Skip to main content

Fear And Submission In Bombay

Sitting in office, after having driven my car through a few minor lakes getting here, I am wondering why the roads were mostly empty at 11.00 am in the morning on a weekday. Outside, as I write, the rains are pounding the city of Bombay (Mumbai). Trains have stopped, flights are being diverted, schools and colleges have shut. And those who did make it to their offices are planning their trek back.

Now, the roads were not completely deserted, of course there was traffic. But very little. One reason is most of the smaller roads in and around residential areas in Mumbai's suburbs are flooded. So, even if the arterial roads are okay, you can't get out of your lane. For me, getting out of my immediate area was a greater challenge. Actually, so was the road which leads to my office in Worli, in central Bombay.

Did folks heed the BMC (civic authority) Commissioner's warnings yesterday ? Which said that heavy rains were expected in the next 48 hours. Quite possible. But, we've had similar warnings in the past as well. Yes, parents would be careful and would not take chances. What about those who commute to work, clearly the majority ?

Beaten Into Submission

The answer is simple. Bombayites have been beaten into submission. Mostly by fear. Ask anyone who spent the night of 26 July 2005 on the streets and they will tell you that a shiver runs through their spine when they see flooded roads. I don't exactly feel thrilled at the prospect either.

This city's never say no spirit is under extreme strain. Perhaps like never before. One feet of water and the bravest are taking a step back. No one, absolutely no one seems to trust the civic authorities or the politicians.

When asked on a television interview (in a city channel) about lifeguards at the beaches (following a few drownings), the BMC Commissioner said they were being interviewed and would soon be hired. But then, when was the BMC ever in a hurry ? Or for that matter any state or civic administration ? A deadline is not a deadline, its just another point in time.

Well, its the same attitude that ensured most road work was not complete before the rains arrived, on schedule. And there were at least nine months if not a year to set things right. The wounds of 26/7 are yet to heal. I think it will take a long time, if it does.

Comments

brokenshard said…
Bombay submitting to fear... that will be something... not good. not good at all. keep up the spirits, I say. :)
Bombay Addict said…
Govind - I made it home last night in 45minutes flat (N Point to Bandra) thanks to mostly clear roads. Today Siddhivinayak Temple was hauntingly empty for a Tuesday.

I have to agree that we've been beaten into submission. 26/7 does seem to have had that effect on us.

I've never been a big buyer of this "spirit of Bombay" theory. IMHO, we prefer to accept these things (how RJs, TV channels laughingly say that it can't be monsoon if Mumbai doesn't shut down)than do anything to change them. Much discussed and flogged topic so I won't repeat.

On a not entirely separate note - did you have a look at the Vote Mumbai campaign? At least a start, in some direction. At least a start..
Jaded said…
how very true...

and yes the BMC is never in too much of a hurry
I just posted my experiences with the BMC after last years rains...
Rashmi Bansal said…
It's true that everyone is haunted by 26/7 but didn't Bombay shut down for a day every year during the monsoon? I remember more than once reaching school and being sent home... In college a close friend would narrate tales of how her ground floor house in Dadar's Hindu Colony was flooded... This happened year after year until finally they shifted to a higher floor!

But there were no TV cameras back then. And maybe we just accepted it with without getting so angry. The pace of life was far slower too.

So yes, BMC is crap at doing its job and we deserve far far better. But even cities like Chicago close down due to snowstorms. It's just that in normal times things work - so the administration does not get blamed. Here, every monsoon is a sad reminder of how dysfunctional our city is - all the time.
dreamcatcher said…
I refuse to accept this complete crap aspect of spirit - bombayites don’t have a spirit, we are losers - we just accept the mess that is thrown our way....

having made an attempt to go to work and then turning back I am really really upset... upset because I think its unfair that this city holds us to ransom... this is crazy and absolutely stupid... the rains are normal, like every monsoon - now what's the excuse....

If there was such a thing as a Bombay spirit, its citizens - all rich and poor, would take to the streets and en mass demand the resignation of the city administration and the politicians that rule this city....

God forbid, if one of our loved ones loses their lives in this mess - just because it rained more than it should and they went about life normally, what would happen to that spirit then...

For work not done more than a decade ago on this city and the fatalistic attitude of our authorities’ people are suffering today... I shudder to think what would happen to some one who got a heart attack, a woman went into labour or something that required urgent medical help - would they ever reach a hospital on a day like this?

All of us in Mumbai are living in this one huge pig sty and we wont do anything about it and hence life continues... the mills will get developed - flats will sell at ridiculous prices of over three crores, builders will promise a garden at 750 feet above because you deserve it etc. and the average mumbaite will keep suffering.

If the civic authorities have any brains they will give no approvals for any more buildings till the infrastructure in and around that place can support it, every slum will be ruthlessly demolished so that they are not encroaching on land that's supposed to provide a passage for drainage of water, the trains will be re-vamped ASAP and not wait for some dream metro to be ready in 2021...

At this moment, I am so angry... if that johny Joseph and the others had any conscience they would give in their resignations and accept one fact - they are incapable of doing anything for Mumbai.

What’s even more upsetting is that I honestly don’t know what can I do to change things – except the normal which is give my vote to the best of the worst, ensure I don’t litter and preach the same to others, pay my taxes, voice my opinions etc. etc.

where are all those young parliamentarians who we voted for with a lot of hope that their energy and drive will infuse new blood into our pathetic system and they will be a catalyst to change things –

If China can get the infrastructure up and running in cities that are as bad if not worse than ours why cant we… is executing leaders who fail the only answer…. This slow democratic peaceful process does not seem to do anything….

