Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bombay of my dreams…

It was the day when I made pav bhaji for my American colleagues for the first time that I heard the shocking news of the latest terrorist attacks in Bombay. CNN, along with all other major American news channels constantly showed the scorched portions of The Oberoi, the deserted portico of the Taj with terrible statistics of the casualty. For a moment I did not know how to react. It was so hard to believe what was going on. The chief of anti-terrorist squad shot dead? 350 people injured? Shoot out in VT! I recalled the stream of people I know who have made Bombay their home. My maternal aunt being one. So many of my college friends who are thriving in the media industry…my sis-in-law’s family..and many more. All those people, who are not Maharashtrians yet so Bombayite! So jovial, full of life and spirit, just like the city itself. Now what?

At the site of the Taj, memories rushed back to me of the times I spent in this city of boundless dreams. I lived right there, just behind the Taj, in the Salvation Army hostel, amongst the bustling crowd of Colaba where the locals, the Arabs, the migrants, the celebs, the beggars mingled effortlessly. I particularly remember this little boy of five or six, always in rags, running after the foreigners around the Gateway, asking for dough while talking to them in all sorts of foreign languages. I could identify Urdu and French…the rest I didn’t know.

And my Moslem friend Suhail who would treat us pav bhaji at the Chowpatty, all of us still in college savoring the taste of junk food and that of ultimate freedom. Soon the lights of the skyscrapers would meet the twinkling stars and together they’d adorn the colors of the evening sky in the backdrop of the roaring sea, in front of a million people waking up at dusk. Amalgamation at its best, huh! I witnessed those days when a wave of humanity, Hindus, Moslems, Persians, Sindhis, Jews and everyone else would walk into VT, yes to catch a train, but also to find a place in this world, with their spirits soaring high, in anticipation of a better tomorrow.

Now I see the media clippings of the dead and the decayed and I wonder, is this the city of my dreams? Mortified! Languished in the flames of hatred and disharmony! Bruised by those, who don’t belong, don’t assimilate, nor appreciate the essence of human hallmark. Yet, this tiny atom of my buoyant mind refuses to give in. It lurks around the troughs of terror to touch upon the promises of thriving humanity. Mayhem in Mumbai is not uncommon but forlorn mindset is. That’s what we should be guarding right now. They hit upon the historical concretes but they can’t injure the history of our valiant races. Those ever effervescent people, the unity in diversity, the sunset at Marine Drive, the smell of sand, soil and snacks in Juhu, the creative hubs of Goregaon, the brokers at Dalal Street, the hawkers at Chowpatty …they’ll survive. I, like the millions of Bombayites would wait for yet another fearless, awe-inspiring, exhilarating dawn in the Indian shores of the Arabian sea.