February 12, 2008

The Coarse Fabric

This doesn't seem like Mumbai. A city which has always been in a fixed temperature range since as long as I remember, has suddenly become cold in more ways than one. Mercury apart, it has also lost its heart. It's sad to see people in a secular, free country run for their lives, rushing to take the first train North of the Vindhyas. Their only mistake being that they were 30 years late in life. Can you blame them?

Mumbai is what it is because it is the melting pot of India. People come here with dreams in their eyes and with hard work, perseverance and a stubborn belief usually achieve it. The city is entrepreneurial because of migrants who came here many years ago. Gujaratis, Marwaris, South Indians, Punjabis, Sindhis, all of them have shaped Mumbai. My grandfather came here two generations ago and set up a paan-beedi shop at Lower Parel. He stayed above the shop with his wife and five children. He was a migrant. My uncles came here some 50 years ago and worked in kitchens and workshops. My family is just one drop in the ocean of Mumbai. Almost everybody I know has come here and has made Mumbai their home. And Mumbai in return has welcomed them and added different colours to her personality.

Which makes me come to the next point of the rabblerousers that migrants don't enrich Mumbai. Enrichment is a long process. It is not fast food. It took two generations for a betel leaf trader to get the first engineer and consequently the first MBA in his family. What if he was evicted when the Tiger came singing 'Lungi hatao, Pungi bajao'? I guess we would all lose.

Then the entire episode is inconsistent. On one hand unemployed North Indians are forced out. The salaried class against which Maharashtra's New Construction Army actually has an issue with; since they have caused the manoos his job loss; is left alone. Probably because the manoos and the bayka causing the havoc is permanently employed as cook, bai or driver with the Verma, the Singh and the Thakur. If that lacked consistency, then there are expats who are left alone. Well these guys spend dollars at pubs where the manoos is the bouncer or at the gym where the manoos trains him. You Northie. Where do you spend your last rupee? It goes to your village where your family can now have a pukka roof. But since I don't get any of that New Construction pie I'm pissed.

Mumbai creaks under loads it wasn't designed for because the design is outdated. It needs to grow and for that it needs better infrastructure and more planned townships and central business districts. (BKC is a start, I hope Navi Mumbai takes off). Lets leave the betel leaf traders, bhel-puri wallas and the majdoors alone. They make up the coarse fabric that balances the silk. Maybe their grandsons will one day be a part of a team that finances the very infrastructure we need.