Peruse this SMS I received on New Year eve: “Put away the tear. Let not 2011 be a Happy New Fear. Shall we cheer?” Rhyme and alliteration notwithstanding, what strikes us is the staccatoed optimism that calibrates the tenor of the message. Hope there surely is, but it’s armoured with scepticism. Understandably, though. 2010 has not been a jingle all the way for Mumbaikars. I have dealt with myriad hardships of the common man in my column - from lack of basic civic necessities to woes triggered by scams and terror. But each time, the one realisation that dawned on me is that come what may, Mumbai simply refuses to wipe that smile off its face.
French author, Dominique Lapierre may have found Kolkata to be his City of Joy, but it’s in Mumbai that one finds the eternal spring of happiness. As a Mumbaikar, I can vouch for the fact that no city could have taken the amount of bludgeoning it’s been subjected to in its stride. India’s financial capital withstood it all, constantly resurrecting itself and never losing its grip on life.
“The history of each city,” writes Suketu Mehta in his book Maximum City, “is marked by a catalytic event, just as each life has a central event around which it is organised.” He wrote the book in 2004. Mumbai has come a long way since. Floods, blasts, terror attacks — the city was blitzed repeatedly, but each episode that seemed a catastrophe became catalytic, as the city was up on its toes sooner than one could imagine. Let alone the dents, even basic amenities escaped most Mumbaikars, what with 2010 closing with an onion onslaught. But Mumbai’s spirit thrives.
Through thick and thin, through penury and affluence, Mumbaikars remain unfazed. Today, let’s celebrate that inherent doughtiness the megapolis is emblematic of. Celebrate responsibly, though, as the reputation of the city rests with each one of us.
If ever someone asks me of a single freeze-frame that encapsulates Mumbai’s unflinching character, I remind him of the enduring image of the teeming millions, the millions of avatars of grit and courage marching towards the giant clock at Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus and Churchgate as the morning locals arrive.
You feel the crowd is actually the self, feel the lust for life surge into your veins as you merge with the countless heads that make Mumbai a many-splendoured city. I salute every such Mumbaikar and wish Happy New Year.