I got a message asking me to wear white on the 26th of November in memory of those who died in last year’s carnage. I dutifully wore a white tee and was very pleasantly surprised to see a whole city in white. Not all had obliged but in a city of 19 Million, even if a miniscule percentage complies… it becomes a swarm of white. You can do the math if you want.
There was a countdown to the anniversary of 26/11. The Media, fresh from a couple of very recent countdowns (viz, Tendulkars 17,000 and Tendulkar’s 20 yrs of cricket or Tiger Woods’ bedding count for that matter!!) appeared frenzied about the event’s aniversary, almost as if hoping for the carnage to reoccur and boost the TRPs again. The Times of India released a Black and White edition and the same images have been splashed over and over again for the last 10 odd days. If the idea is to make the people of Bombay remember, it is a touching gesture. But what about the people who want to forget and move on and still they wake up everyday to see their loved ones sprawled across the floor every morning?
What if the places under attack were not The Taj and The Oberoi but the other 54% of Bombay – our slums?! The Media would have given it the same coverage, but would our ‘conscious and aware ’ citizens then flock to the disregarded slums of Dharavi and light candles for them? Or shout slogans like “Bharat Maa kii shaan hai.., Mumbai meri jaan hai!”? (I’m still talking about the lesser of the two Mumbais here.)
Isn’t is a point worth pondering whether the NSG would have even been dispatched if Dharavi would have been the point of attack?
The elite commandoes, the Home Minister’s visit, posse of policemen and the tributes of all the high profile ministers were given just because the point of attack was The Taj. Maybe they were secretly thanking their stars for having chosen some other place to squander taxpayer’s money that day!!
Maybe I am being too harsh.
I know the terrorists were being gracious in choosing the elites once and including them in our misery. The fact that they chose the iconic CST as a point of attack was an equaliser of some sorts as it was the Common Man’s Taj Mahal.
But I would be a hypocrite if I would say that I wasn’t hurt by the attack on Taj and The CST. A visit to Bombay is incomplete without gawking at The Taj. Though it is only a hotel, it enjoys equal popularity in the city when compared to it’s more illustrious namesake in Agra. Thousands throng to The Gateway of India everyday, admire it and then turn around to look at the most splendid structure of Bombay. So many times have we seen the newly-wed middle class husband show his wife The Taj proudly and then whisper conspiratorially in her ear, ‘Do you know, a cup of tea here costs Rs. 200/-’ (God knows why are we so fixated with the cost of tea at Taj and but each of the 19 million residents of Bombay are guilty of uttering the statement!) An attack on The Taj was not only an attack on India’s claim for being safe for tourists, it was also an attack on the psyche of the happy go lucky Bombayite.
The siege lasted 60 hours and it had kept an entire nation on it’s tenterhooks. After it was over, the whole nation heaved a sigh of relief and what followed was a tremendous wave of anger. In an unorganised show of solidarity, thousands had thronged to the Gateway of India to express their solidarity with those who lost their loved ones and also to declare their love for their city. 80% of the people who had come for the March had never been to The Taj and in all probability might never ever afford The Taj’s obscenely priced meals, but The Taj for the Bombayite, goes much beyond being our premier 5 star hotel.
Still, what prompted me to write this was a nocturnal visit to the city on Christmas Eve. My friends wanted to munch on the famous kebabs from the Kebab Corners behind the Taj and when we had reached The Taj, I observed that the short stretch of road was guarded like Fort Knox. It’s a very small road and yet a slew of policemen were stationed, checking upon every motorist and trespasser. For a minute I thought we were somewhere near the border, but then I realised that the rich were attacked a year ago..!!