09 December, 2008

Mumbai marches into the gateway of consciousness

After the events of the 3 terrorising days, a sheet of anxiety hung in the air. Not like being in a war; in a war you know the enemy is, he is identifiable. Here he was faceless. Someone standing next to me?

“Let us start something. A non-cooperation movement. Something to show we are not taking this lying down. Something that can tell the leaders and politicians that we want our safety. A nameless, leaderless movement. Lets show them how many we are and how angry and tired and frustrated we are. Let us all come togehter at the gateway of india - on Wednesday, Dec 3rd @ 6pm. Please spread the word if you agree it's time we send a message too!”

This message blinked on various cell phones, emails, networking groups in the days that followed. Quite rightly catching on the general mood: anger, the feeling to do something, to voice out confused voices, somewhere. And, hoping someone hears them: politicians, terrorists or perhaps “we – the people”. I was ticked too and I wanted to show that I, too, was not going to cooperate. (Though I wasn’t sure how I cooperated earlier… voted, paid taxes, what?)  

On the evening of 3rd December, as I was leaving for the Gateway of India, breaking news aired on TV: Gathering of more than 5 people banned at the Gateway… It was after all a ‘Non Cooperation movement’, so no warnings or threats were going to stop anyone. If something happens today, I thought, many more will finally wake up from the deep selfish slumber. Dekhte hain kya hota hain...’

A few hundred meters from the Gateway walking was the only way you could move. Flocks of people were coming from Gateway – small groups, some chanting slogans, some holding banners, posters and some walking in silence.

“Where are you heading?”
“No where. We are just walking.” That, I suppose, said it all.

The first thing you would notice about these new-born revolutionaries was that they all belonged to the all new-middle class aka the higher middle class. The class with amenities, luxuries, holidays and perks. Not the mass one would see at a political rally. Not the ones who witnessed and had to accept violence as part of their lives on a daily basis. Not the ones who were fighting bigger battles than terrorism. And today for the first time they were willing to speak rather than sit in the lap of luxury. They were daring enough to say all that they did aided by their social and economical standing. ‘US politicians from Yale, ours from Jail.’ ‘Why do politicians spend lakhs on personal security, while the nation is vulnerable?’ ‘We salute our brave soldiers’, ‘Enough is Enough’, We have learnt nothing from 1993’, ‘Pakistan be declared a terrorist state’, ‘Shame on those who came by boat, and by vote’, Gandhi gave us 1947, Now its time to grab the AK-47’, ‘Let us bounce-back by killing the people who sent them’, ‘we want action, enough of bhashan.’

There were other methods of showing non-cooperation too. Somewhere candles were burning bright illuminating the faces of people watching: clicking pictures or walking past. A fabric wall was shouting the thoughts penned by thousands, while many hands were signing petitions on blank pages. Adrenalin pumped hands were signing wherever they could, writing whereever they could, shouting whenever they could.

A block away from the Gateway the crowd snail-walked. People were standing on the dividers carrying posters and chanting the many slogans. Every two minutes a wave would pass the crowd and someone would shout: Jai Hind, No Protection No Taxes, and the rest would join in.

It was unreal to see the Taj as it became visible from a distance. In spite of seeing the minute by minute coverage on the television, seeing it in reality was truly astonishing: the window which blew to flames, the window from where someone jumped, the window from which smoke rose, the window where the commandoes fired, the crown that was covered in flames and smoke. The memory of the barbarism of the events of 60 hours silenced the procession and we stood silently watching.

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