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The Earth Spins on Its Axis December 2, 2008

Posted by KG in FS Life, India, Mumbai.
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And as ever, life continues.  We debrief with the regional psychiatrist.  Friends at posts around the world catch up on their holiday email and send notes of concern, of thanks, of shared pain and sorrow.  Paperwork gets completed and sent away.  Indirect fallout drifts in, nothing we can’t handle, nothing we haven’t seen before.  People continue to look for US visas — for a temple dedication, they’re from way outside of Mumbai; for a meeting in Bloomington, and everyone in their family is fine; to work on a cruise ship, they quit the Taj two weeks ago, thank god. 

The media here is saying that this will separate Bombay into a “before” and “after.”  I really don’t know if that will be the case.  What will be separated into those before and after chunks is my career as a diplomat, such as it is.  It was around 2030 in our conference room Saturday night, getting ready for a change in shifts, that the gravitas of our jobs really hit me.  This job appears to be many things to those on the outside, especially aspirants: unique, honorable, unpredictable, glamorous, exciting.  At any given time, all those adjectives can apply.  Here’s another adjective to add, after this crisis: deadly serious.

But more than the seriousness of this diplomat gig became clear over this experience.  The one trait the officers I respect most have in common is a very strong and apolitical sense of compassion and care, and over this crisis my fellow officers have shown that they have that in spades.  The other thing we have is a dark, dark shell around that layer of compassion, probably there to protect it, filled with black humor I don’t think you want to know about.  We’ve been laughing a lot the last few days.  We laugh because it hurts too much to cry.

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Comments»

1. William - December 2, 2008

Just wanted to write that my heart goes out to all you guys in the field in Bombay. I cannot imagine the sense of sheer panic you all must have felt in the days proceeding the terrorist attack. Thanks so much for continuing to make life abroad safe for us and to promote US policy.

Be well, and keep writing!

2. Laura - December 3, 2008

I know what you mean about the humor, and in our section, behind the glass and hardline, I was always glad we were in a safe space where no one could hear our inappropriate jokes. But consular work gets so intense that if you didn’t laugh, you’d go crazy. Been there — well not exactly there, where you are now, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be — but I get it. I’m glad you have found those laughs.

3. Ratna - December 5, 2008

I think every American should register to the emassy. I thought India is a safe country but I am so wrong. I am glade that you guys all are safe. Be happy and think of good time. I do enjoy reading your writing.

4. Liam - December 30, 2008

Hi,

I’ve quoted this wonderful item and linked to your blog, here: http://www.ilw.com/articles/2008,1230-schwartz.shtm

Thank you.


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