Pete Sabo and I returned Tuesday morning to our friend Kurien Abraham's apartment in Santa Cruz East after interviewing Mahrukh Inayat, a reporter for Times Now, India's top-rated English-language TV news channel, about her native Kashmir and her experience of reporting the 60-hour terrorist siege in Mumbai last November. Kurien walked in and told us about what had just happened in Lahore, and we spent the next hour watching Times Now.
Mahrukh's boss, Arnab Goswami, was hosting the Breaking News coverage. Kurien and others described Times Now to us as "the Fox News of India," but now he clarified: "They're not actually right-wing; they're sensational. Anything that sells." Goswami called Lahore "the epicenter of the political free-for-all in Pakistan right now" and interviewed K.C. Singh, former secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, who suggested that if Shahbaz Sharif - brother of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and strongman of the country's crucial Punjab province - were still running Punjab (he was sacked by the Supreme Court last week), the attack might not have happened. "It's a very, very dangerous vacuum that's been created at the center of Pakistani life," said Singh. "I think America needs to stop supporting President Zardari and stop pushing the Sharif brothers into a corner."
I know Liberty Circle, the scene of the attack, well. The suit I've been wearing to all those Pakistani charity banquets and gatherings around North America was tailor-made at a shop in Liberty Market just down the street. If you've read Alive and Well in Pakistan, you'll remember the long passage recounting the Pakistan-South Africa one-day cricket match I attended at Gaddafi Stadium with great enjoyment, in the general enclosure (the cheap seats), in September 2003. Now, there's serious talk of Pakistan becoming a "no-go zone" for international cricket - and anyone who knows this region knows that that's a big deal.
The fact that the attack hits home for me personally does give me pause, but it also underscores what I feel as a vocational compulsion to bear witness. That, and eliciting and transmitting human sympathy and understanding, are really the only useful things a writer can do.
I intended this post to cover some interesting conversations we had here in Mumbai about Pakistan and related topics, but the Lahore attack happened. Perhaps I'll write another one Friday night on the train to Hyderabad and post it from there.
The photo accompanying this post is of me at Juhu Beach with Vidha Saumya, a young Indian woman who recently studied at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, where I taught in 2003-04. You'll hear about her in future posts and in the planned new book.