Saturday, July 15, 2006

Spirit of Mumbai – Where is it?

Admittedly, I have sung paeans to the spirit of Mumbai with several other worthy writers and, um, intellectuals. See the posts below. Now, Durba Dhyani, friend, colleague, ex-radio-jockey, writer has sent me an email titled “The Spirit of Mumbai - Where is it?” I think she has a point.

“Whenever tragedy strikes the city, the media goes into overdrive, saluting the 'spirit of Mumbai.' Frankly, I am confused, and slightly nauseated. Why exactly are we doing a 'Salaam Mumbai'? Is it because the city has an unbelievable capacity to take shit? Or because it has the miraculous ability to bounce back in 15 minutes, no matter what?

“People attend offices and schools the very next day. Train services resume as normal. Traffic on the streets is almost like any other day. The debris is cleared, the city dusts itself and carries on as if nothing has happened.

“Is that the spirit of Mumbai? Or rather the lack of it? To me, it is uncanny and deeply disturbing. There is something intrinsically wrong with a city that has no time stop and mourn. If everything always continues like clockwork, perhaps the people too have become nothing more than machine parts - dehumanized.

“If this tragedy is the scale of 9/11, where are the candlelit vigils, the stormy protests, the cries for justice? America's reaction - the subsequent attack on Iraq, may be unjustified and dastardly, but is it any worse than no reaction at all? The lives of hundreds of ordinary commuters, blown up on their way back home from a hard day's work - is that not a big enough reason for an outcry? Perhaps the terrorist's cause is worthier?

“When it comes to seats in colleges, or rising prices, we are up in arms. How about doing the same for humanity, for a change? The city, to me, seems to show as much spirit as a woman who continues to remain in an abusive relationship. Her spirit has taken so much battering over the years that the will to break free itself has diminished.

“Or have I become so much of a cynic that I fail to notice the turbulence beneath the deathly calm? Is there grief and anger simmering below the surface, which will one day make her turn on her tormentor, in a fight to the finish? Does this machinery indeed have a spirit - a flickering flame slowly turning into a raging fire? I sure hope so, for else, the city is truly dead.”

Well written, well expressed, Durba. I am ashamed, that I didn’t consider this point of view while singing those paeans. Thanks Durba!
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