Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mumbai - resilient or indifferent ?

Yesterday was a sickening day . Sickening just doesnt sum it up .I was at my old house at about 6:45 pm when Parag called me up to ask if I had heard of any bombs going off anywhere , I said I had no idea since i didnt have a TV there and that I was going home , so I'd check it there and call him back in a few minutes.He , uncharacteristically and abruptly, hung up.It struck me a few minutes later that i could probably check online on some news site if what he said was actually true, and lo - the first headline on said "Bomb Blast at Khar Road Stn."
I tried calling Parag , and after about twenty futile attempts to get through , I gave up.I left for home and what I saw on TV shocked the devil out of me !
7 bomb blast.
0ver 150 killed
over 700 injured
My first reaction was of denial and then I was just shocked....Shocked , numbed and unable to react to the visuals the news channels kept throwing .
Bodies being strewn , blood splattered train compartment, limbs , torsos lying around.
Panic .Fear . Phone lines jammed(It now dawned on me why Parag had 'hung' up).Helplessness.
You couldnt help but feel for the weary traveller returning home after a tiring day in his/her usual 6:15 Borivili fast , and was jolted , out of the blue ; of all the unexpected things, a bomb! And now not being able to tell people at home that he or she is safe.
What about those who died ?
I tried calling everybody I knew who lived on the Western Line. After innumerable attempts , I managed to trace the few people i knew on the Western line, and thankfully , they were all safe.
And then , the tales of common people going out of their way to help people stranded , injured. . . .
One such tale :
Written by an acquaintance of mine , sent to me by Narsi:
"....."STUNNED" - Mumbai Mirror."7 BLASTS ROCK MUMBAI"- yahoo headlines.Which editor wrote these lines? Which fool had the guts to talk about my mother land, MY CITY being stunned!!! I was there. I was on the train, in the hospital and on the streets and I didn't see Stunned. I saw Stunning...stunning acts of kindness. And nothing rocked Mumbai. No self respecting Mumbaikar can believe that. No. Its not 'blasts rock Mumbai' because Mumbai rocked, man. She simply ROCKED.Here is my story.For those who came in late...I have started working in a tutoring firm at Andheri. So it's the night shift for me since the students are based in the States. So there I was standing at Dadar station. Waiting for the Borivili fast. She came bang on time. After the normal physical exercise routine (in other cities they call this 'boarding a train'...we Mumbaikars know better:) I got in. The train started.
Next stop Bandra...Lots of people got in...some tried to get out. After the usual round of expletives, shouting and 'chod do na yaar...are maramari mat karo' (forget about it, man...don't fight guys) the train started.BOOM!
My first impression was that the over head wire that supplies current to the train's engine had snapped. There had been a flash like a yellow light and then the lights went out. People started panicking. I don't know why but at such times I have the tendency to restore calm....a very close friend had once called this habit...tere mein kida kam nahi hain..(can't translate this one)
Anways, I roared out that people should calm down. Miraculously, they did. Someone asked for the chain to be pulled but by then the motorman had pushed the breaks. I jumped out of the train like the rest of the commuters and saw that the first class compartment ahead of us had blown up.
I moved towards the compartment. People had already started pulling others out. Lots of guys had climbed the harbour line bridge that starts near Bandra station. Slowly, the injured started emerging. The first guy whose hand I held was merely stunned. He didn't have any money left...his wallet was gone I think. I gave him twenty bucks and he went his way. As I turned towards the train, I saw a guy with lots of blood on his face...thankfully none of it was his.

