From Kerala to Chelsea: a profound change in environment

Paul Pulickal Mathew | SIPA, Class of 2018

The phone vibrated on my beside table, waking me up from a deep sleep. I opened my eyes for a second and then quickly closed them. Minutes later, vibration again. I checked my phone and saw endless notifications. “Bombing in Chelsea, New York. Are you okay?”

Social media was in turmoil. Meanwhile, I had slept peacefully through the whole thing. A quick Google search made me realize it had taken place less than 7 miles away.

This attack was much different from what I am used to. I hail from the beautiful coastal state of Kerala in India. As such, I have long been insulated from most of the chaos that rages around our country, and in the world as a whole.

After having spent a quarter of a century in that comfort zone, I made the leap to SIPA this past summer. It has been invigorating as orientation and the first two weeks flew by.

Sitting in Lehman, writing my thoughts down a week later, I’m still feeling numb. A real bomb explosion. No gadget screen or newspaper to detach me from the actual experience. Years of impassive news updates had become desensitized facts and figures. And then it became real.

As a newcomer to New York, I have found it to be an immensely exciting place. But events like these are what make you realize the constant menace that hides behind the chaos. It is not surprising, though. This is one of the most important cities on the globe, and law enforcement agencies are constantly fighting an increasingly uphill battle countering extremist violence. As always, it just takes 1 instance to ignite fear. And that is the deadliest weapon to wield.

But what most surprised me was to see New Yorkers walking around like it was just a regular day. Nobody seemed shaken. Clearly the so-called deadliest weapon doesn’t hold much sway here.

I could get used to this. I think I’m going to enjoy New York.


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