I watched news for two straight hours last night. I don’t do that a lot anymore. And I was shown again why. Inane questioning by reporters, callous unedited shots of people killed brutally, bystanders excitedly narrating the ridiculous little they saw, the death toll rising every ten minutes and complete mayhem – all of this feels like a bomb blast live on TV after the real bomb blast has happened. Except I can’t decide which one is more sickening. Seriously, who wants to see exactly where the bomb was placed or what decibel sound the nearest shopkeeper heard or how many “must have” died (yes, guessing games!)? It feels like a failure of whatever mechanism God intended for us to be qualified as humans.
However, the night progressed more or less the same as other nights. We chatted, discussed the news, ate dinner, slept. This dreary rainy morning, I woke up feeling drained and irritable. The first thing I mentally checked off my long list of planned To-Dos was make the long trek to Lower Parel to purchase some stuff. Without any debate or second thought, I knew that what matters most is to be safe. Such is my spirit. I live in the Western Suburbs, the least affected part of the city yesterday, touchwood. I was safe at home, my family was safe at their workplaces in the vicinity too. Everyone got home quick, safe and sound – thank God. I am unemployed and so, don’t “need” to commute, if I don’t feel like it. Today, in all likelihood, I would not have taken any public transport to get there and back. I had been putting off the work I have there for a week or so, and really badly wanted to go. Yet, I cancelled. If I can be counted as even half a Mumbaikar, please know that my spirit isn’t resilient or strong or whatever, it’s just battered enough to slip into a choice of any size. When I worked in a corporate setup, missing work because of the terrorist attacks the previous day would have been considered irresponsible/ unprofessional/ pansy/ futile/ an excuse/ juvenile/ unacceptable, my choice was resilience. Resilience mixed with a generous helping of apprehension, fear and anxiety. Today, I’m a little better because I can slam the door in the face of good ol’ Resilience. However, my family is still “being resilient” and I’m just a tad resilient for them too. Such is my spirit. I’d leave it to you if you want to glorify it or see it for what it really is. The naked truth remains that there’s no greater insensitivity than pitching the lack of a choice as something glorious for an unfortunate city like Mumbai.
Yes, I’m angry too. I was on Twitter for most of the time last night and this morning as well. I didn’t react or pass on any rumours. I refrained from any knee-jerk reactions when help was more the need of the hour. And that was pretty much all I could do. This morning, however, I can’t help but feel like we’re some of the least valued people in the world. Residents of a certified gutter. We can shove our credentials in all other spheres of life right up our anuses, because our governments don’t care a damn whether we live or die. Our “success story” is one built on a river of blood. We battle the inconveniences posed by the abysmal infrastructure in all our metros every single day. We pay taxes as high as one third of our “cheap manpower” incomes. We power through inane inflationary fluctuations almost every other month. We take poverty in our stride just as easily as we take filth on our roads.. ignored in one sweeping glance. We get robbed and raped in broad daylight. We get exploited by cops. And then we get bombed. So whatever our contribution to the “success story” is, is surely getting rewarded rather unusually!
And there’s another thought that I can’t shirk. How do people in other troubled parts of this country feel when they see our 100-a-minute tweets frenzy on Twitter or when they see such posts because the “commercial capital” has been attacked? Kashmiris? North Easterners? Maoist-affected areas? We take them and their daily struggles for granted in the most heinous manner, and except them to not be cynical when we are the ones freaking out over something similar. We imagine their lives tightly woven with paranoia and fear, and resign ourselves to think “that’s how it is”, but that doesn’t seem to work when it’s our lives we’re thinking about. If they get fired at less often in Kashmir, it’s seen as a “positive sign” but it’s natural for us to lose sleep over whether our kids were traumatized by the bloodshed they catch on TV every three years. I’m simply ashamed that it takes an incident like this for me to think these things.
Take care, Mumbai. Take care, India.