Friday, July 14, 2006

Vir Sanghvi on Mumbai

Exactly one year ago, when this paper(HT) was launched, I wrote, on this page, in almost exactly the same place: “A great city deserves a great newspaper.” If one year has taught me anything, it is not about how great a newspaper we produce — that is for you to judge, and not for me to say.

What these last 12 months have taught me is how great a city Bombay is.

More nonsense is written about the spirit of Bombay than about any other subject. Bombay is portrayed as the glittering Manhattan of the East; as the place where movers and shakers party; as the city where everybody just gets on with the job.

None of that is true.

The spirit of Bombay is about its people.

This is India’s greatest city; it is one of the world’s greatest cities. It is the one city in our country where people of all castes, creeds and languages can freely mingle. It is the one city where anybody can come out of nowhere and still make it. And it is truly the city of dreams: each year Bollywood just gets bigger and better, selling fantasies and entertainment to the whole world.

But it is a city that never quite gets the politicians or the infrastructure — or the credit — that it deserves.

A year ago, when the streets were flooded, our homes submerged and our city paralysed, they told us it would never happen again.

But it did.

A decade ago, when bombs ripped through the heart of our city, killing hundreds and pushing the limits of our patience and tolerance, they told us that this too would never happen again. They had beefed up the intelligence structure, they had traced the routes through which RDX entered; and they had put away the bad guys.

But, of course, it did. It happened all over again a few days ago.

But a great city does not let terrorists win. It does not depend on inept bureaucrats. It cannot be stopped by venal politicians. A great city counts on its people.

And it is the people of Bombay who keep us going; who rise above tragedy and attack; who survive despite the best and worst efforts of the politicians, bureaucrats and policemen whose salaries we pay.

So, one year after this paper was launched, let’s stop a while and think of ourselves: the people of Bombay.

Let’s think of the lonely commuters, piling uncomplainingly into train compartments, riding the arteries of their city on their way home.

Let’s think of the innocent people whose blood was spilled by terrorist murderers on Tuesday. Let’s think of the families where one chair will now always be vacant.

Let’s think of the rest of us; let’s reflect on how well we coped; on how we let neither fear nor hatred overcome us; let’s ask ourselves if we deserve better from our officials and our government. And let’s raise our cups this morning in a silent toast to the people of our great city. Because without the people there would be no spirit. And we would be without the phenomenon that is Bombay.


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