Scared of venturing out, scared of the unknown terror lurking somewhere -- on the train, in the taxi, in the mall, at the theatre. Of a person brushing against me in a crowded area or lift.
Scared whether I will return in one piece -- or return at all -- every time I leave the safety of my home.
More than myself, I am scared whenever a loved one steps out. I am tense and pray until they all come back. Then, I heave a huge sigh of relief -- only for the tension to return the next morning, when someone steps out again.
I am angry. Angry at myself for being scared.
I walked the length of the roads from CST to KC college trying to get in touch with my son on a day of another terror attack when bodies were being hurried into siren-blazing ambulances, when loudspeakers were blaring appeals for blood donations and when jammed phone lines added to the mayhem.
But scared? No!
Angry and disguted? Yes! But never scared.
I think it has been increasing with time, this disgust and disillusionment with political figures. As their greed, hunger for power, complete irreverence to ordinary lives, their callousness to our suffering increased, so did our anger.
But it did not result in an outburst.
Even when an upstart proclaimed himself the deliverer of Mumbai, questioning my right to being a Mumbaikar even after spending a good 36 years of my life in this city, the feeling increased.
Incidentally, this is the man who was nowhere to be seen when Mumbai was burning.
A part of me by then had already started seething with rage. The terror attacks only intensified the feeling of being vulnerable, directionless and headless. There was no security blanket. There was no succour.
As I sat glued to my television screen, looking on in complete horror and disbelief at the surreal drama unfolding before my eyes at CST, my feeling of helplessness grew every minute.
The mind, numb with shock, refused to register it for real; it looked like a gangster movie unfolding in front of my eyes.
And when the action shifted to the Taj and Oberoi hotels, the magnitude of the tragedy increased manifold. These were the places one went to relax and celebrate. I could see my daughter visibly crumbling. The Taj has always been something very special to her.
How? Why? What next? Questions arose in quick succession; and died unanswered.
As the tale of death and disaster progressed through three days and three nights, I found myself unable to tear away from the gruesome viewing; unable to sleep, or eat, or talk.
I felt angry at my defencelessness. The disgust at those who had sworn to protect and nurture the country started increasing.
They, the politicians, are called the leaders of the country. They use my -- taxpayers' -- money to guard their precious selves and leave me at the mercy of terrorists; like the defenceless ward boy of Cama hospital [ Images ] who manned the gate against terrorists -- and got a bullet as reward.
Why do these so-called leaders need to be guarded? Even if all of them are killed in terrorist attacks, is there even a single one of them who cannot be replaced the very next day? What entitles them to deserve the security for which I pay with my hard-earned money, and which is diverted from necessary weapons and protection to those who guard me?
They call themselves leaders. Who are they leading? With what?
Their insulated and inflated egos make them speak in deriding and patroniSing tones to a martyr's father. They make fun of a multitude of mourners. They make light of a calamity that has not only claimed lives but scarred whole families.
Do they care at all?
No sir. They resign listening to the voice of their muted conscience only when sure of being booted out otherwise. Some even then cling on to their chairs like a dying man does to an oxygen mask.
Politics has become big business. They call it service to the nation but in most of the cases it means amassing assets totally disproportionate to income. They enjoy unlimited clout and wield ruthless power on the same unsuspecting public whom they claim to serve.
Devoid of this only means of luxurious livelihood, most of them will not know how to fend for themselves. This is the only profession they are proficient in. This unique quality surpasses 'qualifications' of beliefs and ideologies.
No one at the helm cares for the country more than he does for himself. The generation that freed India from the British rule had left the comfort of homes to rough it up in jails for a mission. The current crop of politicians seeks the solace of politics for those very -- or greater -- comforts.
That is why personal safety was never a concern for those who lead India.
My father used to narrate an incident that happened during Partition. Pandit Nehru [ Images ] was visiting a riot-hit area in his car with a lone bodyguard. Suddenly, he asked the driver to stop the car and jumped out. A rioter was about to stab another man.
Nehru slapped him and snatched the knife from his hand before his stunned bodyguard could even react.
He was a leader who mingled freely with the masses and never had to resort to a bullet-proof car or screen to interact with his people. Gandhiji, uncaring of his safety, fell to these very bullets.
These were men who deserved to be protected -- yet they didn't care.
Why should we spend money on protecting worthless men and women who cannot look beyond protecting their own interest? Why should we pay for the protection of those who mock the common man's misery?
Let each of these politicians be stripped of the security cover and perks. Let them feel like the common men they really are. Let them understand that they are the servants of the people -- and then let us find out how many of them actually want to serve the nation.
The money then can be directed to where it is really needed. Let only those serve us, for whom politics has not become a business. The only face I could recall mixing with impunity with people post 26/11 was that of Milind Deora [ Images ]. I would any day be happy and feel safe having him or Rajdeep Sardesai [ Images ] or any former military chief as my chief minister.
At least they sound honest.
Incidentally Rajdeep was the only editor-in-chief was not firing salvos from his desk but was at the war zone. Replacing a Deshkmukh with a Shinde a Chawan or Pawar is a meaningless exercise. They are clones. We need dynamic people at the helm of affairs.
It is time our politicians got over their 'till death do us part' romance with power. It is time to give the young a chance.
Everyone is hankering that an Obama [ Images ] is needed to save an India. But Obama does not need to spell Mayawati [ Images ]. Obama is who he is because of his sincerity, honesty, decency and dynamism.
This is what we require in a person to lead us. Let the state taste this at the helm of affairs. We will get our Obama at the Centre too.
God knows we need the change. And fast.
If you want to tell your story too about what you went through that horrific night and its aftermath, please do write in to firstname.lastname@example.org
Complete coverage: Terror strikes at Mumbai's heart