Lindsay Pereira Column: Here's to another year of tolerance

Deaths, floods or shrinking public spaces, we’d much rather tolerate it all than be labelled ‘intolerant’

The year 2015 was a great one for tolerance, despite the hue and cry about how intolerant we Indians are. We proved those naysayers wrong by showing just how tolerant we were about a whole lot of things, from the first noisy day of January until the last heavily polluted day of December.

Around this time last year, for instance, residents of Navi Mumbai were informed about how the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) planned to start what it referred to as ‘pre-development work’ for a new airport in their part of the city. The work, expected to cost a mere Rs 2,000 crore and take a year to complete, was to commence in January 2015. A week ago, CIDCO announced that it expected to start the ‘pre-development’ work for the construction of the airport from March 2016. Naturally, we tolerated this, the latest in a long line of inexplicable delays. The project costs will rise, of course, but we will tolerate it. We also tolerated the fact that pretty much anything that isn’t actually development can be slotted into the ‘pre-development’ category.

A year after it had planned to start what it referred to as ‘pre-development work’ for the new Navi Mumbai airport, last week, CIDCO once again announced that it expected to start the work from March 2016
A year after it had planned to start what it referred to as ‘pre-development work’ for the new Navi Mumbai airport, last week, CIDCO once again announced that it expected to start the work from March 2016

On February 16 this year, rationalist and opponent of right-wing extremism, Govind Pansare was shot, two years after the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.

An Additional Director General of Police said there were no connections between the two cases, except for the fact that both men were morning walkers. We tolerated this inane statement. We tolerated the murder of Pansare, just as we tolerated the murder of Dabholkar. We have tolerated the murder of innocent people for decades, after all, so why stop now?

The writer, Vilas Sarang, passed away on April 14, leaving behind a body of work in Marathi and English that may only be truly appreciated decades from now.

We didn’t really celebrate his work while he was alive, because who has time for modernist writers anyway? To our credit though, we tolerated his presence until his death. We may even rename a road after him in 20 years or so.

On May 18, nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who was brutally raped in 1973, died after spending 42 years in a vegetative state. The man who raped her was caught and convicted for assault and robbery, and served two concurrent seven-year sentences before being released. We tolerated her death too, just as we tolerated the release of the man who took her life away from her decades ago.

In June, spurious liquor killed 102 Malwani residents over a period of five days. They were given pure methanol diluted with water, apparently — a practice that we were promptly informed was far from uncommon in our slums. Hooch is still available if you know where to look for it, of course. It’s available because we tolerated those 102 deaths too.

We also tolerated the monsoons. It rained like it does every year, promptly shutting down our roads and trains after the slightest drizzle, making it impossible for senior citizens, women and children to commute, leaving devastation and disease in its wake, much as it has for decades now. We tolerated the BMC’s inefficiency right through those messy months because we have tolerated it for years now.

In October, Maharashtra declared that 14,708 of its 40,053 villages were facing drought-like conditions. The government’s response in our city was to spend a significant amount of money on posters requesting us to save water. We tolerated that too. That same month, the retail price of toor daal reached 200 per kg. Daily wage earners who rely only on daal, rice and onions were forced to change the way they ate. Some of them didn’t eat much at all. They tolerated it, just like we did.

Cafe Samovar shut down in Kala Ghoda. Bastani & Co shut down in Dhobi Talao. Dattatray shut down in Shivaji Park. Rhythm House will shut down in a couple of months. We tolerated it all. We let our government and businesses with vested interests tear down the nicest parts of our city and put up parking lots and ATM machines.

I hope we continue to be tolerant in 2016. To be any less tolerant would involve introspection, taking stock of poor decisions, and evaluating why so much is swept under the rug with the help of cute phrases like ‘the undying spirit of Bombay.’ Nothing should change. We should be allowed to watch our city crumble and die around us without the need for an emotional response. To fight back would be intolerant. And as the world knows so well, we are a tolerant people.

When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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