Sunday, November 30, 2008

Maximum City

Warning: moralizing ahead.

We are rarely serious hereabouts, and very much on purpose, too (those who love me best know that there's a fine line indeed between serious and maudlin). I've been wondering what to think about the horror going on in India these past days, and now I'm very, very glad that someone has put my inchoate thoughts into eloquent words.

Everyone who loves cities should read this beautiful, mournful, hopeful column by Suketu Mehta:

"But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder.

If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?

So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be just economic."

All of us rootless cosmopolites are well behooved to think this through: we're the targets, we're the city-dwellers, and only we can keep the party going. Someday - as in New York, London, Madrid, now Mumbai - we may be called upon to do so.


  1. it's horrible what happened in mumbai. i hope they can pick up the pieces and get on with life.i heard it described as india's 9/11...

  2. Thank you for finding and posting this. It expresses exactly how I feel about what's happened in New York, London, Madrid, and now Mumbai, only far better than I ever could.

  3. Amazing how it turns the horrific into something quite poetic...and with a dash of good advice too.

  4. To make what happened in Mumbai feel just a little bit less singular and weird, have a look at Vikram Chandra's extremely vital portrait of the city — at once India's metropolis and a hotbed of its Hindu nationalism — "Sacred Games."