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Of Mothers, and Murderers #Manchester

This morning I woke up at first light, to a smiling picture of an eight-year old girl from Manchester. I’ve tried the entire day to not think about her, not write, not dwell, not tear up. I’m not a mother, I’m not related to her, and well, don’t thousands of children die each day in various parts of the world, including where I live? No call for me to be emotional.

I’ve also thought about the 22-yr old who thought exploding himself in lethal hatred, nuts, bolts, and nails was the way to exit the world.

I’ve thought of their journeys to the venue– the girl with elders, possibly her parents, or parents of friends. All dressed up, full of smiling, laughing, bright expectation. I see her skipping, running to the area, I see her shrieking at her idol on the large screens.

And I see the man, dressing himself in death, his head a beehive of hatred, of visions of a life beyond, of unimaginable darkness disguised as light.

I can’t turn away from that moment of shrapnel, panic, blood, death, screams, stampedes, keening, prayers, sirens, last breaths, the reek of burning flesh.

I’ve constantly thought about these two: no way can a hate-filled being be compared to an innocent, but the fact is both reached there, that one place.

These incidents will recur, again and yet again, till we figure out the poisonous alchemy that changes the brains of young men into killers– the belief systems they’re fed, the money that changes hands, the normalisation of violence, the nightmarish transformation of a man into a killing machine– these are aspects of humanity, no matter how much we deny it.

Violence has been part of the human make-up from the very beginnings of our evolution, and despite all the progress we’ve made, we still murder our children in cold blood.

And here I am, at end of the day, unable to sleep, thinking of this killer and that girl. Of the adults who were a joy to their mothers, and their children. I think of this murderer who also had a mother– a man who was, until yesterday, just another walking the streets, quietly carrying within him an entire snakepit of rancor and murderous rage. I see so many answers, the usual suspects bandied about: fundamentalism, toxic masculinity, cultural differences.

Personally, I don’t have an answer.

I’m helpless, filled with despair and dread. I can only think of the two mothers, one who suffered the horrific loss of her child, and the other, who will be known as the one who gave birth to a mass-murderer, till the day she dies, and beyond. I wish all of us, irrespective of gender, were given a mother’s heart– then we would not kill. During my meditation, one of the chants I focus on is : I’m a mother of this universe. Because when you’re a mother, you create, you nurture, you protect, you love. You become love.

Before I head to bed, I send this out— may mother-love spread its wings, may it embrace us all, and may it put out the fires of hatred, violence and malice seething in this world. May we celebrate and embrace our differences, may eight-year-olds never lose lives to murderers again, and may we always find light in the darkest of times and places.

Have you heard of the Manchester bombing? What have your thoughts been all of today? What would you say to these two mothers?


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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • My heart has been breaking over recent events. I find myself crying when I read of what is happening in the world. When I read of the individual heroism, gut wrenching despair and pointless loss. You capture the pain of it very well. I too have no answers, only hope and love to offer. So many people wounded, not just those in the path of bombs and knives, but those so broken by disillusionment and brain-washing that it leads these men to such terrible acts. The world needs as much mother love as it can get right now. Xx

  • pjlazos says:

    I have not been able to make sense of any of this although I think that for my part, to suspend judgment and see the world as I would like it to be — more love and light filled with less fear and ostracizing — is the one thing I can do rather than sit helplessly on my hands. oxo

  • If only bloggers writing about the goodness of humanity could change the world! Maybe we can but, if only someone had reached this young man somehow. There are thousands more of him (and some of her) walking around, living time bombs, and we don’t know how we can reach them. Hate does not die out, it just changes as it finds a way to reach each new generation.

  • ccyager says:

    Eloquently written, Damyanti. Because I have not been watching the news when I get home from work, I didn’t hear about Manchester until the next day. We know now that ISIS has claimed responsibility, or at least being the inspiration, for the bomber. In their war against everyone else, there are no civilians. Children and women are equal targets with soldiers. It will take a lot of time to unravel the thinking of these people, but I believe it’s important to understand their thinking. It’s the only way to change it.

  • upasna1987 says:

    Our hearts cry over this. I wonder what made the normal person a killer. What mind-wash their brains. How those people were being raised?
    We need to bring compassion into this world by giving birth to a child and should not add to the hatred.

  • I try to understand different cultures–let everyone lives by their own rules. As long as it doesn’t judge me. This breaks my heart for both sides. How can a 22-year-old be so closed-minded that he won’t even listen anymore.

