And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong
Walk on, Walk on
What you got, they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, Walk on
Stay safe tonight
– Walk On, U2.

A simple message on one of the online social forums and it led to a gathering of thousands of people near Regal Cinema for a peace march to protest against the recent terror attacks in Mumbai. Citizens of Mumbai from all walks of life came here. Some who had lost their close ones or friends, some who had a point to make, some who wanted to show their support, some just for the heck of it and others who just tagged along with friends. The crowd assembled there without any agenda; not sure what to expect. But they still came in huge numbers. Tricolors and placards held high with slogans against politicians bashing them for their inability to handle a crisis, again! Some of the interesting slogans read

  • We thought you stood for justice, not ‘Just Us’.
  • Mr.Terrorist you wanted us in numbers – Here we are!
  • I am deaf, I am dumb, I am blind – I am the GOVERNMENT.
  • I am not afraid – I am frustrated.
  • There are a few more terrorists in India – they are called POLTICIANS.
  • Don’t be afraid of those who came by BOATS, worry about those who come by VOTES!

The walk which was absolutely leaderless, with no political force or organization behind it – I suppose this was its significance since the coming together of so many people demonstrated the solidarity among the Mumbaikars. The absolute horror that the city was subjected to with the massacre at the Taj, the Trident and the VT station has got the people of the city asking a lot of questions. This was supposed to be a peace march in solemn condolence of all who lost their lives and also for those who suffered the trauma of this event – but the outrage was obvious. The anger was directed to the politicians and Pakistan – although I didn’t completely approve of this, the feelings of the masses were ubiquitous. Enraged voices of ‘Murdabad’ and ‘Hai Hai’ echoed in the crowd as did the sounds of ‘Vande Mataram’ from some who equated the martyrdom of the slain soldiers to the freedom struggle.

As the night dawned and the dark waters of the Arabian Sea in front of Taj grew more serene, through the promenade that led to Gateway of India the reality and the intensity of the incident finally sank in my heart. The hotel stood before me wounded – its exteriors charred by the fires that broke out – news channels had already reported that it would take over a year to have it restored completely and functional. I could almost imagine what the sight must inside and the extent of the damage. The area in front of the hotel going towards the Radio Club was cordoned off. People lay flowers near the barricades in memory of deceased and many lit candles that fought hard with the gusty sea breeze. Taj, the hotel which is world renowned for its grandeur will now be known for something else too.

As the walk ended coming back a full circle to Regal, I made my way to CST for a train back home. It was the first time since 26-11 that I was going to CST and an unknown fear gripped me. Standing there below the huge ceiling I couldn’t help but spend a few moments thinking about that fateful day. I had a look around and saw bullet marks on pillars. 53 people died here – the number is small as compared to many hundreds more that are present here at any given time of day. A sense of relief came upon me as I boarded the train. Mumbai is not going to feel the same again – ever.

Reflecting on the past few days there are some things that have become evident.

  • India is rising in prominence globally. There is a Chinese proverb that says when someone is jealous of you, understand that you are successful. This seems to be very true in our case. But at the same time we cannot afford to get complacent about it. This means that we have to guard ourselves even more carefully. And the people appointed to do this better take their job seriously!
  • We definitely lack the infrastructure to tackle such situations. A lot of experts have suggested that investment in homeland security should increase – I say yes! Please use our taxes wisely.
  • The gathering of the citizens sent out a signal to the administration and the politicians, the people today do not buy their word. The message was two pronged – one that said we will not tolerate this slag anymore and those responsible will be accountable. Secondly, the city is united – Mumbaikar’s are ready to take on the challenge of fortifying the city.

This is the first time ever the response from the people has been so grave. People wearing T-shirts of “I LOVE MUMBAI”, citizen groups and forums discussing issues that handicap the city and are demanding action, blog posts and articles gutting out disgust at the carelessness of the government are all signs that people are shaken up. A sincere urge to bring about change enthused in minds of many. Today we walked together – tomorrow we should come together and bring about a constructive change.It’s a radical wave sweeping all over and it sure does look like is going to make a difference. Join in and be part of this change.

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