Despite this hatred, I couldn't resist going back to these channels, wanting to watch what was happening in Tahrir Square or Liberation Square, now a household name across the world. Why was I so interested, to the point of obsession, about the situation in Cairo? Surely, just a 10-day visit to Egypt about a month back cannot be the sole reason. Come on, there have been millions of tourists who have visited Cairo,and yet they are not this interested. I mean, it's just another revolution in the Arab world. What could be the reason?
My B&B Inn was actually on Tahrir Square. I could have seen the protests from my room. Was it because the place I 'lived', (although only for four days, nevertheless I lived) in Cairo was being repeatedly shown on TV that I felt compelled to watch the protests?
Maybe. But I think the deeper reason is different. In my short stay in Cairo, I did my best to experience of the local culture. Starting from my B&B Inn, I made sure I did nothing too touristy. (Of course, there is no escaping from being an outsider. Egypt is a tourist country and no matter how Arabic you look, it is in their DNA to spot a tourist). I took only public transport, buses, trains, meter taxis, avoiding cabs and tourists packages at all costs. I ate in little road-side restaurants, never had a guide map in my hand.
People on the street would immediately recognise me as an Indian, coming up to me, asking about Amitabh Bachan and Aishwarya Rai. On more than one occasion, I have stood idly at Metro Sadat corner, part of Tahrir Square, watching the crowd. Young men and women would hang out there, couples holding hands, eating their KFC wraps and drinking Coke from cans. People would randomly come up to me, ask me to show my pics, take pics and NEVER failing to say the words "Welcome to Egypt!" as they left. These were ordinary college youth, enjoying their best years of their lives.
Though I was never taken in by the western media's portrayal of the Arab world, I did find the broad-mindedness of the people surprising. I could immediately relate to them, standing there at the square. I could have been the same guy in Chennai. I could have easily taken pictures with tourists, helping them with directions, hi-five'ing with my friends. Young and net-savvy, twitter-following-fun-loving youth.
It is this crowd that is leading the revolution that the whole world is watching today. They say on TV that the average age of the protester is under 30 - they were not even born when Mubarak came to power. These young people whom I could relate to instantly were raised in a regime, left to fend for themselves, without taking care of them. They seem to have had enough and somewhere beneath all the outward display of fun, there has been suffering.
What else can explain the obstinate young girl, covered up to her face, telling the news channel that she would even die, but she would not leave the Tahrir square until Mubarak steps down?
The people who lead this revolution could be the very guys I met at Metro Sadat corner, the guys I chatted up with in the trains, laughed with in those little road-side restaurants, who showed me directions in Tahrir Square. It is perhaps because of this reason, I am not able to take my attention off the news updates.
It is times like these I also wonder, there are people younger than me, who have gone through enormous sufferings, seen the world and inspire a generation. There are people who rise above the ordinary and stand up for what is right and don't stop till they get what they want. I always thought such people were in a different world - Che Guevera, Gandhi and the likes. But I just realized that it could even be you or me - the ordinary citizen who just has to stand up to be heard.
I am thankful I met these revolutionaries before they became revolutionaries. But, should I be more thankful for having been born in peaceful times in a peaceful country?