Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mumbai, post.

The other day, I went shopping for veggies at the nearest supermarket, and found it almost empty. The girls employed there were kidding around with each other. I heard the word ‘terrorist’. One girl told another she’d set the terrorists after her friend. The other one alleged that she was one herself. Light laughter. Odd, somehow. Perhaps, necessary, somehow.

Yesterday, I’d stepped out with my own bag and a laptop, boarded a train and opened a book. My station arrived, I got off and ten seconds later, wondered why my shoulder felt light. I’d forgotten the laptop in the Ladies compartment.

In a mad rush, I turned back. I had no way of tracking down that same train even if I did follow it in the right direction. The train had started moving by then, so I jumped into the nearest compartment. I almost fell. A stranger reached out and grabbed me at the door, pulled me inside. Others asked me to sit down, catch my breath, relax. I was too worried to step away from the door.

Five years ago, I would have worried about somebody walking off with my laptop, about losing all the writing I’ve done over the last few years. Yesterday, I worried that somebody would notice an unclaimed bag and panic. I worried that somebody might call the cops and the machine might be either dismantled beyond salvaging, or that I would be called in to explain, and who knows if an explanation would be explanation enough.

A couple of days ago, a friend had told me about riding in an auto-rickshaw whose driver wasn’t in the mood for rules. He jumped a traffic light. The cops stopped him, asked for his papers. They asked him his name. Turned out to be a Muslim name. More questions. Many more questions. They wouldn’t just let him got with a fine and a warning.

A woman lives in our building. Introduced herself as ‘Nisha’. My mother, out of old habit, asked for her full name. She said, ‘Oh, it’s a long name, you won’t be able to pronounce it’. Turned out, her real name was ‘Badr-un-nisa’. Not that hard to pronounce, my mother said. If you’re familiar with it, Nisha said.

Another friend mentioned how, as part of a citizen’s initiative, she walked up to the nearest cop on duty and thanked him – the entire police force – for what the cops had done. He laughed in her face and said, why, because this time it was the big hotels, and all you rich people were in danger? He didn’t think our gratitude would last. So much cynicism, I thought, at a time like this? Odd, perhaps, but necessary, perhaps.

Yet another friend had minor shrapnel cuts on her chin. She had been out there with the other journalists, on the streets for two and a half nights. There was no food and drinking water was being sold on the black market. Spirit... city spirits.

Yesterday, I fretted and tried not to think unpleasant thoughts until the train stopped at the next station. I got off and ran back towards the Ladies compartment. The laptop was where I had left it, apparently untouched. Five years ago, I wonder if it would have been left alone.

By the time I found it, got hold of it and stepped down, the train had started moving again. I almost lost my balance. Once again, a stranger’s hands, and I didn’t fall, after all.

On my way back, in the compartment next to mine, a bunch of young women were talking rather loudly. One woman was asking if TADA was a place, because people were always being ‘put in TADA’. Somebody else said it was a special kind of jail. Another was explaining that it was a law. Somebody said something else about Tada-Bida. Light laughter. Odd, somehow. Perhaps, necessary somehow.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I did not follow this post of yours. If you are trying to humor yourself thinking this city or this country is a safe place with so many muslims around i do not think so.They are pretty destructive in nature & the constitution for such actions is provided by their religious text books. One of the news channel reported that a taj employee called his father & said his friend killed him. Muslims across the globe have zero credibility,this is from nigeria to boasnia to bombay. The best thing for intellectuals identifying themselves with this religion is to think of abandoning this religion & practicing something more peace loving like buddhism,christianity etc etc. That way i think you can confidently assure yourself that the generations following your blood need not have to go through these insults & also they can put themselves to more productive things. A demonstartion by 1000 intellectuals done by islamic community will alone erase these terrorist instincts. If gandhiji ways of non violence is done i am sure that religion will be freed from terrorist.That is what i expect people to think & act to reply back to terrorist. Each attack means 2000 people will convert to different religion.

Rabin Stephen said...

Would the stupid person who commented anonymously realise that this kind of divisiveness is exactly the goal of the terrorists and their handlers.

Hate it when rats crawl out of the woodwork!

Retard!

agnom_teenup said...

so much for conviction in one's own self... they'll post inflammatory views hiding behind the cloak of anonymity... probably fearful of a backlash from the slight saner readers... maybe we need to have an active admin mechanism to moderate comments on the blog. I know, freedom of speech and all... Odd, somehow. Perhaps, necessary somehow.

D said...

Great post.

~nm said...

"Five years ago, I would have worried about somebody walking off with my laptop, about losing all the writing I’ve done over the last few years. Yesterday, I worried that somebody would notice an unclaimed bag and panic. I worried that somebody might call the cops and the machine might be either dismantled beyond salvaging, or that I would be called in to explain, and who knows if an explanation would be explanation enough."

But as you said, there is still humanity left and it is definitely more than the inhumanity of these terrorists. We shall win over them..FOR SURE!!

OnCloud9 said...

great post once again

and i am depressed about the first comment and that people can feel that way

t said...

anonymous, have you learnt nothing at all? every religion has terrorists but no terrorist has any religion. their sole faith religion obsession worship whatever you want to call it, is terror itself. now drink up your milk and go do your homework.

annie, i can't decide if my city is limping back to normal or has accepted limping as normal.

SHREE (ಶ್ರೀ) said...

Good one... I admire the silence expressed here.

But what are we going to do with this silence? It'z hightime we wondered about all this and still dumb doing nothing.

me1084 said...

//Odd, somehow. Perhaps, necessary somehow.//
loved the way you have put it down. this is how life goes with resilience amidst all the odds. this painful resilience of our people without complaints is crowned as 'spirit of Mumbai' by hyper-active media. gr8 post!

hEmAsHrEe said...

good writing!
being sensible and humane is what we are in need of.

polarization has happened over the decades. this needs to be stopped. for this, the community targeted has to shred off the conservative approach.
i guess, the disapproval for burying the bodies of the terrorists in the muslim burial ground, was a definite defiant step from the community.

mann said...

He laughed in her face and said, why, because this time it was the big hotels, and all you rich people were in danger?

How TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dipali said...

We need the laughter but not the forgetting. Keep safe!

1conoclast said...

And if you don't stop climbing into & alighting from running trains (what will Mom say???!!!), then I'm going to have to ground you!!!

Wordpress allows you to see the email ID & IP address of the commenters. Does blogger not have those options. We can track these anonymous commenters & report them to the cops. The cops will be happy to have someone to take their frustration out on!

Trisha Gupta said...

Exceptionally lovely post. It captures the mood perfectly - both yours and the city's.

Raza Rumi said...

Annie
First of all it is great to know that you are safe and your spirits are as effusive,energetic as ever..

This is a remarkable post - it brings out the soul of a great city and its responsible citizen.

I hope that mainstream media would take note of such musings rather than stirring bias all the time.

Laju K. said...

Glad you found your laptop, happy to read about humanity and the spirit of the city. Just like NYC!

iamyuva said...

welll..there is always a stranger hand somewhere to help us thru the crisis.

Anonymous said...

Peace, Annie. Lovely post. Be safe and take care.

alienist

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