x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Our spirit has never been so dented

At previous jobs I was the favourite co-traveller for my colleagues in the vehicles that ferried us home after a day's work

At previous jobs I was the favourite co-traveller for my colleagues in the vehicles that ferried us home after a day's work. The reason: for all my 34 years I have been a "Bombay Boy" and know the city like the back of my hand. So while my colleagues slept, I used to guide the driver through the congested streets and dark lanes and tell him the shortest possible route.

Travelling long hours - the side effect and the main hazard of living in an island city - became run of the mill. When the city changed its name to Mumbai in 1995 it did not change its DNA, and the metropolis was always referred as the Indian city that never sleeps. Hailed for the cosmopolitan fibre of the population and the gritty attitude of its citizens, the grind continued in the face of adversity.

I remain one of the usual Mumbaikars who bounced back from the 1992 blasts and the subsequent communal riots. As a collegian, I walked through streets of burning cars and tyres, shattered pieces of glass and broken furniture. I was young then but I could understand the city was ready to fight it out. As a journalist, the 2003 twin blasts opposite the same Gateway of India, which faces the Taj hotel, and the neighbouring Zaveri Bazar were just seen as an attempt to invoke the 1993 episode.

The succession of calamities with floods on July 26 2005 followed by blasts in suburban local trains on July 11 in the next year were still taken with a pinch of salt. The media hyped the phrase, "the Mumbaikar spirit continued to live on..." as instances of bravery kept flashing across the booming television and newspaper industry. But as we battle against the odds, one question remains unanswered. Has Mumbai learned the lessons?

For one who was present at one of the seven train blasts sites in 2006, it was obvious that the financial capital of the country was a very soft target considering the huge influx of immigrants across all religions in the populated nation of more than 91 million people. After the spate of blasts across the country, preceded by the clockwork precision of mail sent to all media networks minutes before the attacks, it is obvious that the perpetrators are becoming innovative in their methods.

And that is a worrying factor from a sporting point of view. A cricket event or a visiting team has, thankfully, never been attacked, even though disaster has struck at their doorstep: like in Jaipur during the Indian Premier League this year. I remember the day in 1999 during the ill-fated South Africa's "match fixing" tour of India when, like many times before, I walked into the main lobby of the Taj hotel. But I was stopped by security for the first time. When my target for an interview - the then captain Hansie Cronje - emerged from the main wing and started across the new wing, the tall structure on the right, I quickly approached him to take care of my interview without delay.

So many times, I walked across to the swimming pool, between the two wings, for photo opportunities of players relaxing and with foreigners becoming the new targets in India, suddenly my image of the next victim of terrorism is the visiting cricketer. As being touted on the Indian channels, the Mumbaikars rose and started walking again, but the spirit has been dented more badly than ever. As one Mumbaikar put it: "I feel my city has been raped. I am alive but I have feelings of anger but also of sorrow and helplessness."

The National sports journalist Kumar Shyam was born and brought up in Mumbai @Email:ksyham@thenational.ae