There is a phrase in India that has become not so much a commonplace as a vulgar truism, one that people reach for quickly to describe India’s financial capital’s indomitable nature: the spirit of Mumbai. The terror attacks of November, that ripped asunder the very fabric of this resolute city, has dented that spirit. Somewhat.
For a born and bred Mumbaite like me, the attacks brought on a sense of deja vu. The city of Mumbai, with the gritty attitude of its citizens, is no stranger to catastrophe. In 1992, when communal riots threatened to rip apart the secular fabric of this most cosmopolitan of Indian cities, the spirit lived on. And again in 1993, when serial blasts tore through Mumbai, the spirit was palpable. Yet again in 2006, when bombs went off on the city’s suburban train network, killing more than 200 people, Mumbai picked up the pieces and moved on. The grind continued in the face of adversity.
This time though, I noticed a difference. A tangible anger was in the air, intermingling with the panic and trauma. Over the last couple of days, this has translated into a groundswell of protest. People from all walks of life decided to gather at the Gateway of India recently, with the burnt dome of the battle-scarred Taj hotel in the background. As riveting as the pictures of the smoking Taj – flames leaping out of windows, panes shattering, crows taking off in the foreground at the sound of gunfire – were the images of scores and scores of citizens taking to the streets. From the common man to the captains of industry, they were all there. Lighting candles, holding all-night vigils, demanding that the powers that be stand up and shoulder their share of blame.
At the Gateway, I bumped into some senior directors and many employees from the drug industry. While some spoke about the postponement of the global exhibition CPhI India and how potential deals had taken a knocking, others alluded to the deferred dates of the Indian Pharmaceutical Congress, as well as the day-long ExIm (Export Import) seminar on medical devices, which delegates from Japan were slated to attend. Still, many others spoke about the Thanksgiving celebrations across the world, and how the attacks coincided with the occasion, when one is grateful for family, friends, and good health. Closer home, I was struck by the very precariousness of it all.
Some spoke about how the industry would take a fair amount of beating in the short term, but most insisted that that there would be no long-term damage. Employees of multinational corporations affirmed that it would not affect investor confidence in the country, and that even the US-India Business Council, comprising several top US drug firms, underscored the same to its members. The Council has decided to stick to its plans to bring various business delegations from the US to India.
And although the dark forces of intolerance have haunted this city for too long, the undying spirit of Mumbai seems to be coming back to the fore. This time though, it may not be an easy task. No one seems to be in a rush to restore normalcy. People want answers. And they want them now.
For the drug industry, an immediate decision has been taken, to bring together people – seniors, employees and like-minded citizens. Coalitions will be formed, to take on the forces of terror, to deliberate on how to tackle the crisis situation. Across the board, people are meeting to chart out their future course of action. From this point, there is no going back.
See more articles by A. Nair on PharmTech.com.