July 13, 2011… Some people must have woken up to the premonition that it was an unlucky day. I didn’t since I’m not superstitious about black cats and the number 13. I was just disappointed that the early morning drizzle cut short my morning walk. I returned home and posted some random thoughts on my Facebook wall: Ah rain, it sets me free... It let's me be me... What's for dinner? Later, we’ll see... For now, let it be... It’s a new day... Show me the way... To dreams that may never come true... Could by the day's end disappear into the blue...But hey, I still wanna chase after them... A rainbow...A mirage… It doesn’t matter, give me a few moments with them…
It was just another Wednesday and work went on as usual. If anything, the pace was a little frenzied because I had a date with the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara gang at 4 pm. The mood was buoyant at Mehboob Studios… Hrithik Roshan jumped around the vanity van trying to set a spluttering air conditioner right… Zoya Akhtar reminisced about savouring octopus and oxtails in Spain… Brother Farhan insisted he wasn’t in contention for an anchor’s role in MasterChef India… And Abhay Deol lounged around looking happily lazy, blaming his co-travellers for his ‘chilled out state’ and choco fix.
When I left an hour-and-a-half later, I was smiling and as the skies opened up, I threw my umbrella away and did a ‘Rimjhim rumjhum…’ It was close to 7 pm when I returned home to find my ma-in-law and daughter lost in a soap and cartoon. An SMS from a reporter friend in Jaipur had me reaching for the remote. His two-word message, ‘Gosh! Blasts!’ was the ‘breaking news’ on TV! The next hour or two were panicked as family and friends were traced. “You reached home safely?” The message went out innumerable times that evening, one to Hrithik, who replied with a terse and tense: “Yes! I’m home…this is all too sad.”
Hrithik echoed the feelings of all Mumbaikars, who once again were faced with blood-splattered images. The blood became all too real when a friend messaged to say that she’d lost a near and dear one. I had woken up wanting to chase after flighty dreams… At the end of the day I was facing a nightmare. Sleep was a long time coming…
I woke up the next morning missing those I had never seen… And now never would. My daughter whined about going to school. I told her she must, in memory of all those who never would. She went quietly… Soon after, hubby left for work, quietly. I didn’t ask if he’d go past Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar. I knew his route, he would.
I went on my interview rounds too. On the surface, it was just another Thursday. Not everyone understands the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ (how I’ve come to hate that oft-repeated cliché!). A friend from out-of-town reprimanded me, “How can you go about your day as if yesterday never happened?” I pointed out that I'd been doing that through three blasts, riots, a terror attack and a deluge that almost swept me away... That's life! And it teaches you to live every moment. Kya pata kal ho na ho!
I have a song for every day… Every moment. Today, Zaveri Bazaar, as it limps back to normal after three blasts, rings with a plaintive ‘Jeena yahan marna yahan iske siva jana kahan…’ The heart-wrenching lyrics found expression in Abhishek Bachchan’s tweet: ‘And so it’s back to work. Mumbai proves yet again that “the show must go on!” Just a question… Do we really have a choice?
Back in 1959, Nanabhai Vikil had sketched a satirical portrait of our City of Dreams in Ye Bombay Hai… ‘Bombay sheher ka bada naam hai, par gadbad ghotale ka har kaam hai, alu ko bole batata yahaan, namaste ko kehte hai ta ta yahaan, amrud peru aur anda hai baida, yahaan par huey hai naye naam paida…’
The picture has got darker and murkier. Today, out-of-town friends hear the strains of, 'Yeh Mumbai shaher haadson ka shaher hai, Yahan zindagi hadson ka safar hai, Yahan roz roz har mod pe hota hai koi na koi haadsaa, hadsaa, hadsaaaaaaaa…’
They wonder why I continue to live here, in the shadow of a dark cloud. How do I explain that ‘Aye dil hai aasaa jeena yahan, suno mister, suno bandhu, yeh hai Bombay meri jaan…’