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'We are mad as hell'

Sanaya Dalal in Mumbai | December 03, 2008 10:50 IST

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At 6 pm today, Mumbai's youth intend to stage a 'non-cooperation' movement of sorts at the Gateway of India.

Because everyone is "mad as hell and won't take it anymore", as Suparn Verma, filmmaker and former rediff staffer, declared on his blog last week.

Verma, director of the forthcoming thriller Acid Factory, has spearheaded the protest to be staged opposite the Taj Hotel [Images] on Wednesday evening, inviting everyone to join him and the word has spread like wildfire -- the city's youngsters are preparing to show up and take a stand for what they believe in.

"All I did was decide to take a stand and it's heartening to see how people decided to join in," he says. "Ours is a very motivated generation. Everyone is angry and rather than just light a candle and express sympathy, we need to channel a real effort into showing our collective strength. Our politicians have left our country in a state of disarray and we need to get together and move this mountain."

So how did one statement on one blog become a movement and what exactly is planned at the Gateway today? "People who read the blog have spread the word through SMSes and the Internet, they've turned it into a united agenda," explains Verma. "We're hoping to have a good turnout, hopefully a few thousand -- I've had positive responses from people across all walks of walk, MBAs, bankers, actors, journos... And it's not just in Mumbai, there will also be protests held at the same time this evening in Delhi [Images] (Connaught Place), Bangalore (Cubbon Park), Hyderabad (Tank Bund) and other cities."

"What I'm hoping for is a concrete solution," he continues. "We're hoping to create a network of people who are attending, collecting e-mail IDs, telephone numbers etc -- a lot of us are already in touch and have pledged our permanent support. We don't need to stop traffic, shout slogans or disrupt traffic. The idea is for all of us at the Gateway to be seen as a collective whole, as a vote bank by our politicians, because they don't seem to care about anything else -- politics is one big money-making racket."

So what's the permanent solution? "I plan to be at the Gateway next Wednesday too," says the young director, "And every week after that, I want like-minded youth to take up this cause -- we should meet every week, maybe not at the site, but to move in the right direction. We can also spread the word through the Internet and via SMS. We should create a civilian body that the government is answerable to, a body of citizens that can sit in on state security council meetings and enlighten the public about what is happening, pass on information about what is discussed etc. We spend Rs 1.25 crores on Parliament per day, which has convened only 50 sittings this year. Is this what we're paying tax for? Where are the solutions to our problems? The terrorists shut down the city for three days, then our politicians call bandhs and shut us down again! All they do is name bridges and parks after martyrs, instead of making sure that those brave people did not lay their lives down in vain."

Malini Agarwal, 31, programming head and an RJ at Mumbai radio station Radio One, also plans to attend the rally at the Gateway of India. Agarwal was in the nightclub Dragonfly opposite the Trident Hotel on the night of November 26. "I almost walked into the hotel lobby while waiting for a friend," she says. "But after he arrived we decided to visit Dragonfly and just as we headed there we heard the gunfire. We initially thought firecrackers going off." Upon discovering what happened, the club's patrons were holed up in there till 6 am the next morning. In fact, a couple of stray bullets from across the street were found lodged in the bulletproof glass door of the Dragonfly the next morning.

Continues Agarwal, "I already attended the candlelight vigil at Carter Road on November 29, but that was to mourn what happened. At some level I thought it was a little clich�d and wasn't so sure I should go, but I'm glad I did. It's important to do what brings you comfort at times like this and you shouldn't impose how you feel on others."

"I have heard that there are several valid points on the agenda at today's meeting and I'm hoping we can make some headway. I'm confident that people are not willing to forget what happened this time so easily. If someone takes the lead, we can make a difference."

Another prominent Mumbaikar who intends to show his solidarity at the Gateway along with the rest of Mumbai is artist Arzan Khambatta, 42. He says, "More than anything, we're scared right now and it helps when people come together and talk about it. We even lit candles at Dadar's Five Gardens on Monday, to express concern and show those who have lost loved ones in the catastrophe that they're not alone -- we share their grief. I don't know what will take place today, but I do know that I should be there. I'm not an expert at administrative solutions, but hopefully, there is someone out there who has good ideas about what direction we should take as civilians. But we'll only know when we get together and explore our options, as individuals and as a city. And who better than the youth to lead the way? I have heard several people like Alyque Padamsee and Bachi Karkaria on television, sharing their points of view -- now I'd like to hear what youngsters think."

Shilarna Vaze, 26, television anchor with the Pogo television channel, is also participating. Like Agarwal, she attended the candlelight vigil at Carter Road on the weekend, because she "felt so futile sitting around at home doing nothing". She explains, "I think we all need to get involved. People don't care -- that is the real reason Mumbai bounces back from these catastrophes, not out of a persevering need to restore normalcy. I returned from Goa [Images] on November 27, a day after the terrorists struck and I returned to my home in Juhu -- believe me, what was happening in South Mumbai was like watching another city altogether. It was not making as much of a difference as it should to anybody."

Continues Vaze, "We need to organise ourselves into groups that address the real issues in the city. Start micro before going macro -- it pisses me off to see cops rounding up kids at parties and streetlights shining all through the day. But nobody is bothered. Only if we start at the grass root level do we have some hope of making a change. Till then, our useless politicians will run things like they always have. It's good to see the kind of criticism that is raining down on them right now, otherwise people are usually too intimidated to comment. And the media is busy sensationalising bans on dance bars and Raj Thackeray's [Images] tactics, while everyone overlooks the most important issue -- the security of Mumbai. I'm hoping something comes of this protest at the Gateway today, but I don't have my hopes too high about what will come of it."

Also see:
Mumbai youth rally against terror
Candlelight vigil in US for terror victims






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