Sunday, February 22, 2009

War In Real Time

It was Friday evening, about 4 PM and I sat at my desk. I was getting ready to greet the evening shift which turns up about 6 PM and things were quiet other than a few phone calls and bits and pieces.

I logged onto Facebook and saw a status update report thing from Indi. He said that all the lights were out in Colombo and there were gunshots and an LTTE air raid going on.

"Fuck" I thought. These days my first thought is often the same.

And for the next couple of hours I watched things happening on the net. Indi and other friends had regular updates on their facebook accounts as well as on the blogs. I assumed there was no mains power in Colombo, that it was off and generators are banned when these raids happen.

So the updates, the scrambled blog posts and the few text messages I got were from laptops, blackberries and mobiles and the networks they were connecting to could have been turned off at any time if the powers that be desired it.

It was both fascinating and scary to observe all this from afar. Scary because people I love, people I like and others I frankly can't stand were, and are, in Colombo. My parents are there and like so many of the diaspora my first thought was my family and their safety. It's not just the thought of an LTTE air raid that scares me, it's also the thoughts about what might go wrong in the counter attacking, stray bullets and people panicking can do damage.

Fascinating because it was unfolding before my eyes and I could picture it all so vividly.

As time ticked away I left work and went to collect the kids, all the while wondering how things were unfolding. Live updates told all the world that one plane had come down somewhere near or in the airport, I'd seen other less certain reports that another had come down on the Inland Revenue Office, an irony that wasn't lost on anyone I think.

Perhaps a sustained attack on the tax system would have been far more effective and gained more public support than the killing of so many innocent people over the years.

Later on as I cooked spaghetti bolognaise I read Sanjana's account of his trip to the airport and I'd seen others giving even more information. It became clear that there were two aircraft down, one at the tax place. My Mum sent a text to say they were fine and I replied telling her that there were two planes down and where they were. It was funny, but not in a funny way, to think that I was very possibly more informed about what was going on there than my parents were.

I saw FB friends saying that the air raid had disrupted their evening, that things were getting back to normal and the lights and power were back on and running. The girls and I ate our dinner, the bolognaise was good but I think I should have browned the mince for about five more minutes before I left it to simmer.

In the morning I saw the photographs of buildings, planes and wreckages.

Colombo felt so far away yet so close.

This modern war, thousands of miles away over land and only seconds away over the world wide web.



Indyana said...

Amazing how connected the world has become! My thoughts were there too, and how it must be.Also I couldn't help recalling the last time this happened, when we were still living there. A night we will never forget!I hope all loved ones are safe, and good to hear that your parents are alright!

JP said...

RD, another point to ponder. Two suicide pilots. two plane brimmed to to tip with bombs. suicide attacks on people. sound familiar. While 9/11 became a phenomina this would be forgotten on Monday (wednessday max). It is all in the packaging sir.

PseudoRandom said...

Your text conversation with your mother sounded familiar. As soon as I saw the 'breaking news', I called home to check where my parents were.

Me: Ah you're both at home, good.
Father: Yeah yeah we're at home. Why, what's wrong?
Me: No I thought you might be gallivanting around as usual, and I heard about the air raid and got scared.
Father: Air raid? What air raid? [to Mother] Put the TV on...this one is talking about some air raid. [to me] How are you darling? How's work? You're in the lab tonight no? Are you safe?

They live outside the city limits so they were blissfully unaware of the blackout etc. Needless to say it was funny (again, not in a funny way) that my father was asking me if I was ok, while there was a plane with bombs flying above his head.

Anonymous said...


Read in a few other blogs that the whole two plane episode was about providing a cover for Prabah who was escaping ?

Any opinions

Anonymous said...

no no annon you've got it all wrong . VP had to submit his tax return. With all this humanatarian operations and all it got delayed and delayed was Friday ...the last day for submission ....So he got his trusted pilots to deliver it to IRD. door to door delivery....that is why it was stated that the mission was accomplished...

Anonymous said...

Anon, made my day !! quite possibly the week :) Yes, so that was it just a delivery to the IRD he he he .
Good one about the humanitarian operation :)