Some random ramblings relating to Mumbai

I am still in my own way reeling from the horrid blasts. All my life I have loved Mumbai as all people who love that city do. It is an inexplicable but true love affair. You know the city’s good as well as the bad’s and yet love it. Earlier all my views were prejudiced and blinded by my love for Mumbai. I still remember crying and getting all emotional, when during the initial days of our courtship S said something derogatory about Mumbai.

My family and loads of friends, live there. But now I don’t trust Mumbai anymore. She seems to have become too volatile even for me. I don’t know what will happen, when. I can’t help but fear for the safety of my loved ones there. And to feel this seems perfidious, for I do love Mumbai. The impact the city, its people and life there has had on shaping me as an individual is mighty. And that’s why I feel angry sometimes. At the people who have let such violence to seep in. I feel pity and grief when I think about how intolerant people are becoming. And at the same time how violence is now accepted as something so very OK. Our perceptions about what is all right and what is not seems to be flaky. Some accept violence as normal and as part of our life. And some think letting the anger inside out on people violently will lead them to peace. Why don’t we wisen up?

What made the incident worse was strangely the media and their sensationalism. Even during the Monsoons in Mumbai last year, I posted about media’s frenzied reporting. Fine, fine Media has its pluses but I seriously think there is a collapse of values and ethics when it comes to reporting. It is all about creating sensation rather than providing information. What is the true role of the media in a crisis? Why have most TV channels stopped so low. It seemed like a contest as to who could get more gory and gruesome.

The icing on the cake however was LK Advani’s comment which can be translated from Hindi as, “the king and the populace need to work together during this hour of crisis.” King? Who made him or any government, king? It is attitudes like that which make people distrust and dislike politics. I felt like tapping him on his shoulder and reminding him, that people elect politicians, so that the politicians and government can serve people. And that’s why we need more people like. Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan around.

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When the heart burns

I wrote this poem during the Bombay riots of 93; I was 12-13 then. What has happened yet again in Bombay, made me feel the need to go back and read my words. Words that tumbled out when my illusion of security was shattered for the first time; when a human being’s dark side reared its ugly head in my life in the worst possible fashion.

A cry of pain in the night the only sound
The fire in you destroys all around
Obselete despondent some behave
For their mutual gains with lives of others they play
With blood in their eyes, they kill and fight
For what they think freedom, what they think rights
We cry out in fury, cry with pain
They slaughter humanity, but feel no shame
The wrong path they follow, the bullets they give
Shatters life around, doesn’t let anyone live
Women widowed, their children cry
Their cherished dreams shattered, defeated and deprived
The bare trees shiver, they thirsty earth cries
The anger, the pain, where passion rise and die
The fury like molten lava flows out
Destroy’s everything, wipes everything out
When the heart burns and fire sets all ablaze
Just pause for a moment, stop and gaze
Look at the blood and gore you have created
None but yourself, you have defeated
Never comes victory and happiness, with other people’s lives
Let everyone live peacefully, don’t make them die.

(Ignore the rhymes. Since I could write, I thought I could also be a poet.)

I didn’t know till then that people were capable of so much anger at some situation they didn’t create. I didn’t know that it was as easy to start viewing with suspicion or think as enemy people you loved. Hindu, Muslim, Christian- they weren’t religions to me. They were labels like Tamilian, Malayali, Maharashtrian were. Borders separating people, I understood. But God separating people? That’s something I still haven’t understood. Don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand that too. Oh yes, I do know each individual is unique. But to quote many, many people: we do breathe the same air and have blood coursing in our veins.

People separate. People differentiate. We listen to others and then tell our minds that, you and I, are not the same. That your pain, your passion, your beliefs are not the same as mine. But how can that be true? We all strive for joy, we all strive for good of the ones we love. How we can decide then that someone’s life is not valuable, someone’s existence can be just taken away because some people in your life have told you murder is the just thing to do. Of course life is going to be wrong, not everything goes right. But can you in your heart at least be right and know you are not going to harm someone because he thinks differently from you.

In god’s eyes we are all equals. Its only when we all start to believe that and teach our loved ones and children that there might be some hope. Violence outside wont end, till you end it in your heart.

Media n Mumbai Rains

Dilip wrote,

I commented: �Interesting that you should pose the same question that I and my friend have been arguing about on chat for the past hour.

I dont think any layperson would take the trouble to let the media channel know, it has been playing dirty by reusing old footage. The ones who do will in all probability never find their letter featured on letters to editor or the channel.

Ethics does matter but only to the few nicompoops like me who wring our hands in despair and crib about how media can be so manipulative and feel ashamed to be part of the bandwagon. Then I remind myself at least I am not like that, read your blog and feel good there are still some for whom ethics matter.

All this sure got me in the mood to write now. Read my blog for more on this.�

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I went to Bombay on Saturday by bus of course. The trains had decided not to venture into unknown waters. Despite a sleepless night aboard the bus, I reached Vashi in record time. The Pune-Bombay Express Highway was strangely at its best; no traffic, smooth roads. Except for the bumpy ride as I neared Taloja road and Kharghar, I had no issues. It continually rained but wasn�t very different from the usual Bombay rains. Once at home I switched the TV on and saw mayhem. Drowned cars, homes and people; loss of lives, livestock, property and mental peace. I looked out the window again, all was well here, but apparently somewhere else in Bombay it was not. Except the brown muddy water that came from the taps (when it did come), and some minor electricity cut hours, nothing seemed amiss. But the images had got to me and I spent the day subdued talking over and over with all about. One family friend came home to a floating fridge, most couldn�t go home, one cousins spent the night walking, another spent the night in the car, some relatives furniture was destroyed. Luckily no-one was the worse off for it.

