One Year After Attacks, Have We Moved On?

In another 4 days, the dreaded terror attack on Mumbai will complete one year. A night when a handful of gunmen from across the border held the city at gunpoint will be remembered again. It was an incident, which changed the life of many people. But has any thing really changed otherwise?

As an after effect we saw both CM Vilasrao Deshmukh and Deputy CM & Home Minister R R Patil being removed from their posts. The ruling Congress party was flayed, the intelligence agencies were questioned, other political parties were criticized, Raj Thackeray was ridiculed. The people of Mumbai gathered together for a solidarity march at the gateway of India. The protests arose, the cause was raised and gradually every thing died a slow painful death. Is it an irony? I don’t think so…

The only terrorist captured alive is still living in the Arthur road jail without much discomfort. The perpetrators and conspirators are freely roaming around in Pakistan. We are (still) waiting for US to help us.  Congress came back to power both at the centre and state assembly. Vilasrao is enjoying his stint as the union minister for heavy industries, R R Patil is back at the helm of home ministry, Raj is back and busy fighting for the Marathi ‘language’ rather than the people, conducting gheraon and angry protests on issues as trivial as debating on ‘Why Hindi is not a national language’. Shiv Sena, now led by a much mellowed Uddhav Thackeray is criticizing the legendary Sachin Tendulkar because he put India ahead of any one else. It looks like they are coming back to the vandalizing best. The men who could have, should have and must be protecting us from the possible attacks, the Police are busy pointing fingers at each other, one year after we were attacked.

Nothing has changed for a normal Mumbaikar like me… and nothing ever will. Terrorism, in my opinion, is a secondary problem for us. We are battling more than that every day, every month… the ever increasing population on roads, trains and buses, the sky rocketing property prices, the water and power crisis, substandard infrastructure and a slowly retreating ghost named recession. Every day journey to the office seems like a solidarity drive.

I think Mumbai is ready for another attack. Any takers?

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26th July 2005

Mumbai was submerged under water four years ago on the very day. It was raining on the this day this year as well. But not as much as it rained that day. I was sitting in my balcony with a cup of coffee in the afternoon, around 4pm, and I remembered what I was doing at the same time 4 years back. Even the memory thrilled me. 🙂

mumbai_26th_julyIt was about a little more than 3pm. I was working on some order forms in my office in BKC when we saw the sky tearing apart. Ours was a complete glass covered building. So we could see that lot of people were on the streets and trying to catch whichever mode of transport they could to rush back home. My company’s boss suddenly realised that it was a panic situation. So we all were advised to go home. But them I was a newly joined employee. So I stayed back with some other dare devils. 🙂  I stayed in Vile Parle then, not too far by Mumbai standards. But I was getting worried, looking at the water logging below. Finally at 4, a colleague offered me to drop till Kala Nagar on his bike. The BKC area was fine, but when we reached Kala Nagar, the junction was already under knee deep water. Lot of people were wading through that mini pond and I joined them as well. By then we all knew we have to walk to our houses, wherever we stayed. Some people stayed as far as Virar. And we didn’t know how long it will rain and what lay ahead of us. It was terrifying!

The mob decided to walk on the middle of the road, each one elevating him/herself as high as possible. The slope of the roads took the water away from the center towards the footpaths, sweeping beneath our legs. We all were trying to be careful not to bump into a pothole or worst, an open manhole. As we crossed the Kherwadi junction, the water level started to rise little above our knees. I could see people trying to ply their cars through the water, and struggling. We all decided to take the Vakola flyover. We could all see the cars, buses and all types of vehicles stranded on the approach. Obviously there was no scope to move ahead. Atop the bridge I saw my boss’s boss with a couple of more colleagues in his car. They asked me to join them. But I knew, stopping was no option. I tried calling few people from my mobile. But to no avail. The mobile too was all wet. So I switched it off and bid it good bye, thinking it was now gone. (But later it rose to the challenge).  The scene below the flyover bridge was absolutely terrifying. I could only see buses parked, flooded till just a little part of the windows and their roof tops visible. That meant the water level was way above my height. Slowly we came to Agripada where the flyover starts descending. We could see the water below, but couldn’t make out the depth. All we needed to do was take a wise decision.

