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The much overdone Mumbaikar spirit ! June 23, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in india, rant.

The next time someone talks about the so-called ‘indomitable spirit’ of Mumbai, I am going to commit a crime that is seriously punishable !

This is about Mumbai – from here.

We are 18 million people crammed onto one tiny island, with a population density of 43,898 per sq km. (Compare this to just 9033 per sq km in Delhi). * Real estate prices are so unreal that in downtown Mumbai you could pay Rs 60,000 for a single sq ft.

Yet, there are 19,846 buildings in danger of collapsing. And eight million people — nearly half of Mumbai’s citizens — live in subhuman slums, where every public toilet is shared by 4,000 people.

Two million others commute like slaughterhouse animals on the hopelessly inadequate suburban train system, and another four million use moonscaped roads, pockmarked with an estimated 23,639 potholes. There is only one bus for every 1,300 people and only two public parking spots for every 1,000 cars.

We have a water shortage of 1000 million litres. The commodity is so scarce that swanky skyscrapers have to rely on private suppliers, and those who can’t afford to eat must shell out Rs 20 for a bucket to drink.

With a deficit of 1500 MW, the city is on the verge of a power crisis.

We generate 7,800 tonnes of garbage everyday — only half that of New York — but much of it lies uncollected because there are only three municipal dumps.

What is this indomitable spirit all about – is it the spirit that makes you guys tolerate anything, everything and go about your life living in desolate conditions ? What use is this spirit of afterall ? Each time there is a major tragedy in Bombay, the legislator/MP comes in and makes a speech about Mumbaikars are resilient and go about their life the very day after floods, after bomb blast, after building collapse etc. as if nothing happened. The media too joins in and sings the same song. All Mumbaikars are not only convinced but they are also happy and proud that their city’s resilience is being bandied about. End of story.

Its much like the early years of the 1950s and 60s when Raj Kapoor’s RK Films produced movies that glorified poverty and decadence. You just have to look at the lyrics of the title song from Jis Desh Main Ganga Behti Hai, a part of which goes like this –

(mehamaa.n jo hamaaraa hotaa hai
vo jaan se pyaaraa hotaa hai ) – 2
zyaadaa kii nahii.n laalach hamako
tho.De me guzaaraa hotaa hai – 2
bachcho.n ke liye jo dharatii maa.N
sadiyo.n se sabhii kuchha sahatii hai
ham us desh ke vaasii hai.n, ham us desh ke vaasii hai.n

Translated, the text in bold, says something to the effect that “We manage with what we have, for we arent a greedy people. Our mother Earth gives us whatever we want, as has been going for years.”

Then in the next para he goes,

ye puurab hai puurabavaale
har jaan kii kiimat jaanate hai.n

Translated, this means – “We are the people of the east, we appreciate the value of life.” Wait a minute, did he actually say that ? Or is there some sarcasm there ?

I am a major fan of old Hindi music and Shailendra has produced some gems no doubt ( Guide (1965) is just an example ). But these songs of those years tell us something about that age much like today’s reflect current mores. And now you know why Raj Kapoor’s movies were a superhit in Russia, Eastern Europe and parts of Africa. This is basically the socialist/communist/collectivist utopic vision of society – “be happy with what you have and celebrate your penury, scarcity and despair – these are obligations you have to the fellow members of society. ”

Yes, private enterprise has thrived. Yes, it is still the commerical capital of India. Yes, it stil makes place for the average migrant from the villages. But at what cost ? Dont get me wrong – no anti-immigrant philosophies here. My point is that there is nothing to be proud of the state in which Mumbai is today. Saying that Mumbai is a great survivor sounds romantic and only that. It means nothing because everyone who died was once a survivor.

Mumbaikars, I dont believe you are a bunch of gullibles – over 15 million strong. If this is the spirit you so much love and proud of, you shall forever be condemned to the life you live and nobody will shed a tear for you – you deserve what you get because you didnt ask for anything more.

So long !

P.S : Why am I singling out Mumbai, most cities are meeting the same fate sooner or later. But when was the last time you heard about the Calcutta spirit or the Bangalore spirit.



1. Ravi - June 23, 2006

Mumbai, can be complained of, as any other state. The mumbaikar spirit is more in the culture(which is one of your interests). Was in Mumbai the previous weekend, and was bamboozled by the difference that it holds with the other cosmos or metros. People orientation with the trains, spit pans everywhere, their fast tracked lives, night lives – which is by far, the most amazing candidature to keep a mumbaikar still up on his patriordom(patriotism+martyrdom), one night stands(am not for it, and my feeling low was because of a mumbaikar i trusted was on for it). statistically, you cud say there is lot of uncollected garbage, and no feet to stand, beggary and poverty, but people are so used to it, that they’ll miss all that, if a change is brought in. I strongly think that betterment can be brought in, but there stands a strong opposition from the home party-Shiv Sena, which would claim even cleanliness, to be a part of westernization. All i cud live for is an awakening!

2. manjunath - June 24, 2006


Mumbai epitomizes indian spirit !!
sabkuch chalta hai

3. Aswin Cletus D'Souza - July 13, 2006

This post couldn’t have come at a better time. When I read about the ‘mumbai spirit’ , hours after 185 innocent people died on the trains, i just felt sick.

I’m gonna link to your post cuz I have a thing or two to say about this.

4. BomBoi - July 14, 2006

Nice one and right on the money. Aswin’s post is true as well. I feel Mumbaikars and any big city dwellers wrongly mistake their indifference for SPIRIT.

It is human nature to mourn and grieve over senseless loss of life and resolve to take action so that such events do not repeat.

Saying that you are not bothered by these events equates you with the inhuman terrorists who committed these outrages.

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