I have been to all the major cities and towns of India. I have met the people, lived with them and have been fortunate enough to witness fantastic displays of the human spirit.
But I can say with no shred of doubt that no city comes close to Mumbai. It is almost as if when pushed in a corner, Mumbai ceases to be a cauldron of different races and religions and becomes one entity. It becomes a blanket, protecting the affected, shielding them against further trauma.
Sure Mumbai has its share of scavengers who have their bite. Yesterday, we saw the media, the politicians, and high-ranking police officials making their customary news call, and enjoying their twenty seconds of shame.
But one has to know that Mumbai is a city of more than 20 million people, each bringing his own share of human weaknesses and dark shades. In spite of the sheer numbers involved, it is amazing how the people in the city do all they can to make life easier when there is no hope left.
We all saw the images, we all were outraged. As the horror unfolded, we all felt a surge of different emotions fighting for place in our minds.
Let me discuss the media for a second here. The coverage we saw on the day of the blast was deplorable. No channel, except NDTV to an extent (it also lost the plot later), was sensitive enough to the viewers.
For those of us who were not affected, perhaps the footage shown was sensational. But, spare a thought for the Mumbai mom, who when all telephone lines were jammed, was watching television for news of her kid on the train back home from college.
What she sees are images of office goers and college kids strewn across railway tracks and a totally insane fascination by all newsreaders regarding the death toll. 'How many people have died? How many people have died? Mr Minister, what is the latest death toll?'
Well, I must tell you dear newsreader, you are the one who has died. Your soul is dead, and you are a zombie walking around with a microphone which should be taken away from you.
It doesn't matter if a hundred or a million were killed. Each death is the death of a universe. First think about who may be watching you and then say what you say. Even the foreign news channels were no different.
When September came five years ago, no bodies were shown in a rare display of sensitive reporting and commendable journalism. A blast in Bali or in Mumbai, of course, is different since a different race, a different culture is involved. Show them the decapitated torsos; focus on the blood stained windows of a school in Beslan. Hit them hard with the images. We have a job to do.
Coming back to Mumbai, a leading magazine's survey recently said that Mumbai is the rudest city in the world. According to this magazine, opening doors for ladies and saying thank you is criterion enough for judging a city and its people. Mumbaikars, I know just shrugged their shoulders after I told them about this survey, and got on with life. Mumbai has no time for artificial niceties and smooth talk, what matters is getting the job done. No matter what the circumstances, no matter what the price.
Salaam Mumbai. Like always, you have shown me the way. The quiet, efficient, kind and resilient manner is something we all can do well to replicate in other cities as well as within ourselves.