Events such as 26/11 invariably set off a dialogue between the humanist and the extremist inside each of us. And it’s not difficult for the extremist to win, because when innocents die, extreme thoughts are easily rationalised.
Yet, what we discovered after years of interviewing families of victims and survivors, is that there are many:
* Who, in spite of the irreversible loss, choose not to hate;
* Who, when confronted with the choice between revenge and letting go, choose – instead — to look ahead;
* Who, in the face of despair and destruction, don’t search for someone to blame but take charge, pick up the pieces, and choose to rebuild.
You will see many such stories through the course of today’s event, in the book that we have published, and through our reportage.
These are powerful markers of humanity in any place, any culture, but I’d like us to reflect, to what degree does being Indian define how these incredible individuals dealt with adversity?
A Harvard case study done on the behaviour of the Taj employees (on 26/11) concluded that one reason they behaved so unpredictably selflessly was that Indian Hotels HR policy was to hire people who are likely to be from joint families and who display respect for elders because they imbibe the Indian value of putting others before themselves.
Ladies & gentlemen, of the 600 employees of the Taj hotel, not one left his or her post. Many staffers escorted guests to safety and then went back in to help others. They had no reason to do that — other than the contract, perhaps, that they had signed with their conscience. Even if, for some of them, that meant losing their lives.
This continues to baffle social scientists today, who say that this behaviour is unusually rare, and highly improbable in any other setting.
It’s been famously – and accurately — said that whatever you can rightfully say about India, the opposite is also true. But one thing we do know is that we as a country have always been deeply spiritual and devout. But an increasing cohort of young Indians look at events such as 26/11 and feel disenchanted by religion, given that terror attacks are often connected with religion.
It’ll be a shame if the Indian millennial turns a blind eye to religion because then it leaves the battleground of religion to those who weaponise it — that is, the extremists.
And so today, more than over, we should not view religion with apathy or disdain. Instead, it’s up to each one of us to find meaning in ancient texts and philosophy, rather than judge religion based on the most twisted interpretations that some have adopted.
We would consider our endeavour successful if, upon listening to these stories, you are encouraged to think of what Indianness is, and what you would like Indianness to be.
You see, each one of us, at some point, has to make that deeply intimate choice. A personal and yet universal one as to which path should we take between the faith of the extremist, the religion of the moderate, and, yes, even the belief of the non-believer.
I’d like to thank many people for making this very ambitious project happen. Thanks to The Hon’ble Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his office; The Hon’ble Union Minister of Railways & Coal, Piyush Goyal; And the Hon’ble Minister of State for Home, Hansraj Ahirji for making the time to be here with us today.
I must thank Facebook, our founding partners, and my friend Ankhi Das for believing in this project for three years now. Thank you to our key partners – Maruti Suzuki & VIACOM 18 and to the Director of today’s show – Feroz Abbas Khan, and to Sabbas Joseph and the Wizcraft team – who have worked tirelessly to put this evening together.
To Amitabh Bachchanji – words fail to explain how grateful we all are for your time and incomparable dedication.
And to all the renowned artistes who will perform this evening – a big thank you.
Thanks to our friends at the NSG, the Mumbai Police, the Indian Navy, the Mumbai Port Trust, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. And to our long-time partners – the Taj Hotels, LIC, Centrum Foundation, Air India, Vodafone, Laqshya, Uber and Prime Focus.
Thanks to our broadcast partners, ABP News, Republic and 92.7 bigFM who are broadcasting this event live now. We are also streaming live on the Facebook India page, and broadcast later on Colors TV! Of course, this is in addition to it being streamed live across The Indian Express platforms — now the second largest digital newsgroup in the country.
Ladies & gentlemen, on a conservative estimate, today’s show will be watched by at least 15 million Indians.
So thank you to all of you for believing in us and in the project.
AND ABOVE ALL…
My most heartfelt gratitude to those of you who picked up the pieces of your hearts that shattered 10 years ago, and let us in. We understand the enormous responsibility we have when we point a camera at you and ask you to share your lives’ most vulnerable moments.
We ask because it’s important – because only you can put into reality what Martin Luther King Jr. once said…
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars,
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that…
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Your stories prove that even though there are a few misguided foolish individuals who think they can decide how we should die, they must know that they cannot decide how we will live.
On behalf of my father, Viveck Goenka, a very warm welcome.