Stayin’ Alive…. Stayin’ Alive….
Call it ‘Friday Night Fever….” I’m writing this exactly a month after Mumbai was slaughtered – its famous spirit shattered, and its people ravaged by terror on an unprecedented scale. All I can think of is that I’m alive…. and staying alive. Not with John Travolta’s jauntiness, perhaps. But with the same resoluteness that kept his screen character dancing, even when the chips were down. In Mumbai, the chips really can’t fall any further. Forget the anger, forget the tears…. forget the horrific memories …. if you can. I know I can’t…. don’t want to. For the very first time in my life, I am popping pills – you know which ones. Those ones. Tiny pink that are supposed to take care of my jangled nerves…. calm me down…. prevent anxiety attacks. But they aren’t really working. Perhaps I need something stronger. Or perhaps, the pills are not meant to ‘work’. Maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe total recall is more important than numbing the senses artificially and pretending everything is okay – it is not.And nothing is over….. there is no closure in this case. Mumbai (and other targets in India) remain as vulnerable today as on that awful night when cold- blooded killers effortlessly floated into my city and took it over for close to sixty hours. Sixty agonizingly long hours of mayhem, confusion, bungling, ineptness …. and a complete absence of meaningful leadership.
Thirty days later, do we have credible answers as to what really happened – forget why it did? Who did it? No. Has anything at all changed to make Mumbaikars feel more secure? Ditto. I kid you not when I say, an identical attack, or even one on a bigger scale, can take place right this minute, and Mumbai will still be taken off- guard. We have been called ‘sitting ducks’ by the international press. That’s exactly what we are. If life does go on ‘normally’ in this devastated city, it is because we the people have no choice but to keep going, and figure out ways to protect ourselves the best we can. Visitors driving past Marine Drive look on with amusement at the garish weddings being celebrated along the Queen’s Necklace and wonder what’s going on – are people so completely desensitized? Does nobody give a damn? Or is this that much-discussed ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ that is on blatant display? The ‘spirit’ that has become such a bloody cliché that one feels like socking the first stranger who asks about it. But why sock that innocent stranger who is only trying to be ‘nice’ ? The stranger is not the enemy. The real enemy is far better disguised, better protected, better armed. The real enemy has a name – it starts with a ‘c’. Perplexed? Try ‘Corruption’.
The reason those pink pills are not doing their job in my case is because the enemy is brazenly staring me in the eye and saying, “ Destroy me if you can…” In my heart of hearts, I know (like millions of fellow Indians also know), this is one enemy that needs more than NSG commandos, or even the entire military might of the nation to eliminate, because most of the time, the foe is faceless. How do you fight a phantom? You know the phantom exists. Chances are you have shaken hands…. posed for pictures, wined and dined with the phantom, without knowing it. It is exactly this corrosive, all-pervading corruption that has done Mumbai in… that may do Mumbai in…. again and again. As it will other cities, other symbols. Why? Because we refuse to identify the enemy for who or what it is. Mumbai was sold down the tube by corrupt officialdom – that’s the tragic truth. The ongoing investigation is nothing but ‘time pass’ – an eye wash to convince gullible people that ‘something is being done’. But what is that ‘something’? No answers.
I’m thinking of throwing away those tiny pills since they are as bogus as the ‘solutions’ being sought by assorted bodies. Too many questions remain unanswered and nothing will convince me that this attack was the work of eight brainwashed and heavily armed young men on a kill-everyone-in-sight mission. We may never know who their real bosses are, nor who sent them. Nothing makes sense, least of all the numbers.
“But… were you directly affected?” I am asked by well-meaning idiots. Which Mumbaikar, which Indian, was not???Inshallah… we shall be safe.
2009 – The Year of Shanti. Let’s make it happen.