“One double pitcher of Kingfisher please,” my friend bellows across the room. “Sure sir, you want some peanuts with that?” the waiter screams back. After 10 minutes of standing and sipping on ice cold beer, I get a seat and begin to survey a place I’ve been waiting to visit for weeks, Café Leopold.
I see shattered glass, bullet holes and a donation box with photos of the two waiters who died in the terrorist attacks that shut down the city for 60 hours. They are the only tangible remnants of what happened six weeks ago at the restaurant.
Slowly but steadily, Mumbai seems to be limping back to normal. Yet, the definition of normalcy has changed. Nightclubs are open, but parties don’t last as long. Multiplexes run movie shows by the dozen, but bags are thoroughly checked upon entry. Every major street, hotel, shopping mall and railway station is patrolled by special armed forces.
Even more shocking is the general sentiment in the city. For once, there is a sense of guilt attached to all things fun. This is not the Mumbai I remember and not the Mumbai I left behind five years ago. What used to be called the New York of Asia is now a city that goes by the book; days are meant for work and nights for rest.
Most Mumbaites are still looking for solutions. But with faith lost in the authorities, they say there is little hope. While the Indian government prepares a ‘dossier’ to send to Pakistan with a list of demands, Mumbai tries to rebuild itself with peace marches and prayer meetings scattered across the city.
Yet, there are things to do to not feel completely hopeless.
- Take a walk along the Gateway of India Promenade. Observe the extreme left of the Taj Mahal hotel, the inside of which is now all ash.
- Make a pit stop at bars like Café Leopold, Café Mondegar, Not Just Jazz By The Bay, Totos and Mumbai Times Café. They are open all day and allow you to make a donation to the families of the deceased civilians.
- Visit any local police station in South Mumbai and chat to the cops about the sequence of events. They have the stories you wouldn’t have seen on the news.
- Watch a Bollywood blockbuster at the local cinema. If not inspired by the national anthem playing before each film, you’ll be entertained with the stupidity of the film.