If you caught today's broadcast, you heard an extended conversation on the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. TMM producer Arwa Gunja helped shape the focus of that discussion and, herself, has a personal connection to the region. Here's a page from her notebook:
Thanks, Lee ... Arwa Gunja, here.
Thanksgiving dinner in New Jersey didn't come with its usual family drama. This year, for the first time in as long as I can remember, we actually paused before we ate to give thanks. Maybe it's because we all recognize how much many Americans have lost because of the economy, or because some of us know people who are fighting —- or even just living —- in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I'm pretty sure it's because while we were eating, my family's home city was under siege.
My father's family is Muslim and from Mumbai, India. Many of his siblings moved to the States, but a good number of them still reside in the same apartment building he grew up in, located in perhaps one of the poorest districts of the city.
After learning of the attacks, ensuring the safety of our family in India was first priority. But after confirming all friends and family were OK, our relatives here in the U.S. spent the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend trying to understand what had just happened to their city, and making their own predictions of what would come next.
Violence is not new to Mumbai. My cousin tells me stories of growing up during the 1992-93 riots, when more than 900 were killed and more than 200,000 Muslims fled the city. And though the death toll last week was much lower (estimated around 170 were killed), it was interesting to observe that last week's attacks attracted 24-hour news coverage around the world, and seemed to shake some of my relatives even more.
I think it's because this was so unexpected. And because it quickly looked like the perpetrators came from Pakistan, a country with which India has always been at odds.
Back to the predictions...
Within my family, discussion about what could happen next became heated at times. My uncle (along with what seemed to be many from an older generation) feared years of work at building strong Hindu-Muslim relations in the city would now be compromised. His son, my cousin, worried more about the possibility of riots or, even worse, a war with neighboring Pakistan. Other family friends who joined us for Thanksgiving dinner said they hoped Indians would see this as an opportunity to unite and send a message that terrorism will not prevail.
I didn't quite know what to think, but I did know that I would be coming back home to Washington, D.C., where there would be many differing opinions about what the lasting impact of the attacks.
I also knew that only a few of those perspectives would likely make it to national or international media airwaves.
We hoped the conversation we aired today on "Tell Me More" would bring you some of the diverging opinions about what the bombings mean for the fragile social, religious and ethnic relationships in India and Pakistan. We wanted to offer a combination of perspectives from journalists — whose job it is to be professional, composed and emotionally UNinvolved — and from ordinary people who live this reality as a part of their every day life.
We hope we delivered.
And our condolences to the families of those killed in the attacks, and to the many injured.