The lady who stopped smiling

By Shivangi Singh | Updated: Dec 26, 2008, 21:26 PM IST

<i>“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle” </i>- Edmund Burke
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No, she is not screaming like those on TV channels, she is not writing condemning articles, she is not actively participating in demonstrations. She went mum on 26/11 - the day it was Mumbai’s turn to bathe in blood after Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Guwahati. She is known to be living, but has no life in her and she has stopped smiling, even vaguely.
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A certain haze shrouds her - bygone days come in flashes – she tries to find her daughter in discarded jeans, in those sweet smelling handkerchiefs, in her pictures, in those awards, in hundreds and thousands of little things. But her daughter is dead – she died in Mumbai terror attacks at the Taj Hotel, where she had joined as a trainee just a month back. Her husband says that their daughter is dead, but how can she reconcile with this terrifying fact? So, she has taken refuge in silence. Occasionally, she sheds silent tears as she goes about the house, still looking for her little daughter, swinging between sanity and insanity.
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I know her personally. But, there are many, not known to me, who have died a similar death with their loved ones. They don’t care about what is being said or done, simply because they have lost the will to live. Terrorists did their job well. They not just killed a few hundred people, but also thousands associated with them. They damaged psyches and drank the life blood of faith, peace and love. Don’t you think the gory images of terror – spilled blood, mutilated bodies, scarred buildings, tear stained faces killed a part of us?
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We may be trying to take measures to be secured against future terror attacks but what about restoring the emotional quotient of these people, who have lost the will to live? We may have fought the evil physically, but the emotional fight needs yet to be undertaken. Some paltry compensation announced in the name of the dead is too dwarf an attempt at consolation and in such circumstances nearly sounds disgusting.
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Whenever I see my acquaintance, such questions plagued me - What will make her smile again? What will bring her to her senses? What will make her live?
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And I get my answer in a Russian fairytale – ‘The princess who never smiled’ or ‘The Unsmiling Tsarevna’. It is the story of a sad heiress of a Tzar, who promised to give her and his throne to a person, who could make the Tsarevna laugh. An honest farmer came and his innocent antics made the Tsarevna laugh. Clearly, the honest farmer’s antics are symbolic of art and entertainment that can nourish soul.
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Art is the root of a society. It nourishes mankind. In these turbulent times, when terror wars are being fought in the name of religion, the only bright spot that remains is art, and one can never underestimate its power. Sound of sweet symphony can heal wounds, literary works can sustain soul, paintings can soothe and our own Bollywood can do wonders. Bollywood is almost a religion in India. It can act as a befitting answer to terrorists’ flawed conception of ‘Islam’.
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Politicians are hated, administration condemned, but actors are worshipped in India. Amitabh, Shah Rukh, Rajinikanth, just to name a few, can make Mumbai smile again. If all the artists and actors join hands, they can take ‘art against terrorism’ to the highest level. They can enable every being to participate in a movement.
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So, here is an appeal to the art and entertainment fraternity to create, compose and paint against terrorism. If the terrorists have bombs, artists have musical instruments; if terrorists have guns, artists have pen; if the terrorists scheme, artists can compose; if terrorists can create tragedies, artists can create comedies; if terrorists can terrorise, artists can empathise.
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Blogging, condemning, demonstrating against terrorism is effective only to a certain extent, but creating art against terrorism would kill the fanatic in person and spirit.
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Perhaps, this would bring back the smile on her lips and she would start living once again, in spite of her great loss.