Once upon a time I had written about how everything is always personal. I am a very strong Mumbaiphile, in that I like and love anything and everything about my city. So, when one of my friends remarked that Mumbai no longer is what it was, I denied it, vociferously! But of late, looking at what I read in the papers, and what I see happening around me, I begin to wonder where has my city gone? Or rather what has happened to it?
One, I used to once boast about how safe my city is for women. How unlike Delhi or for that matter NY. I used to speak about how comfortable it was for me, as a Mumbaikar to step out late at night and be comfortable and assured that I am at no risk. But now, everyday, I read about cases of rape in the newspapers. At places not typically associated with crime. There was once a time, when morals were intact with the poorer sections of society. A time, when people said, "It's safer to go walking around Bombay's mill district as compared to the posh parts of South Mumbai." But now, it seems that that axiom has been turned on its head! Either that, or perhaps our newspapers have found a new 'rape correspondent' to write for the highly tabloidized newspapers.
I was driving the other day, at a steady pace, when out of nowhere this guy loomed over my rear-view mirror first to the right and then to the left and finally sped at almost 300 miles an hour on a narrow one lane street. But before I could regain my composure, and veer my car to avoid hitting a tree, this guy screech braked in front of me. As if that was not enough, on the main road that forms the spine of Mumbai, taxis and two-wheelers swarm around. Driving on such roads, feels like the chase sequence of Minority Report! While driving, you need to be Cyclops and look on all sides at once, since you never know where a vehicle can come from. Sense of discipline is absolutely missing. And the worst part is, if you try to express your displeasure through signs, no one will stop a minute to think about their fault. They would instead not mind jumping out of their car and screaming expletives at you, irrespective of who you are, or what your point is. Standard dialogues include - upon being scratched by a cabbie ' If you so love your car, that you don't want a scratch on it, who asked you to take the car out?' I wonder whether such an attitude springs from the fact that the offenders generally do not own the car and hence do not care what happens to it. Employed drivers, cabbies, think about it. If this were indeed the case, then God bless Mumbai, with the Tata Nano booking commencing soon. Drive a kilometer on the perennially dug up backbone roads of Bombay, and I can guarantee the fact that you'll return with a headache. Road rage here is not the brash driving one associates with uber rich spoilt kids. Road rage in Mumbai is the continuous honking at traffic signals, the simmering anger amongst members of the driving community. And why can't people be angry? Look at the gross lack of overtaking etiquette and the massive lane indiscipline.
There was an article in the paper today of a kid who brought a lac of rupees in currency notes to school (stolen from home) and flaunted it to his classmates. If this is indeed true, can someone check the tax history of the offender kid's parents? And if this story is true, WHATEVER IS HAPPENING TO KIDS IN MY CITY? Granted, we are still far away from the University shootings seen in the US. But this is certainly not the kind of kidlife we had as kids, not so long ago.
People are up in arms against Slumdog, since it portrays poverty and slum life in Mumbai. They want all of Mumbai to be seen by the world. Hell, even I vociferously demanded a 360 degree view of Mumbai, since I wanted the world to see the Mumbai I lived in, the city I loved. But as the days go by, when seen from within, I have to quote Milton - Paradise Lost indeed.....