Dec 3, 2008

Memento, but not so mori

It's fading again. Refresh.

I'm not from Bombay. I belong to a place to its south-east, a place known (and sometimes ridiculed) for its smallness (of its size, of its ambition), its insipid rains, its lack of drive (and drive-ability), its surfeit of action-less opinions, and its cynicism. In short, its un-Bombay-ness. But it suits my temperament.

I've lived in Bombay for a total of 9 years. I don't understand the people there very well, the things they do to live in a place like that. But neither did I understand why my step quickened as soon as I set foot on its roads, why I never worried about how I would get to place B from A at any time of the day, or how friends there seemed a lot more willing to take on everyday grit. I don't know anything about the city's phantoms that get invoked each time something goes wrong, but how about something called 'the idea of Bombay'? That exists for sure. Anything that's been around for that long develops an all-permeating idea that its citizens buy into.

That idea is worth protecting, just as other good ideas are.

Set a reminder? An entry in your diary? A big X on your tear-off calendar?

There's a lot of anger. Distress. Finger-wagging. I'd like to blame people too. But I'd like to start with myself.

I do not participate in society's affairs beyond the usual limits. But is that such a bad thing? I'd like to lead my life the way I want to. All I ask for is the security and freedom to do so. I pay my taxes by means of earning an honest income. I have voted in every election since I turned 18. I am aware of traffic rules. I even sign online petitions when the urge takes me. Sure, I don't stand for elections or participate in rallies. I don't know what it would take for me to become more 'activist' - perhaps I never will. But I'm making a reasonable contribution to the land I happened to be born in.

But I do forget easily. Leave aside doing something about them, I don't even know what the progress has been in previous cases of distress to affect India. It fades away from memory. Who do you blame? Life is perennially news-worthy, so the news-men have to write about those things. My own life demands my attention like an impatient child. So who is awarded the contract to keep track? We think those faceless bureaucrats and in-your-face politicos ought to. But I can't tell if they are doing a good job or not - perhaps they foiled 99 major attacks, perhaps they were incompetent enough to let through the only attack ever attempted. I simply don't have all the information.

A tattoo! That's the answer. (Stop it now - don't be flippant).

So I ask myself: how will you not forget? How can you blame the others if you don't even remember to finger-point? It's quite possible people 'out there' are keeping an eye out, on my behalf. As a member of the un-involved masses, I'm going to try and change my own state of ignorance.

People have been saying: "we will not forget", "We will be there every week". I hope they do. But I find it hard to believe they will, and cross a certain critical threshold. Unless their lives change fundamentally in order to accomodate this zeal. It's hard to be that possessive about anger. So all I, inert participant with the limited means at my disposal, will try to do is this: each month's 26th, I will write a short post on this blog, summarising all that I will have read and tracked about in that month about what is happening re: the November attacks. I'll also try to note what the others, who have promised to remember, have done. I have no idea where I'll begin, for I have no capacity for primary research here. Perhaps on most occasions, I will only announce, yet again, my failure to do even this simple task. But I will try. If this menial task is beyond me, why speak of loftier goals?

The day in 1949 the Constitution of India was passed? Nope.

For me, 'terrorism' could be anything that scares me out of conducting my life in a reasonably independent manner. In essence, rioters, dangerous traffic conditions, gun-toting extremists, do all this. Of course, one is unlike another, and for most people, an external threat is more dangerous, with a bigger outcry. If the people of Bombay could show us how to tackle big demons, perhaps we little cousins might summon up the initiative to take on our lesser evils.

Back to the idea of Bombay. Cities change over a period of time, but Bombay's ideas have been steadfast. Others in the country seem to be (regrettably) leaving behind their own ideas and copying some of Bombay's. But all the more reason to nurture the original, for who knows what will take its place if that idea goes missing.

Finally, I'm not from Bombay. But there must be some traces of it in me. I was born in Bombay. On the 26th of November. The latest entrant to a list of dates that will live in infamy. But forever? Hopefully, some day we won't need to rememeber.


Unknown said...

with lot of bloggers writing something about 26th november incident as they have got something to write, your article stands out definitely and it really makes one to think about oneself before we blame anybody

Mankutimma said...

It has been brewing in my mind what I could do as a citizen of India before pointing fingers at others. But I have not found a reasonable answer as to how I could make a substantial contribution to improve the state of affairs. I believe any ordinary person like me would feel in the same way.

Very well articulated JR. I should say it is one of the most pragmatic opinions of all that I have read about the Mumbai attack !

daemon said...

Aparichit!! Told you :-) But on a serious note, these attacks and more importantly whatever stupidity followed on part of our government has definitely made one sit up and take notice. Irritated, rather. My solution is to get insanely rich by 45 and join politics. You need power to be self-righteous. People will follow. Straighten the system into submission!! And impart more education, somehow. The earlier plan to serve the country and world in general (being a technical person) was to create more jobs however white collar. That still stands - good for me first, though.
PS. No, I have not missed the point of your blog.

shakester said...

ramanand, excellent posts. a lot of us are writing with honesty n reaction to all thats happened, there is refreshing honesty here.

I am worse off. I have never voted. I missed filing returns for many a year (though I earnt scantily!), so my ownership must be less. Atthe very least, my right to demand and expect.

But what I get is- what are we to do. Ordinary, regular people who will be ale to track this, at best, as much as the next newspaper or channel does. (for me, online at that).

But there must be something, in a larger way, that can be my reaction to this. Not just to Nov 26, but to the state of affairs in general, understanding of such issues in particular.

I cant say I have the discipline, and I dont know if i will be able to cling to the hurt as I want to.

Unknown said...

y, m, d, s: thanks for your comments. I read them with great interest, and in some of your cases, read your blog(s) as well. We continue to grapple with reactions!

Anoop Kunchukuttan said...

Yes, rather than play the blame-game, what could we do? Probably improve upon one aspect of our own lives, make a resolve to put in our bit in whatever way we can starting today. Tomorrow never comes :). Timely and eye-opening post.

Anonymous said...

good post! in many ways.
- Nirmal.

PS: belated b'day wishes, I was in pune the following weekend, would have definitely called had i remembered your b'day (yeah, i'm getting old)

Vedang said...

Great post! In the furore following the terrorist attacks, I too was caught up in slogan shouting like "Go to War!", "Down with Politicians!" and such similar expressions of rage. But over the days, I think this incident is turning into just another media circus. Most of the things people say are tremendously inflammatory, and rarely thought through. Lets go to war is easy to say as you sit in a cushy cubicle and follow streaming news over the net.
Yours is the best and most honest post I have read on the issue. It brings to focus the fact that we as a people are lazy, too lazy for our own good.
Thanks for putting things back into perspective.

Unknown said...

anoop, vedang: thanks for your comments

nirmal: my sneaky ways of attracting attention to birthdays past seems to be working ;-) - thanks for dropping by, will send you email.

Anonymous said...

wow. thanks.