Wednesday, November 25, 2009


"How do you remember 26/11?" - a journalist was asking for a quote for next day's edition. What a ******* question I just said to myself. Can any sane Mumbaite forget the day? Every Mumbaiker remembers this day even if they do not want to.

Ask any one in Mumbai a peon, clerk, a banker, hotelier, a mathadi kamagar, a beggar, a politician, a film star....... and there is a story.... hidden deep down the bosom ... never meant to tell.. never meant to be remembered..

My husband returned early from a wedding function without waiting for the dinner party. I was very tired and went off to sleep early. As I opened the door half asleep.... he announced "I think there is a bomb blast in the city again. Go off to sleep." I was very sleepy and said " oh no! not again and crashed on the bed. I was assured that my loved one was back home. But I was not aware the city was bleeding profusely once again. By early morning my friends and family had begun to call frantically to check if we were fine . I started television set to check out whats going on...and watched for next 3 days without blinking....

Next 60 hours I watched carnage... as if I was watching a game being played... I saw people being shot at... helicopter being flown in and commandos marching in . It was all game .. It was all in the game. "Don't watch this..... this will only hurt you more "... my husband would scream in between but I was too numb to listen to him. I thought I was watching a game being played ... narrated in the fashion of ball to ball commentary... making it a exciting watch. And I was waiting to see the sign "GAME OVER"

And finally it got over. 60 hours later. Many people had died... People whom I knew. and whom I never knew. Everything had quietened... fires had been doused and bullets had fallen silent. Now the pain began... with those flashing images of baby Moshe.. CST carnage... Metro bullet showers... people ducking, crying running, and falling.... things seemed real...

I watched, heard and listened.
Storied of shame, stories of blame, and stories of games people play.
Next day I just went back to my routine.
Library, college, studio, grocery shop, bank ...
I talked nothing, said nothing and spoke nothing.
Just looked around and saw people moving like any other day. Everything looked normal. everything appeared normal. There was no sign of pain anywhere. There were no whispers of pain or shame. Nothing! Only television channels talked about tragedy.. but no one seemed to know or understand what they are talking...

Mumbai was back to business and television jounos applauded the spirit of Mumbai.
what a city? I said to myself
This city knows how to hide pain. Hide it so well that no one knows the word pain. as if this word has been deleted from the Mumbai's vocabulary.
So when someone asks me do you remember 26/11? I just smile and say whats that?
Because I know not what is pain ..


  1. Because I know not what is pain....

    Let me start from there. City knows no pain because it hides so well. That's what you say.

    But for me, city knows all its pains and the pain is so intense that it becomes a part of the daily grind.

    Ask them to stop for a while to recount their stories or pain and gain; of the people they have lost and found.

    Everyone has a story to tell. The journo stops you and asks you for a sound bite. Then you speak..speak as if it was for the first time that someone was asking you about your pains. You make up stories. Because only through stories, you make your pain felt by others.

    You create your own myth of pain and you live it.

    I remember Bose Krishnamachari's Ghost Transmemoir installation with dabbas. It has many interviews of mumbaikars. They talk about their life and its meaning.

    In Shilpa Gupta's work, kids talk about their future plans. Mumbai teaches a lot.

    None talks about pain per se. But you can feel the pain of being and growing up.

    I remember this movie Wednesday. It hits you because it talks about the pain.

    The other day, on a rainy early morning I walked along the marine drive in Mumbai. I went near the Gate Way of India and watched Taj Hotel from there.

    It is now a fortress with armed guards manning it from all sides.

    In silence I walked back. It was pouring. So I took shelter under the canopy of a closed shop. It was hardly 5.30 am.

    Through the threads of rain I saw one boy, must be ten year old, collecting garbage from the street and putting it in a wheelbarrow in neat piles. He was doing his work meticulously.

    I just thought of him, perhaps without any sympathy. He is living his life, may be out of circumstances.

    After sometime, a young man, must be his father, came there and as two wet silhouettes they moved away from there leaving me alone in the darkness of my temporary shelter.

    What I know about cities is this. A city knows how to live its pain with diginity.

    That's why journos say that the city rolled back to life as if nothing had happened.

    A city does not hide its pain. It celebrates in all possible ways.

    When the pain aggravates, it spills over into streets.

    And that we call riots.


  2. I know that Johny... I have interviewed many people around these so called unauthorized shrines...and realized how much pain people carry within... people who drive in BMWs to those who walk bare feet.. carry the same pain that binds them to the city... in fact pain is the only leveler of all the differences and all the contradictions in a city like Mumbai

    So what they do? come to the neartest shrine around their home/office/railway station.. and pray for " happiness"... whatever that may mean to each one:)
    when i wrote city knows no pain because it was such a stupid question .. in fact the whole hoopla of the media to remind the people of 26/11(lest we forget.. as if we are going to forget if media does not remind us) is more sadistic act. No one needs to be reminded what is pain specially in mUmbai.. even if you are not killed by one those bullets... or bombs ..

    It is my way of throwing my anger/pain....
    just saying leave me alone...

    Reminds me of the scene in the movie Mumbai Meri Jaan... when Soha ali khan who plays a journo realizes after loosing her fiance in the train blasts how we trivialize the pain of the people through media..

    thanks for your comments