I don’t know how many of you have read the book. Whether you love Mumbai or not you might love this book just for its story. I haven’t read many books which were written straight from the heart. I haven’t read many books where every word spoke of an emotional turmoil. Yes, maybe just maybe the author gets excited at the smallest of things. Maybe, his life is too exciting to be considered “normal” yet his loyalty, his friendship, his love and his heartbreaks are as real as it can get. I have seen my Karla, may be not at Colaba. I have been called back by Abdullah, maybe not at Hazi Ali, I have felt the Ecstasy of Mumbai, maybe not at his Bombay.
The characters – they were all so real. Karla, the woman for whom you bet everything - knowing fully well that behind her smiles the dagger is hidden. Lisa, the woman who loves you despite your faults. Abdullah, your friend who comes back for you from the dead and Khader – the superhero in your life for whom you have risked everything.
That night as calls started coming in, I started shaking. Every call was a reminder of what was going on. Every call told me that I could have been there. Fate, I do not know if she exists. But if she does, then she rolled the dice in my favour this time. I felt like a coward for being thankful that I wasn’t there and therefore every message that came in asking how I was seemed to mock at my impotency. For every message I sent out enquiring about friends and their families, there was at least ten whom I had forgotten. Have you seen “A Wednesday”? I kept remembering a scene where Naseeruddin Shah describes his shock at not seeing a familiar face one day in his regular compartment at the Local Train. I do not know when I return to Mumbai how many of such people I will not see.
They say everyone has their own way of dealing with trauma. I shrank back to my books. I re read Shantaram that night. I brought out the tub of ice cream after 7 long years from the refrigerator and in the chilly night of November, the afraid, impotent me read Shantaram and cried for the city I had come to love so much. Comfort food, sometimes, even that is of no use.
The next few days were horrible. Mumbai was everyone’s favourite topic. My cousin and one of my oldest friends was getting married and yet everyone was talking about Mumbai. My Mumbai, molested and left dying was the centre of every discussion. And I just kept silent.
The headache is terrible. The Crocin does not seem to have any effect. And yet there are words forming on my keyboard. Words that are asking me to go back as fast as I can, to stand once again at the Gateway and help my city stand up and be counted once again. Sometimes in hallucination we find our last vestiges of sanity.