South Bombay occupies a special place in the psyche of Bombay (I was born in Bombay, not Mumbai, and Bombay is where my most cherished memories lie). If Bombay is the city of dreams then South Bombay is where the creators of those dreams used to live. South Bombay is familiar to each and every person in this sub continent who has ever watched Hindi cinema. The iconic shoreline of the Queens’ Necklace with Malabar Hills in the background has been used as a backdrop in innumerable Hindi films. This is where prince and pauper come to partake of an experience called Bombay at it most lively. Lovers sit, with their arms around each other or their heads buried in laps and bosoms, on the parapet on Marine Drive facing the sea, symbolically turning their backs on a city that does not, cannot, give them the space to express their feelings for each other. So they expressed it in the open. Not that anyone minded. In Bombay you could walk naked on the streets and no one would give a second glance. It’s that kind of a city.
On November 26 that changed, perhaps forever. On that day terrorists came and ripped the heart out of Bombay. They killed indiscriminately, wantonly, without mercy or compassion. Once again, my beloved city was trampled upon, abused and ill-treated. This time the targets were the landmarks of Bombay, especially Taj Mahal hotel and Victoria Terminus.
My old office, Exress Towers lies just behind the Oberoi-Trident Hotel.
Leopold’s café, which was sprayed with bullets, serves the best beef steak in town. I’ve been there so often with friends, sat on the same tables that were spattered with blood now.
Gokul bar (the cheapest bar in Colaba), adjacent to Bade Miyan hotel is where 8 kg of RDX was recovered from. I’ve eaten so many times at Bade Miyan after a binge with friends at Gokul.
Boarded so many trains at Victoria Terminus (now CST).
Seen so many films at Metro theatre, where Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar and Kamte were gunned down for the audacity of taking on AK 47s with service revolvers.
An 80 year old family friend lives right next to Nariman House, where the terrorists held hostages. Amazingly, she went for a walk with bullets flying all around. She wanted to see what the commotion was all about!
Been inside the Taj hotel many times…
The last one is especially poignant. Why do they target hotels? The same thing happened in Islamabad when the Marriot Hotel was blown up by a suicide bomber. I called up a dear friend in Pakistan that evening. He answered the phone with a weary hello. He sounded tired and depressed. He explained that he had been inside the Marriot many times and there were no words to describe the sense of loss he felt. My phone call cheered him up, if only to reassure him that his friends were with him.
He called me up the day the Mumbai terrorist struck. This time my voice was tinged with sadness. He provided the succor while I listened. We both discussed the futility of violence and the nihilism of terrorism, just like we had in an earlier phone conversation. The only difference was that this time I was listening while he talked.
Rage, frustration, sadness, melanholy, helplessness, anger…
This is what I feel. But they will not destroy Bombay or Mumbai. They will not be allowed to succeed. We will stand united. For ultimately, blind hatred is self defeating.