Saturday, April 03, 2004

Trains, Terrorists and Tuna fish

Another bomb was found on the Spanish rail track today. Bomb disposal experts found between 10-12 kg of an explosive resembling a dynamite under the fast speed line connecting Madrid to Seville. This after the March 11 bombing, is on one hand a relief and on another worrying. Apparently, the violence has not stopped. Is this done by the same people?

The Muslims in Spain are worried. Exactly who was behind the March 11 bombings is yet to be determined but three out of the five being questioned are Moroccans. They fear a backlash from the Spaniards.

On Tuesday, eight men were arrested in the South East of UK, a ninth man was arrested in Crawley, West Sussex today. Half a ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer was seized at a self storage unit in west London. The British men arrested were between the age of 17 and 32, believed to be of Pakistani decent.

What does all this have to do with me you may ask?

Well having lived in London for the past two and a half years, with threats of a terrorist attack eminent in London ever since September 11, all this news is making me nervous. The last time Londoners were issued with warnings that London was at the highest level of alert, I did as I was told, to stock up on necessities, short of buying my own gas mask that is. But the mayhem has since toned down a little bit except now after Madrid. I still have a dozen cans of tuna (I am so sick of them!), 2 bags of sugar (I don’t normally use sugar God knows why I stocked up on those!), a bottle of cooking oil and half a dozen bottles of drinking water. Mind you now thinking back, I don’t think I could have lasted all that long on those supplies, but what the heck, stocking up on those silly food items gave me a weird sense of security that I did something to embrace myself for the potentially “tumultuous” time ahead.

I have to admit that I am deeply nervous when I travel on the British rail these days. Mind you, there isn’t a need for a terrorist to blow anything up. The British tube and trains are so old and outdated that sometimes they are just capable of tripping up on themselves! I’ve lost count the number of tube derailments and crashes. And since the Potter’s Bar train crash, I do sometimes wonder, will my train arrive at my destination in one piece?

I took the Midland trains up to Nottingham from London St Pancras last weekend. St Pancras station was going through an extensive renovation. As the train pulls away from the station I sent my love a text message,
I am leaving St Pancras station right now. Due to arrive in Nottingham in two hours. Will send you an SMS when I arrive. Love you very much.”
Superstitious? Unduly anxious? Perhaps I am all that but you never know these days. At least if something does happen to me, I could be traced from the last time I sent my text message. And if MI5 is tracking me, well I am giving them a hand at making sure I am within their radar range. If they didn’t realize from my credit card transaction four days prior to my journey that I was going to be travelling that weekend that is. :)

Paranoid? Yes that too. Being a woman with an Arab sounding name, I feel, does not help at this time. Whether or not the Muslims in UK are being subjected to a backlash, I can’t tell you because I haven’t experienced it myself in my community. Perhaps partly because I am not wearing the Hijab and partly because I look more oriental rather than middle eastern or Asian (note for my readers in Singapore/Malaysia, Asian here is the general broad term used in the UK to refer to someone of an Indian/Pakistani decent.)

Ironically enough, I moved from Jakarta to London because I wanted to be in a place where I would feel more secure, away from all sorts of terrorist threats. And boy was I wrong!

Jakarta, between 2000 to 2001 when I was staying there, was going through an enormous political and social change with Megawati Sukarnoputri, as its then newly installed President. There were days when the roads were unbearable with “macet” (traffic jams) due to all sorts of “demo” (demonstrations/protests). Even before the days of the Bali bombing, there were already bomb threats in Jakarta. But they didn’t make to the international media of course because its mostly just Indonesians themselves that were killed really. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel for awhile, and felt really good when some of army vehicles were parked in the front. If this hotel is secure enough for some hot shot Indonesian Army person, it should be safe enough for me I thought.

So when the opportunity to move to London arose, of course I had to embrace it! Away from the fear of kidnaps, armed robberies, bomb threats and air pollution, so I thought. Yes I was incredibly naïve and an incurable romantic.

So what have I learned? After living in six different cities, I have decided that Utopia is merely a fable. It doesn’t exist in this world lest after September 11. No matter where we are living right now, it is all about the same, there are some good points and some not so pleasant ones. All we have to do is make ourselves as happy and as comfortable as we can.

And everyday, when we can, while we can, tell the people who matters most of us, that we love them.

I don’t even like saying good bye anymore. I’ll just say “Till later.”

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