The idea of writing this is not to provoke, but to spark a debate. Awaken what is dormant and recognise the real virtue.
All of us Mumbaikars feel a pat in the back when we hear or read phrases like – ‘the indomitable spirit of Mumbai’, ‘Mumbai bounces back’, ‘Mumbai’s spirit cannot be cowed down by terrorism’…and so on. Each more flowery than the other, each richer than the other in terms of play of words.
Is this a spirit of bouncing back, or is it stemming from a sense of stoicism? Stoicism not in the sense – Who cares, but more of – What can I do? There lies the subtle difference.
The day after the deluge, for majority of Mumbaikars will be a normal day, to talk the subject, read in details what one failed to catch on TV, and feel sad for those who were stranded, drenched, took shelter in churches and gurudwaras and those who never reached home for the night. But somewhere in a corner of the heart we will feel good that we are back on our feet, back to work the very moment the public transport was available, over the stinking and dirty roads; send children to school to make them look like us, call relatives and tell them that we are safe and have even resumed work, and behave as if nothing had happened, and yesterday was just a bad dream. This is not the indomitable spirit of Mumbaikar, but a concrete evidence of stoicism. It’s our hardened sense of empathy, or the lack of it.
‘What can I do when the whole government machinery couldn’t do anything?’, ‘What can I do when I have so many other responsibilities?’, ‘What can I do when nobody is doing anything?’, ‘What can I do all by myself?’ There is a list of What-can-I-do questions, all leading us to do nothing, except watch the graphic apathy of the system, its meticulous breaking down on TV, read all about them on our way to work and get taken in by the ubiquitous feeling of the great ‘spirit of Mumbai’.
To all the What-can-I-do questions, I have only one answer – ask Why? Protest till the powers-to-be are compelled to give answers. Protest does not mean take to streets and resort to acts of vandalism and communalism. Protest can be in any form that the civilised society permits us. If someone dumps garbage in front of our house, don’t we protest? Why can’t we do now? Garbage is now being dumped in the society, shouldn’t we protest?
Mumbaikars need to realise that it is this infamous spirit of Mumbai which is going against us. As individuals we are being taken for granted. The powers-to-be are aware that as citizens we are only prone to raise our voices within the four walls of our homes and workplaces. They are aware that they can get away with inefficiency, irresponsibility and corruption. Haven’t we pardoned them for the 2005 deluge, the annual drama of potholes, the lack of preparation every monsoons, the regular photo-op-charade of de-silting, and so on?
These are not the times to bear in silence or turn a blind eye. It’s time to speak up. Stop the wheels. Raise a voice. As the famous John Galt of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ did, ‘stop the motor of the world’ and let the inefficient and ineffective make way for the efficient.
Ask questions. Who is responsible for such inefficiency? When is the Government going to rise about its compulsion of coalition-politics? When will heads roll for efficient heads and not replace with another set of inefficient morons? Will the culprits be arrested, and if so, how soon can they be booked, tried and punished? Will we have to wait for another deluge to remind us of the last one? Will it take about 12 years to fix blames? Will this go down in history as another piece of statistics?
As a sincere law-abiding citizen of Mumbai I protest and I ask these questions. Do not hide behind the poetic excellence of the politicians and media alike. Do not get taken in by the blame-game about to begin. My sincere request to all – do not resist from asking questions, just because you might not get answers. Ask nonetheless.
I end with my favourite quote from Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand in the iconic speech, ‘This is John Galt speaking’ –
“To those of you who retain some remnant of dignity and the will to live your lives for yourselves, you have the chance to make the same choice. Examine your values and understand that you must choose one side or the other. Any compromise between good and evil only hurts the good and helps the evil.
If you've understood what I've said, stop supporting your destroyers. Don't accept their philosophy. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, and your love. Don't exhaust yourself to help build the kind of world that you see around you now. In the name of the best within you, don't sacrifice the world to those who will take away your happiness for it.
The world will change when you are ready to pronounce the oath….”
I decide to stop this display of Mumbaikar’s spirit. Stop the motor of the world! This is my way of protesting - however insignificant it seems to anybody.