Tuesday, March 12, 2013

20 years later

20 years ago today was a Friday. Black Friday. 12th March 1993. On a sunny afternoon, for two hours starting from 1.30pm, 13 bomb blasts killed more than 250 and injured 700. Lives were lost, families destroyed. On that day, more lives were lost in Bombay than any other attack on this city that followed since then. We lost 209 in the 11/7 attacks. We lost 166 in the 26/11 attacks. Before those attacks, we lost 257 that sunny afternoon 20 years ago.

I was returning from work and switching trains at Dadar when I saw “Blood needed, go to King George’s School Dadar” hand-written on a piece of paper, stuck on a local train that passed me by. I had no idea what had happened till I reached home, many hours after the blasts. Everyone who was in Bombay that day, has a story to tell. Of streets washed with blood, of limbs strewn across the road and flung on top of building terraces. Frantic phone calls, dead bodies, bloodied bodies, victims, survivors, hospitals, morgues. Everyone has a story for that day.

Fast forward to today. 12th March 2013. The Times of India, the Mumbai Mirror and the Hindustan Times carry no mention – not one single word, not an alphabet – on the blasts that day. I place on record my appreciation to Sachin Kalbag for carrying the story in Midday today. In popular culture, other than one book by S Hussain Zaidi and one movie by Anurag Kashyap, there isn’t anything much to remind us of that day.

How can we, some 1-2crores, of citizens of this great city – and I believe it is great – carry on with our lives? Where is our collective conscience? As Indians, we accept notions such as corruption is necessary and life is cheap. Yes, real estate is expensive and life is cheap in India. There are 120crores of us. Perhaps, the US –with one third our population – can afford the luxury of spending time on remembering their victims. We don’t. We move on. We forget.

And that’s when we fail ourselves, we fail our fellow citizens. We fail the victims. Those 250+ who died that day in Bombay. Beyond a few tweets and facebook updates such as these, 12th March 1993 will be forgotten. Those born on that day are already 20years old and they don’t have time to deal with the memory of that day. Besides, so many more attacks have happened since, how many can you remember? This is how we fail ourselves and this city.

The least that can be done is make a memorial for the fallen Bombayite, Mumbaikar, resident of this city. That lost his and her life to terrorism. Terrorism on that day 20years ago, in the riots that preceded the blasts and in all the attacks on this city that followed since. This memorial should have the names of all the victims. It should be large, prominent and it should be on display at a place thronged by fellow Bombayites and Mumbaikars and residents of this city. Like Churchgate or Dadar or Gateway of India.

Such a memorial will be a reminder to every one of us citizens that this city remembers. It pays tribute to those fallen in senseless violent acts. That it does not believe in moving on. It believes in spending one quiet minute in the mad rush remembering lives lost. We owe it to ourselves. We owe to our city. We owe it to our home. 


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