Nearly four years ago, protesting against the government became the in-thing after Rang De Basanti showed how apathetic youngsters took things into their own hands and started off a revolution.
Last Wednesday, 10 young men stormed into various hubs in our city posing as martyrs. A week later, I’m proud to report that the city has risen up with all its fury, instead of curling up into a ball and saying ‘Chalta Hai’, or insensitively moving along citing ‘Spirit of Mumbai’. And I don’t mean the Sreesanth-brand of rebelling without a case. I mean, actual, coherent agendas and clear thought.
Today in the land of ‘Hota rehta hai’, something ‘happened’. And I can assure you, I have never witnessed a gathering of this sort in the city before. Well, okay, if you include the T20 World Champion Indian Team’s calvacade was huge as well and displayed similar ‘unity’, this certainly cannot be compared with it. if anything, this was louder and angrier!
I have to admit, I had serious doubts about what a forwarded SMS could achieve. Even more so, when I heard that about 10000 people would be attending this rally. In all probability, this was going to be a circus, where people would shout, push, shove, trample on each others toes and go back home with even lesser faith than they came to the Gateway with. But something told me to give this a chance before I wrote it off. And so, we headed to Colaba, like thousands of other Mumbaikars did today.
When we reached the Gateway at around 4.30 pm, the place was starting to fill up with a couple of hundred people already there armed with home-made banners and cameras. A few tourists here and there took pictures of the crowd before zooming onto the charred window panes of the Taj and snapping away. Some students from Khalsa College too had turned up, but all in all, the gathering didnt even seem like a shadow of what it had been built up to in the papers. As time went by however, the people started to trickle in. Volunteers in black tshirts reading ‘Enough is Enough’ formed a circle right next to the Gateway and set up a pedestal in the middle, awaiting their speaker. Elsewhere, the junta started their standard fare of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and the likes through their broken megaphones.
Witty banners then started to emerge from all corners. While some lampooned RGV saying, ‘Aapne do Sarkar banayi aur aaj ek aur sarkar girayi.Thank you!’ others took a shot at all politicians in general suggesting a possible ban on dry-fruits. Mumbai certainly had brought their funny-bone along today, but the ire of angry citizens was yet to be witnessed.
It didn’t take long for the angry Mumbaikar to show up though. In fact things almost took a turn for the ugly when more people seemd to be shouting Anti-Pakistan slogans than anything else. But as the sun set, the real Mumbai began to rise. As soon as the clock struck six, the trickle of people became a raging flood. Hand-made signs gave way to full size flex hoardings, broken megaphones were replaced full-throated screams, and within no time, one could witness the tricolor as far as the eye could see.
Mumbai had woken up, and it was angry! The crowd got denser and the protests got louder and louder. Things however, didn’t show any signs of getting out of control at any point of time, as could be seen on the relaxed (and proud) faces of those who were posted there to protect us. I in fact had the privelege of speaking to one such unnamed unsung hero from our Police force.
This was no rifle-wielding NSG commando, he was an ordinary constable with a lathi, the kind we see everyday and pass by without a regard. At first, he just made small talk with us about what college we came from and where we lived. But soon, he told us about how he was posted outside the Taj for four straight days, about how the stench inside the Taj was so unbearable now that even he didnt have the courage to go inside anymore, about how he and his fellow men took on the AK-47 wielding terrorists with their lathis and lived to tell it, and how he wished he was suitably armed to at least take one of them down. The man had neither age, nor the odds in his favour, but he was there, and he was not complaining! And for that I salute him with as much respect as I would salute an NSG commando.
By the time we began to wade through the crowd to make our way out, the protests had a reached a crescendo. There were in fact more people going in than coming out. Those who couldn’t go inside were perched atop trees and lightpoles and some even hanging out of their balconies and terraces! And this was the scene more than half the way to Churchgate station.
I don’t know whether we created history today, or whether this will be the beginning of a change that will shape this nation. I don’t know if this random, mish-mash account of my experience makes a difference to anyone. But for once, I feel like I’m a part of something that might just work. In fact with the elections around the corner, anything is possible. For now though, all I can say is ‘Kudos Mumbai!’And lets hope for the best.