Recent discussions on Twitter Space regarding the spirit of Mumbai prompt me to note my own thoughts on the subject, not necessarily in any order of importance and with some sports analogies; most of them cricket ones.
So what do i believe we have going for us, here in Mumbai
Adaptability — we adapt to our circumstance, we mould ourselves according to the scenario, life presents us. Best reflected in the myriad forms of cricket played in Mumbai. We do not worry about the narrow gullies we play in; rather just use it as an opportunity to perfect the straight drive. We use the situation to perfect our discipline, to dig in for a long innings. We devise our own rules, we abide by them and also show the vision to evolve newer ones.
Relentless — By and large our focus is the future and we are pretty relentless about it. The past does play a role; we are nostalgic about the way life was some years ago but we are not wedded to the past. Our only motto is a relentless march forward. To our dreams, our aspirations, the change in our lifestyle, to somehow strive to make things better. When anything, be it a flood, or a terrorist attack seeks to come in the way of this march; we have the ability to pick ourselves up and tell the world that we will not be stopped. To look at it merely as a “wedded to the clock or subsistence” is not doing justice to the emotion we feel as a city. We will not be stopped, ever, by anyone, hence we restart the very next day. It is just that — our way.
Competition and Honour — we admire success and applaud the winner. Above these two impostors we place “effort” — for us that is more iomportant. Victory and defeat pale in comparison. this is a city which stood as one when our great “Colonel”, returned to the pavilion, tears streaming down his face and clapped in unison for the effort — i feel he did not for a moment try to save the match — he was playing to win it for his city, despite the chips being so very down. After that we applauded the effort of the team from Haryana which bested us on our turf; that takes some doing. We did not flinch from acknowledging that we lost to a side which was wee bit superior on that day. You will see this all over the maidans in Mumbai, we play tough but always respect our opponents for their efforts. We are what we call “khadoos” to the core.
Empathy — for a city this tightly packed with people it would seem natural to descend into a “all about me myself” kind of life. That’s not the case. This is a city where people will give up their hard fought train seat for a student during examination times, where two people will somehow find the space to read a newspaper together, where some blokes will magically appear with a glass of water for people walking to a temple early morning, where doors are open for a student with no space in his own house to just sit for a while and study. We understand that the other is also struggling in the same storm that we are in; she may be in another boat but thats ok. There has never been a day when one reached out for help and not found a hand to hold. Privilege or lack of it, does not come in the way of relationships. We face whatever life throws at us in a weirdly united way. Going hand in hand with empathy is sensitivity; like the manner in which we respect each others faith and beliefs, quietly. I remember the village where i grew up; an East Indian community- whenever they had a litany session, they would always have a separate food section containing mutton/chicken puffs — no one told them — they just knew.
Perseverance — this is an important aspect of our lives. We understand the value of the same everyday and keep at whatever we have set out to do. Some people take the elevator while others take the stairs towards our dreams. We continue, pragmatic enough to pivot (a word synonymous with mumbaikars long before startups made it fashionable) to changes. It took a pandemic to stop us for a few days. We paused for a bit and then started all over again under the cloud of a new reality. Disappointment is something we expect at all times so we are not really fazed by it. Like the saying goes, there is always another train.
The thing every person from outside of Mumbai must understand is that we are tested everyday on the above; most days we pass with distinction. The days we do not; we simply put behind us. Do remember our standards are quite high. :)
Admittedly not everything is hunky dory here. There are lots of improvement areas still to be sorted out. But then, we are a city in a forever “work in progress mode”; the operative word being progress. It is something that all of us embrace.
A few things that i feel we should all concentrate on:
- Stop chasing vanity projects like coastal roads and sea links — invest more in public transport which benefit the masses. Get the metros completed on time, figure out feeder bus routes (love the fact that we are going electric) and allied transportation methods.
- Focus on health infrastructure — the pandemic should have spurred us in this respect. Infrastructure in terms of hospitals with affordable care, clinics for regular ailments, research institutions to stay ahead of whatever it is lurking out there and innovation centres focussed on the unique needs of our city. We handled the pandemic quite well i must say (despite the mysterious drop in recovery numbers of late); i hope we don’t miss the bus in terms of the opportunity this affords us to move ahead.
- Sports and recreation facilities — we need more parks, more ground for children to play, walking and cycling tracks — just that citizens ned to spend more time outdoors with their families and loved ones. We need more libraries and reading rooms. I do hope that the government take up the task of truly honoring Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar by building the largest library in the world at the Indu Mills memorial site.
Hope to see lot more action on this.
We are a city which loved Behram Contractor, chronicler of our great tradition of food, sights and small quirks. We also equally loved Namdeo Dhasal who brought us face to face with the harsh reality that we lived in and sometimes turned away our face from.
never insecure to change
we are a city unafraid
of facing the truth
for the huddled masses drifting to us
we are a city
our footpaths are not paved with gold,
our stout hearts are
we know who we are
our foibles, our strengths
our beauty and our warts
barbs and snide comments
we care two f**ks
flying ones at that