Loss is a funny word. Usually what you lose, inevitably comes back. You lose your puppy in the park, he emerges frantic hours later, his tail wagging. You lose your favourite blue tshirt, and you find it some months later, looking better than you remembered. You lose your fortune, and make it again. What you lose, you usually find and all is right again.
I haven’t blogged in a very long time. Because I have been spending time trying to find what can never be found. Answers from the destroyed, the devastated, the dead. I was going to blog the day I heard about Avanti. It was going to be a blog about books. I couldn’t write it. I was going to blog the day I heard about Vinit. It was going to be a blog about home. I couldn’t write it. I was going to write a blog the day the attacks happened. It was going to be a blog about lemonade. I don’t remember what about lemonade, I just remember lemonade was involved.
I have lost my will to write. Instead, I read the last message Vinit sent me over and over again, and have guilt-wracked sleepless nights because I never replied to it. I have composed many answers to the message to it in my head, and it doesn’t help. I should have replied and now I never can. I think of the last time I saw Avanti, at her graduation and remembering how pretty she looked and I remember talking to Mrs Robinson of how Avanti would be one of those people we’d see on TV and we’d brag of being in college with her. I remember hugging her a year ago, wondering what she’d do with her life. I remember hugging Vinit in July during Polaris. And the worst sense of loss overcomes me.
When a phone call woke me up on the night of the 26th, in a sleep-induced haze, I hoped that no-one else had been lost. What I heard was worse. My city was slipping away from me, and all I could do was watch TV for 72-odd hours and peruse every newspaper I could get my hands on. The grief washed over me, knowing my city was slipping into a hell that even my overpowering love couldn’t assuage. It held me still, made me mechanical, made me do everything but want to write.
For as long as I could, I resisted going to the Taj and Oberoi and Leo’s. I didn’t want it to be real. I made excuses that sounded pathetic, even to my own determination. However, as much as I tried, I couldn’t resist the strength of my SS’s will. We couldn’t see the Taj, so well-protected was it from friend or foe. But we did see Leo’s and my heart broke into little pieces. The institution that is Leo’s with its shutters down, and candles surrounding its brave entrance made me feel the oddest sense of loss. Terrorists didn’t only hurt the people of Mumbai, they tried to destroy the places, the homes we hold so dear. Beautiful CST, is possibly one of the loveliest structures I have seen in my life – now marred by blood, shattered glass and worst of all, fear at its most potent, pouring out of the people who are forced to travel by CST everyday.
It was Leo’s that made me want to write. It was Leo’s surrounded by candle wax and candlelight that made this blog. I knew that one day, not only would its shutters be open, the people inside would sit without fear. I knew that one day, SS, Hobo and I, would sit at Leo’s not to prove that we are brave, or that we love it, but because. Just because. Because something’s cant be lost. Something’s have a meaning and a purpose that train & bike accidents, and terrorism can’t harm.
The friends and families of Vinit Nair and Avanti Desai will never forget how they smelled, what they felt like to touch and to hold, how they spoke, what they looked like tired, or triumphant. Thus, they can never be lost. The lovers of Leo’s, of Taj, of Oberoi, of CST, of everything Mumbai represents will keep the city alive. Not because the city has a spirit, as the cliche goes. But because of overpowering love, necessity and a sense of determination to move on and not be afraid. We will never lose Mumbai as long as we keep loving it.
So, perhaps what is lost can sometimes not be found. But perhaps, if you love what is lost enough, it can never truly be lost. It’s always there. In a photograph, a memory, a word, a smell. A memory of breakfast at Leo’s, the taste of Tom Yum Soup, the feeling of his arms after he won an event, mockery of a bright pink phone. Vinit is in every wonderful movie I will ever see, Avanti in any news channel I cringe at, any news anchor I abhor. Mumbai is my birthright, my blood. I have not lost anything. I have only loved.
To Avanti, who is probably discussing politics with God, telling him how he’s doing stuff wrong in the world, and what he’s doing right. To Vinit, who is probably playing music and convincing fellow angels to be in his next masterpiece of a movie. To Mumbai and all the people it lost and the hope that one day, love will set it free.