    OK, I’m rambling. I’m at a loss…

  • simonfalk28 says:

    I lament the event, Damyanti. They are too many and too frequent. I love your response and questions. We are all perplexed and are glad to have you with us. Makes me all the more convinced that any small steps of peace and goodness that we can commit to, e.g. WATWB, are ever more important. Thanks again 🙂

  • I have never experienced such sadness as I did the morning that I found out about the Manchester bombing. Having two daughters and nieces… etc… who often go to concerts I was utterly horrified. Now it seems as if my youngest is terrified to go to a concert. But, I fear the more we dwell on it the more the terrorists will exploit our pain. So today I posted a photo (that I took the day after the bombing) on Instagram featuring a homeless shop and shelter in Cambridge called Emmaus. Given that two homeless people were indeed hero’s in Manchester this seemed a relevant and I hope a positive thing to do.

  • macjam47 says:

    Damyanti, once again you have given us a poignant and beautifully written post. I think we are all having feelings of sadness, anger, disbelief that it happened at a venue that attracted so many young people.

  • Each time there’s a news of a terror attack in some part of the world, a chill goes up my spine and I shudder to think about the surviving members of the family that got mercilessly and needlessly killed. There was a time when I’d fear entering malls and crowded places. Even today, the thought crosses my mind ‘what if’ and then I quickly brush it off focusing on more positive thoughts because at the end of the day that’s what we got. Letting ourselves become positive no matter what and hoping for a better world even if the facts do not add up.
    Beautifully written piece, Damyanti! Esp, the part about “may mother-love spread its wings, may it embrace us all, and may it put out the fires of hatred, violence and malice seething in this world”.

  • Yes its true all the way back into known history there have been atrocities, but what is different now is people are prepared not only to put others to death, but also to put themselves to death willingly in the process. I fear for the future of humanity with that kind of belief system.

  • Peter Nena says:

    Thanks for this meditation, Damyanti.

  • mackenzieglanville says:

    an incredibly powerful and beautifully written piece. I would pray for both, and I agree if we could love the world as I love my children then no one would be murdered again. Tragic.

  • Obsessivemom says:

    I wonder what makes someone hate someone else so much, someone they don’t even know, that they are ready to kill them. “I wish all of us, irrespective of gender, were given a mother’s heart– then we would not kill” – That to me is the most powerful thought of all. If only that were possible.

  • Sha'Tara says:

    The world, well, a part of the world, must, to cover their own crimes, excoriate the suicide bomber of Manchester, and any such individuals. What the world needs to realize is that every military is a training ground for suicide bombers, only of the more cowardly type. They receive government sanction to murder, and if one of them dies, s/he gets to be treated as a hero, even if for a short time. Suicide bombers aren’t hate-filled people until they are made thus. Then, with help, they turn their vengeance upon those who brought slavery and death to their own homeland. Manchester is comeuppance. When Western imperialist powers stop killing innocents in lands whose resources they covet, and withdraw their exploitation, then the reasoning behind suicide bombing will fade away. Since America and Britain choose to target civilians in their imperialist wars against the Greater Middle East and Northern Africa, then they should expect their enemy (which they are constantly creating) to target same on their own populations. As they continue to support and arm vile and violent dictatorships, so they sow the seeds for more “terrorism” but remember this: the real terrorists are America, Britain, France, Australia and all those puppet nations who support the imperialist agenda. Time to wake up and smell the coffee burning.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I cannot deny the truth of this. The complex threads of greed, indoctrination and vengeance create these terrorists. If you read some of the comments below, this is being discussed. The problem is that the price is paid by innocents, on both sides, in all countries. The instigators and the perpetrators always manage to escape notice, and punishment.

  • A beautiful post, Damyanti. I also feel so helpless when tragedies like this happen. I ask for healing twice a day in my meditations. Sadly some hearts are closed to accepting love and this was the result.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, inability love oneself in one of the biggest causes of falling prey to hate-filled doctrine.

  • Birgit says:

    It is a horrible tragedy and one that has happened before and will, unfortunately, happen again. I would not know what to say to these mothers except that they need their loved ones with them now and to do their best to avoid the reporters and onlookers. I hope this shows how security needs to be stricter and much stronger. If it is not ISIS then it is some lone nut or some other religious fanatic…the list is sadly somewhat endless. Human beings can be the cruelest on earth but you need to concentrate, as we all must do, on the positive of human beings. We can give so selfishly and the outpouring of love right now fills my heart with hope despite the tragedy.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, in the darkness, light. We humans can be incredibly cruel and dark, but we also well over with kindness and light.

  • A fantastic piece.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, I almost didn’t write it, but I guess it wanted out.

  • Debbie D. says:

    An unfathomable tragedy! Your eloquent words express what most of the world is feeling. Finding the light is getting more and more difficult, but we must never give up looking for it.

  • Dan Antion says:

    Thank you Damyanti. You have captured the raw, visceral feelings most of us share in such well-chosen words. Very quickly, after the initial news of this incident, I began shying away from news stories, blog posts and topics on social media. So any are self-serving, overly simplistic, hateful and formed in the rhetoric that has largely brought the world to this point. Embracing our differences seems so easy. I hope to one day see it happen.

