Yesterday, for the first time in a decade, I turned back from a movie hall in Bombay, scared to go in because who knows where the next round of terror would strike? Its a strange feeling, one that hangs over most of the city - one knows that life must go on, and you cant continue living in fear; yet, 11/7 has brought home the vulnerabilities of simply going about your daily living.
And this is a feeling that Bombay-ites are unused to. Because, despite our share of daily crime, its by and large one of the safest cities in the country. Its a city where women drive alone at 4 in the morning, where you can happily wander around Colaba Causeway wearing navel-baring T-s, see-through kurtis or micro-mini shorts, where chatting to a stranger in a restaurant is not a sure percussor to molestation.
Its surreal seeing Bombay as a city where endless police barricades with stern-faced cops scrutinising the streets. We are not used to regarding our fellow travellers with suspicion or thinking twice before we step out of our homes or offices.
Yesterday evening, the train services were once again stopped because they suspected a bomb somewhere near Vile Parle. The city was in the throes of panic once again, everyone frantically phoning everyone else, hoping for the best, yet prepared for the worse. Work stopped, those who could rush back home did so with utter haste. Some, like me, quickly abandoned plans of late night movies or a spot of Saturday shopping. Is this how we are going to live from now on?
First the floods, then the Shiv Sena riots and now the blasts...how much more can a city take in just one week? There is an eerie calm, a subdued hush lying over Bombay, even as its people try to go about their daily lives. Because, after all, how long can you sit at home? Ultimately, you need to get back on the same train, travel the same route, shop in the same markets and watch movies in the same cinema halls. Some call it the spirit of Bombay - Bombay-ites just call it being practical.