Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect

In my childhood, we lived in the shadow of the cold war. Today we live in the shadow of terror. In retrospect, the former was better. There was a communist group of countries led by the Soviet Union and there was a Capitalist group led by the Americans. Always seemingly at loggerheads. With India propped up in the middle as a non aligned nation , though in reality , we were titled a bit towards the Soviet camp what with the Indo-Soviet treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. But although the Cold War was very real and very frightening at one level, it did not touch the lives of ordinary people like us in India. We understood more of the Cold War through the novels of Eric Ambler and John le Carre than through any thing we saw or experienced.

Out of the shadows of the Cold War emerged the whiff of religious fundamentalism and terrorism which has today expanded into a bigger mushroom cloud than any one of the doomsday prophets of the cold era ever imagined. And the worst thing is that while the chess moves of the Soviets and the Americans were played out in the lawns of the Kremlin or the White House, terrorism could be staring at us across every innocuous bend or street corner as the victims of 7/11 whose first anniversary we commemorate found to their horror. Or as the victims of 9/11 found earlier. Or as the victims of the Bali bombings, tourists frolicking on the beach found to their horror. As the pictures emerging from the stand off at Lal Masjid in Islamabad show. Terrorism has encircled the globe and from the vantage point of today, it seems that it has changed our life forever.

A year ago, when I was pick pocketed and lost my mobile handset , my biggest priority was not to go and look for the handset or any thing like that but to hot foot it to the police station to lodge an FIR. The intent was to ensure that the loss of the SIM card was entered on official records at the earliest opportunity. I had head and read of several occasions when stolen SIM cards had been used to make calls and even if the legitimate owner of the card was eventually often cleared, the stress and harassment along the way was huge.

Boarding a flight had always included security checks though of course, now the lines are longer and the frisking more rough and stringent. But even other every day pleasures – train journeys, bus journeys and shopping in the mall or in even in the neighborhood discount market is fraught with unexpected dangers and uncertainties for which there can be never be ever some thing called a fool proof security.

The manner in which we have to move around with and identity proof makes it look that we are not actually living in a democracy but in a distorted police state. You want to buy a car – you need a car. The police want to know who is buying it for it could be used as a car bomb. You want to rent a house – the police want to know who is going to live there for it could be terrorist safe houses. You want an internet connection – the police want your IP address in case you are communicating with the Al Quaida or some thing. And if you are a student or some thing and do not have an internet connection, be prepared to prove your identity every time you visit a cyber café.

The sad fact about life today is that the carefree times of yester years seem to be all but gone. Every man and man and woman is suspect, every piece of luggage is suspect, every one who looks different, speaks different and prays different is suspect, and so you crane your neck around every bend and curve, fearful of every one and trustful of no one. The age of the simple joys of life are over for the time, or so it seems from the window where I stand

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