"North, south, east, northwest, southeast, west….who bloody cares…"
"I'm tired of this separation amongst Indians.."
"A civil war is bound to happen….soon.."
"I wish we had educated people in politics.."
"Why are we still so third world?"
For weeks I have been hearing comments like this from people like us. By us, I mean modern, educated, liberal, the 'cool' people. US! Us who think we can change everything by sitting in our bedrooms chatting online and throwing political statements around like pillows. Us who think we have the answer to everything because we own an expensive laptop and can type the word "Google." Us who slow dance with words and whine more than Amy 'freakin' Whinehouse. Yup Us!
Bandh Bombay Bandh!
Run North Indian Run!
I slept through the entire night of mayhem with my phone bleeping next to me. Had gotten used to ignoring the dam thing. I woke up at 7 am with my eyes wide shut. The phone still bleeping, so I picked it up.
"What? What do you want at 7 am?"
"Are you ok?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Don't you know what has happened and what is still happening?"
"No…out with it..What!"
"Just switch on your telly…"
The telly had the scene of horror on repeat. I watched every second of gore like a deer in headlights. I stared at it for half an hour till I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't sit around and watch. The phone kept bleeping with messages from concerned 'us" people asking 'us' to stay at home and be safe.
"Stay at home and be safe?" What exactly did that mean? Isn't that what we do everyday? Us politically incorrect correct people!
The phone kept on bleeping…..
I headed straight to Colaba. I had to see my city burn with my own eyes. Call me a dramatic fool if you wish. The roads were clear of all traffic. All cows. All dogs. All cyclewalas. All beggars. All hope.
I reached the causeway in record time and followed the smoke. People stood around and watched silently. A flock of kites hovered above screaming "lunch lunch." A silent movie could not have been so silent. It broke my heart to see the causeway completely shut down but this wasn't about my feelings. After standing around with the rest of the people for a while aimlessly staring at the blaze, I realized that there was nothing I could do that the army couldn't do better, so I left and headed straight to St George's Hospital in VT. This is where all the victims were taken.
Hoards of reporters stood outside with their cameras trying to get the first glimpse of the dead corpse. Ambulances pulled in every five seconds. The silent movie had plenty sound effects now. Crying faces looking for their loved ones stood around in despair as the nurse kept on updating the list of dead people outside. I headed straight to the blood bank on the first floor, passing the charred bodies on the right. It was only 10 am and the room was full of people. All kinds of people, northwest people, south people, east people, north people, poor people, middle class people, pregnant people, old people, Kandivli people, Mulund people, Dharavi people, all kinds of people except people like 'us.' I did not see one hipster walking around with his arms wide open. I watched a four foot man fight with the nurse insisting on giving blood even though he was underweight. "Take my blood nurse, I swear I'm fit." I watched an old man walking with a stick, standing in line without a complaint. I watched the pregnant woman on a mission to give rebirth to all the victims. I smiled with so much pride.
The phone kept on bleeping…this time with messages from my co workers who refused to come to work and insisted on sitting at home with fear. I was sad that the terrorists had accomplished what they had planned to do. They had managed to install fear in every 'us' heart. I shut the salon down reluctantly.
On my way back to my safe suburban heaven I decided to stop by 'chor' bazaar and walk around window-shopping since I had the day off anyway. A little bit of retail therapy never hurt anyone, right? The hustle and bustle on Mutton Street put a skip in my heart instantly. Every shop was open and every chor, in business.
The poor didn't seem so poor yesterday. The rich didn't seem so rich imprisoned in their gold walls. The 'us' people did what they do best; send text messages of hate. I left home poor but came home rich. And maybe exhausted.
"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
Sapna Bhavnani runs a famous salon, Mad O Wot in Bandra, Mumbai.