnic chairs, across Hyde Park where teenagers rollerbladed and dogs ran free, down Queensway where the wind blew and people piled into restaurants, and finally reached home where everyone was huddled in the living room, hoping for BBC news to tell us what was happening and what to do. And later, in the silence of our rooms, we cried.

That walk home was momentous – I fell in love with London again that day. I became protective and defensive for it, I kept thinking how dare they, how dare they do this to my beautiful and happy London.

The harsh truth is that I don’t think the bombings came as that much of a surprise. After 9/11, at some level I believe most Londoners knew that it was only a matter of time before the disease would spread here.

What I will always cherish is London’s response. In the days and weeks that followed, London just moved on. It seemed to me that people were eager to get on with things. Don’t misunderstand me; we were not forgetting, oh no. London did not want to forget, and it was impossible to forget with the daily reminders in the form of pictures of victims and their families, the tubes being paralysed for some time, frequent checks on busses by the Metropolitan Police (more to reassure than anything else, I think). London will not forget the terrible four and how they shook our corner of the earth with those bombs.

No, London was not trying to forget. Rather it was standing up, saying watch. Watch us move on. We will not wallow here in loss and despair and let our world crumble around us, because that will be your victory. Do your worst, but no matter what you try, we will rise. Our response to you is our strength to remember and to keep on walking.
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That day I walked (both physically and figuratively) with London, that day we stood together and wept for the lost lives. That is what the 7th of July means to me – and I will never forget.

6 comments:

sunny said...

Interesting read and good story telling. Curious about the ritual...why?

Harkiren Kaur said...

The symbolism is nothing revolutionary and quite traditional :)

The pictures are a visual reminder of the things I love about London and the places I ask Guru to protect in my prayers;

The candles and their flames symbolise the light of the soul – their physical bodies may have departed but their souls live forever, just as their memory will live in their loved ones;

The aroma jar is for the calming effect of healing fragrances; and

The Jaap is a prayer for peace – for those who died, for those who live, and most importantly, a desperate prayer for me – so that I might forgive and not carry the seed of hatred in myself.

Satnam and love

sunny said...

Harkiren,

Thanks for the elaborate answer. Very interesting indeed.

Regards,
Sunny

Surabhi said...

Thanks for reminding me (yet again!) why I love London :)

Bond said...

Well, my first impression of London: NOISY. My second,little boxes. There is no space anywhere, although to give the poms their due, they do allocate green spaces, where there are parks and benches which allow you to sit outside, eat your lunch (quickly before the pigeons grab hold of it), and inhale the wonderful scents of the big city smoke, diesel, huge Limo London vehicles, dust and the wonderful aroma of the Thames River!! We went on the London Eye, which is this huge Ferris wheel thing. From it you can see most of London and the surrounding areas. It is bloody high, and it seems jumping off the Gouritz bridge (Western Cape, South Africa) has done little to allay my fear of heights. It was quite spectacular though.
Thanks for the wonderful blog, Keep up the great work!

marry said...

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