On the morning after, here is where we stand.
At a press conference held at 9.30am, the Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, said the final casualty count is 17 (one severed head is yet to be identified; once it is, the toll will amount to 18). The three blasts were not remotely triggered but went off because of timers. Ammonium nitrate, a commonly known fertiliser, was used for the bombs. Dadar saw a low intensity explosion while in Zaveri Bazar and Opera House, the blasts were medium to high intensity. Opera House was the worst hit. There was absolutely no intelligence about this plot. In the Q & A session that followed, he and the chief minister of Maharashtra expressed the following opinions and sentiments:
The location of the blasts seemed to have been chosen for population density, rather than to target a particular community or share markets.
It was too early to make comments about Pakistani involvement.
No one will be allowed to visit the blast sites.
No intelligence does not mean intelligence failure.
No, I’ve no idea what that last comment means. You can see a summary of Chidambaram and Chavan’s press conference here.
In the unconfirmed but staunchly believed (by journalists, at any rate) rumour category is the whisper that a number of “terror threats” were “neutralized” yesterday. If you believe this, then say a prayer that the blasts were limited to three. I have.
That’s the official, governmental position. As far as the city is concerned, I’m not sure where it stands. Things are back to normal, as they tend to be in a city regularly praised for its resilience. The Sensex dipped for a bit and then crept back up, I’m told. There are probably more disruptions caused by the heavy rains than by the terror attack. In the media, there are praises for the city, for the people on Twitter that have helped and circulated information and there’s an exhausted anger. In this open letter to the country’s prime minister, Anant Rangaswami writes that he is a regular citizen of the country and he’s sick of being resilient and strong. At least the media finds it in itself to be angry. For the actual regular Mumbaikar, I don’t think there’s even any anger. Last night on tv there were a few angry people who asked why there were no MLAs coming to support their constituency, why the police didn’t get there immediately, why it fell upon other citizens to begin the process of taking the injured to hospital. I didn’t hear anyone ask why the attack couldn’t be prevented. We’ve accepted that Mumbai is, as Salil Tripathi described it in this piece, fragile and we just have to deal with it.
This morning, my friend’s driver and my maid showed up for work with a grin. At present I have six people in my living room, rehearsing a play. I’ve been out to do veggie shopping and pick up a coffee. No one has said a thing about the blasts. The six people in my living room cheerfully chattered about Harry Potter and “So You Think You Can Dance”, and ate cupcakes for 45 minutes before getting down to work. A friend of mine is more rattled by the fact that she’s missed her appointment with her therapist (her phone didn’t save the appointment so she didn’t get a reminder and now she can’t reach the therapist’s office in time) than the knowledge that today is the day after a terrorist attack. Another friend is desperately chasing a neurologist rather than updates about the blasts. I don’t blame them. As someone I know said, “What can I do?” Nothing, really. It’s happened, people have died, others are grievously injured, and now it’s over. All you can do is hope you’re not there the next time it happens. The day after a terrorist attack we smile, say our pleasantries and we get on with business. Not because we’re resilient or strong but because it’s happened too many times now and too spectacularly for us to feel anything anymore. It isn’t even a topic of conversation. Why? Because our outrage is exhausted. Because it doesn’t really matter who did it or why. The point is it happened, again, and chances are it will happen, again. And there’s nothing anyone seems to be able to do about it. So. C’est la vie en Mumbai.
Mumbai has become, as a friend in Delhi put it, “the sweet spot of terror”. If there’s a BOOM!, the rest of the country expects it to be in this city, which isn’t to say other places don’t get attacked but if all the Indian cities had Facebook pages for terrorists to click through, Mumbai would probably get the most ‘likes’. We got scared in the past, in 1993 and 2006 for example. It took many deep breaths, clutching of talismans, muttered prayers and clenched teeth to get back on our feet, step onto trains, stand at the Gateway of India. We were horrified when the entire city became something like a reality tv show watched by the whole world in 2008. Now the unnerving truth might be that it doesn’t really affects us anymore. We care about people who are hurt and we’ll rally around to help those in need. But that’s like showing up at hospital when a friend or someone in an extended friend’s circle needs blood donation. Terror isn’t terrifying anymore. We know what to do when it happens. 1. Get out of the affected area. 2. Send SMS while the networks last to check if everyone you know is ok. 3. Go online and see who needs what and how much of what is needed can be provided by you. 4.Wake up in the morning and be prepared for godawful traffic jams because the police have put up hundreds more roadblocks across the city. Of course it isn’t that smooth for those who actually lose friends and family in these attacks or witness them but this is a city of some 17 million people (or is it 19 million? I can’t remember). There are at best hundreds who are directly hurt, which leaves millions numbed by this game of terror.
It’s not that we want to be resilient and strong but that we’re resigned to being so because we live in a fragile city.