    It is so hard to understand what brings terrorists to the decision to take innocent lives. I can almost imagine the pain of the mother of the girl that died. I can’t begin to imagine that of the mother of the terrorist. Life is so precious, I can’t conceive of wasting it in suicide, let alone murder.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I debated writing this the whole day, and frankly, didn’t want to write it. When it was way past my bedtime, and I couldn’t go to bed, I knew my body wouldn’t let me *not write* , so I did.

      As a writer, I naturally veer towards empathy and imagination, and sometimes that is a huge disadvantage, and a threat to my sanity.

      Still, I can’t truly conceive of the suffering that led to this, and the suffering it has caused—I just wish we humans would wake up and break the cycle of violence.

      • Dan Antion says:

        In many ways, breaking the cycle of violence will require empathy and imagination on all sides of the many issues involved. We have to find a way to protect people – first and foremost, and to eliminate the conditions that inspire violence.

  • I’m with you and in a bit of despair today. But this is just a step in a more obvious direction for all that I also see in USA politics — a congress and white house determined to kill children and those with disabilities and their parents and immigrants and the elderly and wildlife through lack of medical care and lowering their incomes until they have to choose between food and meds or housing. One if more obvious, and more violent — the other prolonged and painful — and both equally despicable. I am today, depressed because there is simply too much of this in the world. Too much greed and hatred and I sit, shaking my head, I’ve cried a bunch for Manchester somehow tipped me over in this new moon.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Kate you’re so right. The agencies behind these deaths are the same: governments that care more for the rich and the sale of weapons.

      If you sell death, it will come and find you— but the thing is, those who are actually triggering these spates of insane violence are hidden in board rooms, situation rooms, and in pockets of intense, barbaric, tribal existence.

      So many reasons, such a complexity and plethora of factors led a young man to fill himself with nails and blow apart and kill others not very different from him.

      But just as hate has a wide reach, so does love. Drops of love, if gathered together, can gain force, just as snowflakes become an avalanche.

  • Nick Wilford says:

    Such an eloquent and moving post. That level of hatred is incomprehensible to most people – and as Hilary says, happily that is the majority of people in the world. All such attacks are terrible – but it’s even more surreal when it’s something close to home, as this was to me. We’ve taken the kids down to Manchester to see a big concert like this when they were the same sort of age. My thoughts are with all those with friends or family who were killed or injured.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I didn’t want to write it, Nick, but I couldn’t help it either, so I did. These children were innocent, and sadly, it is always the innocent that suffer, all over the world– the diabolic minds behind this suffering are safely ensconced, be it in steel towers or mountain caves.

  • This is a sad post, Damyanti, and my reaction is to well with tears again for the losses. I don’t understand it either, can’t answer the question why that persists in my head. Such destruction is pointless and accomplishes nothing of value. Lives are decimated for no reason. I too wish a mother’s heart resided in all of us.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I was sad while writing it, Diana. There’s continued destruction, war and murdered children in other places like the Middle East, and these are the echoes of those. Nothing justified about them– just cause and consequence, which is quite indifferent to emotions like love and loss.

  • ely says:

    Beautiful comment, Damyanti! I’m not a mother too, but I can’t imagine the pain that a mother can feel about these tragedies. I thought about all the mothers that are living the same feeling.I think that the loss of own children is one of the most agonizing things you can experience.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Ely, we’ve spoken of this so many times, haven’t we. No worse agony.

  • It’s hard to fathom except that pure evil was involved. And I’m sorry, but whatever that man believed, no god celebrates the slaughter of innocent children.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, pure evil. And sadly all evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing. These events are the final result of a long chain of events, evil rising from politics, from religion, and greed, over years and years. This man was a murderer, just like a bullet is a murderer–but there’s also the gun, the one who wields it, and the one who hires the gunman.

  • Damyanti, there are countless people who share your feelings, although they may not be able to express them as well. Some are giving over to despair, while you are clinging to hope for this world, so your blog is serving an important purpose. The truth is, while terrorists continue to enjoy tall headlines and attention disproportionate to their numbers, the majority of humans are good. Maybe that goodness is too scattered and disorganized, though. Humans are being (perhaps deliberately) distracted and divided by today’s social politics, warring with one another, separated into gender, racial, political and many other factions, rendering us too disparate to be united against this terrorism blight. “United we stand, divided we fall.” As I see it, the Manchester bomber was able to do what he did because of indoctrination during the two most impressionable times in his life, those being the first three years of life, when we are human sponges and our learning curve is almost vertical, and then the “man-child” years, when hormones are rampaging and the need to feel relevant is burning. At both of those life stages, under strong influence, a young boy, then young man, can be made to fervently believe almost anything. I blame old men with beards, and, before them, other old men with beards, using religion as mind control and a way to power. Anyway, although it may sound trite, I believe that good will ultimately prevail, and sooner rather than later, if only we can begin to overcome our divisions, which I happen to believe are orchestrated.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Oh our divisions are definitely orchestrated, and at the very highest levels. If the entire world became a nation state, and everyone cared for everyone else, why would we need politicians and armies, and conglomerates?

