So wandering the leafy back-lanes off Apollo Bunder, tea for two at the Sea Lounge and watching the monsoon tides at Nariman Point will never feel the same. But perhaps this is what it takes to appreciate what it’s like to be Kashmiri or Manipuri or a resident of any of the 120 districts that we designate ‘disturbed’ areas. Or to be one of those teenagers growing up in the squalor, poverty and violence that 50% of our fellow Mumbaikars do. Where we permit our police and armed forces to shoot innocent people at will and either pretend we don’t know it’s happening or act as if we don’t care or, worst of all, justify state-sponsored neglect and violence in the name of free-markets, national security or territorial integrity. Can we rouse the reaction necessary to challenge the inertia, the apathy, the cynicism that breeds disparity, disaffection, discontent?
And no, we don’t need a Festival of Mumbai or a candle-light vigil to heal the wounds. And we certainly don’t need stronger laws. Or crackdowns on people based on their class and religion. Or hasty rushes to justice or revenge.
We need to each redefine our own priorities. Take the time to be a Mumbaikar rather than parasites that live off its resources. Stop looking the other way when unscrupulous politicians and crass media barons offend our sense of civility. Speak up when family, friends or colleagues voice their bigotry. Turn up to vote. Look at, really look, and listen to, and care about the people we share this city with.
And keep doing it, whether anyone else does or not, whether the change it makes is visible or not, whether it makes headlines or not. Or, at the very least, stop the damned platitudes.