It’s been a while since I’ve shared some thoughts … laziness kept me a l’il busy 😉 However, the recent motormen strike rang a bell about certain quintessential characteristics of Mumbai & made my fingers itch till I got them busy on the keyboard.
I love this city … I completely and totally do. Irrespective of the good and bad that it holds, all negative perceptions get transcended if this city has grown on you. The relationship with this city is somewhat magical & unexplained …and somehow submissive.
I close my eyes to reminisce the incessant affair with this city and get lost in – the life it bubbles with;… the mesmerising hustle-bustle that never lets you feel alone;… the enchanting streets in the night;… the soothing sound of fierce waves at sea-faces & beaches;… the shiiisshh of butter on the hot tava and lingering smell of tempting masala from pav bhaji stalls;… the tik-tuk of ‘ghoda-gaadis’ at Nariman Point;… the friendly smiles exchanged with people whom you’ve never met before and yes, perhaps, never will meet again … and of course, the convenience of having it ALL, just about all, right here 🙂
Nonetheless, I hear complaints – from others and from my ownself too – complaints about the dirty, filthy streets;… the slums;… the heat;… the traffic;… the smog and wellll, the strikes 😉 ; the bhasha andolans 😉 ; fast & demanding lifestyle; the indifferent attitude, etc. etc. etc. … the list seems endless. It’s not surprising though, is it? The essence of Mumbai Masala has always offered a blend of pleasant and not so pleasant experiences… I know, as you read this, you guys are already in a Déjà vu state for the ‘not so pleasant’ experiences that you’ve had 🙂 – and am sure there are a common few that drive us all up the wall and make us think – “Where the hell is our tax money going?” … “Bloody, no civil sense, these buggers have” … “Congress aaye ya BJP – Mumbai, Mumbai hi rahega, Shanghai ke sapne chhod do” 🙂 – We all have our share of irritants that made us think like this – well, I share some that have effortlessly triggered such questions in my mind:
1. Do we understand and respect the word – ‘Clean’???
Travelling in Mumbai trains can never-ever be lonely…’coz you always have company of tiny four-legged or six-legged whiskered companions jumping within your seats or running from one compartment to another – Shrieks from ladies boogies aren’t always because of some male trespassers or thugs… cockroaches and mice take most credits in this case – Well, we all know what invites these creatures, don’t we? But who cares, as we are too habituated to treating not just Mumbai but this entire country as a dumping ground – roads, trains, buses, playgrounds, temples, public toilets – nothing’s spared… all places are taken as open trash cans by us. Any yes, how can I forget mentioning a huge bunch of senseless people spitting tobacco to create gross and atrocious designs on every possible nook & corner! To add to this, the terror attacks have led to tagging trash cans in public places as ‘unsafe’ and the fine against spitting worked only till the day it got successfully publicized in media. The sad part is that even the literates and often some authorities are equally responsible for such mindless actions and flouting norms, so if at all we look for support, we don’t really know whom to turn to. Somehow, I feel that mere monetary penalties or law enforcement can’t work on such offenders – the solution is to make them clean their own dirt. One strange habit that I have observed in every alternate person in this city is that they have ample of time to linger around and give their opinion for an occurrence that they absolutely have no concern with – so, why not use this trait of theirs positively? We can have a drive where, co-passengers or passer-bys get the right to compel the offender clean up a public property that he has dirtied – nothing can be more offensive and memorable than being compelled by 10 common people like you teaching you a lesson in public. In certain cases, it can be directed to specific authorities – e.g. in a bus, complaints can be directed to bus conductors / drivers who get the right to take an action. Well, there is a possibility of people misusing such rights or arguments resulting in street fights and so, we need awareness campaigns and laws to avoid such events. After all, cleanliness and proper hygiene is all that we are asking for.
2. What’s with the digging?
BMC’s been on an endless Dig-athon since quite a few years… well, our tax-money is used to pay the contractors who successfully dig pits and create craters that emerge out of nowhere and half of the time we don’t even know what they are digging for. What’s most annoying is that they dig, construct and re-dig a road that actually needed no digging at all. What’s even more annoying is that we realize one fine day that a road that we took for everyday commute is now closed for construction… we then have ‘a not so merry’-go-round trip to be stuck in midst of a bumper-to-bumper traffic where almost every mind thinks – “Did that road really need to be re-constructed”… well, more often than not, it didn’t 🙂 And, then there’s the story of flyovers flying across almost every road that we pass… while they were supposed to help the citys infrastructure, some have done more than harm in increasing road traffic and spoiling the city’s beauty – flyovers are required for appropriate reasons and when the reasons are merely inclined towards filling deep pockets, the purpose goes all wrong. Finally, the skywalks – well, the first one worked but what’s with the addiction of building one skywalk after another without proper planning? I believe, we deserve every right to know the right reasons that triggers digging and construction of roads, flyovers, skywalks and the system should allow a module that requests our consent in some form. Thankfully for now, the digging has been forbidden since April 30 to avoid inconvenience during monsoons … but then what about all that has been dug but show no signs of construction? Isn’t that inconvenience too?
