The Spirit of Mumbai

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent  the opinion of InsIghT.

Yet another sad day in Indian History! Brings back memories.

26/11: The most condemned attack on India, talked on and on for days. In the aftermath of the attack, I came across “The spirit of Mumbai”! All the media could talk about, was the resilience and the indomitable spirit of the Mumbaikars and how they continued to work right from the day after to rebuild this restless city. In the days that ensued, I was proud to stay in a city which was praised for its spirit as I was a part of that spirit. I felt an inner happiness in being a part of this great city, which time after time had proven itself. I couldn’t have been more proud of being an Indian.

13/7: Another series of blasts! My first reaction shook me “Kaafi din ho gaye the”! Could anyone respond in a more insensitive way? I think not! I went inside a shop and the death toll showed 3, my insensitivity continued, “That’s not so bad”! That’s not so bad? What the hell! For those 3 people and their families nothing could be worse.

Anguish crept in my mind when I started thinking of my first thoughts. What happened to me? After coming back to my room, as expected, I found social networking sites full of statements condemning the act: “How can the Indian government let this happen?”, “Why Mumbai time after time?”, “Mumbai shall rise again.”

Somewhere amidst those cries of anguish, I read of that “spirit” again. “You may destroy our bodies but not our spirit” and the familiar feeling of pride and honour started spreading inside me. Yes, we will not be backed down; before I really started thinking.

What right did I have to feel proud? Between these two terrifying blasts, what had I done to contribute to the much acclaimed “Mumbai Spirit”? Do people really have a choice apart from going back to work on the next day? Is simply resuming our lives assuming as if nothing happened, a true measure of our “spirit”?

From my point of view, that’s the least spirited way of going about things!! But then, what right do I have to even have an opinion on this? I wished I could think of “something”, some tiny minuscule thing that I had done for Mumbai or for my country which would let me feel proud again; proud of the fact that I live in this great place. I had nothing. With a near 24 hour access to the internet, a campus full of highly capable intellectuals, and no dearth of time (surely I cannot complain of lack of time when I spend countless hours “liking” stuff, reading every piece of garbage cricinfo comes up with or memorizing lines from F.R.I.E.N.D.S)  was there really nothing I could have done?

The worst part of this feeling is that 2 days from now, life will go back to being normal for me. In my pursuit of a well paying job or an advanced degree from a foreign university, I will never remember how anguished and ashamed I had felt on this day. Things will go on in the same way as before and yet another such incident, I will find myself back on this page, still hoping to find that one tiny-minuscule thing, to make me feel better, feel proud. In all probability, I will have none. I’m not sure, how many of you have felt the same momentary angst and came up with nothing but helplessness but I will always be haunted by the question: If only I had given the best within me, could this have been avoided?

-Raunak Khandelwal