Skip to main content

State of Insecurity

In the last two months, shops and establishments near my office in central Mumbai have been shut down some six times. This is how it happens. One moment the road is buzzing with activity. The next, it’s deserted, the scores of makeshift food stalls and hawkers have vanished. The shutters are down. Only a few onlookers remain, gazing intently at the cars passing by.

The first trigger was the apparent suicide or murder of a Buddhist monk in distant north Mumbai. The second one was to do with a bus going off a cliff between Mumbai and Nasik. The third, fourth, fifth and possibly sixth occasion could be credited to the politician Mr Raj Thackeray. The first day, the news that he was contemplating sending out the boys was enough to send everyone scurrying home. The second time, the boys did actually emerge from the shadows to wreak havoc.

The next occasion was the possibility, just the possibility, of Mr Thackeray being carted off to gaol. The last time was a day or two later amidst an amazing arrest-to-bail farce that the whole country watched. Maybe there were other occasions when shops and establishments were summarily shut down but I wouldn’t know since I don’t usually spend all my time on the streets.

"Time To Shut Shop"

I wondered what indeed the connection was between the untimely death of a monk in another part of the city, a bus falling into a ravine and my part of the world going about its business? I couldn’t establish the monk connection but did find out that some of the deceased in the bus lived in a building nearby.

Predictably, none of the shutdowns was voluntary. On one occasion, turning off the main road into my street, I saw a bunch of energised young men going from shop to shop “requesting” the owners to close down. My own office complex too had shut its gates and the guards seemed hesitant to open them. How and why these men felt that establishments were obligated to shut shop for the above reasons is still a mystery to me.

Two fairly large Toyota and Honda car dealerships sit on the road that I refer to. I have noticed that they are typically the first to put up their shutters. Cars are usually a juicy target for any mob, as they must well know. I am not sure if six one-fourth to half working days at a Mumbai dealership would give Shoichiro Toyoda and Takeo Fukui (Honda chief) sleepless nights.

It does not give me sleepless nights, either. But the prospect of this happening on little or no provocation or being triggered by events which could well be on another planet do worry me.

"Will I Reach Home Safely Today ?"

The industrial town of Nasik has not been so lucky as my street. Estimates put losses at Rs 400 crore and over 1,500 large and small firms have been hit. Almost a tenth of the small firms have been hit, going by reports. Labourers have been forcibly evicted from their workplaces and perhaps homes. Some 6,000 north Indian labourers left the city, possibly to return later. All in a skill-starved economy.

Some businessmen I spoke to (who have manufacturing units around Maharashtra state) told me they can manage corruption, bad infrastructure, pollution and globalisation but they can’t manage fear. I can understand. On all the days the Thackeray drama raged, fear was writ on the faces of every Mumbai citizen.

“Will there be violence in my area too? Are taxis running? Will they stop the trains? How will I reach home? How will my family members return home? Should we close the office early so that everyone can go home?” Actually, send the watchman and driver home early. Because they are north Indian.” I wouldn’t wish this on any capital, leave alone the country’s financial capital.

The Indian In Malaysia

Two weeks ago, a day Mumbai city was guessing what Mr Thackeray’s next move was, I was driving around Kuala Lumpur. As a fervent believer in grassroots journalism that owes its source to local taxi-drivers, I got talking to Bala Muhammad, the driver of my London cab look-alike taxi.

I asked Bala what he thought of equal opportunities as an Indian in Malaysia. Actually, my cue came from that morning’s headlines in The Star. Following violence and protests from the ethnic Indian community, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced a charter of promises to improve prospects for Indians. Bala, it turned out, had worked as a clerk in Standard Chartered Bank, then as a tourist guide before driving taxis. He converted to Islam just eight years ago in the face of family opposition. He said Indians had got a raw deal in Malaysia particularly when it came to good jobs, more so in government. His job and faith shifts appeared to have been driven by the discrimination.

He was happy that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stepped in, last month, to express concern about the fate of Indians in Malaysia. “This is not the first time. Indira Gandhi did the same in 1969,” he said. Presumably, he was referring to the deadly Sino-Malay ethnic riots, which left hundreds killed.

How did he feel about India taking an active interest in his welfare, I asked. “Oh, it feels good, I feel India is always there to support and give us security when we need it.”

I am not sure I feel the same.


This post appeared as an article in Business Standard

Comments

Anonymous said…
Hi Govind. Discovered your blog accidentally and was pleasantly surprised. Pleasure to read your opinions..