      I tend to agree with your summary of the indoctrination– some of these boys are very intelligent and qualified, as we’ve seen in the terrorists in Bangladesh, so it is not a lack of education, or opportunities.

      We could blame Islam, but then there are more than a billion Muslims– if they were all terrorists, human life would be impossible.

      I do see arms being sold into volatile nations, I do see greed, and I do see those in power hungering for more. That man was a mass-murderer, but we need to understand and address the reasons he became one, or have this recurring again and again.

      Even as I write this, there are young men being warped and made into weapons, militaries being strengthened at the cost of the poor, and people being told that a particular religion is the problem, in all its entirety.

  • I too thought of the bomber, and the potential pain of invisibility and hopelessness he felt. He took what seemed for him to be the path of least resistance, and a way to get attention – by hurting others and spending hatred.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      He’s a product of our times– he wasn’t born a mass-murderer. He was turned into a bomb by wily, ruthless monsters– I can’t imagine the kind of brainwashing needed to turn a boy into a killer.

      • Maybe, but there were killers and murderers in every generation before ours. If there weren’t already a war brewing inside him, he wouldn’t have sought out people who could join him where he was emotionally – to train him. Sad nonetheless.

        • Damyanti Biswas says:

          That’s the sad truth– we’ve always had killers and murderers, and according to research, the sum-total of violence in the world has actually reduced over the centuries! We’re too puny and transient to see the arc of history, I suppose. With the internet, we have dissemination of information, and that has made propaganda an insidious thing. It can reach anywhere, and infect anyone– and a disturbed/ hormonal teen or new adult is a ripe target.

  • Dear Damyanti, for me, I was utterly shocked and like you, heartbroken, to hear about the bombing. I’m a news follower (which has its downsides), so, yes, I have been following the story. It’s just awful what people do to one another. I agree that now more than ever we need the cheerful and hopeful in our lives. I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming Friday’s “We are the World” posts.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Leigh, I don’t follow news anymore– can’t take it. I’m looking forward to the We are the world posts too.

      • Very wise of you, Damyanti, to ignore the majority of the news. Many years ago (don’t know if it’s still around) there was an organization/publisher, I think it was called Happy Times, that promoted good news. There’s also the Random Acts of Kindness people; that group’s probably still around. I think I might (FINALLY) have a post for tomorrow and WATW. I’m happy to point folks your direction. Down with discouragement & depression!

  • I live very close to Manchester, my husband works nearby, we lived in the city for most of our twenties, and we still visit often for outings and social occasions. I cry for both mothers, and for those children, and their families and friends. I cry for Manchester. And all I can do is send my love out, in the hopes that it will make some small difference, and help rebuild all of our shattered lives. Thank you for speaking so eloquently, and so lovingly.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That’s all we can do, send love out. And it is in our little acts of kindness and giving that humanity wins. So sorry you have to go through this, Catherine.

  • DJ Cockburn says:

    Thank you for what you said. I have no idea what makes a young man blow himself up in a crowd of teenagers, but while we’ve seen one man at his worst, we’ve seen many more at their best: the people who rushed to help the casualties immediately after the explosion. The taxi drivers who spent the night taking people home and refusing payment. The people queuing to donate their blood. The hundreds of people who have come together to say they refuse to hate each other in the way the attack was intended to make us do.

    I prefer to think of the thousands of people who stepped up than the one who made it necessary.

    • DJ Cockburn, Yes, this. Excellent.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That’s absolutely the light I was speaking of, the light at the end of a very dark, and very long tunnel– that we don’t forget our essential humanity.

      I just wish we didn’t need tragedies like this to unite people, that out humanity stayed on the surface, and that we always cared, all the time. Had that happened for each one of us, violence would be a distant memory in this world. Sadly, it is not so. But at the very least, it is heartening to see that at times of catastrophe, we still care.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – thanks for this … so well expressed in the circumstances. Love is … love is the thought being expressed, love will overcome hate …most of the humans in this world cannot understand this – so if we can hold love ahead for all peoples – it is so so sad. Thanks for thinking of us here in the UK … Manchester is loved – Hilary

    • hilarymb says:

      that was intended to be … most of the humans in this world cannot understand the horror of this or any man-made horror …

      Let us hold love in our hearts for all … H

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      We do need more love in this world, Hilary. Love warped and twisted becomes hate, which is what makes me dwell on this mass-murderer. When he was eight, I don’t know if he thought he would blow himself up and others in about fourteen years.