The end of another lockdown

It was a Wednesday night and we didn’t have much food at home. Although we talked about going out to eat, we were too tired. Eventually we scraped a dinner together and sat down to see the post-prime time news. That’s when we saw the first confusing shots of what would later be known as the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack.

It wasn’t for another hour that we realized how lucky we were that we stayed home. The curfew lasted only three days, but it was a month before I walked about Colaba aimlessly again. On Christmas day, The Family and I found that we were tourists in our own backyard, so to say. We walked past small restaurants which were suddenly infamous, past a familiar vegetable market into lanes which had appeared as blurry shots on TV screens across the world. Looking back at that now, I realize that lockdowns and curfews do not end when restrictions are lifted; it takes time for you to come back to normal.

The little lanes were still full of press photographers. Usually I like to talk to them; they are not in an easy profession. But that day they had no time off to chat. When I look back at my archives, I have more than twenty shots of the crowd of photographers jockeying for position without jostling. Today when I look at the photos I see professional rivalry, as well as the courtesy to let someone else rest a heavy lens on your shoulder to steady a shot. A very different world from the savage days that we had gone through. That walk bled some darkness out of us.

Bylanes of Colaba

Many years ago we decided to move out of south Mumbai at some point in our lives. As that, still indefinite, point comes closer, we walk around the city with fresh eyes. Walking down a side street off the causeway, we saw this lovely sight of the dome of the Taj hotel lit up, recalled the terrible night when we saw it going up in flames, while simultaneously having a pang of remorse at the thought that there will be a time when I won’t see this while out on a walk. As I took this photo, Niece Mbili told us the old urban myth of the mixed up maps which made the architect place turn the frontage around. No amount of protest by the hotel will stop this story. Colaba moves between seedy and grand every decade. Around now the seediness is disappearing again.