Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A tale of two cities

Mumbai and Bombay. Somehow the usage just seems to -- inadvertently -- denote the biggest difference between how people see the city.

Bombay, of course, is cosmopolitan. Open for everyone. BUT Mumbai is only for Mumbaikars. Raj Thackery (who finally someone, even if it was Lalu Prasad Yadav, called a mental case) has been arrested, and as I type, is going to be taken to court shortly.

As you all might know, Raj and his band of MNS workers have been attacking non-Maharashtrians in the city, claiming that they are taking away jobs that actually belong to Maharashtrians. The hysteria has been a multi-pronged strategy, which has included calls for all shop signs to be in Marathi, all state communication in the same language, beating up taxi drivers and so on. The sheer power of Raj -- his ability to lead other goons like him -- made the state government nervous about arresting him. Bombastic threats were made, to the effect that "watch what will happen if you arrest Raj Thackerey!"

This entire deal has been making me think of identity as an Indian. The fact that Raj has a following is most disheartening to me. But its not just as an observer. I'm half Kashmiri and half Maharashtrian. Since I wasn't born in Kashmir, I can never buy land there. (Consider this my pitch to change that law!) Chances are, especially since I can't speak Marathi fluently (and plus not a pure breed), if it was up to Thackerey & gang, I wouldn't be welcome there. Delhi is my home. I can't imagine what I would do if this state because some exclusive party too. But as my mother reassures me, I was born in the city! (Phew -- that has to earn me some brownie points!)

But then again, if I have to be fair, the Delhi CM also lamented a while ago about migration into Delhi. (Poor UP and Bihar). And the frustration stems from a real place, of course, because since movement within our country is a constitutional right, the government can never be sure of how many people will reside in a state on any particular month. So, resources are never enough. They cannot be planned well enough. Bigger questions about budgets follow.

Beating up people who are looking for a better life is not the answer. Many have argued that it is the fault of governments of backward states -- especially UP and Bihar -- that just do not have jobs and infrastructure to provide to their people. It's probably very true, and these states need to be developed with some long term aims. Bihar has been destroyed again, and I hope Mayawati is actually doing some good out in UP -- one mostly hears of her many statues and fights with Sonia, but I'm ready to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Our media, of course, is helpful as ever. Is this the face of urban terrorism, asked CNN IBN. I'm not sure exactly what the meaning of this new label is, and if that is really the point. Arnab Goswami, I was very happy to note, was holding representatives of MNS, Shiv Sena to task.

What will happen to Raj? Because I'd sooner go to Bombay for a visit than Mumbai.


IR said...

raj thakeray's stand is ridiculous, but he is a creation of the state ,they should continue to keep him behind bars .

I think the only cosmopolitan place left in india is delhi ( this statement made in public can lead to mass hysteria ! ) but look at the case , delhi post partition has been a punjabi dominated city , however there has never been a major anti muslim riot ( given the basis of the partition was muslim-hindu ) ,
when i was in school , my friends/ group included a kannadiga, kashmiri , bengali and 2 punjabis , it never mattered to us that " ethinically" we are d/f , even thogh delhi was identified as a punjabi city .

one of the punjabis went to banglore for his grad and on his first day was told that he was a noth indian , and henceforth that will remain his identity.

i cant imagine ( and i cant think of anybody i know ) telling a non-north indian that he/she is an otsider, ethinically d/f .
the concept of nation hood falls flat on its face in the wake of such mindsets

mahima said...

you i gotto agree with you about the cosmopolitan nature of delhi...

IR said...

i am serious

people say delhi is not safe for women or is crime ridden, please tell me one city in india where women can roam around at midnight , unescorted without a care in this world ?

if a city's character has to be judged by how open it is about accepting people from various ethinic background , then delhi has no parallel

rich /powerful people who show off their wealth/power reside in all cities , they might mouth expletives in other languages, that is the only difference !

egg style said...

Bombay or Mumbai, the difference is sometimes just semantic. Both suffer from a Raj Hangover, and worse, a Vanity Affliction that often renders them mindlessly unfair in their supercilious assessment of others less Rajophilic ("natives"?). The Raj-indoctrinated mindset is inequitous and driven to demonize those deemed enemies by employing ridiculous cultural propaganda tools that any sensible person can see through.

Raj fanatics can't stand it, but Delhi in all its architecntural splendour and linguistic lyricism has always been the real representative of India. Delhi was the world's most important city some 3-4 centuries ago, and will hopefully soon reclaim that distinction -- a statement made by a commonwealth prize-winner whose book's opening wisecracks (and much of the rest), despite good intentions, offer another ironic point-in-case about the Raj hangover and the current incentive system designed to perpetuate it.

Indian Home Maker said...

Delhi is more cosmopolitan now, when Mumbai was Bombay it was a truer cosmopolitan...
All this talk of outsiders respecting local culture, does MNS expect Maharastrians living in America to celebrate Valentine's Day there? And then when they are in India, they must condemn the same festival or be prepared to beaten up by MNS activists.

Anonymous said...

What next, the Marathi Inquisition?Disgusting. Resettle in Delhi people.

Jagjit said...

Now that Raj is free, Bombay is Mumbai again. Or soon it would be.

Saurabh said...

@ir: Go to Baroda or Surat or Ahmedabad during navratri and you will see lots of young girls going back home at 3am alone on their scooty.

Can a girl in Delhi do that?

It might be cosmopolitan, but it is not SAFE.

what the hell - I am scared of road rage in Delhi, and I am 29/m.

Anonymous said...

It is the best of times
It is the worst of times

It depends on the group identity you have. This is India and the world's tragedy