I traveled into town today, in the aftermath of the terror that Mumbai has lived in the past week. The reason was a Tweet-up/Peace walk/gathering at Colaba Causeway. Honestly? I stand in deep respect of the police force, the fire-fighters and the NSG who delivered us from the terror. And I’m going to wear white tomorrow to symbolize our mourning as well as a plea for peace. Yes, I will also light a candle and thank every police-person I see for the bravery of their comrades. But mostly I went out today for myself. To reassure myself that I still could. I needed to. If as a Mumbaiker, this city’s spirit resides in me, then I speak for the city when I say I’m battered, I’m crawling, I am gasping for breath.
Traffic was light as it has been since Wednesday night, even for a Sunday afternoon/evening. Even so, the journey took us a half and hour either way. We passed shops that were open, people out for a stroll with their families, cars driving down…but there was an air of barely concealed tension. I had my camera out for the better part of the journey and I know I drew some curious (and not necessarily friendly) glances from the other cars. In case you’re wondering what an atmosphere of terror looks like, come to Mumbai right now.
Here’s the media jumping onto the sympathy-brand visibility bandwagon, over the Western Express flyover. DNA asks…
Spirit of Mumbai
FOR HOW LONG?
Siddhivinayak looks quite empty by its usual standards. To my god-fearing friend I asked,
So much security for bhagwan. What happens to the bhagwan ke bhakt who’re getting blasted?
As we pulled into town, the Marine drive, a view I usually wait for since its so breath-taking and which causes me immediately to wince since its packed with people – the Marine drive was empty save for a few stragglers. On our way back though we did see a number of people carrying placards and signs of the ‘Stand up and speak, Mumbai’ variety. No photographs of that, I’m afraid. The light gave out and so did my spirit.
A number of places we passed had signboards and hoardings recalling the bravery of those who fell. Not Just Jazz By the Bay had a very simple white cloth banner with just their names. Nothing more required. Every Mumbaiker’s heart speaks the same story right now. May our brave heroes rest in peace.
The Oberoi Trident, beamed into all our households as a backdrop to Barkha Dutt (“Oh, there goes another blast! I just heard more gunfire!”) loomed in sight. It was strange how normal it felt. Just like any other day on the road, just another high-rise building to pass in town. It is indeed strange how quickly the mind wants to forget what it is horrified by. But I force myself to remember the hostages, the firing, the massacre, the blasts and the final shots of the survivors exiting. Mumbai must not forget this horror, this indignity.
And finally, the centerstage of the terror. Colaba Causeway was shut to incoming traffic so we walked in, passing Cafe Mondegar (an equally popular cafe as Leopold’s) on the way. Now on any normal day, this photograph would not have been possible since there’d be traffic zooming right through where I stood. What’s more, that shot wouldn’t have appeared either, clogged as it usually is with the pub regulars.
Today though, whatever crowd there was, was concentrated up ahead. Leopold’s Cafe, its owners said would open very quickly even if its customers took some time to start feeling safe enough to visit again. It turns out they did open this morning but had to shut shop because there was too much crowd. Mumbai, I’d say you amaze me, if I did have any emotion left to feel.
The TV crews were still parked outside and around Leopold’s though mercifully we didn’t see scores of reporters jostling for soundbytes. I guess even media-hounds need their rest and thank heaves for that.
And last of all, the Taj Mahal hotel. We couldn’t get too close as it was cordoned off. Here’s the closest I could get to it, relying on my camera’s zoom. This was shot from Colaba Causeway, in the lane next to Leopold’s.
Since we couldn’t congregate at Leopold’s as per the original plan, we went into Cafe Mondegar. Slowly, bitterly, unwilling as it may be, Mumbai limps back to life.
On our way back, we saw the Peace March begin, people walking with candles.