I packed carefully for my Delhi trip. At least, I thought I was packing carefully. I decided not to pack my nailcutter or carry shampoo, hair oil or anything fluid. (Yes, I use hair oil, diligently at that.) After three blasts in south Mumbai, Delhi was on high alert according to all the news channels. In fact, those special task forces that were set up after 26/11 were already in Delhi, apparently. Security would be beefed up, and understandably. These are not the circumstances in which I want to get into an altercation with a police woman.

So I was prepared for the security check to take forever and ready to spend an extra ten minutes persuading the khaki-clad officer to let my camera’s lithium ion battery pass. As it turned out, I glided through security check and didn’t have to explain the presence of the camera’s battery. Not only that, a day later, I discovered a lighter at the bottom of my handbag. A perfectly functioning lighter, full of lighter fluid, which had been cocooned in a headband. Supposedly the kind of thing that we’re not supposed to be able to carry as hand baggage. And this is a day after three bomb blasts. So much for a thorough inspection. Fortunately, I’m not affiliated to any terrorist organization and the only damage that is caused by lighter is to my lungs since it’s used to light cigarettes. But if I’m able to unknowingly smuggle a lighter through security check a day after an attack, who knows what a terrorist could get past the scanning machines and police officers? It’s almost as though the city’s security forces are as resigned to not being able to prevent a terrorist attack as ordinary citizens.


Of course, it is true that I’m able to smuggle photos (keep the phone on silent and take pictures when the air hostesses are on the other side of the plane; ignore boggle-eyed co-passenger. The biggest mistake is to flash a smile because then they figure you’re feeling guilty and are trying to win them over. Nonchalance is key) on an airplane. In fact, I’ve even listened to songs on my phone while landing. Clearly I missed my calling. I should have been a terrorist.

4 thoughts on “On Alert

  1. I feel like that every time i find a lighter i’ve sneaked in accidentally in a coat pocket or whatever. can you really take down a plan with a lighter though?

    also i don’t understand why trains don’t have the same level of paranoid security. isn’t the risk of death and destruction pretty much the same?

  2. In India, I’d say blasts on trains would cause far greater damage. But the train crowds are way more difficult to manage, I imagine.

    Considering the fact terrorists have in the past managed to take down planes with nothing more than cardboard cutters and cutlery, I suspect they could do lots of damage with lighters. I get paranoia. A day after three bomb blasts, I’m almost comforted by paranoia. But it would be nice to see the paranoia performed properly.

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