Salaam Bombay

Another heinous attack on the city, where although I could never live, I can never stop loving either. It’s the city of my birth, and where lot of my relatives live. So everytime something like this happens, we frantically start calling our near and dear ones. The phones, they don’t work. The tension mounts. Then, one by one you get to them, or get news about them from others who have been trying equally frantically. Sigh of relief is the first reaction, almost involuntary. Yes we’re all selfish. We want to make sure, even in such tragedies, that our loved ones are safe.

But the death tole mounts, and we helplessly look at the numbers. The relief changes into infinite sadness. It’s hard not to cry — for the people and for a city that lives defying all odds, every single day. The city paralyzed by overcrowding, bad town planning, crumbling infrastructure, communal strives, a constant threat of terrorism, and so on. It’s a wonder that it moves at all, but it moves. It moves and moves you in turn — with all its passion for living, its resilience, and a plain ordinary humanity and courage that makes people come out, while there are blasts happening around them, and knowing that they could be the next. People come out to help strangers, in whichever way they can. People don’t wait for the police, or local administrator, they just pick up the injured and put them into taxis and send them to nearby hospitals, saving god knows how many precious lives. Even near communally sensitive areas, the same people who could be at the receiving end of the retaliatory rage, come out and help. This is a defeat of terrorism, and of the divisive politics that we’ve seen in the last few days in Mumbai and around.

I watched the news channels yesterday, trying to hold back my tears — tears of sadness, but more so of rage, a helpless rage. What kind of sick person thinks of this as a war? What kind of ends can these means ever justify? Through all this, if there is any hope, it’s in the way the Mumbaikar has risen again, and stayed calm. I hope it stays the same in the coming days. For last thing Mumbai needs now is a communal strife.

It’s cliched, but the spirit of Mumbai has always been the “jeena yahaan/ marnaa yahaan/ iske siva/ janna kahaan” attitude. And that’s why it rises again and again, through anything and everything. And once more, I cannot help but salute the great city.

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