Thursday, November 27, 2008

Salaam Bombay!

I'm still in a state of shock. My city is in flames.

Last evening I was at the Deutsche Bank London office near Broad Street, having the time of my life, when I received a spate of emails about the attacks on Bombay. This is not new to me. I lived through the 1993 bombings which claimed 250 civilian lives, but the brazenness of guerilla attacks and the use of grenades crossed a line. I'm sure once my emotional response dies down in a day or so there will be time for rational thought, but for now I'm distraught.

There is more to this is terms of what this means for the country - politically with the upcoming elections, and economically since this is our 9/11 in the face of a bursting bubble. This also impacts inter-faith stability in the country with religious riots and it impacts how the world sees us. How can India portray itself as a destination to visit, and live and work in when its financial, cultural and educational hub is so vulnerable? Having lived abroad for so long, I feel woefully inadequate to address these topics.

A quick phone call to my parents who live in Bombay and a sigh of relief later, I started emailing, texting, calling and skyping the rest of my family and friends, who live in Bombay. I tried to cram for a Strategy final while manning the lines till the wee hours of this London morning. As I dozed off around 4:30 AM, I realized why I was so provoked.

I was born in Bombay near Opera House and lived there for 16 years. The first movie I watched in a theatre was African Safari, and I watched it with my parents at Metro Cinema, one of the sites attacked. Years later in school and college, I would bunk classes and run off to the movies at Metro with my friends or shop for cricket bats at Nadkarni Sports, right by the theatre or scarf "bheja masala" at Metro Café. Leopold's, another of the sites attacked, was where my college buddies and I would head for a cold Kingfisher after kebabs and baida rotis at Bade Miyan.

I remember cruising Marine Drive on our motorbikes, cool salty evening breeze from the Arabian Sea against our faces, the lights of the towering Oberoi Sheraton in the distance. We would sit on the low sea-wall facing The Taj Mahal, sipping from our green coconuts, and watch the floodlights turn the hotel into a magical palace in the dusk. And CST, or Victoria Terminus as it was called, is Bombay's busiest railway station where grenades were flippantly lobbed and automatic weapons fired, like in a scene from Band of Brothers. Built in the gothic style in the in the late 1800's to resemble Kings Cross St. Pancras station in London, it remains one of the most beautiful building in the city, with ornate gargoyles that spout steady streams in the monsoon - rain-water collected from the rooftop gutters. I remember having to dodge these spouts of water on my way to The Times of India building, where I freelanced as a journalist while in college.

My backyard was attacked, my family and friends were endangered, and I mourn for those who lost their loved ones. I know Bombay is resilient and will rise like a phoenix from the ashes. But I'm pissed as hell. Something has changed and I see things in a different light and I'm not assuming Gandhian notions this time around. If it is non-Indians THEY are looking for, they should take it elsewhere. What's the best way of dealing with these Neanderthals?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Chase those bastards and annihiliate them.

- Ravi

N.A.S. said...

That's certainly one good solution! Who is going to do this though?

Anonymous said...

I understand. Of course, my reaction was based more on anger and emotion welled up inside me than on any figment of rationale.

The government, perhaps? High time they did something about it. During October, there was a spate of low-intensity blasts in numerous small towns all across the country and all our politicans were shamelessly sprinting to score political points when people were dying. Where does that leave the common man - to the mercy of a terrorist's bullet?

- Ravi.