I was down with the flu since Sunday and had decided to give my body one more day of getting properly well. So I was at home when Rook first BBMed me about the blasts. He called to ask where I am, if I’m ok, told me he was fine and would be on his way home soon. I called my family, faced a few seconds of stomach-gutting panic when my calls refused to go through the jammed lines, then a quick bout of relief when my mum picked up and assured me they were all home, alive.
That job done, I switched on the news and got down to watching the gaudy tickers, the flashy ‘EXCLUSIVE!’ banners, the rolling parade of the now-familiar visuals.
To those of you who haven’t been to Bombay, these are the places the explosions took place at.
Kabutarkhana, Dadar: Like the name suggests, it’s a giant pigeon-coop in the middle of the road. Its floor is littered with grain and poop, the sky above it is filled with rising flocks of grey and white birds. My father, my uncles were born in a hospital not fifty steps away from it. So was I. They spend several years of their lives living in a chawl not twenty steps away from Kabutarkhana. Through their stories, so did I.
Prasad Chambers, Opera House: The Opera House used to be an actual opera house once upon a time. Now it’s just a majestic reminder of a golden era. If a man with a good throwing arm stood on the roof of Prasad Chambers and threw a stone in every direction, they would hit my favourite paani-puri joint, my brother’s school, my maths and sanskrit tuition classes, the building where my mother used to work, her doctor’s clinic and my homeopath’s office.
Zaveri Bazaar: Most people think of gold and diamond merchants when they think of this place. I think of one of my father’s favourite restaurants and of all the times we were dragged there and sat sullenly bitching about it to each other while drinking chaas from beer bottles as Dad went for the paapad churi.
And that’s what I was thinking about when Mr. Chidambaram was asking the people of Bombay to keep calm in the face of this crisis. When the news channels were talking about the resilience of the people of this city, I was remembering all those times I went to Dadar with my grandmum and she bought me little plastic animals from roadside vendors. When the bigshot policemen were talking about intelligence failures, I was harking back to the times I’d traipse into Mum’s office on a Saturday and wait for her to be done. Or the trips to the pani-puri walla, where Dad and I would have a who-can-eat-more contest.
And I was angry. Because there wasn’t, never has been any accountability. Not once in the history of all the terror-strikes against this city has one person stood up and said, “I’m sorry. We fucked up.” Not one politician, during all the hours spent making it impossible for 23-year-olds to drink said, “You voted for me and I let you down.” Not one member of the police force, while enforcing the midnight curfew for discos, has said, “You trusted me to protect you and I didn’t.”
They just stood there, pointing fingers at each other and let a bunch of bastards rip away my city’s soul again. I can’t do anything about that. But Mr. Politician, I’d suggest taking the time from now on to make up some really convincing answers. Because come election time, I’m not going to be asking what you’ll do for us in the next five years.
I’m going to be asking what the fuck you were doing, while we were wounded, miserable and full of impotent rage. While Mr. Chidambaram was asking us to keep calm.