It rained and rained on Thursday morning… The skies wept copiously at a city forced to pick up the pieces yet again and start afresh. How many blows can a city take? How many times should it pick up the pieces and rebuild its life and celebrate the apathy of authorities as the spirit of Mumbai meri jaan?
These were questions that the gloomy skies seemed to ask in their outpouring as I stood at the Chandanwadi cemetery/crematorium where both Hindus and Muslims came to lay the victims of macabre Wednesday to rest.
As 28-year-old diamond trader Asghar Dharolia's body was lowered into the grave, family friend Yakub Surti fought back tears and held Asghar's septuagenarian father Faiz. The father, beside himself with grief, hugged the body one last time.
"Parvardigaar, yeh teri kaisi raza hai? (Lord, how can this be your wish?)," the father kept muttering to no one in particular. "Uske bagair kaise rahenge? (How will we live without him?)"
Married two months ago to 23-year-old Salma -- "So numb that she hasn't cried yet," said Yakub -- Mohammed Ali Road resident Asghar was his parents' only son.
Across the space, at the crematorium, the Brahmin's chants pick up as 47-year-old diamond merchant Tushar Rameshchandra Shah's body was consigned to the flames. Survived by his wife and two children, this friendly Prarthana Samaj resident's death saw a pall of gloom descend on the neighbourhood where he was known for his banter and caring.
"There isn't a dry eye in the area; everyone is shocked how destiny could be so cruel," said fellow diamond merchant and close friend Piyush Barodia.
As I crossed the road to Marine Lines station, images of the same road in the 1963 Shammi Kapoor starrer Bluff Master came to mind, as did the iconic song Govinda Aale Re -- a must at every dahi handi -- which was shot here. I hopped on to a local train to head back to my office in Lower Parel. Lost in my own thoughts, I missed Elphinstone Road station and was forced to alight at Dadar. Despite the dread I couldn't resist going to the blast site at Kabutarkhana. As I stood where Anil Kapoor's character stood in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Parinda (1989), the chime of a temple bell made me look at the place in a new light.
Built by Valamji Ratanshi Vora in 1933, the Kabutarkhana is still managed by a group of six family trustees. Surrounded by a Jain Derasar, a Hanuman temple, a mosque and a crucifix, surely could there be a holier spot? I wondered and smiled. Despite the ugly post-1992-93 polarisation, the many blasts since, and 26/11, which seemed to have scarred the city's very soul, Mumbai does not let you give up on her.