13 February, 2010

Fighting Against Time

- the spirit of Mumbai

Centuries ago people were either fighting for land, or for women, and with time it was for oil, which is still a fight for land. But in Mumbai, the Sainiks are fighting for land even today. They fail to understand the very basic nature of this city where dreams come true. To most this city is an amusement-park; some can’t stop wondering what drives it, and others, what holds it together.

Everybody believes in the spirit of Mumbai - broken, bruised, it will move on. Now imagine that Mumbai is a car and its People, the driver. The driver has to get to a place, and real fast - that’s why he chose this car, it takes you there quicker. If the car breaks down in between what will the driver do?

Always 1st - Happy People driving Mumbai

Will he wait for help of any kind (like his old Grandpa Government, or the so slow Uncle Police, or too little Aunt Aid)? Or will he fix the car himself? He has the tools and he knows just how much repair-work the car needs, to get going for now. Remember, he is driving a Mumbai, so time is a worry for him.
So he fixes the car himself and zooms on. Then they meet with an accident. The driver is healthy enough to drive the car and the car is healthy enough to be driven. He is given the option of other un-damaged cars, but a broken Mumbai is still faster, "It’s that good a car", he says, “Great mileage, amazing top speed, and the pick up, I tell you...”
So the People drove on the Mumbai until forever.

Eye of the fish
60% of the People live in the slums, which means that more than half of Mumbai lives only on one hope – a better tomorrow, if not for them, then their families - that is why people in the slums can’t afford to live their today. So don’t be surprised if more than half the population of Mumbai has easily gone back to work – this is the end-to-means lot - they see only the eye of the fish. At the time of a catastrophe they’ll form human chains, carry the injured to hospitals, provide shelter, food and water. But when it’s over, they go to work because they have to. These are the real builders of Mumbai - people with unfinished dreams. The rest do the much needed touch-up, they invest in it monetarily and/or artistically. The city accounts for highest income-tax collections of 33%, compared to any other in the country.

In aftermath of 26/11, Sir VS Naipaul had said, “Defeatism, denial and helplessness have become the defining Indian traits, and this is the battle that needs to be fought."
Half the battle is won in the mind. And with the public’s mind full of their long ‘to-do-list’, there is very little space left for winning battles, against terrorists. People in Mumbai have their own battles to fight, and win. There is no way else for Mumbai to be.

Being Mumbai
The Spirit of Mumbai is not to be able to get up and move on from all adversities, it is contained in the very basic nature of the city - a tiny island, home to different races, here for a reason, will do anything it takes to have the city function for now, as it gives them their bread and butter like none other.

This is not escapism. Mumbai is resourcefully gifted, but it’s too tiny and too populated to be able to accommodate everybody’s wants. So the people quickly learn't to adapt, for an established lack of options, established also by themselves. The eye of the fish blinds them to everything else, including the option of other slower cars. And these people with no-other-option, are affectionately called Mumbaikars. Mumbai’s spirit stems from this very lack of options.

Most people here have nowhere else to go.
No place else they ever could, 
or ever would, 

call home.

The petrol of the car in this case is the Water, its basic necessity. Believed to be inhabited since Stone Age, Mumbai’s earliest inhabitant was the Koli fishing community, which can be traced back to more than 2000 years ago. Water will make it stop, then. That could be Mumbai’s full circle – a city that traveled well.
(And let's not even think of making it a Union Territory.)

By other writers, elsewhere:

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