Come on, Mumbai, go show 'em!
In the Mumbai versus Delhi argument, one hopes the former goes out today and proves that it can be infinitely wiser than the latter
I have nothing but fond memories of living in Mumbai for two years earlier this decade, and then on and off for two months last year while writing a screenplay. My spouse loved Mumbai (it was also that we had moved to the megapolis after a four-year stint in Chennai, which didn't suit her) even though she's been a Delhi girl since 1983. When we returned to "New" Gurgaon, now a suburb of Delhi, it was a culture shock. Here, people think that if you're not aggressive then you're "submissive" – and this is not poor English but an actual mindset that sees no shades of grey between the extremes. Even cars on the wide roads and innumerable underpasses here will ruin your peace of mind.
When Mumbaikars dump on Delhi it's unsurprising. An elderly hispter author once in a column said Delhi was a bad idea, and this has been a constant complaint from the state capitals against the Centre – no matter what period of Indian history you look at. There's the Amazon Prime serial 'Made in Heaven', that my former Mumbai-based colleague Deepanjana incisively said was a Mumbaikar's idea of Delhi; when my spouse and I chatted about the serial with our very-Punju neighbours, I was surprised at how impressed they were with how "right" it depicted Delhi weddings. A popular Mumbai-based economics writer, whom I once interviewed for a job, will once in a blue moon tweet about non-economic matters, to say nasty things about Delhi women. (I wonder why. The things that irritate him apply as much to affluent Mumbaikars.) The irony of all this is that Delhi people have no opinion on Mumbaikars besides A-list celebrities.
One of the things that Mumbaikars pride themselves on is their apolitical attitude; Delhi is caricatured with a "don't you know who my father is" attitude though in a city of 1.6 crore (2011 census), very few can actually say that, given that Lutyens Delhi is comprised of approximately just 3,000 movers and shakers. Mumbaikars are business-like and also mind their own business; Delhi is polluted with overlapping fogs of rumours. Actual air pollution is a severe problem in Delhi, and the city has become a punishment posting for foreigners simply because of the poor air quality.
However, if there is one thing in Delhi's favour, it is that its people have not thrown their lot in with the BJP (other than in the 2014 parliamentary election where Delhi too got swept away by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tsunami). Mumbaikars seem to adore Modi like a God; if I go by the arguments of friends in finance, their adoration basically boils down to the hope that he will make them a lot of money. (Yes, Modi supporters consistently say, "he's done so much", but never give any specific examples. I've co-written a book about his economic mismanagement, 'India Unmade', but you only need look at the nutty decision for demonetisation to see what a whimsical ruler Modi has been.)
It is fine to want to make more money. It is another thing to overlook a ruler who at best looks the other way when there are riots. Riots and lynchings and other forms of mob violence are, by definition, a failure of governance because whether you read the 'Arthashastra' or Max Weber, the fundamental job of government is to keep each citizen safe. Some Mumbaikars, however, seem to overlook the violence because of their bigotry; it seems that the value of money trumps human value. One Mr Parikh on twitter even said that if Modi did not win enough seats to return to power on his own, he should walk off into the sunset "like a statesman". Wow.
Delhi has a large population of migrant families from Partition. Yet, in the East Delhi constituency, the contest is between the Aam Aadmi Party's Atishi Marlena, who initiated Delhi's education reforms, and former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir. Atishi is popular and stands a good chance of winning. If this contest were held in Mumbai, though, I suspect she would not.
Today, Mumbai votes for representatives to its six Lok Sabha constituencies and one hears that the BJP-Shiv Sena combine is likely to sweep all six, despite Urmila Matondkar's spirited campaigning, despite Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani's endorsement of Congress politician Milind Deora, despite Raj Thackeray's massive rallies where he clinically picks apart Modi's lack of achievement, and despite the fact that a policeman who died defending the megapolis on 26/11, Hemant Karkare, is vilifed not just by out-on-bail Pragya Thakur, the BJP candidate for Bhopal, but by hordes of nasty Modi-supporters on social media (this last point merits a whole column by itself).
I do hope Mumbai rises to the occasion today and shows that it is better than Delhi.
Aditya Sinha's latest book, India Unmade: How the Modi Government Broke the Economy, with Yashwant Sinha, is out now. He tweets @autumnshade Send your feedback to
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