I can’t do what I’m meant to today – it’s like living a sham. I can’t sit here and write about some art exhibition, no matter how good, when I feel physically sickened by all that has happened in Bombay. As Jayawant said yesterday, it’s a macabre analogy – the Gateway of India, erstwhile port to royalty and, to our system of meaning what the Statue of Liberty is to New York, has been turned into an entry point of a very different kind. By depositing their ‘cargo’ at the Gateway, these terrorists have made a mockery of us.
Gandhi once said that the English were only here because we let them stay; that if every Indian so much as spit, the (phlegmy) tidal wave generated thus would wash them (well) out of the country. He was right – we’re easily paralysed. Life is all too cheap here – there are so many of us, what’s a few hundred lost? The verity of his words, too often prophetic for my comfort, is also borne out here, by what’s been happening over the last couple of days. Why and how is it possible that a handful of fearless (in that they don’t give a flying f*** whether they live or die) fidayeens can bring a city the size, scope and scale of Bombay dithering to its knees?
And it only gets worse before it gets better. Is it possible that we (the media) have become precisely that we’ve been accusing these ‘militants’ of being? Ruthless, professional and heartless; cold as ice? Take for instance the ramblings of this woman on a news channel late last night. Word had just come in that more hostages had been killed at the Taj, and that another fire had broken out – a bad one – and we didn't know how it started. In the same breath as we speak about the hostages, she has the gall to say, “It’s a sad moment for any Mumbaikar – heart wrenching! To see this building burn! It’s such a huge part of our lives; our mental and emotional makeup – a reflection of our aspirations, a part of our legacy” and so on and so forth. THIS little eulogy, or ode to a partially-burnt building, WHILE there are people being butchered inside it? Help me understand how this is ethical; how this is right. You bleed for a building, metaphorically, while blood is spilt, literally, on the inside?
But this is the tragedy of India. We feel, we hurt, we rant and rage, impotent as we are to actually make a difference, now, as ever. So, I’m told it is in my best interest to show some of that fabled ‘Bombay-style resilience’ which sees the city bounce back to its feet no matter how hard the knock it’s received, and go back to writing about the ‘Joy of an Era’ collection of tribal Rathwa art.
I might be a mere outsider looking in, but from where I stand, this much-touted resilience and ‘will to move on’ looks curiously like nonchalance. Sure people are getting ready to go back to work or school or wherever it is they need to go! But these are not the people who’ve lost loved ones to the mindless carnage. It’s easy to say “we must move on” when you’ve lost nothing and your life can (and bloody well will) continue along the trajectory it always has.
It takes more, not less, to stop. To reflect. To empathise. To share the grief, the gut-wrenching pain and agony of all those left behind – of the father whose son and daughter-in-law still haven’t made it out of the Trident, nearly 48 hours later; of the family whose 19-year-old management trainee son’s body was handed over to them after the siege at the Taj came to an end. Take the day off. Feel sick – you should.
That’s it. I can’t write any more…