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Mumbai believes… (Excerpts from ‘Mumbai dreams…’)

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

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Religious sensibilities are often imbibed in Mumbaikars. The precarious truce between the two predominant  religions (H&M) dwelling in the nooks and corners of Mumbai has always been a subject for politically moulded views and equally sensationalising media.

Growing up in the Mumbai (then known as ‘Bombay’) of early 90s, witnessing the cannibalising riots and bombings of 1992-93, gains a prominence in my childhood memories. Flashes of crude impertinence taking the form of inhumane insanity was visible even to the naked eye of an 8 year old. The fresh-fruits stall of a Rahimchacha beside the community hall was not safe for someone named Rahul. Not anymore. The notable Haribhai  samosewalla  was not safe for Rahul’s friend Iqbal either.

“Rahul, don’t ever go to Rahimchacha’s stall. It’s dangerous. Woh bure log hai! (read – Those are the bad guys!)”  The same was supposedly fed to Iqbal by his kin about Haribhai’s stall.

During the riots, the playful Mumbai evenings were replaced by a stern schedule of bread and vegetable purchases, adhering to the curfew timings. My father’s advertent walks in the marketplace, with one hand engaged to a red-ribboned white cloth-bag and other firmly gripping my wrist, were fast; his eyes intermittently exchanging glances, once at his wrist watch, once at my mother’s to-buy list. Uncluttered.

But, sensibilities do change as you become an adult walking your own walk.

……

Saddam Hussein, Iqbal’s father, supported his thirteen member family by selling books in the Fort area of Mumbai.

“I sell books of Barbara Cartland to Baudelaire. Which one would you like to read son?” He smirked as I paved my way in through the heaps of books kept on the road pavement that stretched from Marine Drive to Flora Fountain.

Iqbal, seemingly benumbed, never really sensed the depth of books. His father’s wayward ardour about his business as a bookseller far exceeded the vivid intensity of the illiterate character he, so effortlessly, conceled.

……

“Revenge is known to every young and old, every man and woman. We will avenge the innocent blood that has been shed no matter what it takes.” It was far from a cry. It was an unheralded furore on the part of Saddam Hussein.

The transition from a pavement bookseller of Flora Fountain to an opportunistic leader of a small clan of aggravated beings was queer. His concealed frustration as he followed the TV news at my house in Lalbaug was not beyond my juvenile senses. His visits to my house in the evening for watching news and an elderly talk with my father had stopped. Eventually.

……

15 March 1993 Bombay Bombings

“It seems Saddam Hussein was the one who parked the explosive filled vehicle at Plaza cinema. People are talking. It’s not hard to believe!” I still remember the exact words from my father as he returned from office and conveyed the rumor to my mother.

…..

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