Friday, 14 July 2006

Frothing at the mouth a bit. Incoherently at that.

Indomitable. Unquenchable. The Spirit of Mumbai. [cue violins]

Enough already. You're making me throw up.

A city is a place. A geography. Like a state. Or a country. A municipal ward. A neighbourhood. Boundaries we create. We. Human beings. People.

Tell me, the stuff you saw the other day, the stuff you lived through, tell me now, did it seem all soft-edged and romantic?

Don't get me wrong. I'm awed, choked up, by the heroism. By the struggle against the odds. My heart breaks when I see the pain, the grief. But that's human beings being the best that they can in the face of other human beings being complete evil bastards. It's just the good in all of us showing through. Ain't got nothing to do with the geography. If it did, hey, there's enough heroism to see on a day to day basis on your way to work. If it did come down to the city, why aren't we crying everytime we see babies play in the muck besides the railway lines? Why aren't we breaking down when we watch a legless human being drag himself from car to car at traffic signals asking for money? Why aren't we frigging appalled and stung into action by children working for a living?

Stray thought. So you're pissed off about the TV channels shoving gore on to prime time. Or you're upset about the invasion of privacy. Oh you're disgusted about the way they're promoting themselves on the coat-tails of suffering. Tell me now, they're just showing a different aspect of that same spirit that we love to call the Spirit of Mumbai. They're Getting Down To Business. They're making the most of whatever opportunities life throws their way. They're seeking a share of your viewing time because that't their business. It's the same reason why you took a train to work on Wednesday. Because you must. Or lose out.

Another stray thought. I was exchanging SMSes with a friend. She asked about some Sri Lankan lads I know. She mentioned that one of her friends had been blown up at the Elephant Pass a little while ago. Over there in the "Emerald Isle," they've been getting it in the neck so long it's a part of life for them. You must talk to Morquendi sometime. Anyway.

My friend—the one who I started out the previous paragraph with not the Lankans—said, wouldn't it be great if this was the last of it for the year? Wouldn't it be nice if we had a a year's global armistice? A year without wars, terrorism, bombs, fighting?

A year, I said, A year!? Why not Peace In Our Lifetime? (I talk like that sometimes, In Capitalised Words.) The odds are better for a year, she said.

Is that what we're down to? Hoping for a few months of peace? Oh the humanity.

Oh, and that's a phrase I found reverbrating in my head the last couple of days. I looked it up, but I'm still not clear what it actually means. I'll give you Nilanjana's take instead. She said it better: I don't know what it means, but I know exactly what he meant.

Where was I?

Oh yes. The Spirit of Mumbai. We'll hear a lot of this in the weeks to come. How brave we are. How we never say die. (Tell that to the poor sods who got blown up.) Me? If I had my druthers, I'd prefer that we didn't have to prove ourselves in this way every few years.

Man. I really shouldn't write when I'm angry and depressed at the same time. It gets me into deep shit.

I'd better stop.


Sudha said...

After my own heart.

A bomb blast is a bomb blast and u just hav to pick up the pieces and move on. Be it Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Srinagar or Jajau. I think Mumbai is called "spirited" and "resilient" mainly for its commercial imperatives.

But then if idolizing the "spirit of mumbai" keeps the residents' spirit high, why not?

Jabberwock said...

Oh I think you should write much more often when you're angry and depressed (this doesn't necessarily mean that you should strive for anger and depression, just that when you find yourself in those states you should immediately start writing).

And are you ever going to put up that long piece you wrote in reply to my questions about the tsunami blog?

Falstaff said...

I think you're being a little hard on people. Not that I don't agree with you, but remember the bit about Humankind not being able to bear very much reality? The instinct to talk about the city's indomitable spirit is largely a religious instinct. It's the same reason people pray in times of crisis [1]. It's nice to be able to believe in something beyond yourself, something that, you hope, is stronger than you feel yourself to be. The 'spirit of Mumbai' is just another non-existent being to cling to.

