[How stupid I’ve been meaning to post this for days and turns out I missed the event by a day]
Probably the first major world event that occurred in my lifetime and which I can recall witnessing was the fall of the Berlin Wall. I now realise I was 9 years old at the time.
I remember watching the events of that night – the party as people from both sides climbed over the wall and danced – on our boxy TV with my parents, who were wearing grins of amazement.
I remember asking why they were celebrating and being told that East Berlin and West Berlin had been separated and now family and friends could finally meet each other (I could see the families and friends embracing on screen). Huh? But how stupid. How come one city got broken into two?
I immediately assumed it was the evil communists (as a child I was aware of communists but not what they actually were, except that they always wore grey or brown) who had built the wall. And I guess they had. But my dad told me that Germany had been carved up by the Americans, British, French and Russians.
More confusion. How could the Americans and the British be so stupid? (I knew nothing of the French but every TV programme and movie I had watched showed the Americans as the good guys).
As a child it was completely clear to me that a city divided in half made no sense. As an adult, I (possibly childishly) continue to hold this view.
The collapse of the Berlin wall sowed the first seeds of doubt that the Americans and British could be the bad guys (weird how despite our history textbooks, it was still difficult to see the British as bad guys, probably because they were white). Looking back, the collapse of the Berlin Wall was the start of the crumbling of an edifice of another kind – trust in everything American – in the mind of one Indian child.
Today, there is some wrangling about who takes credit for the Wall coming down. For 9-year-old and now 29-year-old me, what’s more important is who owns up to the moral failure of putting it up.