The antiwar rally began at Bombay's historic August Kranti Maidan, and when it got going it stretched for a good 150 metres. We strolled down to Nana Chowk, over the Grant Road Bridge and east from there through the congested, throbbing heart of this city. There is a certain refreshing quality to this, despite the cause: the slogan-shouting, the leaflet-distributing, the simple feeling of solidarity with a few hundred people as you walk on the street, as you look about you at what this city is all about.
There, the Alfred theatre, apparently run, or started, by an old Irish woman. That one, and a few others here, the last few theatres in Bombay which still have hand-painted film posters -- in their lurid colours, impossibly rosy cheeks and slightly distorted faces, so much more interesting than the photo-reproductions that have taken over that particular industry. The innumerable guest houses in ancient buildings on either side, men and women leaning out from far above to look down at us from beautifully carved balconies, and hello, that balcony doesn't even have a floor! Lucky nobody stands on it... The huge flashy clothing store that, someone says, is doing its best to evict the tenants from the chawl that's right alongside. Someone whispers, "There were even some murders!"
I look over at the store, trying to imagine someone from there making his way up into the chawls with a pickaxe or whatever else might have been an implement of murder. Did he wear that orange outfit as he went?
The life on the pavements, the sheer energy in the crowds.
Even if a gangster-politician is somewhere up ahead, joining in at the front of our procession to make his political capital for the day -- even so, this rally gives me the charge these rallies always do. Not least because they let me look at this city in ways I so rarely manage.
It frustrates me, it annoys me, it is perverse -- but something about this city is lodged somewhere deep in my soul. And I hope I never lose it.