Sometimes one just gets lucky. I was meant to be in Paris last night for the prestigious Indes de Livres festival. There would have been a reception with the Indian high commissioner, followed by discussions today and tomorrow, about my own books and India. It was something I had been eagerly looking forward to.
But thanks to several slip ups, I ended up not going, for which I sent my profuse apologies to the organisers. Not only would I miss a lively festival, I knew the loss was mine because Paris is such a wonderful city, and perfect for discussions from around the world. It is always a courteous and beautiful venue, a visual treat, and an epicure's delight! Civilised and cosmopolitan.
Today, the city lies wounded, and one cannot even begin to imagine the extent and scale of grief as innocent people have been butchered by terrorists. A city that celebrates diversity and discussion now lies decimated by thoughtless, brainwashed zombies who have no stake in creating a better world. They hold fear to be the key, and use religion to fight a deeply divisive, political battle.
Whilst I am relieved I am not in Paris today (even the resident authors whom I was to meet say they might not venture out during the weekend), this carnage is yet another cruel reminder that the location of these beasts who prey on the vulnerable does not matter anymore.
We were all Mumbaikars in 26/11 and Londoners in 7/7 and New Yorkers in 9/11. We are all caught up in a world where a cancelled ticket or a visa delay might make the difference between life and death. It might just be a traffic jam en route to the airport, or sleeping late one morning that might take you away from the path of killers.
Of course life is random, but it has now become more so. By attacking those watching football matches, or listening to an American band or visiting multi cultural spaces and restaurants these fanatics are trying to dismantle a way of life where entertainments like these are taken for granted.
They are attacking a culture that they equate with Western values they wish to annihilate. And yet, most of them are usually so immature that they have not had the opportunity to consider what culture actually means, and how the best choices are made not through threats and blood but by conversations and dialogue, and negotiation.
In this bizarre world created by terrorism, everything is black and white, and the subtle values and lifestyle that a cosmopolitan city like Paris represents has no place.
With this attack on Paris, one mourns the passing of an era. I am simply tired of the stock phrases about the 'spirit' of a city which enables it to carry on, despite dreadful events. We need something more to ensure that we are free to speak, to debate.
I have no idea who will be there to attend the literature festival in France, and I wish them all safe passage. Yes, a part of me wishes I could have been there with them. But another part of me is relieved that I am at home with my family, safe, at least for this one more day. By accident.