The frosted window had what looked like crushed ice stuck on it. I did not reach out to touch it. Had I tried, it would not brush roughly against my skin. It was encased inside another glass. This was at the top floor of Leopold Café.
A friend was visiting and I decided to show ‘my Mumbai’ in the limited time we had. He was not new to the city, so my version would just be one more. We entered the place where you can sit and watch the crowds on Colaba Causeway. The pavement does not have potholes as it always did. It is a neat walkway now. As always, there were too many people talking in too many tongues. Foreigners dominated. No space.
We were directed to the top. I have never sat there. With little choice, we climbed the steep stairs and found a small table. After ordering some light snacks, I recounted memories of earlier visits. Until, he looked at the glass and said, “Hey, they have retained this.”
This was a remnant of the Mumbai attacks. Leopold was one of the targets. I had not bothered to look because nothing was visible below. Now I saw that crushed glass. I cringed.
We left soon after.
Walking down the road I was tempted to pick up some street stuff and did. The Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel is not too far. There are barricades like coffins every few yards.
In the street, I went click-click. Then my visitor wanted to drive via Nariman Point and as we passed Hotel Trident, he said, “Do you realise we have just done a 26/11 sites tour?”
I was shocked. Shocked that it had happened without any plan, without any thought.
The fact is that I should have thought.
I had done so back in those days when I protested against Mumbai’s Charge of the Lightweight Brigade, when I avoided being included in all manner of rallies and panels.
Should I have written this blogpost, then? Yes. Because I did it. You may not know, but I will. There is no escape. It was not for 26/11. It was just for being a part of my city, for showing it off. A city that is more than what destroys it, more than the sounds that echo in large halls.
The horse-driven carriages had lights brighter than I had ever seen before and in one there was a family from another Indian city. I loved the look on their faces as they watched the sea. My sea. I owned it even as I sometimes thirst for droplets.
A couple of months ago, I was searching for one of my lost pieces. I found this here:
Not to be coddled by anybody, not even the liberals. Not to whine about it, even though people like martyrs. Tough luck. Deny them that pleasure of liking. Of anointing.
At this moment, I feel privileged and, although I detest the word, humbled that I could continue to write because I love to. The noises of appropriators or authorised dissenters could not muffle my voice. I owe it as much to those who have listened to it.
© Farzana Versey
When the verdict was passed on the 26/11 case, the judges roundly pulled up the media. There was barely any discussion about that.
You may read this: Media, tell us what the courts say about your role in the 26/11 attacks