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.