On Wednesday morning, Nov. 26, at our regular department meeting, we were asked to reflect on what Thanksgiving meant to each of us. My fellow Indy associates became increasingly emotional as they shared their thoughts.
I shared the excitement of an upcoming three-week visit to India with my extended family, many of whom have never been there, and how we plan to donate our surplus clothing, particularly Indian outfits, directly to the poor in villages. It will be a lesson in appreciating the bountiful benefits of being an American and recognizing the disparity of India's resources.
At noon that same day, the world heard the first horrifying news of the assault on Mumbai, the city of our planned embarkation. Like many Indians in Colorado Springs, we have 16 Indian satellite television stations that we view in our homes. We were appalled at the news and spent much of Thanksgiving break flipping between U.S. and Indian news channels.
The tragedy was halfway across the world, and yet we knew people who were directly and, in some cases, fatally connected to the assault. Many local Indian residents visit India in December because of the milder weather and school breaks. At least 10 families are planning to travel there this month; they will witness the aftermath firsthand.
Those well-coordinated attacks, with very specific targets, were carried out by heavily armed fanatics intent on being martyrs for some ungodly cause. The unsuspecting victims were slaughtered in an effort to destroy India's financial capital and devastate the vibrant tourist economy.
The selection of a very small Jewish center punctuated the evil intent. India is proud to be the world's largest democracy, and has a rich secular tradition of welcoming and embracing the world's ethnicities, religions and faiths. The attacks sought to undermine that freedom of association and cripple a city of 17 million cosmopolitan people.
A few years ago, India's Parliament experienced a similarly brazen attack, and it took all of America's persuasive abilities to prevent a direct confrontation with Pakistan. This time with news breaking that the Mumbai attacks appear to be linked to Pakistan-based Islamic militants India's public is outraged and angry, and wants an end to the rhetoric of its politicians and world leaders. These frustrations are shared by many, if not all, non-resident Indians. They want action.
Ironically, but not coincidentally, this comes at a time when Pakistan is experiencing an unusual moment of democracy. Its prime minister had responded positively to quiet overtures from India to end border hostilities, expand trade and travel between the countries, and cement new relationships with more cultural and sports exchanges.
India's current government is a fragile coalition of many small parties, and national elections are slated for May 2009. The government is under heavy pressure to act decisively. Two nuclear countries are being manipulated and forced into maintaining their historical enmity by the forces of Islamic terror.
On Thanksgiving Day, I received an e-mail from my friend, Robert Bixler, a Denver resident who was in India during the Ahmedabad bombings in July and was on a train from Goa to Mumbai on the day the terrorists' siege began. He was at the very same train station and walked the same path to the taxi stands used by the terrorists missing the carnage by a mere 15 minutes.
He wrote, and I paraphrase: "On this sobering day, I am reminded how we are really connected to each other. We can not think of our lives, our happiness and future apart from those who share this planet with us. Once again we are reminded that the suffering of others is our suffering, and their happiness is our own. Although we are separated on this Thanksgiving Day, we are each joined in friendship and love."
Thanks to the many wonderful friends in Colorado Springs who have expressed their deep sorrow over the Mumbai acts of terror and have communicated their enduring fellowship with love and prayers.
Jay Patel, vice president/development at the Independent, has lived in Colorado Springs for 30 years and is actively involved in the community. He currently serves as chair of the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum.