After a rather peaceful parade of the marine drive, Tantra was all set to visit Bombay Central (name of a town and not that of a mall) the next day. She had to board the local from the Malad station. Mukfiya, her friend, was waiting for her at the Bombay Central station. Tantra jumped into the ladies compartment of the local. The ladies compartment was much cleaner. The digital display of the upcoming station was more than enough for her to judge her destination. On Mukfiya’s request, Tantra got down at the next station after Bombay Central, Grant Road.
An entirely different Bombay was waiting for Tantra. She caught hold of Mukfiya amidst the
crowd. Mukfiya took her to Biryani Darbar, a place which boasted of a Times Food Award for the Best Biryani. Bang opposite the hotel was a C-Grade theatre. The poster had morphed images of Shah Rukh Khan, Dharmendra and scantily clad women. After lunch Tantra took a left turn and in a miniscule of a second, Mukfiya pulled her back.
“That’s a red light area,” informed Mukfiya. On Tantra’s insistence, both walked down the red light area, holding each other’s hands. Tantra thought as it was just 1400 hours, it would be rather safe to explore this place. Safe it was. The area had buildings which looked atleast 50-70 years old with metal benches on the footpath. She noticed women combing hair, drying clothes, standing and talking in their respective balconies. She was no one to judge if those women were commercial sex workers or not?
In a flash they were surrounded by 6 eunuchs, clapping hands in their traditional style. They
didn’t have an option but had to part away with a 50 rupee note. Mukfiya grabbed Tantra’s hand and threw her into a rickshaw.
Their next stop was the very famous Chor Bazaar. Their main business is from 4 am to 7 am and mainly deal in clothes, mobile phones and other electronic items. Tantra could now see automobile spare part dealers, handicraft and antique dealers. Thanks to her roots from Kerala she saw a huge elephant, made out of teak, enquired about the price. 10.5 lakhs. She was taken aback by the response. All stolen. That’s what Tantra thought but no one knows the origin of all these goods.
All these places were Muslim dominated which was pretty evident from the name of all these shops. Kabeer’s Handicraft Emporium, Sattar Bhai’s Automobile Spare parts. So on and so forth. Almost all the residential buildings here were more than half a century old. Dingy gallis, ghostly passages towards buildings, old printing presses, etc. People here live on the edge because o
f their mediocre jobs. All of them still had a smile with a never say die attitude.
Their next stop was Jhaveri Bazaar. All her questions in regards with the bombing of this place were answered as soon as she got down from the rickshaw. A huge road, with half of the road reserved for parking of four wheelers. The footpath is used to park two wheelers. The remaining part is used by pedestrians, vehicles going either side. It was a task for both Tantra and Mukfiya to reach the other side of the road.
“Why won’t this place be bombed, look at the mess,” Tantra questioned Mukfiya. There
was absolutely no security and here she saw a dominance of the Gujarati community. Security was a joke here. She was concerned. She found the presence of Audi’s, BMW’s and other luxurious cars. The people still remain the same.
She left Mumbai Central with mixed emotions. Joy and Fear being the frontrunners. Bombay still managed to surprise her. The Mumbaikars, the dilapidated buildings, the biryani, the morphed images, the eunuch attack and the security fears at Jhaveri Bazaar.
A city with so much to offer can actually be blown up in smokes if there’s a minute lapse in security. Tantra didn’t want the journalists to say ‘Mumbaikars smile even after being bombed’ instead she wants them to say ‘Mumbaikars smile because they are never bombed.’
Bombay. The City of Dreams. The City which lives. Let her live. Let Bombay live.