The Untitled One
It gets extremely confusing and exhausting when I try to decide what I think of this city, much like my opinion about ‘cutting chai’. Do I like it? Do I dislike it?
When I decided to study here I was one of the ‘Delhites’. It may seem like a non-issue if you aren’t aware of the stereotype it comes with – rapist, rude. Similarly the Biharis are milkmen, Bengalis are snooty, Rajasthanis are stingy, East Indians are Chinese and Madrasis (which, of course includes people from Andhra, Kerela and Karnataka) are here to steal jobs. Somewhere between getting used to the unassuming filth on the roads and the contrasting straight disciplined queues at bus stops, I discovered that the Mumbaikar stereotypes himself too, all in good humour. A Townie has a western upbringing and is a connoisseur of everything under the sun. A person from Goregaon is a Bollywood struggler, someone from Ghatkopar is an oil-oozing-from-head engineer, someone from Juhu is Amitabh Bachchan’s neighbour, someone from Bandra is a rich catholic spoilt brat and anyone from Dharavi is a chivda-making slum dog. I guess the fun helps in dealing with the highly stressful life the city comes with (but the awesome weekend getaways around Mumbai are a treat no other Indian city offers).
However, there’s no getting away from how fast this ‘cosmopolitan’ city is progressing towards regression. While it boasts of being a multicultural hub, it bans the works and the entry of its own home-grown geniuses – Hussain and Rushdie. While more art and literature and galleries and festivals flourish, Bollywood takes over the media and the minds of the people. A model trying to act or a six-packed ‘hero’ and the details of their cosmetic implants are more celebrated than years of riyaaz of a classical musician or the slowly dying theatre artist.
While hyped melodramatic plagiarized films are sent for the oscars, a humble, strong biopic remains humbled.
Its hard to find that famous charm of Mumbai’s nightlife when smoking is banned, drinking for under-21s is banned, hukkas are banned, dance bars are banned, roadside night joints are banned and what isn’t yet banned Dhoble will ban soon. However spitting, peeing and oversized Ganesh murtis are not banned. While all this happens, Valentines day is also banned. Living in is approved by the law, but remains banned nevertheless.
While the Mantralaya breeds and burns scams, the politicos go more and more right-wing. While Muslims go on a protest for something not affecting their lives, Hindus go on a protest for Muslims going on the protest. Muslims don’t get flats to stay. Hindus do, provided they’re married. The Saffrons and the Greens paint the town a bloody red.
In all the pointlessness, survives what is known as the Mumbai spirit. A whole city, picks itself up from tragedy and diversity and moves on. Like cutting chai, the city at all times is divided – between the sane and the inhuman. Looking at the world-class dabbawalas or the highly-efficient locals brings one in touch with what probably reflects some civil, progressive behaviour.