The Daily Nash-on

a mindstream from just another statistic…

What They Hate About Mumbai

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November 29, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor

MY bleeding city. My poor great bleeding heart of a city. Why do they go after Mumbai? There’s something about this island-state that appalls religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.

Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.

Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds.

Bollywood dream-makers are shaken. “I am ashamed to say this,” Amitabh Bachchan, superstar of a hundred action movies, wrote on his blog. “As the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver, loaded it and put it under my pillow.”

Mumbai is a “soft target,” the terrorism analysts say. Anybody can walk into the hotels, the hospitals, the train stations, and start spraying with a machine gun. Where are the metal detectors, the random bag checks? In Mumbai, it’s impossible to control the crowd. In other cities, if there’s an explosion, people run away from it. In Mumbai, people run toward it — to help. Greater Mumbai takes in a million new residents a year. This is the problem, say the nativists. The city is just too hospitable. You let them in, and they break your heart.

In the Bombay I grew up in, your religion was a personal eccentricity, like a hairstyle. In my school, you were denominated by which cricketer or Bollywood star you worshiped, not which prophet. In today’s Mumbai, things have changed. Hindu and Muslim demagogues want the mobs to come out again in the streets, and slaughter one another in the name of God. They want India and Pakistan to go to war. They want Indian Muslims to be expelled. They want India to get out of Kashmir. They want mosques torn down. They want temples bombed.

And now it looks as if the latest terrorists were our neighbors, young men dressed not in Afghan tunics but in blue jeans and designer T-shirts. Being South Asian, they would have grown up watching the painted lady that is Mumbai in the movies: a city of flashy cars and flashier women. A pleasure-loving city, a sensual city. Everything that preachers of every religion thunder against. It is, as a monk of the pacifist Jain religion explained to me, “paap-ni-bhoomi”: the sinful land.

In 1993, Hindu mobs burned people alive in the streets — for the crime of being Muslim in Mumbai. Now these young Muslim men murdered people in front of their families — for the crime of visiting Mumbai. They attacked the luxury businessmen’s hotels. They attacked the open-air Cafe Leopold, where backpackers of the world refresh themselves with cheap beer out of three-foot-high towers before heading out into India. Their drunken revelry, their shameless flirting, must have offended the righteous believers in the jihad. They attacked the train station everyone calls V.T., the terminus for runaways and dreamers from all across India. And in the attack on the Chabad house, for the first time ever, it became dangerous to be Jewish in India.

The terrorists’ message was clear: Stay away from Mumbai or you will get killed. Cricket matches with visiting English and Australian teams have been shelved. Japanese and Western companies have closed their Mumbai offices and prohibited their employees from visiting the city. Tour groups are canceling long-planned trips.

But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder.

If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?

So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be just economic.

Suketu Mehta, a professor of journalism at New York University, is the author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.”

Written by Nash

November 29, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Daily Updates

The World Watches.

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Mumbai shootings: Reaction in quotes

There has been widespread international condemnation of the series of shootings across the Indian city of Mumbai in which more than 100 people have been killed and many more injured.

PAKISTANI PRESIDENT ASIF ALI ZARDARI

The attacks in Mumbai have claimed many innocent victims and remind us, yet again, of the threat we face from violent extremists.

Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured. Pakistan and India will continue their joint struggles to counter the actions of terrorists.

PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER YOUSUF RAZA GILANI

I condemn these attacks strongly.

We need to take strict measures to eradicate terrorism and extremism from the region while continuing with concerted efforts to make it a peaceful place to live.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY DANA PERINO

President Bush offers his condolences to the Indian people and the families of the innocent civilians killed and injured in the attacks in Mumbai, India.

The United States condemns this terrorist attack and we will continue to stand with the people of India in this time of tragedy.

This afternoon, the White House National Security Council convened officials from counter-terrorism and intelligence agencies as well as the state and defence departments.

The US government continues to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of our citizens, and stands ready to assist and support the Indian government.

BROOKE ANDERSON, SPOKESMAN FOR BARACK OBAMA

President-elect Obama strongly condemns today’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of India.

These co-ordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism.

The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks.

We stand with the people of India, whose democracy will prove far more resilient than the hateful ideology that led to these attacks.