Tina Chopra
Ad Watchdog said…
Like Mumbai, it is KL's politicians who project hostilities more than locals. It explains why Bollywood stars are bigger in Malaysia than they are in large parts of India. To exploit insecurity in the collective unconscious is an art. And, like the Malay politicos, the Thackerays have known it for a long time.
Edgar Dantas said…
hey nice blog really enjoyed goin through it i really appreciate the post you have written on
with regards
edgar dantas
www.gadgetworld.co.in
Edgar Dantas said…
hey nice blog i really enjoyed it really noce post too really i enjoyed goin through it
with regards
edgar dantas
www.gadgetworld.co.in
Prashant said…
Stumbled on your blog through google, read a few posts... really impressed. Keep up the good work!
Sailin Gudhka said…
I did randomly visited your blog! amazing write up.........Thanks for sharing it with all.
ray said…
Hi ,

I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be wow.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run www.rambhai.com where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)

Cheers,
Anonymous said…
Hi Govind,

We have a fest "Umang" which is one of the top college fests in mumbai. We publish the official Umang magazine called "Sans Frontières" and are inviting famous writers and bloggers to give in their contributio for the same.


You get a complementary copy of the magazine if your article is published.



Get Published in Sans Frontières!



Get a parchment, seize your quill and start scribbling! Here's your chance to get your words in print. Submit original articles in your style and on any subject for Sans Frontières, the official Umang magazine. Creative writing, fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetries are all welcome and the subject matter is entirely upto you. No clue where to begin from? Then here's your aid…



1. "I wnt 2 b ur FRAAND!" (The Boons and Banes of Social Networking Sites)



2. Should we watch the watch dog? (The Media - Hero or Rogue?)



3. Teen Life Crisis.



4. OMG! My mom is Angelina Jolie and dad is Brad Pitt! (If I were a celebrity kid…)



5. 10 reasons why you would want to be a politician!



6. People ask for criticism only when they want praise.



7. Streetcorner Symphony - How music exists everywhere.



8. 40 going on to 20! (Age is only a number!)



9. Year 2050 - Into the Future. (Fiction)



10. High on Art!



11. Girls, Gossip, Shopping - Synonyms???



We also encourage artwork, photography, trivia and miscallany. Reach out to us at sf@nmumang.org. The last date is 27th July.



for further details contact:

ruhi shaikh

editor
9819272410
Kshitij said…
Hi Govind,
It's always a treat to read your blogs.
Look forward to you getting back actively to writing again.

Regards,

Kshitij.
Buy ED drugs for erectile dysfunction treatment online at drug store without RX, including:


Generic Cialis Tadalafil medicine is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor used to treat sexual function problems such as impotence or erectile dysfunction. In combination with sexual stimulation, this medicine works by helping the blood flow into the penis to achieve and maintain an erection.Cialis is not intended for use in women or children. Cialis will not protect against sexually transmitted diseases including HIV infection. Use 'safe sex' practices such as latex condoms. Buy Cialis Tadalafil online without RX


Generic Levitra Vardenafil medicine is one of the latest treatments for Erectile Dysfunction. Levitra acts
in the same way as Viagra by blocking an enzyme called PDE-5. Clinical
studies show that Levitra works faster and has less side effects than
Viagra. Buy Levitra Vardenafil online without RX


Viagra Sildenafil medicine is used to treat impotence in men. Sildenafil increases the bodys
ability to achieve and maintain an erection during sexual stimulation.Viagra Sildenafil Citrate is also known to increase sex drive, boost
sexual performance, fuller & harder rrections, increasestamina & endurance and quicker recharges. Buy Viagra Sildenafil online without RX
Amit said…
Hi sir, was just trying to find out about jobs in UTVi by using your name as the keyword when i discovered this article..Must say its a good one and makes hell lot of sense.

Amit Rathi
madhuri said…
http://www.vebtoday.com

hi friends - here this is very good site for all types of entertainment and excellentwebportal. cinema gossips, wallpapers, telugu news, baby names, hyderabad news, andhrapradesh news,Videos,Beauty Tips, Baby Names, Interview Tips,Ladies Special,Real Estate, Matrimonials,Latest News,Telugu Movies,Andhra People, Politics, Assembly, AndhraPradesh and movie news reviews...
Pooja said…
today bomby on truble. Freedom fighters attack on bombay.

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…