On 11th July I was roaming the streets of Chennai visiting various showrooms to look for a good home theatre system. As I was entering a particular Sony World, I saw ten TV’s showing what looked like a Mumbai’s local train. It was ripped apart into two halves like a coconut in front of our temples on auspisious days.
I was shocked. My first reaction was, “How is Sam?”. Sam is my friend who stays in Mumbai. When I tried contacting him I realised that all the cellphone networks were jammed. So, I just called his home. Thankfully, Sam had the presence of mind to call his parents and tell them that he was safe. Ok so Sam was safe.
After evaluating Sony’s surprisingly inferior HT systems, I went home. I wanted to inform myself fully of the situation at Mumbai. Switched on the TV and every channel worth its salt was beaming the pictures of the blasts. It was bad. Really bad. The death toll increased gradually from 30+ to 100+ and by the time I went to sleep it was close to 200. Over 700 were injured. Hospitals were overcrowded with patients as well as anxious people looking for their dear ones. The scene was bad. And the only thing I could do was sit and watch!
If I was in Mumbai I would have definitely stepped forward and done my bit. As a human being I think it’s my duty to help fellow beings in times of such adversity. I would have donated blood. Maybe even helped the injured get to the hospital or some such useful thing that would give me a feeling of ‘yeah-i-have-been-a-good-human-being’. I wouldn’t expect people to pat my back for having done such things. And if they do, I would rather pull them into the relief work and carry on doing the work.
In such a scenario, I don’t understand what great qualities or the so-branded “Mumbai’s spirit” the TV Channels are talking about. It was human instinct. An instinct to help each other during trying times. The instinct had to overcome the fear of ‘what-if-there’s-another-blast-and-something-happens-to-me’. This is where we need to credit the Mumbaikars – for having come out in large numbers (community, religion, etc. notwithstanding!) at that moment overcoming the fear and helping each other. The courage to believe in your instinct and not get scared. Beyond that I wouldn’t hype the happenings of the aftermath of the blasts.
People are talking about how everyone was back at their offices from the next day. And how the trains were full and all that. I have just one thought, “Do the people of Mumbai really have any other option?”. No employer is going to announce a day’s off because there were blasts. If anyone would have done that it would be a gross insult to the brand – “Mumbai’s spirit”! People essentially need to be back at their offices the next day. And how do you go? Well, Local train. There’s not much on offer anyway. So, the trains are full.
Mumbai has a spirit. So does any other city. Chennai responded swiftly to the “Tsunami” – a word that was not present in anybody’s vocabulary till that day. The relief aid that was collected was unprecedented. The sheer scale of the tragedy didn’t allow normal life to go on for those affected. But for those who weren’t affected, life went on.
Spirit or no spirit. Life goes on.