Sunday, November 30, 2008

The city, firmly decides to return to normal despite the gloom

My husband and I decided to visit the ravaged part of the city. That was not strange: because even before we knew each other, we knew the city. Especially that part of it, that got so hit badly. And even before we chose each other, and perhaps often wondered at that:) we had chosen this city and never wondered at this -- because it is such a special city.

So, when we went back, my husband wore a national flag on his chest... I looked for national flags in several shops --those tiny paper ones, but no shop had any ready stock... so he pinned a plastic one on.

So, when we landed, the parking lot off Jehangir Art Gallery was empty: uncommon for the heart of Mumbai. The Colaba Causeway looked deserted. The hawkers had vamoosed (we learnt later the cops had warned them against setting up the shops since the 48 hour after a terrorist strike is crucial). Some brave shops had opened, and were offering discounts... and discussions and debates on the hottest topic at hand -- how they personally escaped by a whisker and who was the most corrupt in the establishment under fire ...

Cafe Mondegar, the iconic cafe close to Leopald Cafe which got mauled by the terrorists, was packed to its gill... Single women (where else in this country, but Mumbai, can a woman sit down to a meal alone?) attacking their omelets, browsing paper. Murals byMario Miranda, Mumbai's own beloved cartoonist (who has now chosen home territory Goa) (u can see one section of the mural on my sidebar) grinning down at the patrons; old, seventies music blaring from the juke box even more defiantly over the redolence of beer, smelling strange without the accompanying waft of cigarette smoke (banned in public places:), and tandoori mushrooms soft and succulent. We sat and soaked up the resolute manner in which Mumbaikars had decided to say they were unafraid ... This statement had no class, or regional texture: the crowd at the cafe was rich, poor, middle-class, young and old. Mumbai has its own language....a lexicon that only it understands. No wonder, some silly twerp of a journalist from Delhi can assume, snootily, that candle-light vigil is a socialite statement or an impotent defiance. You must know the idiom of the city to understand why it is always, despite its filth, compared to New York. It has such resolute strength, an expansive heart, a soothing multi-ethnicity that is accepting, non-judgemental that it simply undefinable but palpable.... and loved fiercely...

So, we wandered, nothing to see, as the crowds began to thicken -- all classes of people, from everywhere, slowly began to crowd in. School kids holding placards, seniors too:) Outside Jehangir Art Gallery, people getting their portraits done by rather talented artists without marketting skills or savvy to make it anywhere else... Rs 50 Buddha, smiling peace in this wicked world. Or Buddha in metal wires (designed with simple elegance, Rs 100) ; or you can chose to make you statement by buying a vada pav near the Sulabh toilet, chosing it over the urine smell. Mumbai, and its strong smells ... Outside Leopold a huge crowd. Media mela and the gawking crowds. But the cafe reopened in the evening, again defiant...
Shop-keepers let their guards down, discussing the night of terror, sharing information -- so that we were all reaching out, in the way Mumbai has, that is rather inexplicable ....And that can infect positively any one who loves the city... So that he or she stops being any other identity but that which Mumbai confers... which is that, of a Mumbaikar.

At an art gallery, where large boards said our bags will be checked, nobody bothered to peep into our hand bags!! The horse carriages (which bother the animal right activists so much) were also back on the roads, which began to thicken with traffic ... Crowds back again at people's favorite hang out here -- the fly overs (Yes, unbelievable but true, but this is one of the most fav hang-outs for a Mumbaikar -- the smoke, the traffic, the noise, and the privacy that a crowd affords -- as a journalist I always wanted to do a photo-feature on this one); unabashed lovers back at the sea front... But most of the crowds were heading towards Colaba... People not used to this city will call them gawkers.
But we -- who live here and love her -- would say, those that who cared and wished to show we were unafraid and that we will stand united -- were all there....

1 comment:

Does it matter said...


You have a point (of view).

Of all your posts, this is one where I don't agree.

I have a BIG problem with the so-called Mumbai spirit, and I think it is another name for apathy.

The politicians like it because it helps us (the people) forget - forget the incident, forget why it happened, forget to ask questions, and forget to make the power-brokers accountable.

And for that and that reason alone, I dont want things to ever go back to normal. I want the people to remain scared, to ask questions, to not go back to "as always".

Those who forget history are.......