Friday, July 14, 2006

The Spirit of Mumbai - or is it denial of reality?

The spirit of Mumbai

Naun : resilience ; [ri’zilyuns]
The physical property of a material that can return to its original shape or position after deformation that does not exceed its elastic limit

The words are worn at edges from constant usage. Like an old typewriter keyboard. It is clichéd. The media, politicians, and religious leaders everyone exhorts Mumbai to keep it high. They call it resilience of Mumbai.
This phrase was used frequently when Mumbai is under siege. Be it monsoon, flood, bomb blasts, communal riots, police firing, or strike. They use it as if it is some kind of a cover for their failure to keep the city in shape or at least warn the city about the impending danger. It has become a common practice, so much common that the shoe shine boys on the railway Platforms start talking about the spirit.
What is this spirit?
As per our political fraternity (includes the PM & CM), it is not showing our fear or anger and report to work the next day. For the Media, it is to bounce back tragedy after tragedy and move on as if nothing has happened. For religious leaders, it is not indulging in retaliatory measures and not investigating their interests. For the common man, it is pure and simple. It’s his Life. If he doesn’t report to work next day, he stands to loose one day salary, or a leave which he can’t afford. SO put on a brave face, march on.

But what is exactly happening to this famed spirit? The soaring indexes of Sensex? After every bomb blast in the city, the Sensex gain a few points. The next day media holler “no one can defeat the spirit”. After seeing all the bloodshed, violence and natural calamities, are we immune to these sentiments? Or is it just a mechanism to escape all these, shutting down all the emotions deep within? Why we are so short on memory, that we still don’t have a memorial of those who died in the 1993 blasts? In Us or London or Thailand they remember their dead on every anniversary and shed a tear. Why we can’t do that?

According to me, it is just a mode of denial; denying of what happened to survive. It’s not bravado, but a mean selfishness. That “Oh I am Ok. I am not hurt” kind of thinking. It’s a mechanism developed by the subconscious mind after being constantly exposed to tragedies. For the Mumbaikar, not a single pass without seeing a tragedy. Be it train run over, road accident, flood, epidemics, or building collapse. Every day, he sees dead bodies and blood. So the numbed mind automatically develops this mechanism to escape a nervous break down.

And survival. Mumbai is the most benevolent city; at the same time, it’s the most unforgiving too. 65% of the population lives in slums and most of us can’t afford to take a vacation. A day off means less salary or a leave being deducted. And there is dead lines to meet, commitments to fulfill….
An average Mumbaikar is a hardened soul. Only the Local train traveling in peak hours is enough to make him harder than a battle hardened veteran. He literally had to fight his way in and fight his way out. Meanwhile, a few people fell off and died but he is obsessed with reaching in time.
Finally a bit of selfishness; If I am not hurt, why should I bother?
Despite all these the true compassion was at display on these blast sites. I am not forgetting that. I was referring to the general perception of spirit of Mumbai. It is nothing but a myth. It is time to shed that stoic image and be angry. Be very angry. And show that we are scared. Don’t let the authorities run away from their failure, just by making us false heroes. The city has reached the elastic limit. Not a millimeter can be stretched now.
Show the anger and fear.


whistlingwoods said...

Pictures like these bring us face to face with the horror of it all. Truly gut wrenching. Lucifer's children will pay for all this.

Mosilager said...

What a horrendous experience you went through. It seems despite all the civilization some of us are still back in the dark ages. I back your instinctive desicion to document the experience as you're best at that and may have hurt the sufferers further by attempting to give them aid while in a condition of shock.
Are there any proposals that will be acted upon in the next few weeks to improve the security of the mass transit systems?

Shinu Mathew said...

Amit. exactly. that's what was my intention.
Thanks for backing me. Well, regarding the new proposals, the CM & PM can ask people to be calm, don't panic and face whatever situation is there.. They are busy with other stuff, like PM is in G8 meeting, CM has to keep his chair from Rane snatching it..
Who is gonna give a damn about 200 Mumbaikars? None of these lot will, I am sure.
Look at that Mulayam, he declared SIMI(a banned outfit for connections with many a blasts) a neat org, doesn't have a terror links etc.. etc..
For a few muslim votes, ofcource.
There is a barrage of bomb hoaxes and last saturday, WR has to stop all trains for a detailed check on trains.
Sniffer dogs and Bomb detection squad in full swing, TV & press people brandishing their weapons, etc..

Melvin said...


I must admit that my first thought was, "How could he be taking photos when people need help?" But as others have said, your role as a photojournalist in documenting what happened is a very important one. Every situation is different. There are times when a journalist should try to save a life first, rather than recording a incident. But in this case, there were lots of other people there to help.