To living on the edge positively
Our city breaks down like clockwork during the rains each year, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing; let's focus on how to survive
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' I used to assume this was the thing people too stupid to get a real education [i.e. management graduates] spouted only to annoy the rest of us normal folk. I know they are never referring to Nietzsche when they say it, because they trot it out after every tragedy, big or small. It continues to crop up on WhatsApp groups too, whenever someone passes away or when the government makes us all unemployable with inane experiments like demonetisation. I think it should only be used during the monsoons though.
I think of the monsoons with anger, rather than the joy so many of us welcome it with. I used to experience joy too, a few decades ago, safe indoors, knowing I wasn't required to go out into the world to make a living. That was my father's role, so I was free to welcome the rains simply because I didn't have to deal with it. All that changed when I entered college and encountered my first rain-related crisis. I don't remember the year, which doesn't matter because you can pick any year you like and relate to the experience. What I do remember is being soaked to my skin, wading through waist-high water the colour of mud, praying for a train that took half a day to arrive.
That ghost of my younger self comes back to haunt me every year now, especially on days when Bombay shudders to a halt. This happens a lot more than it used to, for reasons that include climate change, a drainage system that can't cope, illegal construction, governmental negligence and, that Bombay perennial, BMC incompetence.
This year continued that proud tradition of calling upon our mysterious and mythical Spirit of Bombay to cope with waterlogging, potholes, and an all-round failure of public transport. I thought about the silver lining though, and how these unavoidable catastrophes should be exploited. After all, it's not as if the BMC is suddenly going to turn into an efficient organisation and do its job well after just 25 years of practice, is it?
The first thing I thought we could do is focus on enhancing our survival skills. We are now a highly trained group of approximately 20 million people qualified to survive in harsh and hostile conditions. Our roads have long equipped us to cross-country driving, but I have realised that navigating them during the monsoons gives us enhanced powers that will probably kick in during any apocalypse that may wipe out less hardy specimens of our race. For this, I have begun to be grateful.
I spent three days at an office in 2006, during the mother of all floods that crippled our city more than usual and took more than the expected number of lives. We forgot soon enough, obviously, because lives here have always been as cheap as the morals of our elected leaders. We can use these situations to get to know our co-workers better though, because nothing compels people to open up more than traumatic events that force them to spend time with each other. We can turn our annual days of trauma into days of bonding and emerge with stronger relationships at work. Maybe HR departments can sponsor these days of crisis, giving them something else to look forward to apart from emailing employees a daily 'Thought For The Day'.
To cut a long story short, we aren't leveraging [another word marketing graduates like to use, for reasons known only to themselves] the monsoons enough. Instead of complaining about minor things like how they disrupt our lives, destroy our homes, ruin our vehicles, jeopardise our health or kill our fellow residents every once in a while, we should focus on the positive aspects of being forced to live on the edge. We should use this time to train our children in survival skills that will save them long after we have passed away. That way, when the BMC inevitably lets them and their grandchildren down too, they will handle those betrayals with equanimity.
We will probably all turn into angry old men and women, cursing the government for failing to do its job and taking our taxes to do nothing. I suggest we try turning our children into happier versions of ourselves, by training them to believe that incompetence and corruption will ruin their lives anyway. The sooner they accept that, the higher the chances of them smiling a lot more than we do.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira
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