They say change is good. But Paris has changed forever after the ISIS attack and for the worse. On Friday, October 13, in a macabre reference to the cheap Hollywood blood-fest horror flick, the city - known for its open cafes and romantic aura - was shattered with gunfire. It was only recently that I had strolled along Champs Elysées, Rue des Barres and Rue Crémieux, besides eyeing the street-side art and the fashionably dressed folks up to the Eiffel Tower.
My nightmare turned into a reality when I watched Paris burning in the wee hours of a wintry morning. It was all over the TV and internet.
As the police began the manhunt for the ninth terrorist, I was reminded eerily of the gun battles that ensued in Mumbai where Ajmal Kasab and his associates were holed up at various locations across the city on November 26, 2008. Thankfully, the "Maximum City" soon got back to the daily grind.
These terror attacks have a lot in common - both were planned, both occurred when they were least suspected by the governments, and both claimed hundreds of innocent lives.
When an attack occurs, it's always cinematic and far removed, even to the ones who are enduring it. I was stirred and moved to tears as I read a personal account by an unnamed writer: "You never think it will happen to you. It was just another Friday night at a rock show. The atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing, smiling. And then, when the men came through the front entrance and began shooting at us, we naïvely believed it was all part of the show. It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right in front of me. Pools of blood filled the floor.
Cries of grown men, who held dead bodies, pierced through the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. In an instant, shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless."
Another sight that left me numb and horror-struck was the casket of Colonel Santosh Mahadik. An officer from the elite 21 Para (Indian Special Forces) unit, Mahadik died leading his battalion from the front as he took on heavily armed terrorists in Manigah forests near Kupwara in north Kashmir.
To those who find the advertisements urging the youth to join the Indian Army maudlin, I would suggest them to see this footage. To those who have any doubts about which side of the debate they should be on the so-called military occupation of Kashmir, I would request them to see this. It's true that currently we don't face a 26/11 Mumbai attacks-like situation. And this is because bravehearts like Mahadik continue to lay down their lives for the country. It's unfortunate that our war veterans are forced to protest for One Rank, One Pension; a right that shouldn't even be questioned.
While there is a severe critique doing the rounds on the credibility and competency of the EU governments, it has become amply clear that any halting of French military strikes on the ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq is politically untenable.
But as the campaign against terrorism intensifies every day, a fine line must be drawn and the enemy must be clearly identified.
A video has been doing the rounds of social media, wherein a group of young Pakistani comedians have gone on record about the Paris attacks. As they declare that they are different from the ISIS, which they actually are, and are as horrified as everyone else around the world, they invoke the Peshawar attacks in which 130 children were brutally killed and spoke of the bloodshed that they as Pakistani civilians witness on a daily basis.
Their appeal is to not view them as another face of terror - just because they are Muslims. Lashing out at the most vulnerable and often the wrong targets, is not the answer either. As images of young and old Muslims being searched in Paris flood the internet, I wonder: Do the terrorists, before they attack, ever wonder how their dastardly acts will affect their own brethren? Do they even care?