Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Mumbai?

I'll start with the 'why' of things. Why am I blogging? And What Do I want to say?

Everyone blogs, and maybe that's why I didn't do it until now. Maybe I'm just too shy. Maybe because I felt that people will ultimately notice good work.

But today, I'll start by adding my voice to the cries of many who are moved by the bombings in Mumbai. I lived and worked in Mumbai for several years. It's a city I love, a place where no one is made to feel like a stranger.

Except for increased security at important places, my own city, Bangalore, seems to be quite normal till now. But these blasts have really rattled the people of Mumbai and all Indians. We are now hearing from friends and acquaintances. My own relatives in Mumbai are all safe. But distressing news is trickling in from other quarters. Our former neighbor's, who moved to Mumbai some years ago, have both (married couple) died in the bomb explosions.

There is some finer distinction between natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis and man-made ones. Natural disasters are inevitable; fate or the hand of God for those who believe in religion. But when innocents die at the hands of evil humans (?) these barbaric acts of terrorism take on a new and more sinister dimension.

At such times, I prefer to focus upon the innate goodness of ordinary people.

I still remember how my fellow commuters in Mumbai showed touching sparks of warmth and humanity despite the impersonality of mega city rush hour crowds.

At that time, I was in charge of my bank's vault and all keys to the office and everything in it, which was quite a lot of valuables. As usual, I carried the keys in my purse and rushed after work to Churchgate station. I normally went in the separate ladies' compartment, but that evening, the ladies compartment was jam-packed, while some of the general comparmtments had plenty of free seats. So I took a window seat in a general compartment and enjoyed the view. The train passes the seacoast and many parts of the city. The skyline is impressive.

But when the train was nearing my station, I realized that I just couldn't penetrate the wall of men and get off. There were too many people, no space to even place my foot on the floor, let alone move ahead towards the exit. Mumbai's trains carry millions of commuters daily, so one can only imagine the density of the rush hour crowd.

I had several fears. Someone could easily steal my bank keys, a terrible thing. I could lose my job for it and also face a police case considering the amount of money etc involved. Dereliction of duty and everything.

If I missed my station, I could also be hauled up for ticketless traveling since my ticket wasn't valid for the next station.

And I was afraid of being jostled by so many men, at least a hundred of them breathing down my neck. I was just 26 then, young and nervous. But they were so good. When I began requesting them to make way, some of them asked whether I was new to Mumbai? Didn't I know that general compartments would be like this during peak hours?

The men pushed me ahead gently and helped me get off at the right station .All of them made way for me with so much politeness. And an added, 'Always take the ladies' compartment, ma'am'. Not one of them touched me improperly, and I was really grateful for their help. These people were from different religious and linguistic backgrounds. But that didn't matter, as it still doesn't matter to most of us Indians. But I guess horrible incidents like this do tend to raise tempers and reduce patience levels among those directly hit.

This is just what the terrorists want, and we mustn't let them have their way.

During this disaster, the same people who helped me in the train, are coming forward to help the injured and stranded. I salute their spirit.


upssidetown said...

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Niladri said...

Having lived in both Mumbai and Bangalore , both the cities are really interesting ..however I lived in BLR in 2004 and then came to Mumbai , it once took me 2 hrs to commute from my flat at Banngerhatta Road to the city center , so the differentiator of Bangalore is lost ......Navi Mumbai on the other hand is growing better and better...visit us some time