He had temporarily lost his sense of hearing. Walked with him for a distance. Bandra station was a stone's throw away from the blown-up compartment. He recovered soon and some one took him to the station. I turned and saw four guys carrying a fifth. The injured man was alive but i think, his hand would have to be amputated. A big guy was holding the patient's right shoulder and was shouting for some one to steady the man's head ,which had no support. With nothing else to do, I stepped in.We took him to Bhaba hospital, Bandra. While the journey up till the auto rickshaw was tough ,the journey till the hospital was an eye opener.
Carrying a 90 kilo man over the railway tracks, then over a 2 foot incline near the tracks, then over a railing and through the jam caused by the numerous autos which were ferrying patients to the hospital was tough even when four of us were carrying him. We reached the main road outside the station and got into the auto. The big saand (strong-guy) who had earlier called me for help, literally dragged a fellow who had hired the auto out and we got ourselves in. The big guy was sitting with the auto driver and I along with two others was holding the injured man on our laps.
Then the most beautiful thing happened. The guy to my right told the one to my left to start reciting verses from the Koran and to blow on the man's head. I think it is some Muslim prayer. The big guy said,"Oh lord! Have Mercy on this man!". A few minutes later that injured man who was half awake all this time started saying "Shiv shiv namah shivay namah shivay."
When I think back about that moment I smile to myself. We six of us in that small auto heading towards the hospital had done it. We had defeated the terrorists. Who can say we were stunned...we won guys. We won. We defeated the terrorists' plan by that simple act of helping a fellow INDIAN. We didn't have to invade Pakistan or kill Muslims. We had won. Of course we could have lost if the 2 muslims had walked away from the man knowing that he was Hindu but they didn't. They continued working with me at the hospital for nearly an hour transporting bodies to the morgue, taking patients to the upper floors and providing a little water to the other impromptu volunteers. Going towards the office after all this was over, was probably the stupidest thing I ever did but that gave me the chance to see the City become one. Guys in designer tees, shorts etc. were flooding out of their houses with water bottles. The rick I used was stopped in 4 places...two places for others to get in ( the driver lied saying we were going to Parel.) and at two others, hands full of Parle-G biscuits were thrust in so that we and the thousands of others like us who had been affected by the Western railway system being shut down could have something to eat. The over crowded buses were being given food and water at some signals with people throwing biscuit packets into the bus...even good old Bourbon biscuit...yummy:):):)

All in all a lot happened yesterday but my city didn't budge. We have been hit before, we have been hit yesterday and we will continue to get attacked. The only thing to do is to come together. Together as One. For that is what the terrorists don't want to see. They don't realise that the more they attack us, the closer we become. We cant let ourselves go down so we can't give up.You may think what I did was pretty was may be...but I like so many others wouldn't like to be called heroes. It feels very uncomfortable. If you want to give us a name just call us Mumbaikars. That name is all-inclusive...

I was moist eyed by the time I finished reading this . Cynics , pessimists call Mumbai insensitive , indifferent and what not. But there is no denying that , even though i know , it sounds cliched , and i care a damn that it does , "the spirit of Mumbai just doesnt die . . ."
My gratitude to the thousands who carried the dead and the injured ;
to the thousands who poured on the streets and gave food and water to the stranded
; to the thousands who lined up the hospitals volunteering to donate blood ;
to the incredible never say die attitude of the doctors in the Municipal hospitals (at one point in the night at KEM's ESR -emerg surg room , had more doctors than patients - they couldve handled a war , forget these blasts ;
to the thousands of Ishan Bholes.
Salaam Mumbai .
Jai Hind , Jai Maharashtra.

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .


Nidhi said...

Hello Akshay...Your sentiments are whole heartedly seconded...

random_musings said...

i have always concurred and will do so even more this time...

Siddharth said...

There have been so many incidents in the city in the past.. For the first time, it hit me.. I couldnt help but imagine myself in one of those ill-fated trains..
But a day after the blast I did board my usual first class compartment in the local from Dadar to andheri .. It may be out of resilience or out of a sheer necessity (i dont know).. There was the same crowd.. But the usual cacophony in the compartment was somewhat muffled.. When the train went past Matunga station, ppl were peeking anxiously out of the windows to have a glimpse of the blast site (i was one of them).. There was a subtle but definite shift from the normal..

SUDH said...

The words SALAAM MUMBAI sums up the gratitude of the whole world rightfully.We may b called the RUDEST city in the world as quoted by the readers digest but MUMBAI proved em wrong.We are a busy city but we are ONE.And we dont need to have a channel aired sayin DILwalon ki DELHI or the ads or just spl things advertising our doesnt matter coz we know ..
MUMBAI n its MUMBAIKARS are defn special!!

shravan said...

brilliant article man.......couldnt put the sentiments and emotions in better words youo said the city has been through a lot and is still going thru a lot and it will in the future.........we mumbaikars seem to rise to the occasion every single time.......just as we think that this is the maximum one can do we come up with something more special everytime.....the city is thrown challenges everytime and it has responded is because of the selfless Ishan Bholes that the spirit of the city is still alive and will always remain alive.........a big cheers to all the mumbaikars....salaam mumbai