This is me with my girls at the premiere of Vaibhavi Merchant's energetic musical, "The Taj Express," on sunday. Great editing can take a mediocre play \ movie \ book to the next level. That's what I told Vaibhavi whose work I do admire. And that's what I'd tell Zoya Akhtar if I ever run into her.
This appeared in the Asian Age today...
Why Mumbai? Why not….?
Horror of horrors!Mumbaikars actually stayed away from work, the morning after the latest bomb blasts. Yup, those devastating ones on wednesday that ripped out the city’s gut. In case you are saying , “Oh really? How come? We always thought nothing stopped the people of Mumbai from going to work…. not even bomb blasts,” you’d be spot on. Nothing does! The only reason for mass absenteeism on Thursday morning was simple – water logging on train tracks! Imagine the irony of it all. Hundreds of commuters remained absent from work, not out of a sense of fear that there could be more blasts, but because they were stranded at suburban stations.Had it been a clear day, you bet downtown offices would have been as crammed as always. That’s Mumbai. Never say die! Even when death stares you in the face. As death did on the 13th of July when three blasts exploded in crowded areas during peak hours. Over 20 people were killed in approximately 12 minutes. The death toll is bound to go up. But at the time of writing 21 was the official figure. 20, 21 or 200… does it really matter? We in Mumbai are supposed to smile philosophically and ‘move on’. Why? Because we are ‘so resilient’. Because we ‘must work’. Because the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ is so amazing. All of this is accurate. But it is of zero comfort. We have reached a stage where the old anger has been replaced by revulsion. We watch the faces of politicians preaching across channels, advising us to ‘stay calm’. And we want to puke. Contempt for authority is a dangerous tool, especially in democracies. The time has come for citizens to demonstrate their own asli people power and demand answers from those in authority. This has happened across the Arab world, and it can (should!) happen here. The writing is on the wall. Ignore the hitherto suppressed wrath and ire of the people of this metropolis, and invite terrible retribution. An Arab Spring could rapidly turn into a Mumbai Monsoon, with a raging flood of protests that could flatten those who continue to mete out shabby treatment to the citizens of the City of Gold.
As always, it was the man and woman on the street who rose to the challenge and mobilized help within minutes of the blasts. Social networking sites were over loaded with posts and tweets offering any and every kind of assistance. The generosity, the spontaneity of several online communities, was not just commendable, but stupendous. People set up help lines, info lines, hot lines, and reached out to complete strangers without the slightest hesitation. Whether it was medical help or car rides, places to crash out for the night or hot meals for the hungry, people were going the extra mile to comfort fellow citizens. Contrast this outpouring of genuine care to the total indifference of netas like R.R.Patil, Maharashtra’s notorious Home Minister, who was largely untraceable and invisible post-blasts. Fortunately, the new bloke, Prithviraj Chavan did show up at the affected sites to speak briefly to the media. But what did the chief minister say? Oh… he trotted out predictable platitudes about terrorists striking at the heart of India etc. Having said his piece, he was bundled into a waiting car and that was it. But at least he had the brains to turn up . Contrast his gesture with Vilasrao Deshmukh’s ( who can forget his casual stroll through the corridors of the bombed out Taj Palace Hotel, after 26 \11 accompanied by his movie star son and a dodgy film maker?). And let me not forget our cops. This time they arrived swiftly enough, swinging their lathis and swaggering around the carnage, looking suitably grim. The top cop assumed an air of ‘I mean business’ but failed to convince anybody that he indeed did. After an unimpressive walkabout, the internet was flooded with sardonic comments about these keepers of the city’s law and order, notably by a blogger called Pranav Gandhi who described R.R.Patil’s job as ‘the best job in the world’ ( no responsibility, no work… but a secure berth in the cabinet, that too with the same portfolio!).
I am convinced there is something seriously wrong with us, the people of Mumbai. We are the ‘most attacked’ city on earth… and we accept this dubious ‘honour’ passively, like it is a part of our collective destiny to be frequently bombed. This is not stoicism, it is not resignation, and it most certainly isn’t resilience ( how I hate that word). So what is it? I’d call it stupidity. Plain stupidity. We think we are being heroic when we react like this when, in fact, we are being foolish. Utterly foolish. We do nothing about this sorry state of affairs and carry on like blasts are ‘normal’. Like blasts ‘happen’. Like we are supposed to sit back and accept attacks, chanting ‘Hey, this is Mumbai!’ It is because of this very idiotic attitude that terrorists love us! They can’t get enough of the city. And they are going to keep bombing us. You know why? Because they can. While we brag, ‘‘Mumbai rocks! People are so jealous of us. Look at our glittering city. Look at our billionaires. Look at the gold and diamonds in our stores! Come on, who wouldn’t want a piece of this action? Who wouldn’t want to destroy Mumbai?”, they attack! Yes, we really are that dumb. We refuse to hold anybody responsible. We refuse to make anybody answerable. We refuse to protest . What do we do instead? We show off! We get back to business as usual within hours of an attack and boast about it to the world. As if it’s something to be deliriously proud of. But hello! The facts are slightly different. Mumbai is attacked over and over again for the simple reason that it is POSSIBLE! It is ridiculously easy. Anybody can walk in with a couple of bombs and trigger them off – no problem. It can happen tomorrow morning…. even tonight. That’s how exposed and vulnerable Mumbai remains. Frankly, we are asking for it. We deserve it. If that sounds harsh – sorry! It’s the truth. The terrorists know this, too. They take advantage of Mumbai’s nakedness. They laugh. They mock.Nobody is in charge here – not even the cops…. so long as the city’s VVIPs are well protected, the aam aadmi doesn’t matter. The bad guys are well aware of Mumbai’s weaknesses…. of Mumbai’s impotence… it’s powerlessness to deal with calamities… emergencies… crises. Even after this Black Wednesday, we continue to grin, shrug and say, “Zindagi na Milegi Dobara.”
Party on, guys! Tomorrow is another day…if it comes!