Imagine, after last July, in one entire year, we still have failed to arrive at solutions that work! What democracy, what India story, what commercial capital, and what spirit are we talking about!

Today is July 4th and all I can think wish I were part of some other country’s independence day celebrations – and before some one says New Orleans, at least that was a blip for them – our monsoons deluge which constantly put our exalted spirits to test are as certain as the monsoons itself….
dreamcatcher said…
about chicago and snow storms, difference is the predictability and efforts they go through to help accurately inform their citizens about the weather - people know when they will be snowed in, the schools close down, a few not the majority of the local population gets stuck and the reasons for the inconvenience of the snowstorm is the fury of nature or nature itself - not the civic administrations failure to clean sewers, ensure roads are pot hole free, indiscriminate construction etc. they minimize the inconvenience of nature's fury and they then help keep citizen's informed so that they are doubly safe... we have a miserable city to deal with and a civic authority that is as helpless as its citizens in face of rain that is 160mm and its whereabouts....

Even my mother was just narrating to me how when she was growing up and she stayed at tardeo, it used to flood and the city would come to a stand still - but that was over 40 years ago - are we saying even 40 years could not change this... in 40 years, we can launch our own satellite, but we can't keep our citizens of our commercial capital safe, we can't ensure 160mm of rains does not bring the city to halt... something seems very wrong about this loop sided progress...
Mumbaijourno said…
Today's or rather yesterday's rains were par for the course. We usually lost two days every year in June-July without question. But then the feeding frenzy of a hundred television channels were absent in the good old days. And citizen journalists did not come up with the worm's eye view that is now becoming the staple of television and print.
hmmm... said…
no doubt the administration faultered as usual... but before falling for sinking mumbai stories, we should look objectiely at the amount of rainfall, it is not 26/7. we are no where near 944 mm in a day. despite getting stuck, walking all night, and getting scared on 26th july, i am sure this is not 26/7. yes, that it happens every single year is a shame. but criticising failure of systems and frightening people with non stop "lives","newsflashes," and "breaking stories" are two different things. lastly, there is no explanation for or against the spirit of mumbai but i completely believe in it. even now. and this is not 26/7. not yet.
Prasant said…
Dreamcatcher, that was well said. There will always be morons who believe in that weird and stupid "positive spirit" thing. If something doesn't work, it's no point standing back and talking about resilience. What bloody mumbai spirit are we talking about? This "mumbai spirit" thing is the biggest fallacy doing the rounds". The same "spirit" thing was mentioned when a few bombs went off in a busy market in Delhi, "...people of Delhi are resilient, they are back on their feet". How come the families of people who die in these catastrophes don't talk about "spirit"? Will we mention the "spirit" thing to them? The "spirit" fallacy is harboring some of the most vile people and organizations within India's public/civil administration services. We need a new kind of civil disobedience movement, and this time it won't be to overthrow a foreign power but to exterminate vermin that has managed to eat this country hollow. Down with these swines!

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Aamir Khan Swing For Narmada ?

He is not the first celebrity to do so. But he’s turned out to be the most radical, activist Bollywood filmstar by far, all in day's time..at least as far as my memory serves me.

The reasons why he would back the Narmada Bachao Aandolan
could be several. Ranging from the fact that a cousin associated with the movement influenced him to the fact that he was in and out of the Kutch for six months whilst the shooting of Lagaan.

Lets assume all that contributed significantly. Still, why join the protestors in the manner he did ? Why become a face for the movement ? Knowing well there could be consequences that may not be the most desirable.

Dammed If You Do..

To his credit, he did not buckle to the mob frenzy that followed his signing up a few days ago. Instead, he calmly called the attention of all and sundry and asked if these were really the politicians and political parties they wanted to be led by ? He even accused the political parties of trying to bully him.

There are those who de…

Jan Lokpal Bill Movement: Lessons For India's Middle & Ruling Classes

`Supercop' Kiran Bedi learnt the hard way (or so we hope) how not to hold fort when she resorted to somewhat unusual theatrics to drive home a point about elected representatives. She was on stage as Gandhian Anna Hazare fasted to get the Indian Government to agree to pass the Jan LokPal Bill, a strong anti-corruption bill. His fast ended on 28 August 2011, 12 days after it started.

The fast (and the strategy thereof) has attracted kudos and criticism alike. The critics call the fast and the accompanying protests blackmail. The supporters say politicians are not known to respond to the usual greet, meet and review process. As they have not in the past. Moreover, the country has lived with unprecedented levels of corruption for decades and across all walks of life. And cannot tolerate it any longer. Extreme conditions call for extreme responses. Both sides however agree that the issue of corruption in public life must be addressed, with some urgency.

I see it a little differently.…

The Zone

I was watching Indian captain MS Dhoni's eyes when he hit the sixer that catapulted India to victory at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 on Saturday night. Only someone with numbing focus and meditative concentration, oblivious to the utter mayhem and cacophony all around, can play a shot like that. It was the definitive, you-guys-can-take-this stroke from a cricketer wanting to leave a permanent stamp on the game.

To be fair, many such definitive shots have been played, match winning and otherwise. But it was one of the few I would categorize as belonging to The Zone. Spiritual expert Jaya Row who once defined the Zone to me. "Its your ability to disconnect totally from the world outside and be in total control of your mind and body for that moment," she had told me.

I have always wondered about the role of spirituality (secular) in our lives. Ms Row, a Vedanta expert, defined ita appropriately. "Think of Sachin Tendulkar when he is facing a bowler. Look at his face…