Last week, south Mumbai discovered the world had changed.
Global terror dared to come to dinner in the five-star neighbourhood I grew up in. And after the world watched the marathon violation of the city’s most beautifully preserved, private sector senior citizen by crazy-eyed young men wielding grenades and AK-56 rifles with extra magazines strapped on and determined to leave a serious scar on the country’s richest constituency, Mumbai’s citizens lit candles and said it was time to do something.
As a south Mumbai girl I’m angry too. But I’m not demanding to know where Raj Thackeray was hiding as his city burned (thank you, Mr Thackeray, for steering clear of national television). “NSG has come to save Mumbai, only north and south Indians, no Marathi manoos,” one widely-circulated SMS said.
Never-ending nightmare: Will the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai make its citizens more politically aware? Pal Pillai / AFP
Before last week, most south Mumbaiites probably only vaguely knew of the existence of the National Security Guard (NSG). They certainly didn’t know these men lived as far away as Manesar. And they definitely didn’t know where Manesar is located (unless they drove past it to visit the Neemrana group’s flagship property on a holiday).
That this is a huge tragedy, the most spectacular that India has ever witnessed on live television, is uncontested (though personally I believe that the images of 150,000 Indians attacking the Babri Masjid with basic tools in 1992 were as horrifying and dramatic).
But India is a country where a tragedy happens every day and a big tragedy every month. A few really big tragedies are guaranteed every year. The only difference is that most of these horrors bypass taxpaying People Like Us.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group supposedly responsible for the attack on Mumbai, is not new to India. It has been killing citizens in Kashmir since 1999. How many south Mumbaiites can list three dramatic LeT attacks that have occurred in Kashmir in the last decade?
The fact that Mumbai was attacked is also not surprising. It is ground zero of India’s (officially) wealthy citizens. It’s an industrial-strength magnet for people from all over the country. It’s India’s economic heart, lungs and legs.
Maybe it’s too soon after to say this but I’m praying the city’s devastation will force its citizens to look within, instead of hurling half-baked, uninformed solutions to this problem.
Think about it. A south Mumbaiite can tell you the price of gold and the exact nature of the last land transaction at the Bandra Kurla complex. Downtown residents know much, much more about the global economic slowdown than global terror. They have the latest update on money, cricket, investments, art, heritage, fashion, food, music and movies. But go beyond, and they start stumbling. Ask me, I epitomize south Mumbai. I have to fight my south Mumbai self every time I want to reach out to the world that lies beyond.
South Mumbai is an oasis in real India. Sure, real India encroaches on this oasis every day. But if you ignore the potholes and the other half (and the poor are literally 50% of Mumbai), you can still create your own New York in south Mumbai.
If you’re angry, why not also be angry at the fact that south Mumbai is so politically ignorant. That its voter turnout always hovers under an abysmal 40%. That south Mumbai thinks it should be excused from what goes on in the rest of India and the world. No wonder south Mumbai thinks it’s a good idea to “carpet-bomb the LeT” (I swear I heard Simi Garewal say this on television), to stop paying taxes and to sponsor the policemen in their neighbourhood so they have better weapons to protect People Like Us.
That’s all we need. That the city’s policemen will now throw away their World War II vintage .303s and brandish BIG-sponsored guns.
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