Paris, Mumbai, and the Rest of the World

Sometimes I feel words fail us more often than they help us. Then again, when words fail us, the shock makes us remember. So our counting isn’t exactly faithful. We need words to tell us that words have failed us.
 
#ParisAttack seems like a distant echo of what happened in Mumbai, circa 2008. In 12 days it would be a seven year anniversary of those dastardly attacks. Last Saturday, I was in Mumbai, at Gateway of India, opposite the iconic Taj, one of the prime sites of the 2008 attacks. It was the first time after the 2008 attacks which left Taj burning for hours, and those images haunting us for days, that I was there. Standing there, between the sea, and the heritage building, what struck me was that the world hasn’t changed much.
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Mumbai, for sure hasn’t. The freeway, the flyovers, and the metro notwithstanding. I got a mochi to sew my floaters for mere 10 rupees (15 cents?). When I handed him a twenty, still a pittance, he looked at me wearily, nodded, and put the money in his pockets. I thanked him for not thanking me and moved on.

Mumbai is a microcosm of our world. Living shoulder to shoulder are richest and poorest people, plush office spaces and slums. You look outta window of your upper middle class friend’s place to see a row of makeshift houses. You take a ride on the new Eastern Freeway, and see dilapidated housing colonies, a reminder of Mumbai that was, that is.

I’ve never been to Paris. But Paris, people who have been there, seems to touch them in some ways. Especially the young ones. Strike that. The young parts of everyone. There is something intoxicating about a city with never ending night life, art, high culture, and a beacon of intellectualism — whatever the philosophies. Just like Mumbai.

And yet, there isn’t one Mumbai, one Paris. Mumbai has burned due to religious riots many times before 2008. Paris has had it’s share of race riots. They both have their de-facto ghettos. They both are microcosms of our world — opening up at seams to show an underbelly that’s not in line with the romanticism of the privileged. Blast or no blasts. Attacks or no attacks.

The fact is, the world is being hurt everyday on a scale not very different from from happened to Mumbai in 2008, or Paris today. Beirut, Baghdad, just today, for instance. They don’t move us the way a Paris does, a New York does, a London does, a Mumbai does. There is a point to ponder there.

Mumbai bleeds everyday. More people die of preventable diseases everyday, than terrorism on worst days. Our response to terrorism wouldn’t be effective till we let the world let itself down, every day. Day after day. And it doesn’t move us the way the prime time images of a terrorist attack do. No this is not about whataboutery.

In such times, the social networks light up. Out comes analysis. Out come the daggers. Cheap points are scored over corpses not even buried, or burnt.

We let the words let us down. We let the words let the world down.

May we learn to use worlds to heal. We owe that to the world.

We are the word. We are the world.

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5 thoughts on “Paris, Mumbai, and the Rest of the World

  1. Ira says:

    Thought-provoking. The pain resonates in your words, and I suppose in (many parts) of the world. Having lived in Mumbai and London, and having visited Paris extensively, I can relate to what you say. Yet, just as we saw in Mumbai, life goes in Paris- a defiant crowd queued up to buy their croissants and baguettes this morning.

    • asuph says:

      Thanks Ira. Yes, life goes on. Which is a good thing. Possibly because life is used to an ongoing war with things including, but not limited to, terrorism. More so in Mumbai, where the “defiance” is many a times synonym for compulsion. There is so much of living that goes on out of the lens of the media, mainstream, and otherwise.

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