So much happening, so little blogging. I wish I could blame a lack of Internet connectivity, but almost immediately after moving into this Bandra apartment 5 days ago we discovered an unlocked network in the vicinity. So a quick recap:
Days one and two: arrived in the middle of the night, and after some confusion arrived at our Bandra hotel. Said hotel, booked via the internet, turned out to be a shithole, albeit with friendly and accommodating staff. In two nights we moved to three different rooms; once after a hotel worker inadvertently slipped and told us the foul stench emanating from the bathroom was most likely caused by a dead rat in the ceiling.
Days three to seven: Decamped to a decidedly much nicer hotel in Colaba, which turned out to be about 100 metres south of the Taj. The hotel is now blocked off on all sides, and always surrounded by a crowd of gawkers, some posing in front of the damaged section, smiling and posing.
We spend our time in the south partially as sightseers, partially looking for longer-term accommodation. And on day six we strike gold: a friend of a friend offers up a family member’s vacant Bandra flat until we get jobs.
It’s a lucky break, really: the Bombay rental market is dire and complex. Thanks to arcane renting laws that favour the tenant, people prefer to leave empty properties vacant than risk taking on a tenant who may prove difficult to dislodge.
There’s little chance of that happening here, however. While the flat is lovely and in what’s considered to be a great neighbourhood, we’re both leaning towards eventually settling in South Bombay. Bandra has its charms but SoBo is a little nicer: meaning, footpaths you can walk on, and no dastardly rickshaws belching their toxic fumes in my face.
Even the attacks failed to halt Bombay for more than a couple of days, but there’s undeniable shift, everywhere. People always want to talk about what happened, but in that Indian way of mentioning the incident with a half-laugh and sidewards shake of the head: “yes madam, business is down, but what can you do? You can’t stop working”.
Last week hundreds of thousands of people downed tools for 15 minutes and stepped outside to form a massive human chain that spanned the length of the island: a pretty poxy reaction, really. Get angry, people! March in the streets, bang saucepans all night, wave flaming torches outside the state government offices! Or better yet: threaten to clad all Bollywood starlets in burqas in all forthcoming films until some sort of action is taken. Insist that your policemen are armed with something more than big sticks and WW2 era guns to fight angry brainwashed young Pakistani men armed with AK-47s and grenades!
When you get people here talking they do get livid, but there is a true aura of helplessness: in a city that’s choking, in a country that’s run on corruption and politics only attracts those from low castes who are on the take and everyone is warned to stay away from the police, what can be done? When the mortgage on the one-bedroom flat on the city outskirts needs to be paid and its eight inhabitants need to be fed, who can afford the time to take a stand?
But surely amongst the 19 million people in this city at least, oh, one million, could switch off CNN-IBN, get off their sofas, get outside and actually BE the news. How about a human chain spanning the length of the city that refuses to break until the UN places sanctions against Pakistan, or India bombs the crap out of Punjab madrassas? Now that must be worth leaving the couch for.