Late last night, oblivious to all that was happening in the same city that is home, under the same sky, i blogged, read, chatted and went to bed. Only to be woken up very shortly later, by a call from my boss. At midnight you don’t expect your boss to call. ‘All well ?’, he asked, and proceeded to check if i knew of people in our organisation who were traveling to Mumbai.
My sleep drenched hand searched for the TV remote. As i absorbed the images. numbed for sometime,i took in heavy heaps of air, as much as my lungs could fill. I distinctly recall the slight quiver in his voice. And the tremble in my heart.
‘Is there anything that i can do ?’ I asked. He replied in the negative and hung up. It was an uncomfortable call.
‘Is there anything that i can do?’ is the question that stayed with me through the night as i shifted and turned uncomfortably.
After a stern night, i wake up early, switch on the TV, only to realise that night might have been over. But ‘stern’ was far from. I decide to step outside home to gather some fresh air. Not great dare devilry but just a walk within the precincts of the apartment complex.
At the entrance, is the security guard. Actually, an ordinary middle aged man, wearing an uniform. Nothing more. A gent who chats up rarely, but watches carefully. I doubt if he is trained on combat or whatever. But he still is there.
On other days, i greet him. Today, i walk past. My mind absorbed with the images on TV. I stand there and look into the sky, to ask ‘why’.
Today, he tells me as i step out : ‘Take care. But do go out. I am here to protect. Nothing will happen.”
I look at him for a stupefied second. I think : Forget RDX. This gent wont last a ricocheted bullet from a pistol. But that didn’t stop him from saying what he did. And doing so, held my attention. It seems that i don’t have to look any further for answers to the question that kept me up for most parts of the night.
My eyes moisten, and i tell him, ‘You take care too’. He nods his head.
We stare at each other. We are just two plain men. With a shared skyline, a wounded psyche and a determined spirit. The silence lingers for a while. His presence comforts me. In the ordinariness of his form and but the power of those simple words that touch me. Just letting me know that grief was not mine alone. He was with me. And so were many others.
Many hours later, i am at home. Wielding the remote. Jumping from channel to channel. Rejoicing in small mercies and wallowing in a strange syncretic grief. Offices have been declared closed today.
My hair is disheveled with hands running through them as i answer calls and watch TV. My heart is at multiple places. South Mumbai. In the shoes of all those held hostage. In the pall of gloom that would pervade the homes of slain police officers. In the anxiety of friends and relatives of people close to action. And so on.
I write. And that appears to resonate with people like Sundar, sitting many miles away.
And then, the doorbell rings. Breaking the footage monotony of policemen, rabid media & gun shots. I wonder who it could be.
I open the door, to find the courier boy delivering mail. A trifle surprised that this mail delivering was happening as the city was held to ransom, i collect the mail. And just as i am set to close the door, i tell him, ‘ Take care’. I swallow hard.
And he stops. A trifle surprised. Lingers for a while and states with a nonchalance of a commando.
With a straight chin, a fulgent gleam and a young mind , he speaks. ‘Nothing will happens sir. We just need to be more careful. And besides i have mail to deliver & much work to complete. I cant be afraid of these people, sir’.
I keep staring at him. As he disappears into the lift.
I close the door with a strange resolve. I switch off the TV. And open the laptop. And begin work. I am a Mumbaikar. I am Indian. I am a citizen of the world. I am not going to be cowed down by terror.
I know we will get them. I know we will win. At the nucleus of that victory will be this spirit. This spirit of labouring on, spreading the message and just going forward immaterial of whatever happens.
And friends call. There seems to be a resolute need to do something. And their anguish spills out as war crys and oaths, strange resolutions and ideas emerge. ‘Form vigil squads’. ‘Learn martial arts’. ‘Basic weapon training.’ ‘Spreading the message of love’. ‘Lets galvanise action and people’. ‘Lets blog more’. Etc. Etc.
I realise, ‘ I want to do something’ seems to be a core message. There is an educated mass, able, willing and wanting to do something.
Somewhere between the resolute yet concerned quiver of the first call, and the spirit of the security guard and courier boy, and the anguish ridden restive energy expressed by fellow men and women : i realise, that we need to carry on with our work, yet seek out and do what we can, in our spaces.
We are hurt. And perhaps bleeding. But still not dead. Never will be. The soul is new. And tomorrow, when the same sun lights a new dawn, and when we get back to work, we will not be wallowing in questions of ‘why us’.
It rather will be ‘From here, where ? How ?
I seek your help. We seek your ideas.