I admit I have no great love lost for the clichéd bombayite. And it is not because I live twenty five kilometres up north in the predominantly migrant, nouveu riche and bollywoodized suburb of andheri lokhandwala, surrounded with film aspirants in their v shaped bodies, but simply, because having come from the lap of Hindi heartland , where a young beaurocrat still expects the highest dowry and heated political discussions are buzzing on nine out of every ten tables in coffee houses , I find it rather disturbing, the amount of indifference and apathy that it shows to Indian mainstream politics. My big eyes widen even more with utmost amazement, when an average Mumbai “youth”, pauses and thinks the name of the president of India , but rattles of the names of the American idol winners with utmost ease and panache. Although appalled, I generally laugh it out.
But 26/11 changed it all. Or so I thought. Suddenly, south Mumbai heard noises which were not coming out of their play stations. , Kandahar was not just the name of a fancy place to eat, rather a place where people got killed mercilessly by people who ironically may have been connected to the actual Kandahar. Death shifted base. From the dark alleys of downmarket ghatkopers and malegaons to the spik and span (and expensive) taj and oberoi. There was mayhem and anger and it showed. Politicians were ridiculed and abused, carpet bombing of enemy country was suggested, candle vigils in the night gained momentum, signature campaigns and sms polls gained pace, and it became imperative if not fashionable, to discuss changing the future of India. The call for participation of the youth in nation building became louder. ‘we have to wake up and show them our strength, surely Mumbai deserves better governance, change the system, deshmukh resign, ram gopal verma is a criminal’ and so and so forth suddenly became mainstream topics of discussions instead of bollywood releases and Mac book models. Suddenly politics was happening!
Alas, five months was too long a time period to keep the interest in their new found toy alive. Came Election Day, and the voter turnout could not even reach halfway mark, percentage wise. That when, the election commission declared that day as a holiday, so that the people could go out and vote. But I guess the EC got it all wrong.
Election Day being a Thursday meant a very long weekend and lonavala, alibagh and goa were offering weekend packages.
The summer holidays had begun and the kids had salsa classes.
The drivers had taken leave what with the harvest season in his village about to happen.
The ipl was on.
Standing in a queue in the sun meant getting tanned, and that is permissible only when you are in goa or in Hawaii..
oops, but i just got my manicure done, dont want to spoil it with the blue ink
The booths were not air conditioned.
Ballet boxes were not available on home delivery.
So how could they go out and vote. There is one thing screaming for change on television sets, with the pr people making sure your sound byte is aired at the right time, but when it comes to actually taking a step, same old story. What is the reason for this sense of acute indifference? Is it just because of a huge colonial hangover, or simply a case of an “island city “mentality where your life starts and ends within the radius of five kilometres? Or is it that the people are so disgusted with the entire system that the absence was actually a boycott.
Nobody would ever come to know and nobody does. It like all the mysteries surrounding this absolutely, majestic and magnificent city, which despite having zero interest, pays the highest amount of taxes, year after year so that flyovers can be built in Delhi to prepare it for the commonwealth games. This is a city, where petty crimes are relatively low, women are safe, opportunities are in abundance, the people generally smile, holi, diwali, id, ganpati, and Christmas are all celebrated with huge aplomb and gusto and the city generally adopts you, make you its own…it’s a city where centuries co exists in adjacent flats and people generally live and let live, even if you are not a Marathi manoos.
I am myself a migrant to this city and completely in love with it. So I request you… all you mumbaikars, whether in south Mumbai or north, east or west to wake up and take control, before it again goes out of hand. Don’t be so disconnected, don’t be so disillusioned.. Things would change if you change. Just broaden your horizons and see what magic follows.
And meanwhile you can always learn your salsa…..