The Spirit of the Doormat
It’s been 48 hours. Bombay was rocked by bomb blasts, as the newspapers have so predictably put it. Again. And of course, as after every big crisis that hits this city, there has been much back-patting, shaking of heads and fervent muttering of “Well, life goes on.”
But that’s the funny part, isn’t it?
Life doesn’t go on. Not for the 200 people who died.
13 years ago, they bombed the Bombay Stock Exchange and many other parts of the city. Bombay picked up the pieces and moved on, asking for nothing more than to be left alone. Nothing at all, even justice – it’s been 13 years, there have been no convictions in that case, and Bombayiites, including me, seem to be okay with it.
It’s amazing, the kind of short-term memory we have.
On Wednesday, for the very first time in 25 years, I felt truly vulnerable. As I stood there at Churchgate, looking at the people flowing out of the station, taking in the air thick with barely repressed chaos and panic, I felt scared. Yeah sure, I’ve been afraid before. Of the dark, of heights and of a hundred other things. But this was different. This was pure terror.
And it came as a shock not because somebody had destroyed a few railway coaches. It was because what had been destroyed alongside was my feeling of security. See, most of us go through life feeling invincible. Nope, that can’t happen to me. I mean, sure, it could, but it won’t, right? Right? Wrong. It could happen to you. Hell, it already has, hasn’t it? Twice, in fact. And what did you, I, we, do about it? Nothing. We just lay there and took it. Because that is the ‘spirit of Bombay’.
Sure, there will be water-logging and a thousand people will die. It’s ok, it’s the rains. Sure, a bunch of hooligans masqerading as political party workers will hold the city to ransom any given Sunday. It’s ok, it’s politics. Sure, the city will be bombed again and again and again till there isn’t a shred of normalcy in its life anymore. It’s ok, it’s Bombay.
The bitch of it all is, I love this city. Everything about it. Hands down, no questions asked, conditions don’t apply. And if it’s going to be used as a punching bag by every third fanatic around, I’m going to have something to say about it. And so should everybody from this city, if not the country. Emails and SMS campaigns, forums on news networks and what have you. Technology is your bitch – use her. If one Jessica Lal deserves a country crying for justice, 200 nameless victims do too. If one reservation bill can spark of country-wide protests, 7 ruthless blasts can too.
Because the fact is, we’ve had far too many lunatics with religious vendettas trying to snap us into two. Far too many dogs trying to gnaw political mileage from our plight. It’s time the sons-of-bitches were muzzled and put away.
It’s time to bite back. Hard.