Here is Joshui Brustein quoting Suketu Mehta's book:
That quote comes from Suketu Mehta's amazing book on India called Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. Incidentally, I bought my copy from a street merchant a few blocks away from the Taj Mahal hotel. It is an investigation of Mumbai full of insights on the city and its inhabitants; from the glamour of the Taj and Bollywood to the prostitution in the ghettos to poor Bihari migrants trying to make it big to Shiv sena leaders and much more. I suggest you read it if you want an insight in today's India.
The writer Suketu Mehta captured brilliantly the dogged, resilient compassion of Mumbai in his book “Maximum City: Mumbai Lost and Found.”
In remarks he has given based on the book, he spoke of asking a man named Asad bin Saif, who worked at an institute for secularism, whether the chaos and slums and filth made him pessimistic about human beings. Here is how Mr. Mehta continued the story:
“Not at all,” he responded. “Look at the hands from the trains.”If you are late for work in the morning in Bombay, and you reach the station just as the train is leaving the platform, you can run up to the packed compartments and you will find many hands stretching out to grab you on board, unfolding outwards from the train like petals. As you run alongside the train, you will be picked up and some tiny space will be made for your feet on the edge of the compartment. The rest is up to you; you will probably have to hang on with your fingertips on
the door frame, being careful not to lean out too far lest you get decapitated by a pole placed too close to the tracks. But consider what has happened: your fellow-passengers, already packed tighter than cattle are legally allowed to be, their shirts already drenched in sweat in the badly ventilated compartment, having stood like this for hours, retain an empathy for you, know that your boss might yell at you or cut your pay if you miss this train, and will make space where none exists to take one more person with them. And at the moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable, or whether you were born in this city or arrived only this morning, or whether you live in Malabar Hill or Jogeshwari, whether you’re from Bombay or Mumbai or New York. All they know is that you’re trying to get to work in the city of gold, and that’s enough. Come on board, they say. We’ll adjust.
I want to echo Ross's post on the incredible resilience of India's society, because it is an important point. India has been suffering from an incredible number of terrorist attacks in recent years. 2300 people were killed in 2007, making India the country most affected by terrorism in the world, and it was not an exceptional year by India's standards. There has been several attacks this year, including a few with more than 100 casualties. Mumbai itself has been attacked six times since 1993, the last time being a mere two years ago which ended up killing more than 200 people.
Today's attack is not an isolated incident, it could not even be accurately described as an escalation (at least not in human terms, maybe in symbolism). Yet India's society is still holding strong. They have a Sikh Prime Minister who was largely elected by Hindus, about two decades after rebel Sikhs attempted to carve an independent state out of Punjab and Indira Gandhi's murder at the hands of her Sikh bodyguard (when she was Prime Minister). There are some Hindu extremists trying to rouse anti-Muslim sentiments, and they have been successful in certain instances. But most of the time, even in Hindutva organizations, pragmatism and relative moderation rules. And during the past decades, in the environment I just described, India has thrived. Try imagining any western country under these circumstances. Do you think we would react as wisely as India? I think asking the question is answering it.