Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Terror In Mumbai: Life Must Go On


Two people I know were on trains which were the target of powerful bomb blasts which ripped through seven crowded commuter trains between 6 pm and 6.30 pm on Wednesday evening. The toll as of now is 163 dead and over 400 injured.

Both were headed to their homes in north Mumbai and only by pure providence did not get into the northern first class compartment which they well might have. For those who came in late, Mumbai’s trains have either nine or 12 coaches and two or three first class sections within those coaches. Women travellers have a dedicated section as well.

The bomb exploded as the train had just begun leaving Jogeshwari, a north Mumbai train station. And came to a halt immediately. My friend says commuters standing on the crowded platform were hit as well, by the force of the blast as well as by flying iron sharpnel. The second friend was on the train which halted between Bandra and Khar stations (a little north). He says the blasts were so powerful his ears were ringing even four hours later. He jumped off on to the tracks, walked back to Bandra and got onto a bus.

Traffic Jams & Good Samaritans

I drove home around 12.30 am and encountered traffic jams all the way. Some people took five and six hours to do the usual one to one and a half hour drive. The trains were stopped immediately after the bomb blasts were reported and hundreds of thousands of passengers were consigned to the roads. The jams had nothing to do with the blasts otherwise. They were another reminder of the failure long ago of the city's carrying capacity.

While people like me were trying to negotiate the jams to reach home, thousands of residents were on the streets with water bottles, packets of eats like potato chips, biscuits and the like. Between Worli and Bandra (where I live), I must have been offered water and chips by at least 50 people. They ranged from young, smartly attired boys and girls to old men and women. Some stood in groups, others alone. Some even with stainless steel pans with glasses.

Those who were not offering water and food were directing traffic. Many of them had plastic raincoats on. It had been raining off and on since evening, though not very heavily. I passed the Hinduja Hospital and the Lilavati Hospital on the way. Both usually have milling crowds around them when a `VIP’ is lodged. This time it was ordinary people, waiting for news about their friends, relatives and loved ones.

Life Must Go On

Mumbai (Bombay) has been numbed once again. First it was civic apathy, then vandalism by the Shiv Sena party’s supporters (protesting the defacement of a statue) and now this. The serial bomb blasts will have the most impact. Its not easy to board trains and public transport after an event like this. Worse, if you were in the adjoining compartment when the bomb went off.

And yet, there is no choice. There is no other option. Life must go on. Despite knowing that every vulnerable chink in Mumbai city has been exposed. Those who survived Wednesday's blasts have only fellow passengers to thank. Television imagaes showed many being lifted and hauled off. Others, with bloodied faces and tattered clothes, staggered out of stations and helped themselves into waiting taxis.

Against that gore, I think of one old lady who must have been standing for several hours with a plastic bottle. She offered water to every other car that passed. It was 1 am in the morning when I drove past. And several hundreds, if not a few thousand cars and buses must have passed her last night. Many must have stopped to accept her kindness. I waved my thanks to her as well. But she had already moved on to the next car, waving her bottle. I think of her and I know I must get back to work. Like we always do.

17 comments:

ankan on 10:56 am said...

Amazing spirit, simply amazing! What a difference from the losers who bombed innocents.

How could the same God creat two so different people?

lilfern on 11:49 am said...

The Mumbaiker will survive. The ordinary man always picks up whats left and moves on.

But I do wish that the sound of the blast reverberates in the perpetraters' ears for the rest of their lives...

justme on 3:42 pm said...

amazing.. i have to agree with ankan..
life moves on.. scars will remain but we'll continue to live and survive..
SALAM BOMBAY..!!

Shekhar on 5:52 pm said...

//life moves on.. scars will remain but we'll continue to live and survive..

I don't mean to be pessimistic, but in response to your statement, do we have a choice?

Anonymous said...

Govind, is the city's resilience the big story here? or is it the lack of security..the pathetic show of our intelligence officials...the fact that innocent people are dying every year in Bombay due to attacks like these?

I loved your post on staying angry during the breakdown of system during the rains...i think we should be angry on this issue too and stay so.

bluesman on 11:04 pm said...

Thanks for bringing some real moments. It's sad that we are governed by such incompetant leaders like the mayor from shiv sena who lead the rail roko.

I agree with shekhar, maybe we dont have a choice and live inspite of everything

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy on 12:43 am said...

Caught between a rock and a hard place. Between the Shiv sainiks and the terrorists, Mumbai residents are getting it from all sides and that is really bad. Is it their (Mumbai residents) resilience or their apathy, that makes them so vulnerable? Vulnerable to everything from a mayor stopping trains, to rains, to explosions and everything else in between.

