Yes. I went to the Mumbai Gathering at the Gateway last night. I don't know why exactly. But when a friend suggested this a few days ago, I decided to give it a try. Ideally, I would have parked the child with her father and gone there myself. Or the three of us would have gone together, the child riding on his shoulders as she does when we go to Tirupati. Or something else. Ideal situations do not my current life constitute. Therefore it came to pass that the child (in Purple and Pink) and myself went bravely into the crowd. Thankfully srgntpepper, chivalrous as he is, insisted that we go with him and his wife and not entirely by ourselves.
After some serious browsing since Monday, and thanks to Kiran, I decided to go to JJ Hospital on my way to Gateway. Anyway it is like visiting another city from where I am located (a fact I was thankfuly for last week!).
I took some material to the hospital. Srgntpepper and I tried to chat with the particularly harried looking ladies there to get a sense for how else we could help. Got some leads. Went back and then were truly on our way to the Gateway.
First of all, all the good stuff.
People were not emotional and crying. Thankfully. There were tons and tons of young and old around. It was bigger than anything I have been in in a while now. I am sure we will get some numbers from media people today. But we are talking thousands, of course. Although there was no particular 'agenda' for the gathering (as far as I could tell), and there was no one 'organising' the whole thing, there was a serious semblance of purpose in people, and none of the attendant chaos you associate with us hot-blooded desis. People were full of enthusiasm, anger of course, at various things, but mainly enthusiasm and energy. And a feeling of togetherness and oneness. The crowd walked to the Gateway, stared at the Taj Hotel, and looped back, shouting slogans and holding up placards. Interesting things for sure. And OOH. Several renditions of National Anthem. Child and I LOVE to sing it. And everyone did stand (if not in Attention, somewhat still).
So now what I could not endorse and did not like.
Litterbugs. It was warm. Child and I were dripping with sweat. I agree. The body cells need life giving water. But dont throw the empty plastic glasses and bottles on the road. The road does *not* need that. I am going to buy that long spear like stick next time and walk around collecting rubbish into a trash bag.
College kids. I know. You are young. Severely self absorbed. You have come in a large group and want to stick together. You have a very clever idea of making that human chain and herding everyone inside it. Chivalrous boys of course on the outside. Wonderful. But keep in mind that we older ones dont need you to stampede us while keeping yourselves together and safe. Of course I am glad they were there in such numbers, hope for the country lies in their hands. But still it was annoying to have ones feet unnecessarily stamped upon.
Pakistan is just another country. I am not one to claim anything right now about who sent these guys here. But shouting Pakistan Murdabad is to me, not helping. I would much rather go after our corrupt politicians (which several people were, good). Another slogan "Itna Bada Hindustan, Kya Karega Pakistan" Funny! While I am being un-Kenny like let me go ahead and make this statement. WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER (even if precedence points towards it). Of course over there among the many-headed, I kept my opinions to myself, who would have heard a short dorky lady carrying a child?
Paper Fliers. Yes, we have to make a point and circulate it to the masses. But in the end it is as much part of the rubbish as the paper you buy shengdana in. And litterbugs will throw it on the road because, of course, the World Is Their Own Personal Trash Can.
Thirdly, personal stuff.
I am eternally grateful to srgntpepper and wife (she is too sweet; and is remarkable in her ability to not sweat) for going with me. While it is generally foolish to go into a crowd of that magnitude (with further complications of generic threats of further attacks and so on) with a small-ish child, it would have been too crazy to do it alone. Of course I would have hung out in the fringes and not walked too far if they weren't there, but what would have been the whole point then? I hope I did not cramp their style too much and mess up their agenda infernally.
My body has changed. It has nothing to do of course with the terror attacks. Perhaps the Suryanamaskars. I carried the pink girl for a LONG time. On my hip. I could do it. It was not a long walk (by my standards, and with race day 1.5 months away) but with the crowd and the slow pace and the shouting all around, it took a while. And I could do it, sit in the car for nearly two hours in the commute back home, and still go for the run at 5:45 am today. Its hard to fit into Sari blouses now and I am becoming more of a Tomboy than ever, but my low Fe count notwithstanding, things are looking up. Go knock on some wood for me.
The child. My little monster. Heavy and legs too long. Complained incessantly before we were to go over. But woke up from her nap in a good mood. Got ready in five minutes. Read her Enid Blyton in the car when we went in to JJ (She did not want to come in and I figured it is better she is with the driver in the car than inside a hospital). Shouted Jai whenever they said Bharat Mata Ki. And Mataram when they said Vande. Most importantly remained enthusiastic throughout. Now if I can only figure out how to answer her questions regarding 'terrorists' and capture her on video saying 'protest march' we will be all set.
All in all, it was a good experience. In terms of tangibles I suppose I got little out of it. But I did feel inspired to see so many people care enough to come there and shout slogans and endure everything. And I definitely felt that a 'oneness' that cuts across class, religion, age, and what not, is at least a theoretical possibility.