Sunday, September 14, 2008

Penchant for Parochialism

Again, a bit old ... :) (Kindly bear with me)

I am infamous for missing the office bus everyday while coming in the morning to office. My laziness, coupled with the disconcerting chilly mornings is instrumental in making me snuggle more in my blanket.

Today was not a run of the mill day though. Surprisingly, I was sprightly all morning and was even on time to board the ‘much missed’ office bus. But even then, I reached a good 25 minutes late to office.

The reason: Some acquaintance of my bus driver was involved in a scuffle at some point on the way. Evidently, the associative instincts of my driver guy got the better of his duty and he strode off; to make peace, I believe.

Here I was, amidst equally frustrated colleagues of mine who wanted to get to office soon to have their morning breakfast. A clarification here: work was not a concern on my colleagues’s minds. It’s just that the canteen gets horribly crowded a little while after 9 am. Hence the hurry.

There were a few champions of ‘an eye for an eye’ principle amidst us as well. One of them went on to remark “Arre, bhaiya hai kya?, tho chal jaake case lete hain saale ki”. Pardon me for mention of un-parliamentary language here, but this very statement forms the crux of what I want to throw light upon through this article.

The statement, very evidently, comes in the wake of the latest controversy that has created ripples in Mumbai.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena - a result of a single person’s seething discontent and his aspirations is yet again in the news for all the wrong reasons. Being a commoner, a layman citizen of this democracy, I am entitled to believe what I have seen on national television. And what I saw, and am sure most of you did too, was nothing short of appalling. Innocent taxi drivers , a pan-wallah and a hawker were bashed up plainly because they hailed from a region that has been the Thackerays’s bete noire for a long while now.

The controversy started when Mr. Raj Thackeray had not so pleasing words to say about the Chhat Pooja being performed on Juhu Beach last week. Mumbai celebrated Uttar Pradesh Divas around the same time. In absence of any kind of provocation by the community in question, such a statement by Mr. Thackeray was uncalled for; I feel. However, the remark was made and expectedly, there were reactions. But that was it. There was nothing more to this than a few potshots taken at each other by Laloo and Mr Thackeray.

A couple of days later, our own Marathi firebrand came up with another one of his digs, this time at Mr. Bacchan. I feel , the media had a huge role to play in majorly misinterpreting Mr. Thackeray’s statement and then creating a controversy out of it. The statement was twisted to the liking of favourable parties and we ended up thinking that Mr. Bacchan’s loyalty towards Maharashtra was questioned by the Sena strongman. The part of speech that we saw on national television, atleast, did not have any such implication. Whether the gist of the speech was any different we would never know because it was not on record.

However, if questions were raised about Mr. Bacchan’s loyalty and his inclination (or the lack of it) towards Maharashtra, I would like to ask a basic question to Mr. T. Why is it that noone has ever questioned someone like Lata Mangeshkar or Madhuri Dixit in this regard? Is it because they belong to this state and certain assumptions are made and certain leverages are given to them by default?. This brings me to only one inference that the bacchans, and the khans of the bolly world have ceased to be plain bunnies for politicians. And it is not a good trend. The people in question have constantly proved themselves as being excellent ambassadors of the nation and such capriciousness while judging their activities will only encourage them to become even more reticent than they already are towards the media and people in general.

There are two main points that I wish to argue upon through this medium. Why is it that Maharashtra ceases to be just Mumbai for our politicians?. It is an accepted fact that MNS does not hold strong ground in the elections that are coming up next year. So, if this is an attempt by Mr Thackeray to garner a strong marathi vote bank in Mumbai, he should not forget that there are several other regions In Maharashtra that would play a stronger role in propelling him to power.

I do not see a reason why the suicide of farmers in vidharbha, sangli should be a subject of the central government. I do not see a reason why fingers should be raised at Sharad pawar citing he has time for BCCI and not for Vidharbha(he, having the agri portfolio in the UPA gov).

I am not in politics and do not understand the machinations that people in the vidhan and the Rajya Sabha use, but my common sense tells me that the best way to garner votes and establish a presence would have been to empower these impoverished sections of the marathi society. Instead of pointing(if Mr. T really did do it) that bacchan does not do anything for Maharashtra, would’nt it have been better if Raj Thackeray had directly called upon all eminent personalities, all eminent non marathi personalities (if u will) to come ahead and pool in some amount to alleviate the condition of the poor relegated lot in the isolated corners of Maharashtra?.

To put the facts in place, in 2006, a set of farmers had commited suicide in Vidharbha region for want of 25000 rupees to repay their debt. Even a contribution of a crore from a single celebrity would have meant a reprieve to 400 such farmers. And this is the most basic calculation there is. Social responsibility of celebrities and monied class is mandatory but the mode of making them aware of the fact that they are lacking in fulfilling the same, should take place through suitable channels. This, definitely, was not the way.

Why vidharbha?, take for instance our own Mumbai. The city is ridden with all sorts of problems. The traffic snarls within the already polluted and congested city do not make matters easy for the residents. In such a case, was lata mangeshkar’s stiff opposition to the Peddar road flyover justified?. Cant our celebrities contribute a little of their mite in making Mumbaia better place?

Why only celebrities? Can’t all the residents of Maharashtra today including non maharashtrians contribute towards the betterment of the state?.We surely can and we definitely want to. My roots do not lie in this state but I surely have moulded myself to the ways of the state. However, I am sure if the situation worsens, I too will be discriminated against. So where exactly is the security in Maharashtra that we constantly harp about? What exactly is expected of us, non marathi manooses? It was mentioned that being in maharashtra we should behave like maharashtrians. Can someone please elaborate what this means?

It has also constantly been said that we take up jobs in mumbai that belong to Maharashtrians. I humbly disagree. There are enough and more extremely intelligent Maharashtrians who wander away to greener pastures outside the country. Figures suggest that there are huge numbers of Marathi Manoos in silicon valley. Can Mr Thackeray please elaborate why his own marathi manoos had to move out to silicon valley from Mumbai which has an array of jobs? Was it because the ‘Uttar Bhartiyas’ grabbed all of their jobs?. For all I know, the above question is rhetorical.

I can go on filling reams and reams of pages on this but I do not wish to do so, cos then I would be following on the lines of Mr. Thackeray. I sincerely do not wish to do so. All I want is to make Mr. Thackeray and all his supporters know for sure that Mumbai is as much my home as it is theirs. It is only a partnership among all of us that would hold the city in good stead amidst its already spiraling problems. A high level of capriciousness and malice on either side is going to help no-one

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