So, we celebrate another Republic Day. There's something that makes one assess the energy of a country, a city, between the touchstones of a historic event, or a titanic tragedy. Meaning, where are we at, morally, between last January 26 and this one.
What has transpired in the last 365 days? Like, were mobs storming forts in Jaipur beating up filmmakers, last year as well, or is it a recently alarming phenomenon? Were pseudo-patriots punching those cinema-goers who were unable to stand for the national anthem last year too?
I was on a panel last November 26 — eulogizing and analyzing the memories of another "Taj Attacks Year." And, I remember wondering — while I listened to my three fellow panelists — the top cop on that day, a survivor who was saved by a taxi driver outside Leopold Café, and a foreigner who lost her family as the terrorists went berserk, where are we actually at, between 26/11/16 and the previous year.
What have we learnt from that fateful day? I mean, not just security wise, but as citizens, as human beings. And I concluded (excuse me for trespassing on the judgemental) that we've devolved drastically. While Kasab has long been hung, we spend our days releasing our inner terrorist, towards our fellow man.
Bombay is going ballistic. We're killing each other, with no fear of the consequences. An 18-year-old boy suspects another teen is getting too close to his girlfriend - so he slashes his neck, in broad daylight.
Another youth smashes a bamboo stick over a traffic policemen, who merely asked to see his license.
I do believe that cities have an energy all of their own. A vibe that emanates from the way its citizens behave. But also from its own DNA, created by seismic events, both political and proletarian. Like, I'd like to know what Paris, always beautifully artistic, slightly toffee nosed, is experiencing after the repeated ISIS attacks. Post the Charlie Hebdo massacres, and the football bombings, how does the city feel, in a subterranean kind of way.
Or Istanbul, its Asia-European luster shimmering in the Bosphorus, lone mass killers, political uprisings… How does erstwhile Constantinople deal with this unexpected turmoil? How does Damascus even begin to express its feeling of repeated devastation? Once it was the seat of the Caliphate, now a crematorium of scriptural ruin. And then there's us, the seven islands, once gentle, and accepting. Now imploding with volcanic impunity, and exploding with ego.
When did we just absolutely lose calm? When did we become so vitriolic? Was there a trigger that catapulted us into this prolonged, daily street fight? I mistakenly cut into your lane, and you respond by cutting my throat.
The phrase 'tension mat lo' was created by us Mumbaikars. A simple apology, used to be olive branch enough on the 'raastas' of our city. Beloved, Bombay, how do you feel as your metropolitan civility collapses ? Did you foresee such violence erupting from nothingness? Or, should I just ask you these questions next Republic Day?
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at email@example.com
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