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER

These outrageous attacks in Mumbai will be met with a vigorous response.

I have sent a message to [Indian] Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh that the UK stands solidly with his government as they respond, and to offer all necessary help.

Urgent action is underway to offer every possible protection to British citizens in the region.

QIN GANG, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN

China always opposes terrorist attacks of any kind, and we express our condolences to the victims.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT

We are concerned about the loss of life and consider that acts of terrorism of this type are harmful to the whole international order and are a challenge to humanity.

SPOKESMAN FOR BAN KI-MOON, UN SECRETARY GENERAL

The secretary general condemns the rash of shootings and blasts in Mumbai today, which killed and wounded a large number of people. Such violence is totally unacceptable.

The secretary general reiterates his conviction that no cause or grievance can justify indiscriminate attacks against civilians. He calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice swiftly.

[He] sends his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and the wounded and expresses his solidarity with the people and government of India.

POPE BENEDICT XVI

The Holy Father [conveys] his heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in these brutal attacks.

His Holiness urgently appeals for an end to all acts of terrorism, which gravely offend the human family and severely destabilise the peace and solidarity needed to build a civilization worthy of mankind’s noble vocation to love God and neighbour.

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT

Terrorism is a tyrant enemy which threatens all of humanity and has challenged the region of South Asia.

MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT

The attacks on leading hotels, hospitals and public transport in Mumbai, the business and financial capital of India, show that the terrorists are targeting an important sector of the Indian economy, with a view to destabilizing democracy in India.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY, BANGLADESH FOREIGN MINISTER

We strongly condemned what’s happened in Mumbai. These are acts of terrorism, and terrorism serves no purpose. Many innocent people have suffered, many have been killed, others injured and we send them our condolences.

KEVIN RUDD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER

Whichever group has perpetrated this attack, they are cowards, absolute cowards, and murderers.

This cowardly attack on India’s stability, peace and democracy reminds us all that international terrorism is far from defeated, and that we must all maintain our vigilance.

TARO ASO, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER

This kind of terrorism is unforgivable, extremely despicable and vicious. I feel strong resentment and deeply condemn it.

Japan is with the Indian people who are fighting against terrorism and we will cooperate with the Indian government.

DAVID MILIBAND, UK FOREIGN SECRETARY

Today’s attacks in Mumbai which have claimed many innocent victims, remind us, yet again, of the threat we face from violent extremists.

I condemn these attacks unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured.

The UK and India will continue their joint efforts to counter the actions of terrorists.

LAWRENCE CANNON, CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

Canada and India share a commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Among our mutual priorities is close cooperation to promote international security and to fight terrorism.

Written by Nash

November 27, 2008 at 11:10 pm

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November 23, 2008 at 2:31 am

Kaizer’s Orchestra : Maestro

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Unique Sound Lovers , Enjoy.

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November 5, 2008 at 1:06 am

CyberCulture

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For the Philistines – Cyberculture is as much about computers as Shakespeare is about the paper it was written on.

Rives on TED

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October 30, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Wisdom from the Songs

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“Freedom, oh Freedom, that’s just some people talking…

Your prison is walking, with you in this world all alone.”

 

The Eagles , in “Desperado”

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October 4, 2008 at 7:40 am

Dortmund Vs. Shalke

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Living in Germany one can’t really escape the Football madness. Yesterday, Schalke played against Dortmund – both teams bitter rivals, at Westfalionstadion in Dortmund. Now you have to understand the context here – When it comes to Schalke and Dortmund, the football games are not games. It’s personal…emotions are raging…and there is a lot of alcohol.

Schalke won, and the visiting teams fans were suddenly in a very hostile city…Dortmunders ready for payback at their crushing defeat.  The stadium being only 10 minutes away from my apartment , I was woken to loud chanting and singing. Thankfully, the police were aware and ready for what was to follow.

I did manage to get a few shots from my window of the largest concentration of police I’ve seen in Germany. 30 vans, probably hundred or so police on foot in full riot gear and even police on horse-mount!

Police Drive Dortmund (in yellow) Fans Away

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Schalke Fans (in blue) taken to the train station in full police escort

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View the full album here : Dortmund vs. Shalke Police

Written by Nash

September 15, 2008 at 1:05 am