Dressed in crisp black-coats, they stood on the kerb, about 60 of them. Men and women staff of Marine Plaza, stood in silent reverence in front of the glass-tinted hotel, facing Mumbai's famed Marine Drive. They were observing two minutes of silence with the rest of the city, remembering people who succumbed to the terror attack on Mumbai's suburban trains. The Queen's Necklace, that defines the meeting of land and sea, stood mute as cars stopped on an otherwise busy road, and its well-heeled passengers stepped out for the two minutes.

One month from the incident, people have gone on with their lives, but under the shadow of fear, as terror threats re-visit other global cities. The city of 18 million people and growing, silver-screen icons and straight-jacket corporates, a city where real-life chillingly competes with reel-life has unwittingly taken in its strideterms such as`sleeper-cells' and `encounters'.

With paradoxes in lifestyles, religions and attitudes, Mumbai's fabric is not under strain, though. Not when it rained a historic 94 cm in one day last year, not when a series of blasts de-railed normal life last month. Compare this with what happened in the First World, where a hurricane sets off looting incidents in its wake, besides of course blowing the cover off racial differences.

Cut back to Mumbai, where people only helped, be it rain or blast. Weary commuters, through the rain last year or after the serial-blasts last month, were offered food and water by strangers. Hospitals received more blood-donors than it could handle on the very night of the blasts. One good samaritan actually spent close to about Rs 3 lakh, paying for hospital procedures of several distressed families that crowded one hospital after last month's blast. Andno strings attached.

Mumbaikars may not have their P's and Q's perfectly in place, may not open the door for you, or pick up fallen packages, but it would be ruder still to not see the several graces that strangers extend each other, spontaneously, when a crisis strikes.

P. T. Jyothi Datta

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 12, 2006)
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