Mumbai’s Bloody Spirit

Suma Nagaraj
The Water Cooler

Terror struck Mumbai again last night, and as is its wont, its much-touted 'spirit' is refusing to cower.

Yes, even before 24 hours are up after another dastardly act on India's financial, cultural and entertainment capital, blanket banalities of 'spirit' and 'resilience' are pouring in. What chokes me is this need to resort to such platitudes, when the souls of the bloodied corpses haven't yet moved on from their earthly bodies, when those bereaved haven't even had the time to deal with the loss of a loved one, when the pain of those injured isn't even close to being abated with pills and care and when many survivors of the carnage are caught inside a claustrophobic, agonising reality of being alive in their own private hell.

Mumbai, in all its preparedness and the oft-hailed never-say-die spirit, wasn't ready for another bloodbath. Who is? But it must serve its ignominious honour of being terror's favourite city, given the number of such attacks it has had to face since 1993. So, what does Mumbai do? That part of Mumbai that isn't dead pulls up its pants, takes stock of the situation and tries to do what it can do the best in such situations - lend a helping hand, and well, live for what it's worth.

But isn't that true of humanity everywhere? I'm not trying to downplay Mumbai's spirit, far from it. To me, if there's another city I feel like I can fit in, it's Mumbai. I'll be the first to admit there is a certain joie de vivre to the city, with all its piles of muck and debris, that is heartwarming and is identical in those living on the fringes of society as well as those ensconced in the gilded cage of riches and grandeur. But isn't it time Mumbai and the evangelists of its spirit took a step back and considered that maybe, just maybe, it's tiresome and trivialising to those dead and bereaved to play up the spirit card every single time terror strikes its shores?

Where was Mumbai's spirit when a journalist who reported rotting firearms that was supposed to better arm the police force post the 26/11 attacks was jailed for, wait for it, spying? Why didn't the city take on the powers-that-be and question this criminally wrong decision? Isn't such a cause equally worthy of Mumbai's spirit? Or does the spirit raise its head only when its terrain is bloodied? In situations like yesterday, Mumbai seems to ignore the first four stages of grief and makes a beeline straight for acceptance. But does it make up for the injustice that's meted out to Mumbai over and over again?

Yes, Mumbai's spirit is tall. Yes, Mumbai's spirit has every right to be proud of itself. Yes, Mumbai is the very face of grace under pressure. But what of the corollary of this theory of its indefatigable spirit? Maybe Mumbai is being attacked with such alarming regularity because of its very spirit - because it will wake up the next morning, and come rain or sunshine, make its way to earn its livelihood and keep its wheels moving. Maybe Mumbai has had to bear the brunt of the entire nation's terror attacks because trains will trundle in spite of broken tracks and taxis will ply in spite of its draconian police force and Mumbaikars will try to live while they're alive in spite of death and destruction looming in their faces.

I'm tired of these hypocritical reiterations, though. Any entity, be it a politico, a spokesperson, a citizen or a media representative,  who's quick to mouth such preachy platitudes, is equally reprehensible of the crime of trying to cover up its weakness in an over-glorified veil of supercilious praise.

Wake me up when this seemingly endless November ends. Wake me up when candlelight vigils and citizen marches become Mumbai's secret shame and not celebrations of its undying spirit. Wake me up when this spirit becomes a swift kick in the groin to anyone who so much as says resilient Mumbai. Wake me up when this resilience becomes a steely resolve to not pay taxes to an undeserving, apathetic government. Until then, Mumbai city will be nothing but a battered housewife to me -- beaten, bruised, raped, choking on her own vomit and blood, but coping the only way she knows how -- getting up to each new sunrise to serve a drunken bastard of a husband, thinking that is the fate she must fulfill.

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