Flashes – Back and Forward

I was born, bred and educated in Mumbai. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai have shaken me completely and I find it difficult to concentrate on my work today. I am shell-shocked with the visuals the television news channels are showing round the clock and am deeply concerned about the total decay in the administrative and political system in India. The life-saving jackets do not save lives, so a top police officer gets killed when his services are an urgent need. The highest executive of RAW is busy building homes in different parts of Delhi and its suburbs and putting all his four daughters in employment in RAW. The CM of Maharashtra goes on a jaunt to the ravaged Taj Mahal Hotel that still carries blood stains on its walls and floors, to have a ‘dekho’ at the goings-on out of ‘curiosity’ he says. “I went because the CEO invited me to,” he says to the media, as it he was invited to a wedding reception. A political leader, dressed in Western attire himself, concentrates on the lipstick and powder of protesting women instead of listening to what they are saying. A CM of another state has the audacity to state on camera that if a man grieving the loss of his only son in the carnage would not have been a martyr’s home, even a dog would not have visited the home. I have lived in a Mumbai that was filled with harmony and peace and was an international example in universal brotherhood. As a child, I encountered some racist politics for being ‘Indian’ and ‘brown’ when I studied at the Scottish Orphanage now known as The Bombay Scottish for a few years. So I quit the school my parents could ill afford and went to another one, more to learn Bengali. There, I faced a few problems for being ‘very good in English’ among students who were not good at it but I made friends who I am in direct touch with till this day. Every single night that I spend in Kolkata since I quit Mumbai on July 11, 1995, I dream of my beautiful city.

I want it to be the way it was I grew up in. I remember walking up to Shivaji Park to pick flowers outside Silverine, a beautiful building that no longer exists. I remember eating bhel puri and paani puri from the North Indian hawkers at 25 paisa per patti – dried leaves ot the sal tree, I guess. I remember walking up to Citylight and Rivoli cinemas to catch those first-day first-shows after standing at serpentine queues for hours. I remember standing from 9 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon to catch the 3.00 pm show of Do Ankhen Borah Haath (1957) and then coming out disillusioned because I felt the film was too melodramatic. I remember my beautiful Muslim friend, who lived for a few months next to our house but dropped out of school to get married to a doctor in Allahabad. She seemed very happy with her one-year-old balanced on her hip as she smiled at me on my way back from Ramnarain Ruia College. At times it seems like history. At other times, it seems just like the other day. We did not have shopping malls and multiplexes and the computer and the Internet. But we did not have one group of self-seeking politicians driving out another group of North Indians from Maharashtra. The word ‘terrorism’ did not exist in our limited vocabulary. We did not have money and goods true. But we did not have hate either.

Can we do anything at the community level to stop this bloodshed and gore that has no agenda but blood  for its own sake? Community policing is something that deserves serious consideration. But in a country where 30% of the entire police force is busy looking after the safety and security of our ‘leaders’ what kind of community policing can we dream of? But then, why talk about dreaming in a world where life and death, have both turned into a living nightmare?

I am 65 years old but I feel less than half my age and live a life as active and dynamic as a 25-year old. This is my voice added  to the voice of the nation. I want to live. But how can I if my city begins to die?

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  1. Much as I empathize with your nostalgia for the good old days when the word ‘terrorism’ was non-existent in our vocabulary I do not feel that community policing can be an answer to our security problems. Unarmed, ill-trained community policemen would be sitting ducks against highly trained and motivated fidayeens. On the other hand, armed community police can very easily turn in to fanatical vigilante gangs and impinge on the freedoms we enjoy and deserve.
    Perhaps all we can do is to be our own ‘cop’ – be eternally aware and vigilant against attitudes and ideologies that go against the pluralistic, harmonious and democratic values that the Indian nation signifies.

  2. Dear Boorback,

    I totally agree with your reservations on community policing. I must have sounded ambiguous but what I meant by community policing is training young volunteers of given block to guard on rotation against uninvited visitors, hawkers, etc. I am not a law-and-order person so I do not know how this thing can be structured and made functional. I only know why. But then, how will such policing stop armed interlopers from attacking?

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