04 December, 2008

bombs over Mumbai

As you can imagine this past week has been all about the terrorist…the area that was hit is called Coloba. It is where all the white people stay when they first come to India/Mumbai. I stayed there my first two months here. I have a love hate relationship with Coloba…

I don’t like Coloba because it’s full of tourist…it’s every western persons first stop in Mumbai. When there everyone thinks you are a tourist, as a consequence, try to sell you crap you don’t need/want at inflated “tourist prices”. Coloba is where stupid tourist buy drugs, as a consequence, dealers always approach “whites” trying to sell the” junk”. They do this thing where they act like you have bought drugs from them before; they say “last time you got these…I have more of what you bought last week”. Totally annoying.

I like Coloba because it’s far from where I live, and very different, so it’s a bit like a mini-vacation. Coloba is white friendly (i.e. cleaner streets, everyone speaks English, CD shops with western music, good coffee houses, etc.). Because of it heavy Western/British influence it feels, more than most places in Mumbai, a bit like home.

I have a walking route I follow when there, included is always a trip to the Taj Mahal Hotel. After walking Coloba it is a wonderful chill out space with killer AC, comfy seats and there’s the exciting possibility of seeing a Bollywood star. They also have one of the best book shops in the city. While beautiful, it is a strange space. The rooms are run US 500 a night (Madonna stayed there). It seems of gross considering most Mumbaikers make much less than that per month. Being there you are constantly aware of the juxtaposition.

The Taj was built by Jamsedji Tata in 1903; he was denied entry into a white’s only hotel and built the Taj for the Indian elite. It is not just a hotel but an important monument to Indian society. I will miss that Taj; it will take a year to repair!

The after-math has been a bit like that of America after 9/11. Fear, anger, a strange sense of oneness (we, India, have been attacked) and the swelling pride of Mumbaikers and their love of the city. What has been different, instead of people turning their anger to foreign soil (like us); they are lashing out at the Government for not protecting them.

The Indian government is shameful. It does nothing for the citizens and keeps India an “emerging nation” instead of the powerhouse it could be. You must realize, countries like India, Sudan (Darfur), Democratic Republic of the Congo, don’t choose to have unsafe drinking water or high infant mortality rates or insufficient power supplies or AIDS, it is their selfish, corrupt, inapt governments that keep them this way. It is much easier for the politicians to sit back and count their tax money than actually spend it on the people they serve.

SO the people have had enough. They see their tax money going for party members to live in fancy mansions, drive fancy cars and they see the poor dying in the street and the city infustruture crumbling. I think before people had a “it’s government, that’s the way it is, what you can do” attitude. Now they are pissed and taking to the streets.

The Politian’s are reacting badly, saying really stupid, stupid things about protesters and the protests. They are acting like dogs backed into a corner…there was a Politian in the south that went to visit the father of one of policeman slain in the attacks. The father, mad at the Politian garnering media attention from the visit told him to leave his house and called him a dog…which here, sometimes, has the same connotation as the n-word (dogs are not cute pets here, they are wild dirty street animals). So the mad Politian said that had the son died in another way (not being a martyr) not even a dog would turn his head to look at the funeral…meaning that people were only upset because of the way the son died instead of actually liking the son….so needless to say emotions are running high, people are reacting badly and nothing is getting done.

But just like New York, Mumbai will survive, carry on and potentially get hit again…but what to do? You can’t just sit and your room all day and worry.

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