Mumbai is burning

Mumbai is burning

It wasn’t the start of the 4 day holiday weekend anyone expected. I was just catching up on my daily news on Thursday morning when the SAJA email came through about the Mumbai attacks (they did a great job covering the attacks from the get go). The next three days, I was catching up on TV, Twitter, Web, Phone, and any other means possible. In the early hours, it was hard to figure out what was going on with sketchy reports. The tweet onslaught helped in finding the appropriate links to go fetch a new development but steady and reliable reporting was missing. Of course, emotions of sadness and anger were playing football in my head. As soon as I learned about the attack, I started getting in touch with my friends who live in Mumbai, a close friend works for the Indian railways. By coincidence, he was in his office at the VT railway station when the attack took place but fortunately, he was not in harms way.

The massacre that occurred in those early moments and the chaos that ensued left me paralyzed and stunned. Why does this keep happening and is there any end to this madness? Will politicians ever have the will to resolve this once and for all? There are two main sources of all terrorism today – one country funds and the other country trains. You take them out and you would have solved a significant portion of the equation. Of course, we need to bottom of the problem itself if we are going to tackle this enormous challenge. While the resilient city will rebound and everyone but the families of the ones lost will move on, until the next city gets hit.

Perhaps, Suketu Mehta, a professor of journalism at NYU and author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found”  put it the best in his column “What they hate about Mumbai” in NY Times

Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.

But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder.

If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?

So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be just economic.

In the coming days and months, we all will be searching for answers – the whys and hows of this terrible tragedy. There is plenty of blame to go around but it can’t console the affected. My condolences to the families who suffered. May peace be with the ones who lost for no fault of theirs, esp. the brave men and women who put their lives to save others.

In the meantime, I will be trying to figure out my next trip to Mumbai.