What else can one do except pay unabashed tribute to a city when you are asked to write an inaugural of many such columns in a paper that is distinctively so uniquely Bombay? You must first begin with adulation and homilies to this wonderful city that was blackmailed into changing its name to Mumbai. But then again I don’t want to start by upsetting Raj Thackeray or for that matter any of the peaceful people in his non-violent party.
Bombay is a celebration of life. Where else would you see the stark realities of vada pao nestle alongside Wasabi? Where else would a friend like Baba Siddiqui play peace-maker and threaten Putin’s chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize? Where would you find garbage so beautifully piled up along the shore that lovers would want to meet and recite Gulzar to each other? Where would you find the dabbawallah penetrate every box-wallah’s heart without a forlorn Ila or for that matter a screeching aunty? Where would buildings belonging to the Municipality collapse as if suggesting equality of the highest kind? Where would a home minister be sacked for a security lapse and then be re-instated as if nothing happened?
In many ways, Bombay is truly liberal and exceedingly tolerant. The talent of Mallika Sherawat’s accent finds as many takers as the poetry of Javed Akhtar. The remarkable elan of creating controversies belongs as much as to Rakhi Sawant as does to Dhoble and both are treated with kid gloves by those who they’ve offended.
For me personally, Bombay epitomises an undying spirit and a remarkable gift of consistency.
Every two years, a Chota Shakeel or some such honest bloke will call (without encountering a call-drop) and threaten one of our prominent citizens. Every two or three years we will have the same candle-light vigil and apart from generating subdued heat, the causes will remain festering wounds. Every few years someone will run some folks over and there’ll be a hullabaloo but then again it will die down with the next crisis. There are more activists in Bombay than there are trees but then Bombay is fine with it. There are more Bollywood aspirants who arrive in Bombay every day than there are dwelling homes. There are more Ganpatis with every passing year and one would have thought there would be some economic impact. Even Raj has now surrendered to the fact that there’ll be more people from Bihar than even Shilpa Shetty could have imagined in her song.
The uniqueness of the city is that a nightingale without singing her swan song, can stymie a fly-over. This is a city that takes decades to construct a sea-link but can replicate an entire city in a film set. Every one talks about the fact that Bombay has become a symbol of red-tape but yet things happen and are later regularised. For a city that shut down dance bars at one time, it is the capital of dance and culture and therein lies the irony.
If there is anything that one must celebrate about Bombay, it is its inherent paradox. The same Shivaji Park will turn into a religious-political rally on Dusshera that also gave us Sachin Tendulkar. This is why Bombay is and will remain special. Both during the day and more importantly ‘after hours’...