On Sunday, violence erupted in Mumbai (not again…). Taxi-drivers, paan-wallas and ‘outsiders’ (read UPites and Biharis) were the target of assault by frenzied MNS supporters. In an is-it-related-or-not incident, Amitabh Bachchan’s house was attacked the next day, spurred by resentment towards his move to set up a girls’ school in Uttar Pradesh rather than Maharashtra.
I was at home on Horror Monday (Can we call it that? – We’d probably have to name at least one day each month for the sundry episodes of communal clashes that errupt so frequently in this so-called cosmopolitan metropolis). The news channels had a field day running and re-running the clips of a taxi-driver being dragged out of his car and beaten to pulp and soundbytes with the public expressing their outrage at this breach of peace.
Yesterday a reader wrote to me saying that he’d dropped into my blog for news on this event and was disappointed to hear me talking about art and festivals instead. Point taken. I’m part of that unconcerned, educated upper-middle class elite that tut-tuts about the ruin our politicians are bringing to the country and then does nothing about it.
To be quite honest, I don’t know what to say. On one hand, we’ve gotten practically used to cricket pitches being dug up, shops shut down, bandhs called, trains delayed, people being beaten up by the saffron brigade. And then there’s the reality that the news channels rarely, if ever, cover the truth as is.
As a point of fact, I travelled across the city yesterday and today. For all purposes Mumbai is its usual bustling, thriving self. It’s like it might not have been at all.
And then I wonder, how does the driver of the taxi I’m in, feel? Is he really waiting for the signal to change or is he actually casting a wary eye around at would-be attackers? How about the doodhwala by whose doorbell ring we can set our alarm clocks? To be here at 5:30 a.m. I only wonder what time he’d have to get up. The much-maligned autorickshaw-wallas?
At the end of all that, I wonder, does it matter? Does the MNS or Shiv Sena before them really believe that they can ‘rid’ Mumbai of its outsiders? More likely, no one’s thinking or caring about that far into the future. It’s the here and now. Any publicity is good publicity, be it ever so blood-spattered.
And guess what – it’s the lower extremes that get the cut, like extensions getting pruned away. Who cares, they’ll grow back tomorrow! So while AB gets his security beefed up, our roads are awash with lingering fear writ large on the faces of nameless people who make this city run.
I’m just wondering if the welfare of Maharashtrians is the cause, is anyone thinking of what’s happening within the state? But I suppose dying farmers aren’t as catchy a story. So much easier to just grab a punching bag.
In a related aside, do read this post and the comments that follow. The image I’m carrying in my mind is of a fat goose that lays golden eggs. Everyone’s trying to get a piece of it and brush off everyone else’s hands..and so what if the goose is strangulated in the process?? That’s Mumbai.