Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bombay: The City That Sleeps

I have finally managed to cry... and as I write this post there are tears trickling down my cheeks. Bombay is such a beautiful city, and look at what a bunch of maniacs have done to my beloved Bombay. I don't want to reinforce clichés. Bouncing back to normalcy, now, But that's what we  call the "true spirit of a resilient Bombay"? To feel sorry and then turning indifferent in a spitz second???? We are angry, we are upset, we are shocked, we are dead… but we are smiling. Smiling, not because we are immune, but because we fear to fear. There is fire in our belly and there is pain in our hearts. But we are smiling. Still smiling.

I work at masjid, which is one station away from VT (CST) the station that was also attacked. When In the train, I heard some "rumor" about terrorist attacks. I had a co passenger who started weeping. I realized that this indeed "might not" be a rumor. I got down the train and took a cab to the terror site. TAJ hotel. There was chaos. There were people running helter shelter. No one could make any sense. Suddenly, for a splits' second rationality harbored in me, and I thought it made no sense waiting over there. So, I returned home and all through the travel from office to home I wondered what I could do to help. I came home and started the www.MumbaiTerrorHelpline.blogspot.com and I received my first phone call around 40-45 mins after I started it.

Amnesic, I am in normal times. So the question of remembering my first call is far too much to expect from myself, given the turbulent times. That was the first call. And then there was another, and another, and another, and another. Frantic relatives and friends from across the world started calling me. I have no clue. How they reached my blog, even before I had submitted it to google search. Probably it was the chain email that I had sent to all in my contact list that did the magic. May be someone added my blog to the list. I scanned the websites and found the Mumbai Help blog. A wonderful initiative by Peter who goes by the name zigzacly. Through that blog and through NDTV I managed to update people with real time information. There were people who were applauding me. But there was no time to pause for applause. I went on, every call had a new story. Every call dealt with a new life. I transmitted howmuchever hope I could, I lied to those helplessly down that things would be fine. I knew, heart-of-heart though, that things were getting worse. Casualties were increasing.

People from all nationalities called me. There were 4-5 or more callers from Singapore. And most of them, ironically, if I can remember were calls by sons looking for their father. I don't remember which call was who. I am definitely mixing people. But there was one caller who was trying his father's number and couldn't reach him. His voice was chocked when he called me. He breathed on to the phone receiver more than he spoke. I took the number of his father from him and called, father was fine. I informed the son. And the son took the phone and stayed mum, mum for a long 3-4 minutes, I was scared that the son has suffered a heart attack. Suddenly then, I heard his voice. He said "Thank You"."Thank You"

There was this other person who wanted to speak to his friend to tell him that he was sorry. I looked at the deceased list and informed him that his friends name doesn't feature, so there is hope still. The caller was an optimist and believed that his friend would be fine. But I got a call from him in a while. He told me that he will not be able to say sorry to his friend ever.

I am a diehard positive being. But I have started believing that when the time has come, then the time has come. Ashish Chowdhary, Sabina's husband, Rabi's friends all were hoping against hope. And when their hopes were smashed it hurt me terribly. It hurt me terribly, to see Ashish who just a while ago, had been seen speaking confidently to the media about his sister, drowned in tears. I wished I could be with him and hug him. Rabi's son was orphaned, he was with his nanny.

My phone kept ringing, but I had no time to shed a tear. I also got some calls from Media people from BBC, CNN, Los Angeles radio, Khaleej Times, TOI and many more. Their questions were crisp and my answers, live and unedited. It was important to speak to the media. The media has a super role to play in situations like these. And if our commandos are to be saluted, so are some people from the media. Meanwhile, I had Limin, a media student of Khalsa college and Demetrius, a media student from Wilson College, both shared the responsibility with me for a while. I could then take the much needed break…

My back was aching and I lay numb. Day passed, night enveloped. The frequency of calls reduced. I had time to reflect.

I wondered, how this mayhem? From where did the terrorists enter? It was the sea. But don't we have coast guards? How did they walk to VT station? No one watched them? How is that possible?

I understand now. In the city that never sleeps, probably someone has overslept. Someone has overslept. Someone has overslept.

11 comments:

K said...

Dear Aham,

These are extremely difficult times for all of us. I have been reading stories of victims and the survivors; the helpers and the fighters. Needless to say, every story has made me weep and question "what if?". I didn't know any of them in particular yet I felt for each one of them. Call it empathy or pure human connection, I think we are all affected by the tragedy in some measure.

This is then not just a story of Bombay rising and resilient. It's the story of each one of us, knowingly or unknowingly becoming blasé - living our everyday lives.

May be it's time we paused and hugged our loved ones; pledged to fight the wrongs; and promise ourselves to never give up.

Finally, I must thank you for being on your feet during these times and extending help in incomparable ways to millions.

Keep up the spirits, Aham.

In solidarity.

Stand Up India said...

hi
firstly KUDOS to what you did in last few days. There are people who cannot thank you enough...
i have also cried a little after mumbai blasts.. rather after all the blasts.. yet nothing changes and history repeats itself...
today i started a blog for fellow minded indians to discuss topics like these, share ideas about what can we personally do. please drop by and do share your ideas for being a better Indian and making a better India.
I am not very much a writer but feel very passinately about India, humanity and peace and want to take this blog far so that more and more people think like you .. any help is appreciated

Winnie the poohi said...

I have been glued to the TV set for past three days wondering.. why.. how.. I still have no reply..

I am not sure if we will get it ever..

SMM said...

Kudos to you Aham....I wld never have been able to do what you did. I would have been curled up in a corner crying my heart out

Pinku said...

U are right someone has overslept and that includes our intelligence and security services.

I am truly sorry for those of the Maharashtra Police and ATS who died but i cant help thinking that it was of their own making. Since they allow intelligence lapses to happen time and again.

They dont respond to emergencies in a trained professional manner and they dont learn any lessons.

we too are to blame...we will move on and forget this incident in a week's time.

Overslept? I almost think it's a coma.

ek-ladki-anjaani-si said...

As late as ever, you know you are my HERO! I had tear trickling down my cheeks as I read this one again (yea once before it has happened to touch me so hard) when I read your blog.

I refuse to tell you which one of your blogs made me cry rather I tell you that I haven't cried but twice in the last year, both because of your blogs! And, a few times in the past few years - the reason of which you already know - I hope.

Needless to say, I have found a twin mate (soul mate being Rajesh) but I shall not repeat it again! EVER! Enough is enough.... I said it.

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Anonymous said...

Hi,

You have done a very good job..aham im very proud to have known a person like u..

love,
Rajeev

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