The frosted window had what looked like crushed ice stuck on it. I did not reach out to touch it. Had I tried, it would not brush roughly against my skin. It was encased inside another glass. This was at the top floor of Leopold Café.
A friend was visiting and I decided to show ‘my Mumbai’ in the limited time we had. He was not new to the city, so my version would just be one more. We entered the place where you can sit and watch the crowds on Colaba Causeway. The pavement does not have potholes as it always did. It is a neat walk now. As always, there were too many people talking in too many tongues. Foreigners dominated. No space.
We were directed to the top. I have never sat there. With little choice, we climbed the steep stairs and found a small table. After ordering some light snacks, I recounted memories of earlier visits. Until, he looked at the glass and said, “Hey, they have retained this.”
This was a remnant of the Mumbai attacks last year. Leopold was one of the targets. I had not bothered to look because nothing was visible below. Now I saw that crushed glass. I cringed.
We left soon after.
Walking down the road I was tempted to pick up some street stuff and did. The Taj Mahal Hotel is not too far. There are barricades like coffins every few yards.
In the street, I went click-click. Then my visitor wanted to drive via Nariman Point and as we passed Hotel Trident, he said, “Do you realise we have just done a 26/11 sites tour?”
I was shocked. Shocked that it had happened without any plan, without any thought.
The fact is that I should have thought.
I had done so back in those days when I protested against Mumbai's Charge of the Lightweight Brigade, when I avoided being included in all manner of rallies and panels. In mid-December I was asked to join one such discussion. A friend told me that I should give the unpopular point of view. For some reason I was hesitant. My hunch was right. It turned out to be full of the same people who marched in “anger” near the Gateway; worse, some were sending out feelers to be on the panel. I declined. It would have been most hypocritical to sit there when I am lashing out at their stand.
Again, I was told that it was a good opportunity to take them on. No. I can write and will. I can have private conversations. This is not the time to fight on a public platform only to prove oneself. I would be as bad as those vultures in dove’s clothing.
Should I have written this blog? Yes. Because I did it. You may not know, but I will. There is no escape. It was a few days ago and not for 26/11. It was just for being a part of my city, for showing it off. A city that is more than what destroys it, more than the noises that echo in large halls.
The horse-driven carriages had lights brighter than I had ever seen before and in one there was a family from another Indian city. I loved the look on their faces as they watched the sea. My sea. I owned it even as I sometimes thirst for droplets.
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There is a podcast up here of Blind, a poem I wrote around the time.