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‘Terrible’ things can happen any moment.  ‘Terrible’ of course is a subjective thing.  What seems terrible to you may seem trivial to someone else.  Also, what you think is ‘terrible’ right now might appear insignificant later on.  However, when ‘terrible’ happens, it is not trivial, it is ‘terrible’.  It can come in many forms of course, but when it happens it’s like the sun has gone out and all of a sudden it is dark.  That’s how you get night in the middle of the day.

So what do you do?  You think of terrible nights, that’s what you do!

On the face of it there’s nothing to say that nights are worse than days, that somehow when there’s light terrible things don’t happen or that they don’t feel as bad.  The only difference is that in one instance there’s light and in the other there isn’t.  But think of it.  When it’s night here, there’s sunlight somewhere else and vice versa.  Globally speaking, even if nights are worse, there’s roughly the same quantum of ‘terrible things’ happening, day and night.

But what of terrible nights?  We have all had bad nights.  Nightmares have surprised us.  They’ve kept us awake.  We have longed for daybreak so we can escape known and unknown terrors of darkness.  That’s where the answer lies.  However bad things seem, there’s a point at which the night ends.

When the night ends and there’s light, the world looks different and you look at the world differently. When it’s night there’s limited visibility.  We don’t get as good a sense of our location, our enemies, the surroundings etc., as we would if there was light.  When there’s light we see pathways that we weren’t sure existed.  We see escape routes.  We notice weapons we didn’t know were accessible.  We suddenly realize that our range of options has expanded.

So think of ‘terrible moments’ as such nights.  When it hits you, when it incapacitates you, everything blurs.  You suddenly find that you’ve lost your bearings.  You are not sure of your location.  You don’t know where to turn.  You can’t distinguish friend from enemy.  You don’t know what to do.  But here’s a story that might shed some light.

Way back in the early 1990s, a bunch of people were held in a security-related state institution on Longdon Place.  It wasn’t a prison or rather didn’t look like a prison.  It was a government office.  A police station of sorts.  During the day there were clerks, peons, typists and other officials in addition to lots of policemen in uniform.  After 5 o’clock there were only police officers.  The detainees had to sit/sleep near one of the walls in a huge hall where all the ‘official work’ took place.  And that’s also where they slept at night.

They were all suspected of being involved in sedition.  They belonged to different political groups which included the JVP and the LTTE.  The LTTE suspect made an observation one day.

‘It’s easy to escape, but there’s no point.  I am not interested in the LTTE. I was a victim, an unwilling recruit.  But I am well-trained.  I know how to get out.’

He outlined his plan.  And then said, “the trick is not to run, but to stay in one place for a long time.  I might have to hide in a sewer or in a toilet or in some other terrible place.  I might have to stay there for a couple of days.  Then it’s easy.  By that time they won’t be looking anywhere near this place.

They would expect me to be far away.  That’s when I make the break.”

You have to be patient.  Relax.  It passes.  All you have to do is to be very still.  Wait.  The hours pass. The night ends.  There will be light.

MS