Tuesday, October 11, 2005

On being a man with a rucksack...

Jag, a British, European, 2nd-Generation Indian, reflects on normality post 7th July http://route79.org/journal/?p=45

It was very interesting for me to read about his experiences on the tube, after my panic attack when I noticed a nervous sweaty dark skinned man with a big rucksack. Here's Jag in his experiences

Someone left a comment to a previous posting below - one that pointed me to a BBC News page where readers were invited to feedback their comments on the aftermath of the bombings and attempted bombings. There was one particular piece of feedback that got me thinking. It was by an Asian guy (that means “South Asian” for you North Americans reading this). He said that he had taken to carrying a copy of “The Economist” magazine with him whilst riding the tubes to work and home. The idea being that he couldn’t possibly be a suicide bomber and be reading The Economist. Surely? Anybody suspecting him would soon feel very reassured that he was just an ordinary Londoner - and not a terrorist.
What a great idea I thought to myself. Since I am Asian and carrying a rucksack - I, too, would buy some intellectually-stimulating reading material next time I ride the tubes and buses. That way I could reassure my fellow commuters that I’m a good guy. So I did. The very next day in fact. Exactly 7 days after the attempted bombings on the 21st. A Thursday. The platforms and carriages of the trains at Kingsbury and Wembley Park were deathly quiet that day - and there were police in day-glo yellow jackets EVERYWHERE. I had popped into the newsagents on the High Street right next door to the tube station and pondered at the magazine shelves. What should I buy?
You’re not going to believe this: I bought a copy of “
Wired” magazine. How stupid I felt when I got onto the Jubilee Line at Kingsbury. I had to quickly put the magazine back in my rucksack. And this act in itself invited too much staring. I could hear the alarm bells inside other souls going off.
Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t!

I am not the only one who is afraid.

But facing the fear, and the effects of the fear, with grace and humour is one of the things that makes me immensely glad that I live amongst snotty, busy, mixed-up Londoners. I can't imagine living anywhere else.


Blogger Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I agree, living with fear in a way that allows grace and humility is a better.


PS. Thanks for your response on my post. I will link your site to mine, once I figure out how to do it successfully. Right now I have two sections, but can't get any of the links to pop up.

October 11, 2005 2:54 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

I read an article on the BBC website about this and not so much lately but I used to notice it a lot on the tube that anyone with a rucksack, particularly a dark skinned person was given a wide berth.

October 11, 2005 8:45 pm  
Blogger Jag said...

Hi Rachel - thanks for your comment - and thanks for recalling this story too. Re your point about London and Londoners: couldn't agree more!

October 11, 2005 10:23 pm  
Blogger Leigh said...

On one hand I think it is obviously unfair, but on the other, I think we all subconciously stereotype people around us, whether we mean to or not.

Of course it would be much worse after a traumatic event, such as the horrendous subway bombing you went through. After 9/11, I don't think a single Muslim in the U.S. didn't feel a suspicious stare. So I guess it is a natural reaction; survival of the fittest?

October 12, 2005 2:47 pm  
Blogger LottieP said...

There was quite a comical article about this in (I think) the FT, where the writer, a Muslim, and a teetotaller, talked about trying to work out what would make him look the most innocuous to his fellow passengers. He settled on a bottle of wine and a Harry Potter book.


October 13, 2005 2:54 pm  
Blogger Tube Dude said...

As a Station Supervisorfor London UNderground, I have to deal with different people every day, some of whom are very concerned after 7/7

I also get scared, no moreso than whem I have o go to a train for a "left bag" or unattended item. I do and will continue to treat these as the "unthinkable" but I try to continue with my life in a normal as way as possible.

Thanks for doing this blog.

October 18, 2005 9:11 pm  

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