I have visited Mumbai a few times and I love the city. I love the energy, the pace and the variety the city offers. I love the night-life the city has – not inside the bars and clubs, but that on the streets and the footpaths.
Even so, when I consider ever living in Mumbai, some part of me worries for my safety. 11 July 2006 and 26 November 2008 scared me a little. Any of my friends could have been on the local trains that were blown up, or on the platforms when Kasab nonchalantly ambled around firing his AK 47.
Reading about Raj Thackarey and his chauvinistic and violent rhetoric has always been frustrating. Uncle Bal Thackarey, son in tow, obviously did not want to be left behind in the race for proving narrow regional loyalties and now has taken the lead in making ridiculous rants against non-Marathis. I am a Bengali that grew up in Kerala – I should worry,I guess. And what if the Bihari man’s taxi I am riding gets attacked? Or the road-side stall while I am eating there?
I worried when Mumbai was flooded in 2005. Even more worried to see the little that is done to improve infrastructure in the city. Guess the floods don’t differentiate on the basis of your mother-tongue.
The state government is yet to make up its mind. Should additional security be devoted to the train stations and busy intersections, or to SRK, Sachin and Rahul Gandhi? Is standing up to SS and MNS really political suicide, or is it just another example of political parties aiming for merely the low-hanging fruit? The populist politics of hate and chauvinism is probably an easier game to play than tackling issues of infrastructure and urban poverty. And as long as politics refers to a no holds barred contest, competitive populism will trump over meaningful engagement between the state and its citizens.
So who will save me if I am in trouble? Will the (in)famous ‘spirit of Mumbai’ appear miraculously and rescue me?