Evening of December 14th. It was a normal winter evening for Mumbai. People came to Marine drive from other cities just visiting the place, on work, on vacation. Housewives took a break and walked in groups. Young joggers, old joggers, dog joggers all streamed in and by. In one end of Marine Drive stood a group – just introduced to each other gathered together to do something random. A random act of kindness – a random act of connecting to people. Mumbai was scarred and scared after the blasts and we wanted to reach out to people. Assure them and ourselves that it was ok – we were all ok afterall – just people. We had stories to tell, things to share. We could sit down together share a cup of tea, chat and be with friends and not strangers. (Isn’t it strange how little it takes to make a stranger a friend? It just takes a hello)
So we stood out there and approached strangers. We offered free tea to anyone sitting, walking, watching along that length of Marine Drive and listened to them and talked to them. I am trying to recount some of my impressions from those conversations –
Lalithji from Delhi was bored sitting on the Katta and was one of the early converts. He had come down on business to Mumbai and was sitting out his vacant evening until this brigade of strangers sat beside him with posters and randomly started talking to him. Once we got him started he wanted to chat more and more. He even very enthusisastically took pictures of the group and the posters on his phone.
There were a bunch of law students who stopped by. They could not decipher the whole purpose of what we were doing. They questioned us and questioned us. At one point one of the girls asked us “ Forgive us we are law students. We need to understand the motive” At the end of the discussion however, they realized there really was nothing more to what we were doing than talking to people. That’s all. At the end of it they crossed over took down emails and offered to be in touch.
There was a young Muslim couple with an infant. When I approachd them, the wife started walking away But the husband was curious and let me speak. Slowly they all opened up. They were into the cloth business, lived closeby – a little shaken from the blasts and very happy we wanted to just talk to them.
There was a young man from Bihar. He was into the computer business – into sales. He wanted to achieve something here in Mumbai and go back to his village and share his success with them.
There was a group of regular walkers who were very intrigued that I had not developed an accent after 7 years in the US. A couple who could not decipher the sense in the blasts and were feeling cheated of offering peace. There were little urchin girls and boys who gathered around and joined in the chats and sometimes just asked for some candy and got going on their way!
There were all kinds of people. All kinds of stories, all kinds of dreams, all kinds of hellos’ and all kinds of “goodbyes”. There was Mumbai.
In our own way our group went back with our own wealth of those few hours in our lives. In our own way we had connected and reconnected
Hoping to fill the space with more to follow –