22 July, 2006

An Uneasy Calm

Like everyone else here, I too got an invitation from Dan to come and write. Frankly, the writer's block has never bothered me as yet, but even then I kept reading the posts and mentally ticking points...for days before writing a word here.

It's the writer's diarrhea that comes to my fatigued mind. When such a topic is broached, there are half a million related topics that fight very much like the poor souls of Mumbai trying to get in or get out of those claustrophobic boxes they call trains. I am likely to end up saying a lot of things that will either confuse the reader, madden him or her or cause a spurt in activity by way of comments. Hope the last mentioned one occurs.

I saw the aftermath upclose, unfortunately. Chennai to Mumbai by air is just one hour and forty minutes, a journey I postponed on 6th July and undertook it on 11th. From the airport to Versova side, a distance of no more than 8 or 9 KMs took me 3 whole hours in an auto-rickshaw -God bless the driver who agreed to come with me after 10 more had refused. The silent groups of tense young men on the road, the fatigued faces of cops tired of pushing people off the road, the hurried and harried executives walking back in the manner of a nation in exodus -but those did stop to guide anyone who enquired about buses. The buses seemed to be working frantically to repair the organisational damage caused by stoppage of trains... could not have been enough but it was attempted. Bravo BEST, I said to myself.

Young ladies walking back home or God knows where...to rendezvous points where they could get transport home or near home... it was all a crazy jumble of events that seemed pyschedelic to me. Almost surreal. Mind you I was not told of bomb blasts nor trains having been stopped. What my mind was trying to do was interpret this as a series of mini riots caused by some frustrated political party... and there are so many of them hanging about.

The auto-driver whose Hindi was beyond my grasp, blurted out finally after a KM or two that trains were off. He didn't say a word about bombs so I thought it was flooding and rain or may be power failed. After creeping and crawling like centipedes with broken legs, our vehicle reached home, not mine but my younger brother's. They blurted out the truth that I didn't want to hear.

We went to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, discussing the pros and cons and the whys and wherefores -feeling more confused than ever. The consensus was some frustrated political party must have engineered the blasts...seems almost a blasphemy to my ears but after the Gujarat pogroms, and professional doctors there telling me that political parties were paying the underworld upto one thousand rupees for a stabbing, or else how would the illiterate goons know how to apply chloroform on the tip of the knife so that the victim feels no pain? Goes home to collapse and die? After the politicization of murder in that state which is anti-India where secular credentials are concerned, anything is possible. One can pay a goon of any religion to cause a blast and he or she will do it, I have to grudgingly admit this ugly hypothesis.

I know I would get beaten black and blue if I applaud the good sense of the common man on streets of Mumbai for having restrained this time when it must have been almost logical to spill on the streets, shout slogans and force shutters of shops down... hats off to Him/Her... for the nefarious plots have been defeated. There was no backlash, no aftermath even though the blood for blood prophet from Gujarat had been invited to foment trouble.

Viva Mumbai !
India stands to learn a lot from this cosmopolitan cauldron of sheer hardwork, apt utilization of opportunity and most of all, the ability to dream on.... bollywood would have died in any other city.

Salaam Mumbai !

(c) Max Babi

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