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The aftermath

December 1, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

A few hundred thousand working souls (including myself) reported to work this morning at Nariman Point.  I had picked up my custom macchiatto at the CCD at Chowpatty (as I always do) where the morning crowd was just building up.  The al-fresco seating was much in demand – within yards of where one of the terrorists had his head blown off and the other feigned death till he was discovered and arrested.

Traffic flowed smoothly around the Oberoi and Trident hotels.  Most of us cast a curious lingering gaze at the asymmetrical towers that bear battle scars but then hurried onward to our desks.   Monday mornings are sacrosanct in the world of investing and banking after all.   Meanwhile, the sandwich-wallahs were deftly chopping tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, extra thin as always.  The shared-taxis were disgorging their payload of frugal riders. In short, it was just another day at the office.  Except for some chai-time discussions about the attacks of course.

On the way home, I saw couples necking on the parapet along the promenade at Marine Drive; their backs to the broken windows and soot covered siding of the Oberoi.  Roving TV reporters were beaming up commentary on the cleanup operations against the same backdrop.   An expat couple was jogging through the crowds.  Surreal in its normalcy!

Then something happened that convinced me that things were not the same.  We had been zipping along Marine Drive homeward when the only fast moving stretch of traffic in this city came to a grinding halt.  The police had set up a temporary roadblock to ease the movement of the President of India who was visiting from Delhi to get a first hand view of the damage caused by the terrorists.  The roadblock was in place for about 20 minutes when the first rumblings of discontent started pouring out.  People started piling out of their parked cars and shouting slogans.  A particularly diminutive but fiery woman charged up the crowd with “enough is enough” slogans referring to the citizens’ complete disgust with politicians.  They are increasingly being viewed as inept and self serving with utter disregard for their constituents.  In this case the bureaucracy had decided to block an arterial road for over half an hour at peak commute time (6.30pm).  I watched in amazement as the crowd started chanting “enough is enough” and honking in unison at the roadblock.  Finally the policemen made a few radio calls, relented and let traffic through.  At least in the immediate aftermath, I think Bombay is best described as outraged, more than ever.  It will return to normalcy, not because of their stoicism but because people who live here all have to pay their bills.  And thats what they do best – make money!  If you havent seen this already, there is an interesting op-ed by Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City (a good but belabored book about the majesty and underbelly of this great city).

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