Let me begin with an honest confession. I am NOT a true blue Mumbaikar… I am an outsider…. And horror of horrors, that too a Dilliwalla…..
In my thirteen years, I have seen the 26th July deluge, train bomb blasts, a terrorist attack, the recent 29th August water logging and now the Elphinstone stampede. I am mentioning all these in a bid to fatten my CV, hoping to sound more credible.
My observation is that every incident follows the predictable path of initial shock, the casualties, administrative blame game, media crescendo and all of this eventually ending with a whimper. Somewhere between the initial attack and the casualties are the efforts of the common man who instinctively jumps into action and does whatever can be done. As the media and administrative vultures start closing in, this common man gets up and dusts his clothes before walking away into the horizon. These good Samaritans are the modern day Arjuns who work without the expectation of any accolades. And these Mumbaikars are the physical basis of the oft celebrated ‘Mumbai Spirit’.
This spirit is what has intrigued me, irritated me and impressed me in turns. It is amazing to see a rag tag disaster management team form within minutes and their sincerity is so heart touching. What surprises me is that the media has a field day trying to out shout each other in a bid for TRPs but the common man never descends on the roads with his outrage. Sometimes I wish he did because his silence and resilience has pushed the administration into a deep slumber. Even the most forwarded whatsapp messages are those that talk about what the ‘crowd’ should have, could have done. The messages that express frustration and anger float around but are magically eradicated. It never ceases to amaze me how this spirit works to cull out the negativity and keep what is positive. What makes it perpetuate itself? I think it’s this cumulative good Karma that keeps the city afloat despite the disasters that are waiting to happen. It definitely does not mean that the Mumbaikar has given up. Nor should his love for peace be mislabeled as cowardice. In fact the mantra that is ingrained in this Mumbaikar is that ‘If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me’. They have learnt the lesson of self-reliance that they are not letting go.
I have a hypothesis for this attitude. It can probably be traced back to the great textile mill strike of 1981 when Dutta Samant led a large group of Bombay mill workers in a precarious conflict between the Bombay Mill Owners Association and the unions. An estimated 250,000 workers went on strike with more than 50 textile mills shut in Bombay permanently. The government took a firm stance leaving more than 150,000 workers unemployed. The textile industry that was part of Mumbai’s identity faded into oblivion.
This has left an indelible mark on the collective psyche of the city. They have learnt it the hard way that the common man bears the brunt of any event. No one comes to his help when he needs it the most. Mumbaikar just chose to become wiser than staying bitter.
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Picture Courtesy – NewsMobileFirst Published – https://www.momspresso.com/parenting/musings-and-reflections/article/yeh-hai-bombay-meri-jaan-if-it-is-to-be-it-is-up-to-me