You could say that talking about the spirit of the city is fooling yourself. It is. But people are weak and need their illusions. If we didn't delude ourselves about something most of us would end up killing ourselves tomorrow, terrorists or not. A lot of people were shocked by the bomb blasts, a lot of people felt very afraid. If believing in Mumbai's 'indomitable spirit' makes them feel safer and happier, why take that away from them? What was it Shelley said:

"Lift not the painted veil that those who live call life".

Or, to put it another way - let he / she amongst us who is without any self-promoting delusions cast the first stone.

[1] I'm always tempted to ask people who pray in times of crisis - you're appealing to a God who let THIS happen?!! But I don't. Mostly because I don't want to get beaten up. But also because I figure they're entitled to their opiate.

amitabha said...

7/11 terror in Mumbai has taken 200 lives and injured more than 700 people. But the Mumbaikars and their children (may be, not many) went back to their offices, schools and colleges, the next day. There are debates whether returning to normalcy is really normal and whether people should stop their work for some days and protest against terrorist acts.

Stopping work and hence, damaging the economy will only help the 'terrorists' in achieving one of their goals. I will not say that the Mumbaikars are numb or nonchalant; they are brave in defying the terrorist acts.
Should we also have a debate on saluting the Mumbaikars (I will not use 'the spirit of Mumbai' as the phrase has become a cliché and is hated by many people, now)? Are we so sick and tired of the international games of terrorism that we forget one simple fact? The fact that living in Mumbai, under continual threats of bomb-blasts, requires lots of courage? Are we so angry and depressed that we do not recognise the brave common man of Mumbai and we can not stop telling others, 'Look, he had to go to his workplace on Wednesday, anyway'?
Please think.
Let’s not forget the fact that Americans wailed after 9/11 but did not stop working. The Americans wailed because they had thought themselves to be protected by oceans and so, invincible. The Londers wept after 7/7 but did not stop working. India has been bleeding for more than 50 years (more if you consider the communal riots before Independence of India). When India had been bleeding itself in Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam and Tripura (Manipur has not cooled down and there is transitory lull in other States of North-Eastern India) few people noticed because the drama of terrorism had been unfolding itself in North-Eastern theature. Punjab bled but the bleeding has stopped. The scar remains. Kashmir is bleeding but not the way Prez Mush wants, always. So, it’s natural for the Jehadis to shift the theature elsewhere and to the commercial capital of India to get propaganda, hope ‘retaliation’ and get more publicity to their perceived cause and then recruit Jehadis from amongst the affected people if retaliation takes place.
Let’s also not forget the fact that this is a war, a proxy war added with verbal acrobatics (in fact, Psy operations) from Prez Mush from time to time. Please have no doubt about the proxy war. And we have political rulers who think that ‘reservation’ and ‘divestment’ are the most important issues in India because they have already solved problems like proxy war, inflation, unemplyment and so on and so forth.
I will end up with a quote from Moustache (character in ‘Irma la Douce’, the movie).
“…shows you the kind of world we live in. Love is illegal - but not hate. That you can do anywhere, anytime, to anybody. But if you want a little warmth, a little tenderness, a shoulder to cry on, a smile to cuddle up with, you have to hide in dark corners, like a criminal”.
Please think again.

witnwisdumb said...

I couldn't agree more (not to say I could agree less)... Megha sent me over to your blog, to see you. I just thought I'd leave a comment to ask if it's alright if I mail you - there are some things I've been bugging M about, and she said you'd be the best person to help me :)

Anonymous said...

EXXXACTTTTly my sentiments Zz!!!

Revealed said...

Wow! I agree with jabberwock. Impressive, in fact, two thumbs up. Also agree with falstaff though (this is why I don't have a blog!). Btw @ falstaff, looked in on your blog and I love it already!
@zigzackly, am reading your archives between snatches of work. You're hilarious:) n very interesting. Ok am gonna stop now! Can feel myself talking like a fan (horrors)!!!!

Anonymous said...

I really shouldn't write when I'm angry and depressed at the same time. It gets me into deep shit.

Why write at all, Zig?

nancy said...

all the more reason you should write..ur angry depressed soul shows a mirror to our own. You can touch hearts ( this post was truly moving). If thats not the power of writing - what is?!