26 JulyWe knew that the area just before and near the domestic airport was on elevated ground. So the water logging could only be for a part, may be a kilometer or two. Some people suggested that we hold hands, make a chain and then move ahead. So this way we can stay together and also pull a person out if the water is too deep. So we started. I had a middle aged short woman behind me and a teenage boy in front me. Slowly we got inside the water. The water level started rising from ankle deep to knee deep to thighs till the time our waists were also submerged. But we all were courageous. I could hear some people shouting religious chants such as ‘Har Har Mahadev’ or ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’. I joined the chore too. Then a point came when water rose to my chest level. I froze in the middle of the journey. It was getting dark. I could make out that the clock must be past 6. The rain hadn’t stopped and the wind was making it even worse. For the first time in my life I was not sure if I could survive the ordeal. A push broke the stream of my thoughts. The woman behind me shouted, ‘Pray your god and keep walking!’. I turned back to see that she was almost neck deep inside the water. But she was exceptionally brave.

We kept walking very slowly for another hour before we could make out that the water level was going down. We could see the airport now. ‘Yay!’, I thought. My house was now near. I turned back to talk to the woman behind me.  She told me that she stayed in Goregaon. She was tired, but she was determined to make it to her house. There are so many brave people around us, I thought. And we dont know them, unless some thing like this happens. 😐

My maternal aunt stays bang opposite to the domestic airport. So I decided to check in there, to make sure every one was safe. To my surprise, I was the first person to reach home. I checked the clock, it was almost 8 and now dark outside. But thank fully every one was safe and eventually all family members made their way back home. Late in the night we  went out on the streets with packets of biscuit, water and home cooked poha to feed all those who were stranded on the roads.

Sigh! Crores of property was damaged, scores of people died. But Mumbai rose to its feet within days. Between such mayhem, there was not a single case of robbery reported or heard of molestation and theft. The good spirit endured and the   memories are now permanently etched.

What leads to terrorist attacks?

Look at the two contrasting pictures below.

untitled11untitled80Now help me answer a simple question. “Is violence an answer to more violence?” The terrorists, bandits or jehadis… whatever you may wish to call them, are taking vows to avenge the Gujarat riots. On the contrary, it all started in 1992-93 when the babri masjid was destroyed. Major riots broke out in Mumbai following the distruction leading to killings of hundreds of hindu-muslim households alike. Tiger Memon took an opportunity along with Dawood to blow up Mumbai in the serial blasts in 1993. It helped the Muslims in no way, but promoted even more haterd between the communities. The ‘Ayodhya’ movement gathered steam. Some anti social elements objected and set a train on fire in Godhra. The riots in Gujarat were nothing but an outburst of the killings of ‘innocent’ kar sevaks in Godhra. In response to Godhra, the jehadis blew up trains in Mumbai 2 years back. Surprisingly they are still avenging the ‘defeat’ and so called shody treatment to the Muslims. However this is not about the religion as they say it. ‘Islam’, from whatever I know is actually a very peaceful religion. The Quran doesn’t preach innocent killings. In fact it doesn’t preach the violence at all. Why on earth, then we have so many fidayeens willing to lay their lives on being brain washed by a bunch of selfish culprits? I’m sure many Indian and Pakistani politicians are involved in this dirty race for power.

There is probably no answer to this. All we need to do is use our brains and use them well. These young guys who pleadge their lives are not dying for a noble cause. Sad thing is, they don’t understand this. All they believe is what they see. Their failure to think means we have continued terrorism not only in India but around the world.

So coming back to the question. “Is violence the answer to violence?” Tell me about it!

Fellow Blogger Ramana Rajagopaul as written an excellent article on terrorism in India. Here it is, worth a read: Terrorism in India

Yet another terror attack… who cares?

terror-attack-on-taj-hotelMore than 40 hours ago, Mumbai was attacked by a handful of terrorists believed to have traveled from Karachi in Pakistan. They came through the sea route, dodged every possible security measure and entered the city laced with AK 47 machine guns, hand grenades and large qualtities of RDX. They ran ruckus at the CST, the busiest railway station in Mumbai, firing at will, throwing grenades and killing innocent passengers. Some of them turned their gaze to ‘The Taj Heritage’ and ‘Oberoi Trident’, one of the finest hotels in Mumbai. Some of them even posted themselves at the Nariman House, The Kama hospital and ran a fire cracker show at the Metro Cinema. Oh did I say it was one of the biggest terrorist attacks on the city of Mumbai?

Both the hotels were engulfed in flames even as the fire personnel were desperately trying to avert further damage. The NSG commandos and army has been summoned to prevent further attacks and gun down the terrorists. The last news came that some people are still trapped inside both the hotels, being held hostages. 7 of the terrorists have been killed and 1 was arrested. All this melodrama staged by the stooges from across the border has already claimed about 150 lives and injured more than 300, including some foreigners. A local newspaper in Mumbai also bore stories of brave policemen, notably Hemant Karkare (ATS chief), Vijay Salaskar (ACP) and Ashok Kamte (ACP) and how they laid their lives fighting for us.

