Lindsay Pereira: The barriers between us

Published: Dec 09, 2017, 06:28 IST | Lindsay Pereira

If only political parties spent half their energy on developing our city than they do on desperately trying to divide and rule us

It's easy to blame the British, because that's what we have been taught to do. They stole from us, we're told as children, and reduced our great country to poverty, which is why we don't have good roads, public transport or healthcare. They took everything that was good about India and left us to rot. This has been shoved down our collective throats for so long that we fail to acknowledge that the only buildings and systems still standing today are those built by those horrible Englishmen. The Railways, our Army, the magnificent structures that dot South Bombay - compare them with the leaking subways, decrepit government offices and filthy railway stations maintained by the people currently in charge.

We're taught to blame the British for stealing from us and reducing our great country to poverty, which is why we don't have good roads, public transport or healthcare
We're taught to blame the British for stealing from us and reducing our great country to poverty, which is why we don't have good roads, public transport or healthcare

The only British thing our politicians have embraced, and exploited to the fullest, is the idea of dividing us in order to control us. Our former rulers didn't have to work too hard to accomplish this. They knew we outnumbered them a million to one, so they simply pitted us against each other and sat back. We burned each others' homes down, and they conveniently stepped in after the smoke had cleared to take charge. It's a lesson that many of our political parties use regularly, whipping up communities whenever an election looms, safe in the knowledge that we will rush to the streets in anger like puppets whenever we are asked to.

Some parties have done this so successfully that they now control how our city functions. They have managed to con millions of us into believing that they care about specific people and communities, diverting our attention from the fact that they have done nothing to make Bombay a better place. They also remind us, every now and again, that 'outsiders' have no place here. It doesn't even rattle us anymore, these ridiculous attacks on the poorest among us - vegetable vendors, security guards, hawkers - simply for doing what human beings have done since the dawn of time: moved to where jobs exist. They are beaten with impunity because those doing the beating recognise that these acts of violence are now condoned, even encouraged, by governments that don't want us to focus on what really matters. They are beaten because they are too poor to take their attackers to court, and because the latter are aware that no police complaints will be made.

What does it say about us that we willingly rush to support people who ask us to vote by caste, language or religion, rather than people who are genuinely qualified to do something that will make our collective lives easier? Why is our patriotism restricted only to applauding for the Indian cricket team, standing for the National Anthem before a movie or collecting donations for the Army to ease our conscience? Where does that patriotism go when politicians openly and brazenly ask us to think like a community or sect rather than one nation? And, how do politicians who do this for a living also get to decide who is a patriot and who isn't?
The idea of immigration continues to bother our leaders. Who is a Bombayite? How many years does one need to live here before one has the right to call oneself a Bombayite? These are the things they focus on, instead of telling us why they can't give us functioning roads, public toilets or hospitals that actually save lives. Do we ask where the parents of these politicians come from? And, whether they were here before our parents were?

The British may have left, but their policies still control us. They continue to rule us in the guise of men and women who exploit our ability to flare up at the slightest provocation and take sides based on our religious beliefs. We ignore questions of fair play and merit, because they recognise that righteous anger comes more easily to us than rational thought. They know what buttons to push, and pull our strings like puppet masters.

This is probably why so much energy and hate goes into beating up and labelling our countrymen as migrants, and why people who don't have a voice are questioned instead of people in power who take our taxes and give us nothing in return. Our politicians know that blaming outsiders relieves them from the responsibility of having to do something. It gives them an excuse for their incompetence. They know we won't ask about development, because they have trained us to focus on who the immigrants are instead.

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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