i had fallen in love with her as a kid. Even though i had only heard about her, i knew instantly that she would hold always a special place in my heart. i, enviously, listened on while i heard people singing praises of her magic and the vibrancy she possessed and the very magnetic appeal she held. i was dying to see Bombay [as she was then called] ever since i could remember.
My father recounted stories of his days in Bombay; the hustle and bustle of the crowd, the urgency displayed and conveyed in every artifact that found a place in her arms. It was a keen eyed adolescent who boarded the ship that would take him to finally complete the wait that he was longing for for years. Yes, it was the very same waters that carried him to her. i awoke early the next morning, still dark, dying in anticipation. My first glimpse of her in the greying dawn took my breath away and i died there. i could make out the hazy outlines of the skyscrapers, reaching for the sky. i rubbed my eyes in disbelief and glee. The outlines took shape and so did my admiration. We finally approached the docks and i was greeted by a heady concoction of buzz, odour and slick rainy slush. Ah! my first experience with Bombay.
My early experiences of Bombay were a spilaring mix of awe, wonder and amusement. i remember the ever bulging suburban locals, the yellow and black Premier Padmini taxis, The Times of India and Churchgate. Bandra was a passing memory and so was a drive-in theatre that left me puzzled about how one could drive a vehicle into a movie cinema. Bombay was also a fleeting memory of gullies, Akbarallys and RK Studios. i recollect being told that Bombay was a land of opportunities and “oppucations”; i was fiercely corrected that it was, in fact, a land of opportunities and occupations.
She was raped for the first time in 1993. i experienced unscalable fear for the first time then. i knew nothing about what happened and why; only that Bombay was no longer the Utopia that she was always considered to be. My belief stood shaken. Names of blast locations and suspects whizzed by me but i could only think about how things had changed that day. She withstood the trauma and the violence after that as only someone as resilient as she could. A brief encounter with her as a 20 year old on my way to a college tour left me poorer by a jacket that was vilely stolen from Dadar. My love for her only increased.She remained in a corner of mind for some time, till 2001 when i was to join my first job in Pune. Immediately, my mind conjured up comparisons between Pune and Bombay due to the relative proximity between the two. Of course, Pune was no Bombay; Pune had a charm of its own but it was still Bombay who ruled my heart. i was looking forward to my first solo trip to Bombay and was shifting nervously when it did happen. i stuck out like a sore thumb at Dadar waiting for the central line local to take me to Vikhroli. i carefully climbed the local amidst commotion from fellow passengers, always being vigilant of my wallet and my belongings. i remember the terror at realizing that the platform can be on either side and would never come announced. To this day, that terror strikes me dead whenever i am travelling in the locals.
Following that, i have travelled a number of times to Mumbai. i remember sighing whenever the local rolled into Victoria Terminus. i remember watching in awe when Marine Lines and the Mahalaxmi race course rolled by. i recollect the massive scale of Dharavi. i recollect being duped into losing my cell phone in a local at Dadar [again]. i recollect the impressive layouts at Breach Candy and Peddar Road. i recollect walking by the very expensive suburbs of Bandra and their very Goan influences. i recollect the lazy afternoon lunches at Cafe Leopold with me sipping my fresh lime soda and being ridiculed by the friends. i remember the lunches at Cafe Mondegar with its Mario Miranda caricatures, again sipping fresh lime soda and again being ridiculed. i remember the sumptuous treat of kebabs at Bade Miya at Colaba and the very expensive coffee and dessert at the Taj Heritage. i remember being cheered on as i ran the Mumbai Marathon amongst the quaint buildings of South Bombay and the sea face at Marine Drive.
She underwent further trauma in July 2005 with floods and rains and July 2006 with serial blasts in the lifeline of the city. Yet every next time i visited her, there she was in all her finery and splendour. The very metaphor that this beauty and abuse suggested left me devastated and sad. i was to travel to Mumbai day after tomorrow; an opportunity for me to pay my homage and respects to her undying spirit and the love she showered on her citizens. But a wednesday before that, those bastards defiled her yet again. They came by the very waters that had brought me to her the first time. They wreaked havoc at the magical environs of Cafe Leopold and Colaba. They turned hell loose at that Oh so Majestic Taj. They raped her again. And i was watching this sitting in despair and quiet rage.
Five days later, i am still enraged. Mumbai does not deserve this; she always stood for perseverance, respect, virtue and love. She spread hope to millions of Indians in darkened cinema halls with eager eyes devouring the grandeur. She showered prosperity upon the multitude of citizens who basked in her glory and added to it. Perhaps, i have no right to love her so much since i never resided there. But this i ask, what of all of you who do? How could you let her be abused as such?
i remember Naseeruddin Shah drawing out a horoscope of Mumbai on a rain-dampened window in Maqbool, prediciting disaster and catastrophe. i wonder whether he foresaw his part in A Wednesday, i wonder whether he foresaw the wednesday….