3. Meter down down down …
Commuting by auto and taxi is a daily affair for me to reach my workplace and back home. But while this ideally should offer convenience, it’s often a mentally strenuous routine as only one in a hundred autos or taxis would have a meter which isn’t tampered and quotes the right fare. My friend teases me like hell on this topic as she often overhears my argument (on the phone) with a cabbie or an auto-driver over his tampered meter and me not willing to pay the wrong fare charged – well, it’s not the question of a few rupees but a question of integrity – it’s just not done. To top it all, you need to bear all their dadagiri and dhamkis, leaving you totally exhausted right at the beginning of the day. I often wonder if political parties, who claim to work towards our welfare by changing city names and checking our language proficiencies, could for a change look into matters that really matter to us. There have been certain complaint numbers allotted for this problem but with every possible meter being tampered, it’s still not a good solution. Infact, numbers should be allotted to collect details of the good autodrivers or cabbies – the task’s far easier and at least they’ll get some kudos for their honesty and good work – we never know the others may also learn a lesson from this and change for good 🙂 And well, all those who sympathise with drivers as poor people and feel it’s okay for them to earn a few extra bucks as we can afford it, I would request them to re-consider their argument – the fact is that their income well competes with or is sufficiently more than a Management Trainee’s salary and those who can afford few extra bucks aren’t the only ones who travel by this mode of commute.
4. Ban Dadagiri
I don’t know where the word ‘dadagiri’ originated from but wouldn’t be surprised if this was the city it originated from. Mumbai, despite of being one of the safest cities in the country, spills out dadagiri in all different forms – it’s almost like, being a tapori or a dada is stylish – not kidding…even some political party heroes and members feel so, don’t they? 😉 If one finds it difficult to win an argument, then the next best option is to resort to bullying the other person till he gets dominated by the bully attitude. Most films released these days (adding to those released in the past) promote taporipan of Mumbai and even kids love speaking the tapori lingo as parents encourage it – “it’s so cute”, they say… I agree but then, is it really good for them too? And well, filmdom isn’t the only channel where the influence is from – politicians and their tapori chhelas win all the way for being prime influencers – after all, bullying people over language proficiencies, restricting selected few from applying for jobs, enforcing name changes and attacking every possible simple remark & making an issue out of it to gain publicity has worked well by practicing dadagiri, hasn’t it? In all these years, I haven’t seen any genuine efforts to get this attitude in control but am sure, if efforts are sincere, things can be better and life can be led without unnecessary fear, don’t you agree?
5. Beg to do something regarding beggars
Mumbai is the financial capital of our country – in true sense – after all, even the begging business here is over Rs 180 crores. Infact nowadays, we see most of them not begging but forcing out money in every possible way at the signals or temples or school / college vicinities. What’s more annoying is that they brainwash and use children to do the dirty job. Children carrying children in often the most careless manner are busy hitting car windows; pulling your shirt or dupatta or touching your feet till you have no other way out than to shell out some pennies while their parents or rather trainers stand at a distance to keep a check on how well they are carrying out the job. To add to it, they often are found to be linked to the crime nexus. Not all are truly poor or unhealthy… it’s a business they have opted for themselves and they earn well enough to pay bribes to police authorities so that they aren’t shooed away, irrespective of the number of complaints against them. It’s a difficult problem to tackle, I agree… but not impossible. When Bangalore can bring in the Beggar Prohibition Act along with solutions to rehabilitate them, why can’t Mumbai too?
