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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

26/11.. My Experience from years ago

Although I was not in any of the places where people got shot / bombed, I've never gotten around to writing what we were doing on that night, but, looking back it's pretty scary!

This happened at the time when I was still working at Hinduja Hospital. There were two observers working in our department of Surgery from overseas. Karan was from South Africa and Nitin from the US. They had both come down to gauge the clinical processes in the Indian Healthcare System.
We had planned a night out, seeing that they would be leaving towards the end of November. They wanted to go to a place where they could chill and have a drink. We got all our friends around and decided to go to Leopold.

My wife and me have been Leopold fans for a while now, but off late their service had become greatly tipped towards foreigners. We decided to head off to Mondy's (Cafe Mondegar) instead.
There we were, sitting and enjoying the jukebox and beer when all of a sudden they started closing their long wooden windows. On inquiry, the waiter told us there was some sort of gang shooting happening outside and we should stay put and it should all be fine soon. This was around 9.15 pm. I clearly remember a BEST double-decker stationary outside.

Strange, I thought and made a mental note. In a couple of minutes, between my wife and me, we received 5-6 phone calls ranging from Ahmednagar to Dubai saying that there was some sort of blasts in Colaba and asking whether we were safe? Of course, at that time, all I could do was say in the usual Bombay drawl, it's all cool, there's nothing much happening here.

We continued our drinks till about 10.30 pm blissfully unaware of what was happening outside. When we finally decided to leave, the bus was gone but there were barricades outside and about a dozen cops. When we took the car out, we were told there are some people walking around Colaba with guns and we can't drive down causeway. I told them that we live at Strand and we need to get home. They asked us to go via madam cama road. We did. We had with us a dear friend from Navy Nagar and she had to be dropped home. We took the back road and reached RC Church to find armed guards at the naval gate. They would not let us in to drop her home. My wife got into a heated argument with the guards along with my friend saying that if there was a dangerous situation there, wouldn't it be foolish to ask a lady to walk back home from the security gate. Anyone who knows navy nagar knows there is a fair distance between the gate and any of the buildings. After a while, they agreed to let my wife drive my friend home whilst the rest of us, Karan, Nitin and me waited outside at the gate.

Once she was back, we were slowly starting to realise that the situation must be pretty bad for the security guards to behave in such a manner. We decided to head back as soon as possible. On the way back, we were once again stopped at Sassoon Docks, with people telling us we can't drive through there onto S.B.S. Marg. There has been a bomb blast on the road, he said. How am I to reach home, I asked them? They said take the back road.

This back road I keep referring to is actually the Badhwar Park Road. The same place where the now infamous group entered my Bombay! We took that road and reached the electric house signal. Once again, we were stopped by the public. There were hardly any cops here yet. As luck would have it, one of the people knew us quite well. He worked in my wife's cousins shop. He convinced the crowd to let us go and that we stay close by.

This is another thing that is clearly etched in my brain. I made that drive from Electric house to Strand Cinema in less than 20 seconds and I did not see one thing moving on that road at that time. It was close to midnight and it was a strange sight to see Colaba empty.

Keep in mind, till now, none of us either heard or saw any gunfire or blast. We reached home safely and the first thing we did was switch on the television to get the news! Almost as soon as we did so, we heard a powerful blast that shook all of us to our very bones, including the house. It came from Nariman House, just a few buildings away.

My friends from overseas were in shock. So were we. We spent the next 3 days glued to the television, up on the terrace (rather foolishly now that I think of it) looking at Taj burn and Nariman House make shooting noises. My wife got goosebumps when she saw the commandos being air dropped on the roof there. Not something any of us will ever forget.

I applaud the staff of Cafe Mondegar though! I'm sure someone there knew it was a terrorist attack but they made sure none of the patrons knew that before we were ready to leave. It could have been chaos if they did.

What Next Bombay?

I’m not going to recount the episodes that have occurred in the past. I’m not even going to dwell on the 3 blasts that brought about this post.
I am just going to vent, so if you do not want to hear complaints and anger, get away from this now!

The psyche of people living in BOMBAY (this is how I am going to refer to my city, and anyone who wants to pick a bone with me regarding this, I dare you!) has changed so drastically that now that something even remotely close to tragedy happens, we’re tuned to brush it off unless it has affected us directly. We were called by many people living outside the country, family and friends who are as close as family, all afraid because the BLASTS had taken place in our city. All concerned and rightly so. The atmosphere at home and the clinic was slightly different though. According to them, we were nowhere close.

