Monday, August 01, 2005

The Bombay Pralaya - Lessons for India

Today the feeling of loss and despair is immense as the enormity of this tragedy sinks in. There was once this city called Bombay which epitomized all that India wanted to be, but could not. It was hip, happening, cosmopolitan, liberal, welcoming, enthralling.. the list goes on..It was the city that attracted India's best and the brightest as well as the poorest. It had the best systems in place, be it the ever reliable and completely jampacked local trains, the BEST buses which to its name where the most efficient in the country and a civic system that was the best in India.. It was India's answer to New York, LA and SF rolled into one and in some respects was better than its American cousins..Somehwere down the line, the Bombay that I knew of metamorphised into the Mumbai of today. An agglomeration of 15 million, showing increasing hate towards 'outsiders', with skyrocketing real estate, a transport system that is broke, and with an infrastructure incapable of handling the strain of growth. To add to this, Mumbai does not live like the NY-LA-SF combo that made it India's dynamo, but it threatens often to ape a
city called Shangai; a city without soul, an urban concoction of wealth and glitzy buildings put in by Chinese Communists to impress the world.

Why am i agonising over a city, I have never lived in u may ask? I am far too atached to Bombay and am overcome with despair to see this great city getting savagely beaten by rains. No city in the world leave alone Bombay can take 94 cms of rain on a single day. The government machinery has failed the city, but then whats new about this? The people of this city have shown great character in the time of need, but then whats special about this either. Its Bombay, my friend, thats how great cities react in the time of need. Children have been suffocated to death inside cars, people have lost their lives and been dispossessed of their life long posessions seeing it submerged in the waters that gushed through their homes, families are living without electricity for days on end, people have trudged 35 hours from their places of work to their homes only to find it completely sogged, there are fears of epidemic, in short we are seeing the actual submergence of Bombay.

But when all this is happening, how does 'civil' society react in the city ? The Times Of India website, the broadsheet which owes its very existence to Bombay, carries stories about Harry Potter and the seeming sexual innuendoes as the headline article, filmi loonies like Mahesh Bhatt and his bunch of seculars are rushing to file a PIL in the high court, Mr. Manmohan Singh repeatedly and regularly promises and reneges on his plan to visit the city, Sonia Gandhi 'promises' to conside extra funds for Maharashtra government, while the Congress government is busy accomodating a life long Shiv Sena member into the cabinet. Is this how a civil society reacts to a crisis. Its a crying shame. Its despicable and deplorable rolled into one.

I dont know if it signifies something more serious than an infrastrcture collapse; the issue of actual decline of Mumbai. I do not want to get into the topic of whether Mumbai will be replaced by Bangalore, Madras or Hyderbad. Well all these cities may be great in their own way, but none or no combination of these can ever replace the Bombay of yore. Its not just technology
investments and glitzy buildings that made Bombay, the city that it was. It was the people, those ever enterprising Gujjus, those hardworking and scholastic 'Madrasis', the artistic and beautiful people from North, and the very liberal Marathis that gave Bombay its distinct edge over any other city. If such a city can go down the drain(literally and figuratively) I see no
reason why any other city in India should not or cannot.

These savage rains in the August of 2005 have a very important lesson for India. We can write reams and speak tomes about India's emergence as the next superpower, but do we have it in us to be a superpower. The answer is NO. Money or economic wealth does not last unless you have a system in place to manage it and plough back into the system. Mumbai shows, how
quickly a city can lose it importance and relevance if it shows it back on the very foundations that made it great. The same holds true for our country. Do we understand the import of this message and its signifiance for our nation.


Blogger Radhakrishna G Iyer said...

I think its a biased view. I dont see you explaining clearly why you see Mumbai declining. Unfortunately you have dedicated just a paragraph explaining the justification for your conclusion and for sure it does not hold enough weight. I think you should collect more facts and spend more time to make your Blog a more interesting reading.

I would surely love to read you views on the ongoing controversy in Indian Cricket.

September 26, 2005 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Dan Statlander said...

Nice post.

August 22, 2012 2:50 AM  

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