I have seldom felt as distant and dry as now, as I settle down to write on the anniversary of MH370’s disappearance. Until two or three years ago, a sense of mystery, grievance and grief came together to seize the mind, cause heartache and expose a wounded soul. Feelings swirled beneath the veneer of normality and words were easier to come by.
So, what has changed? There is a sense that all that had to be said has been said many times over. To no avail. Persistent suspicion, anger and impatience with the overall leadership of the search has given way to a more sober assessment that this hunt involves grudging, perhaps even unwilling, participants, and many others muddying the waters; clearly, a steady resolve to stay the course is essential rather than venting a spleen and expending oneself.
Matters have remained at a standstill since 2018, and the pandemic came as an opportune diversion for the Malaysian government from any demand to resume a search by Malaysia. It is worth remembering that now Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, way back in 2014 as a leader in the Opposition, besides expressing sympathy for the affected families, had some sharp words for the ruling government about its handling of MH370, and many searching questions that challenged the official narrative. In the interests of transparency and commitment to find answers, the prime minister may like to consider the release of raw military radar data tracking MH370 for independent experts’ scrutiny; it is hardly likely that national security in the present will be compromised by the release of nine-year-old data. Routine excuses tossed and collusively swallowed cannot be acceptable when dealing with an unprecedented tragedy.
Malaysia’s transport minister, Anthony Loke, has been sympathetic to the demand for a renewed focus on the search and investigation, and has reiterated that the government has not ‘closed the book’ on MH370. It would be more reassuring if he follows up and spells out his government’s plans to look for ‘credible new evidence’, and takes the search to its logical conclusion. Minister Loke needs to write solid new chapters in the book that are honest, thoughtful, action-led and well-paced, chapters that invoke a commitment to safety and security in civilian air travel. They need to speak of a relentless search for a place where the truth has nowhere to hide.
I have often been asked: Knowing what we know now, what do I believe happened? What do we really know? Only that since the early hours of 8 March 2014, flight MH370, a Boeing 777, touted as an aircraft with an impeccable safety record, went missing en route to Beijing. Bits and pieces, found thousands of miles from where the plane is believed to have plunged into the Indian Ocean, have been traced back to the missing aircraft with varying degrees of certainty. Every shred of data and evidence has been challenged, rendering any finding suspect, and making it impossible to separate fact from fancy.
Did the plane go down in the South China Sea? The southern Indian Ocean? Off Sumatra? Maldives? Diego Garcia? Kazakhstan? The Mojave Desert? (Oh yes, we had quite a time fielding this too.) Was it a pilot suicide–mass murder? Was it someone else in the cockpit? A hijack drama gone bad? Was the plane shot down and the matter hushed up? Was it the US? Was it Russia? Was there a technical issue?
My answer has remained, ‘I don’t know’.
Over the years, I, like other next of kin, have been approached by geeks, trolls, traders in ‘information’, psychics, amateur freelancing enthusiasts, journalists, etc., keen to share coordinates and/or their take regarding the plane’s loss. Most perhaps have a misplaced belief that the affected families are the most effective route to the authorities. I have found it hard at times to get across, without in any way being disrespectful or disinterested, that they need to make their case with the authorities that matter. It has also been clear to me for some time now that marshalling circumstantial factors, hearsay, unnamed sources and conjecture make for a compelling narrative, and are sufficient to sow doubts in the official narrative but are insufficient to mobilise clear commitments to action. What has been hardest to put away are the lingering thoughts of a cover-up in terms of its scale and the actors, the likelihood of which is commonly believed.
I have come to make peace with not knowing, and am not any longer so overwhelmed as to be incapable of functioning or paying attention to other facets of life. I have come to accept that things are likely to move forward decisively only when the science, the political will and public perception/opinion are in accord.
I believe the time has come to treat the MH370 matter primarily as one of public interest—a matter in which all nations, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, regulators, service providers and the flying public world over have a stake. I have often wondered at their silence and the ‘business as usual’ stance. Indeed, without it becoming a matter of serious public scrutiny/enquiry, I have my doubts about the search for the truth going very far. A plane went missing and we yet don’t know why, how or where. There may be a lurking danger that we could be ignoring. I think there has been an institutional/regulatory failure. What will it take for a wider mobilisation of interest in action, and not just passive consumption of the latest slick documentary on MH370? I don’t know.
On a more personal note, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, I am back to a reasonably busy routine, with work outside and within the home. I don’t experience sadness and I don’t any longer mourn or grieve the loss of a relationship of over 25 years that I had with Chandrika. The void I felt, much like a black hole that drained my aliveness, now feels transformed into an open, airy space, capable of receiving and cherishing love and compassion, and in turn offering it in good measure.
This process of moving on began perhaps in 2018/19, and the 2019 anniversary event was perhaps the first time I spoke about this. It certainly has allowed me to celebrate Chandrika’s life—the good and the difficult times, her exemplary ways, and her idiosyncrasies.
Chandrika was more than just my partner, a mother, a daughter, or a sister. She was a dear friend to many, a champion of women’s rights, a strong voice that spoke for artisanal fisherfolk around the world, an embodiment of simple living, and an advocate of sustainability and non-violence. My wish is that we invoke her memory to share stories of association with her over the years—stories of fondness, mischief, reservations, disappointments and gratitude. She was our treasure and not just the family’s asset. None of us have a lesser or greater claim to her.
I remain grateful to the people who have remained alive to my needs, and also generous and sensitive to my moods. You all remain ever present in my thoughts.
4 thoughts on “MH370: Search on. Move On?”
Naren: very well written and our memories alway s remain with Chandrika … will be there forever…we all knew her as a a very poignant happy soul…
Searching the soul for how she suddenly disappeared from your life … at time do not have answers.. but remember.. life moves in.. my good friend..
Thank you Naren for explicating and expressing your thoughts, your feelings, and your journey over the last nine years.. As you have walked this on your own and supporting loved ones at the same time – there have been several gifts that you have so generously offered while working with yourself in a public domain. This piece of writing is equally poignant and insightful…
Thank you, Gagan. It has become easier to speak and also write freely during these past few years because I have had well wishers such as you- willing listeners and readers who have received without judgment and offered unreservedly.
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