My wife, bhabi, nephew and son were all at Metro that evening. I was at babulnath. Yet we thought it was fine because we were ‘nowhere close’ to the blasts…It was close enough for people not in the city to call us, but as long as we were a kilometer away, we were far off and not affected. Most people in areas of terror attacks fear for themselves even if they are miles away. It just doesn’t matter to us anymore.

26/11 was frighteningly close to my home. I was at Mondy’s as it happened. Our friends stayed over that night! We were afraid then. Nothing this time. Repeated attacks have either made us really strong or extremely stupid.

The other thing I want to rant about is people blaming the politicians and the intelligence agencies. What do you think they were supposed to do. We live in our city, spit on our roads, litter like there is no tomorrow (or dustbins), get irritated when cops stop us or have a nakabandi because it screws traffic and still proceed to blame them the next time something happens.

I remember the drunk driving crusade that the cops started. I loved it. Used to feel proud when I stopped seeing cops working in the dead of night to prevent people like us who drink and drive from dying. Most of us though, disliked it. Hated them for catching us, if they did. Cried foul when licenses were taken and court appearances demanded. Would you drink and drive internationally….I don’t think so!

You want to live in a safe city, reclaim it from inept politicians. Take your own responsibilities seriously. Stop at the goddamn red light for a change. Even better, get your license legally without a bribe or an agent. There are enough and more rules and laws. All we need is to implement them, and we shouldn’t need the police to tell us or force us to do so. Of late, I have been intentionally driving into people coming down the wrong way in a one way street outside my home. One uncle on a scooter almost fell, yelling at me for doing it purposely and was shocked when I said yes I did. Hopefully, he won’t be riding down the wrong way again. I also picked up some chewing gum a 40 something Aunty spit on the road because the shopkeeper wouldn’t let her use the bin. Small things but it’s a start.

Do something, don’t just rant on facebook and twitter.Also, don’t dismiss candle marches so easily. It may not have got the desired result last time, but it did shake up the government. Libya also started with something as small.

If you think you have the guts to make a change happen, stop the next cop you see riding on his bike without a helmet and ask him where the hell it is. My mom has done it and I have never been more proud of her. Stop the cop riding on JJ flyover when he won’t let other bikers ride there. Yell your lungs out at someone asking for a bribe and watch him wet his pants. They only do what they want because the majority let them.

Lastly, this thing is not about religion. It never was. It’s about making a stand and voicing opinions. They want our attention and they have it. I liked Advani’s point about learning from the US. He, however, did not specify what to learn. Should we learn to give body cavity searches to people in wheelchairs, or learn how to bomb the countries we like least?? Or is it the fact that there has not been another attack there…. You can’t copycat nations. You don’t have an identity if you do that. We wouldn’t be independent and a democracy if we did. We got through the British, we can get through terror. All it takes is a few very angry people from one very angry city to start something. Be it traffic rules, or terror. Do something!!!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Change is inevitable....dealing with it is not!

I bet you've been asked the questions at least once in your lifetime: If there was one thing you could change about your past what would it be?

The question is so rhetorical it's unbelievable that people get sucked into it and start thinking about answers.

There is nothing that you can do about change other than deal with it. Things change all the time. That's how the world works. If everything stayed the same, you would itch to change something and be the reason for the change. 

The only problem is the mentality of dealing with change. It's called adjustment. Adjusting your mindset to allow for the change. Adjusting your attitude towards the change. Adapting your mannerisms to suit the change. Adjusting yourself to be one with the change.

Any one who can't do it, complains and  protests. It is the feeling of helplessness that causes you to do so. It is the denial of the change that prompts you to join others doing so. It is the feeling of hope that you will have things back to 'normal'. Without realizing, that at that point of time in the universe, you too are asking for change. Change back to normal.

The answer is simple. Be prepared. Be flexible. Be adjustable (within limits) and be secure in the though that even though you may not like it, things will change again! One of the easiest ways to deal with change is to be the harbinger of change. Be part of the process and you will be surprised to see how easy it is. Now, I understand that this is easy when you like the change that is about to happen, when you're rooting for it, even.

The challenge lies in change that you are not comfortable with. How about looking at it from a completely opposite angle?. Force yourself to think completely opposite to what you usually do. It would help you perceive the change in another mindset and perhaps make it easier. Another suggestion would be to completely ignore it. Let people sound out their views, nod along and wait and watch. Either you adjust to it or while waiting it changes again. A more active approach would be to change something about you that matches that change so it doesn't feel so bad or negative.

The only thing I think we absolutely should not do is to react instinctively. Simply because, in this case, human instinct is always against change. Easier said than done, right. Believe me, I know!

Here are a few quotes that I really like about change. Do let me know how you deal with change!

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