We are the world….
The strangest thing has happened post 26\11 – not only has Mumbai united in some weird way, but so has India. Stranger still…. we have rudely woken up to the tragic fact that the whole world is under attack and we are all sailing in the same damn boat. Name one big international city that can claim to be safe from terrorist attacks. The only two countries I can think of which have been miraculously saved so far are Australia and Singapore – both with exceedingly stringent anti-terrorist laws in place. In that sense, everyone on earth is under threat at any given point. Small consolation, but there it is. So, what does one do – stop living? No. One gets smarter. Tougher. Stronger. I received countless calls from distraught Mumbaikars wondering how we could possibly protect ourselves since clearly there was no government machinery in place to that for us. At the most critical period, when the city desperately required direction, the state government was headless! While the battle for the c.m.’s post was being fought in distant Delhi, there was no state home minister around either. The top cops were being hounded, and the mayor had done the disappearing act. Technically, Maharashtra…. and Mumbai in particular, was on auto pilot, pretty much running itself!! And nobody noticed!!
But one thing did change – and it is a huge change. Citizens discovered their own strength. They also discovered people power – the most potent power in the world. When students called to naively suggest I should ‘do something’ ( meaning - lead a morcha, raise slogans, light candles, hold hands, sign petitions etc. etc), my response was just one. I told them to google the 1968 student revolt in Paris, which brought down the French government and led to radical reforms. Most of my callers were not born in ’68, and entirely unaware of that historic occasion. I do hope they took the trouble to check out just how effective the voices of those impassioned students were. It can be the same scenario right here in Mumbai, if students themselves join forces and challenge the system. To do so , they must keep politicians out. The entire exercise will go down the tube if they allow the slightest interference from political parties looking to capitalize on the current situation. Student unions in Delhi and elsewhere are snakepits controlled by political mafias. They are flush with funds and fight college elections with more ferociousness than national elections. The people who win are no better than goondas, who bully and browbeat any opposition. Fortunately, Mumbai colleges are free of such hooliganism. The youth in the city can be accused of many things, but not of dirty politics. There are some exceptionally bright , motivated students with pragmatic solutions to offer, starting with better awareness of security issues\lapses. In one way or the other, each one of us has been directly affected by the blasts – whether it was the victims at CST or those trapped in the two hotels. The internet is on fire at present with first person accounts of foreigners who were rescued by the commandos. Every story heaps generous praise on the impeccably trained hotel personnel who did not forget their training or calling for even a second and saved countless lives. There can be no greater example of that than Mr. Karambir Kang , General Manager of the Taj Mahal Hotel, who continued to determinedly fight on, knowing all along that his wife and two children had been taken away from him in the fire that swept the sixth floor where they were stuck. I hope and pray, Mr. Kang’s superhuman service to duty gets due recognition from the government, along with the recognition we owe to every single martyr who died in the carnage, and every single cop, fireman, commando and citizen who risked it all….. for us.Yes. Mumbai is a great city. Which is precisely why our enemies want to destroy us. But you know what? They are wasting their time. Mumbai was and remains indestructible….. as do the magnificent Mumbaikars. We shall overcome….. and live to fight another day. Because we are worth it!