6. Boy… it’s hot and how!
Ever wondered – Why early mornings don’t feel as beautiful as before? and Why do buildings at a distance of 75-100 metres appear hazy – is it mist or smog? … Smog, of course 🙂 … with growth in car ownership being more than double the growth in city’s population, what more can we expect? The summers here seem endless and winters seem to disappear. To add to it, heat-wave attacks and respiratory problems seem like a common phenomenon with every other person we meet – does a day pass when you have not heard a cough or sneeze? The increase in number of cars is perhaps not the only reason but is definitely one of the prime reasons for making Mumbai hotter every year. Mumbai needs law enforcement for letting only a specific number of cars on road – cars could be tagged as per their number plates and allowed to be on road on specific days – e.g. odd nos. allowed on all days except Tuesdays and Thursdays and even nos. allowed on all days except Mondays and Wednesdays. Measures could include tying up with corporates to execute specific plans and am sure it would encourage a car pool trend as well. I know it’s an extensive exercise and not a simple thing to execute and yes, it could possibly also result in further crowding trains and buses and bribing police officials but such issues shouldn’t allow us to step back. We need to have solutions and steps to face every anticipated problem and the strategy is in being prepared not in reacting only after the worse has occurred. It’s high time we grow up and take matters seriously rather than letting corrupt officials fill their pockets in name of projects – I fail to understand – Why wasn’t Mumbai Metro planned well? Why do we always take too long to plan and execute everything? If money always falls short for projects that are planned, then where’s the money going? If Mumbai truly has great spirit, why can’t we see it constructively in prevention rather than equating it always with bouncing back from problems? When… just when will we see an attitude change in our government authorities and in us, unitedly? Perhaps – when Mumbai heat will touch maximum threshold… well, hope not!
7. People need proper places for nature calls
How many times have most of us entered a hotel or a restaurant or some other place only to answer an unexpected nature’s call? – Am sure we have been caught in this situation at least once 😀 … The Sulabh Sauchalayas in Mumbai are anything but Sulabh – and if we have been constantly on the move, for how long do they expect us to hold on? 😀 And obviously if they are kept sooo dirty, it’s not going to be used – I mean, not going to be used for right reasons – the water there wasn’t meant for making chai at railway platforms, was it? 😀 We seriously need ‘Sulabh and Swachh Sauchalayas’ and we are willing to pay to maintain it. And if it getting dirty is inevitable owing to its use by one and all, then it could be sectionalised as common and premium just like second class and first class in trains. What’s the big deal, guys? – We are only requesting one of the most basic necessities.
8. Emergency is uncalled for and so is the inefficiency of emergency helplines
A recent report in Mumbai Mirror stated that our police emergency number 100 was out of order as they had not paid their phone bills… I feel even the word ridiculous isn’t enough for them… Secondly, when we call an emergency helpline we wish to immediately talk to someone, not hear recorded messages. The case may have been checked only for Dombivli, Kalyan, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath and Badlapur but these places are very much a part of Mumbai Metroplitan Region and emergencies aren’t restricted by locations … so, please ensure that they not just work but work efficiently.
9. I love the name ‘Bombay’
… and hey, it’s just a personal feeling so, please don’t come raging towards me. It’s just a name, after all – a name that I and many more in my generation and in generations before me have romanticised; a name I feel nostalgic about; a name that I have identifed with since I was born… so if I happen to refer this city as Bombay instead of Mumbai in a conversation, it’s just out of habit, that occurs naturally… not because I have anything against the name Mumbai. So, let democracy be practised in real sense… allow me my rights till I do no harm to others and allow me to be free from tension of someone coming and hitting me if I happen to utter the name I love.
10. Give us an agenda
I read and see on discussion forums that authorities often tend to play a ‘passing the buck’ game and finally hold citizens responsible for any issue that we complain about. Fair enough, we are willing to own up responsibilties but then care to entrust them responsibly to us. Give us an agenda and get us involved. If required, make certain involvement compulsory. There are many housing societies and individuals who do their bit anyways… and then there are some who intend to contribute but sincerely do not know how. Most people, here, no matter how time-poor they are, wish to contribute or help in their own possible ways – provided the only possible option offered to them isn’t donation. Tie us with NGOs… or get us together for a cause… take one cause quarterly for each ward and check progress on it. Government officials will get help and we’ll get transparency and satisfaction. It can seriously work well. And again, before arguing this with alibis and taking two steps behind, do care to at least try us out!
I’ll like to end by saying again that irrespective of any number of blues that I have ever faced here; I love this city – a city that wonderfully inhabits a blend of different people, ethnicities and moods with complete ease and comfort, bringing forth a culture that beckons an example of true cosmopolitism. And while we all want things to change for better, these 10 changes are what I desire – so, now go ahead and tell me the changes that you’d like to see.