Brave my foot! Are we making a mockery of ourselves? I would have loved to read stories involving these officers on how their premptive actions averted a possible terror attack on the city. Today they lay there slain by some mediocre brain washed bull heads. There are guys killing innocent people at will. There is vengeance in their eyes, for reasons known best to their preachers. What was the NSG doing when these guys vehemently sailed under our nose and inside the city? So long we have been hearing stories of Indian Navy and their heroics against the pirates. But when we ask them how could these guys slip inside our waters without being noticed, they couldn’t answer. An explanation wont do any good here. The brevity of their responses and the melancholy in the national security camp bears the testimony of how incompetant we are in protecting the lives of our own people. A bunch of guys are still out there… making a mockery of our system. And we just cant do anything… we just cant!

The entire episode has left me with a bitter feeling. A feeling of angst against the growing power of the minority terrorist outfits and a feeling of guilt for not being able to help it myself. I no longer have faith on my country’s security system. I have stayed in Mumbai long enough to witness all the major attacks in recent times. Frankly speaking the people of Mumbai are now habituated to such odd things happening every now and then. It was a day of horrors yesterday. But it is business as usual since today morning. Mumbai is back on its feet. People know that nothing is going to happen. There would be inquiries, police raids, some arrests, some trials that will last for 15 years and then there would be some convictions. But things would go on the way they have been going. There is no dampening of the spirit of Mumbai. The terrorism is here to stay and the ‘Mumbaikar’ knows it. Today we are lucky to be alive. Tomorrow we might be one of those deceased… who knows? There is nobody who’s going to protect us.

PS: If there are policemen reading this, dont feel bad. We dont want you guys dead. We want you to be alive and protecting us.

Mumbai Meri Jaan

Mumbai Meri Jaan came as a big surprise for me. I had given this movie a slip when it was shown in the theatres. However I got a chance to see it when it was aired on UTV yesterday. The movie struck me instantaneously.

Its actually 10 minutes since I wrote the title of this post. I have been thinking what to eek. I decided to write a movie review and I’m held up here with a rush of thoughts coming to my mind. Its been well over 3 years that I’m staying in Mumbai. I have witnessed all the major turmoils the city has faced in recent times. May it be the bomb blast on 11th July 2006 or the flooding of 26th July 2005, I have seen it all. Unfortunately enough is not enough and the city still continues to live on the edge. One end of the life boasts swanky malls, expensive apartments, clubs, multiplexes and the bollywood. Whereas the other side of life is the largest slum population in Asia. In between the two, you have a few million middle class people, like me, who are seemingly joyful and tolerably scathing towards the same life on the two ends. Every one of those hug each other in the local trains, buses, in the crowds or even in the cramped households, yet cherish the starry dream without complaints. We eat vada pav at the roadside stall and yet make compromises to watch the latest movie in plush a multiplex theater.

The movie Mumbai Meri Jaan is all about such few people in Mumbai. On any other day, they could be easily classified as ‘crowd’. However that one day they are all linked as they witness (directly or indirectly) the terror attack on the city. It is based on the 7/11 bomb blasts when first class coaches of 7 local trains were blown apart by terrorists. There is a television journalist whose job is to make stories out of people, living or dead. However she becomes the story for her own channel when she loses her fiance in the blasts. Then there is a frightful middle class guy who luckily survives the bomb blast but ends up recuperating his friend with a broken arm. A police constable who is about to retire, a god fearing guy with good will. Yet he thinks taking bribe to prevent more damage of the society is not bad. A roadside vendor who dreams to be a customer at a mall, but ends up being thrown out. Agitated, He makes a hoax bomb call that lands up an old guy in hospital with a heart failure. And last but not the least, we have a small time computer geek who hates Muslims but realises later that he is wrong.

The movie is made in good faith. The nuances of good film making do not apply here as it should not be counted on those. It reminds me of my own fate when I trudged 5 hours through chest deep waters to reach home 3 years back. It reminds me of the running people I saw on Borivali station when the bomb blew the train apart on platform no. 4. The people who tried to blow us do not know we have a bigger heart. We forgive and get along, but we can’t forget. Trains ran full capacity as soon as they were restored after the blasts. The relief that arrived when it flooded the city was from the people who lived the calamity. Not from the ones who saw it from the helicopters. This is Mumbai, try messing with it at your own risk.

I have seen, been and salute the spirit of Mumbai.