I was waiting to board an airplane in chicago when CNN headline news broke the story about the carnage that was going on. What have the security/intelligence service in India learnt from the past? is their intelligence gathering gone down the pits? Here, ordinary people were drawing parralels between what they went thru and empathised with the Mumbai residents.

This is the disease of the 21st Century, terrorism and it is going to be a challenge to exterminate it. It does not help having a limp government giving mediocre sound bites (watching our HM Shivraj Patil on CNN was excrutiatingly painful)and ultimately doing nothing about it. Why do these guys always come off looking stupid, helpless and most importantly, clueless?

Vipula on 12:34 pm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vipula on 12:36 pm said...

I agree with the anonymous blogger. Wld like to contradict Shekhar and bluesman. Mumbaikars helped. But rather than being compassionate they should be agitated by the whole thing.

I seriously feel like doing something. Fighting back, but don't know against who. Its like an unseen enemy. I know Mumbai is nice and all, but what's the use. The newspapers are full with articles on how Mumbai helped. I feel Mumbai should be angry about this and show its anger. And force the newspaper to carry articles on the ineffectivity of the police and laidback attitude of the government. My ire is not against the ppl, but the coverage of the whole issue. There have been bomb blasts every year since 2001. How can we just accept it and move on. The govt needs to be shaken and told that we can't tolerate this anymore. This should be a collective feeling amongst the people. A feeling of anger. Only then will they take action. Otherwise the same will be repeated year after year.

Anonymous said...

Whats the point you were trying to make ? That we all need to just get on ? We need to be very very angry. Where is all our tax money going ? Why dont we ALREADY have CCTVs in public places? Why dont we have a larger RPF one of whose jobs is to scan every train at the first and last halts. Where are the larger number of trains so people can sit rather than be packed in sardine tins ? Sure i'm happy the slum dweller helped, but why the hell does he need to be living in a sub human slum ? Why dont we have 50 stretchers at each station so the dead arent carried on borrowed sheets ? And how obscene is it that the only thing Lalu Yadav said was that he'd give 5.00 lacs to each dead ? Is the money going to wipe away the sin of not running a more humane organisation ? Is the widow of the diamond trader who died going to actually work in a railway job ?
Sick sick sick . Ila

Ajith said...

Our basic problem is that we won't accept defeat. I'd say that Mumbai was "defeated" by terrorists. The terrorists achieved their primary or maybe, secondary objective and managed to escape without getting caught (atleast until now).

No matter what big efforts its people took to bring the city back to life, the life of 200 people cannot "bounce back"! Mumbai should pause and take the necessary preventive measures to limit future damage instead of praising its never-say-die spirit. How many more disasters can this "Mumbaikar's spirit" endure?

Instead, they should press the authorities hard to find and take action against the terrorists and to ensure that the possibility of a future attack is reduced. But, unfortunately, they are very keen to show a brave face to the world and behave as if "nothing really happened".

Anonymous said...

1. It is 'shrapnel' and not 'sharpnel', thought the latter sounds more logical. The word shrapnel comes from a Brithsh officer's name. (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=shrapnel)

2. Terrorists have started using the latest communication technologies, including encryption. It is beyond the Indian intelligence agencies' current capabilities to tap every such conversation of significance.

3. The lack of effectiveness of Indian police is linked to their governance structure and will not improve till there are basic reforms in police; a topic no one finds important enough to take up.

4. Post-blast response can - and should be - improved. It would be interesting to know how the Indian Railways handle the ten deaths which occur on their tracks *every day*.

5. Calcified leaders beyond their sixties and seventies can only offer empty words of solace, without any hint of being convincing.

Ads on 2:51 pm said...

http://musing-o-aditi.blogspot.com/2006/07/mumbai.html

Just a thread of discussion going on at this site......

PS said...

Well, unlike what conventional wisdom suggests, anger does have a positive side, and in this case, is definitely appropriate.

Goons run our governments and administration systems. I would say there is no difference between the administrators of our cities and towns, who drain us of our hard money in the name of tax and people like Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel or other goons. They are all goons. On one side are elected goons and on the other, self-proclaimed goons. There really is no difference.

And we need guns to deal with goons.

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Anjelina on 10:56 am said...

Mumbai has seen several ups and downs. We should not forget that there was also blast in train. But life was normal after some times. We people of Mumbai are not deterred by these crocked peoples. Keep it up guy!

 

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