Landed in Mumbai yesterday to be faced with the shock of the city under siege. Shook me, after a long time, to write something. Jaded as the pen is, the words still flowed, perhaps all too easily.
My love, hope, peace and support to all who were affected by what hatred and terror of a few.
How To Watch a City Burn
Make jokes about furnaces and hells and send witty sms to all friends.
Visit far flung campuses, enjoy the bumpy ride.
Make stale jokes about bad roads: “In India you
Are supposed to ride on the left of the road. In Mumbai
You drive on what is left of the road.” Muse about the grim reality
Of the glamour city.
In the evening, fan yourself as you wait for a roadside snack.
Look at the thronging masses and wonder
How so many people can be crammed into such little space.
Wipe tears from the eyes as you bite into a chilli,
Feel the grit on the cheeks emerge like a rash.
Tread through the small streets,
Feel the shrapnel of ages poke at you through
What you thought were comfortable shoes.
Make your way to succulent titbits
And cheap booze
hidden in the heart of the city
To meet friends, make faces, laugh, exclaim,
Point at people who look at you strangely and wonder what they would think
If they knew about what you did in bed the other night
With that person whose name is on the tip of your tongue.
Over dinner, hear about trains and about training inexperienced
Virgins in acts of untold pleasures. Hear the Mumbaikar
Revel in the double edged consolation of being safe in mediocrity:
“Only the very rich have to worry about the mafia.
For a regular person, it is as safe as your own backyard!”
Hear oft repeated tales about the safest city in the country.
Lament about lack of night-life in Bangalore.
Be shocked, as the tele blasts news of bomb blasts
That have seared through the city,
Hitting the partying posh in the South.
Hear the unspoken horror as everybody stares at the flickering screen.
A reporter is relishing remains of somebody dead.
Images hit you, harder than the fried garam masala in the food.
Sit glued, unchewing, food congealing, as news starts
Trickling in. People dead. Hotels under siege. The police
Helpless. Think how much it is like a Bruce Willis Movie.
And then tap into the collective terror and feel tears trickle down your cheek.
As people are turned into things.
Things are broken.
Realise that there are people responsible for turning people into things
That are broken.
Call for the bill. Relish the cathartic moment of pity and terror.
Scramble towards your hotel. Hear jaded resignation from the seasoned
Snuggle under the sheets and leave the television, on mute,
As you juggle news of hand grenades being flung
With the messages and phone calls bombarding your phone.
Be glad there are people who care.
Realise that there are people who are remains, who must also have people who care.
Shiver at what hatred can do to a city you thought you loved.
Watch, from the safety of your room, smoke and fire.
Wonder if you want to ever bring children in this world.
Make plans for buying island and becoming dictator.