The next four days I was amazed by the same images flashing repeatedly on the screen.
The rains in Bombay had calmed down by a great degree, but the news images showed no sign of letting up. Mahesh Bhatt wandered around on some TV channel asking people about their experiences, someone�s home in Juhu and a producer who has incurred a big loss. Eh? And then there were others who focused only on the low lying areas which get flooded every single year. News papers and channels mourned about Mumbai�s demise with the rains as the next shangai and golden city. Let Mumbai be please! That much of rainfall could throw Shangai into disarray. Channels kept repeating their footage of people rowing in boats even when the downpour grew into a drizzle. Look closely people, someone was walking in calf height water as these guys rowed by! Are we truly that foolish? Apparently we are.

A friend (J) and me have been having a healthy arguing for the past hour about media and manipulations, about objective reporting and biased journalism. Most people do not question what is being offered to them. They accept what they see as truth. The images in the TV resulted in many offlines/ SMS�s to me asking me if I was ok. People couldn�t believe that Mumbai was ok because the TV stations would give up. It would be wishful thinking wouldn�t it to hope that media moves beyond the moolah. Unfortunately most programming today by news channels resembles a real-life soap opera, which highlights a lot and focuses on nothing.

I asked J to define news for me. Now suddenly I am at a loss about what news is and journalism is. Gangadhar Sir, taught with great emphasis Principles of Journalism and ethics in journalism during my PG. Am reminded of the passion in his voice and the rush I felt. Objective journalism, unbiased reporting, ethical writing: all are mere terms with no real value? Sometimes though it does seem like a futile fight by a few to voice what is easily drowned in the advertising and competing chaos, I beg to differ. I am sure to give a damn hard try to stick to some principles which many believe are useless in this world today. Call me old-fashioned, but can�t change the way I feel.

Mumbai wait for me

Monsoon is when everyone including the rain is going bonkers. So much for my previous post gushing about the monsoon. My plans of going to Bombay tomorrow have literally been washed away. SOB� SOB.. Dad wait for me.. N don�t open those bags till I get there.

If not for me at least for the sake of those chocolates craving to be eaten, god should have stopped the monsoon and cleared the way. Now those poor lil darlings will have to wait to be savoured. Dad is wishing he had stayed on in the US another week and I am wishing the monsoon had chosen the next Tuesday to show its might, at least then I�d be stuck at home in Bombay and not here in Hyderabad.

And on a totally different note, Google earth is awesome. I am getting to revisit US without leaving my chair. Yes, I did sniff a little when I saw Presidio (my ex-apartment complex).

Coming back to the rains, as bad as the situation there is, I want to be in Bombay right now.

Bombay, Mumbai and me

There were many journeys I took. Most were limited to the geography of the city I grew up in. But I consider them journeys never the less today. I have been so bound by the notion and desire to travel the world (I still do as I write this), but have a sense that whatever the journey maybe, however small the distance maybe, each moment is a journey. Each time I step out of my home, it is on a rendezvous. Life is just so unpredictable isn�t it? There is much I have learnt and experienced in these limited travels within Bombay but somehow I never felt the urge to document all that I experienced. I loved the crowds, always loved writing in the stations, but I never documented those stories. Maybe its time I began telling people about my city of dreams and the city of disillusionment that takes all in its womb.

Shiv Sena wants to stop more people from coming to settle there. There might be some logic to what they say about people living in it from years not having the opportunities and facilities without others compounding to their problem, but I fail to see it. Take the people out of Bombay and what you have is a glittering stone with an empty inside, like the dance bar girls. Full of smiles and sex, dazzlingly all with their make-ups but carrying home with them empty minds and wasted bodies, the woman in them forgotten.

No one owns Mumbai, the city is larger than political might and social ire. Bombay may be Mumbai now, but all mumbaikars are Bombayiets. Everyday the new gets bsorbed into the old and you cannot then differentiate between the two. This city is the epitome of life with the good, bad, ugly and beautiful all woven into its social fiber. Everything co-exists here, the slums and the high-rises, the multiplexes and the sleazy theaters that survive on the moaning C �Grade Indian porn, 5 star hotels and roadside pani-puri stalls, the chic convents and street schools, the fashion streets and shopper stops. True-blue Bombayites don�t differentiate between the two and are equally comfortable everywhere.

Me, I was a middle-class gal, who loved shopping at Lifestyle but had to actually buy my stuff in fashion Street, who loved eating at Bombay Blue but went bersek at Flora Fountain�s vada pav�s and who traveled to amchi matheran on vacations sitting in the floor of the train with friends sipping coke and laughing at the latest episode of friends, sharing the biscuit with the kids who came to sweep the train. Something tells me thats the way I�ll remain till I die, true blue bombayite. Marriage took me away from Bombay but you surely cant take Bombay out of me.