Last night - Bombay Blast

I was sleepy from the previous night of fitful dozing and decided to turn in early yesterday. I was almost asleep when a friend called to check if I was alright and updated me on the firings and explosions in South Mumbai. Within an instant my brain made the connection with the two explosions I had heard earlier. They did not sound like fireworks, but I had told myself that. In a normal, functioning State, that’s what you tell yourself I suppose.

It was shocking. Colaba is home. It has the road through which I walk pretty much everyday. And last week while working late, I was walking past Cafe Leopald and the petrol pump near Bootleggers everyday after ten.

For some reason, being at home suddenly felt very unsafe. I locked the door, turned on the TV and settled to watch the news in the darkness. It was somehow scary turning on the lights and attracting attention to my house. It was not like masked gunmen would have looked at the lights, walked up to my specific house and waved AK-47s at me. Yet, the remembrance of the noise of the explosion and the conscious struggle in my brain to tell myself that it was nothing more than firecrackers had rattled me.

Watching live coverage of terrorist attacks must be one of the most surreal things one can do. Amdist calls and SMSes to check with each other or to warn people to stay at home, I watched the confusion of it all. No one could say what spot would be hit next. Most news channels were desperately trying to get policemen to say what was happening or to interview hotel guests who had escaped. Only a few could manage to maintain news value and not be voyeuristic.

I tried to get some sleep. No one knew what was happening and waiting for atleast one of the channels to bring closure to the events that seemed to have no end was disconcerting. Turning off the TV seemed sensible. But trying to sleep knowing that something was raging in the vicinity of your home was impossible.

Death tolls kept increasing. Anti terror squad personnel were being covered on TV even as they tried to sneak into the affected areas. Strange vehicles were trying to make getaways with suspected terrorists in them. People were emerging with blackened faces. News flashes reported new places where firings had been reported. Govt officials began to give interviews, sounding as informed as the average viewer watching TV. Real time TV is not neatly composed, edited and interspersed by advertisements. There is no time to summarize the events to bring new viewers up-to-date. There are no clips hailing dead police officers. It is all unfolding and it is unnerving.

Calling it a day around 2 p.m., I woke up intermittently to answer calls coming from the U.S.

This morning, T.V. was still showing live news. But they were neatly clipped, the big guns in each channel had been brought in, the army was there, there were claimants to the attacks and some of the news items were being re-reported evidencing the fact that pretty much most of the city was under control except for the three hostage spots.

Order is restoring. People have been asked to stay at home. But if the noise of the traffic that has started after an eerily quiet night is anything to go by, not all orders are being obeyed. The disconnect between TV and the reality around me is widening by the minute. Things are getting back to normal.