Mumbai – A Hol(e)istic view !!!

When I read Suketu Mehta’s award winning book –“Maximum City on Mumbai, I found it a bit hard to comprehend what is “maximum” about the city. If Mehta has to write a book on Mumbai today as a sequel he could very well name it “The Maximum potholed City” which will make for unchallenged comprehension. A drive this day through what people often refer to as a metropolitan city – Mumbai will be an (w)holesome experience with an exposure  to holes of all sizes and shapes 🙂  In between holes you will be lucky to find some bits and pieces of road.  While in other cities you find signs of “Caution bump ahead” in Mumbai soon you will find signs of “Caution Road ahead”!!!

Mumbaipot1

All of us who keep cribbing about potholes in Mumbai sadak are missing an important point called “Positioning”. If Mumbai roads are as good as they are in Tokyo, Paris or Dubai then what is the unique positioning?  What is Bappida if he is not a walking jewellery showroom? The dark glasses which our Tamil Nadu octogenarian politician Karunanidhi wears 24*7 defines now his identity. Potholes and Mumbai are something like this and now defines the city’s personality.

Realising the importance of imbibing this personality of the city, one NGO proposed to change the name of RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) in Mumbai to HTA (Holes and Transport Authority). But the proposal has apparently hit a “Holeblock”!

Recently one of the popular travel companies in Mumbai made a killing by positioning Mumbai as a destination for bachelor trips to the West. The idea was very simple. Post Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara movie there has been a rush from rich boys in India to travel to Spain to do Road trips. This agency turned the concept on its head and positioned Mumbai abroad for fancy “Holi(e)days”. The result has been extra ordinary.

There has been another novel attempt as well. Considering the fact that “Space holidays” or “Moon holidays” are still some time away and may not be also light on the pocket – for lesser mortals there is the option of “Moonbai holidays”. Sasta and Sundar.  See the pictures for yourself.

Mumbai-Road-Pot-Holes-Are-Like-Moon-Craters

Picture courtesy “Indiaopines.com”

That Mumbai resembles moon’s surface is not a figment of my imagination.  ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) which has plans to do a manned mission to moon may well be advised to divert to Mumbai and save a few millions. In our country millions still need basic food security.

While on this moon like experience, a novice foreign pilot flying to Mumbai for the 1st time panicked when he was losing height above Mumbai and was wondering if he was landing in another planet.  But soon he breathed easy as he saw the countless shanties on the surface which he recalled seeing in Slumdog Millionaire.

In the midst of all this, one thing which got missed is the fact that today Mumbai is the “Beta site” for many car manufacturers to test the quality of their vehicle suspensions.  If a suspension passes the test in Mumbai it passes the ultimate test. What started just with one manufacturer has now become an industry standard and is a major revenue stream for the Municipal corporation. Hence there is now an unstated commitment from the Government to maintain the condition of the roads with enough holes of different hue at any point in time.

This is not the only reason for the Government to have a ‘Hol(e)istic’ view on the road condition.  The other being to ensure jobs for the thousands of workers engaged with the road contractors. Laying substandard roads and keep doing something on them in the garb of maintenance is another Employment Guarantee scheme. The only difference being this scheme doesn’t have the Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi prefix to it.

While on prefixes, suffixes and adjectives, the “spirit of Mumbaikar” is a famed one. But what is not is “the spine of Mumbaikar”. Mumbaikars possess the strongest and at the same time very flexible spine among human beings in the world. As one of my friends value added, after all Camel rides are supposed to be good for the spine and more often than not in Mumbai when you are in a vehicle the ride is akin to a Camel ride.

Recently when the minister concerned was questioned if the Government has a Roadmap to fix Mumbai’s roads, he mentioned that as of now they only have a “holemap” 🙂 and soon they hope to have a master plan and will reveal the same shortly. So it’s still not end of the hole oops road for Mumbaikars as yet. There is some hole oops again, hope!!!

Postscript: Years back – Nestle created a unique positioning for their mint by just creating a hole in the centre and calling it “Polo – The mint with a hole”!!! For a commoner it was difficult to fathom what’s so great in a mint with a hole. But the point is, it was different and “hole in a mint” became the defacto standard for a mint candy.   The same Nestle after a few years introduced Polo Mini – with the tag line “The Hole with the mint”. This hole didn’t find many takers and had to be buried quickly 😦 😦

Disclaimer : The characters and incidents in this post are fictitious and imaginary. Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. And no animal was injured while writing this post.

Advertisements

Lest We Forget!!!

In his seminal work of 2005 – “The Argumentative Indian” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, “argued” that the understanding and use of the argumentative tradition of Indians are critically important for the success of India’s democracy and its other ethos. However between 2005 and now, the argumentative Indian has matured into “The Outrageous Indian” I guess.  In India presently, the economy is under tremendous strain permeating pain all over. Ergo, the GDP has fallen off the cliff and not sure how low it will get by the time this fiscal year gets over. However no such problems for GDO – “Gross Domestic Outrage”!! In the last few years there has been no paucity for outrage in this country. Many opportunities have been presented to us in meticulous frequency and we have all faithfully shown our outrage whether it is on the streets, on Twitter, on Facebook or on WordPress.

Lest we forget, I wanted to do a reality check on if things have got any better post the pouring of outrage.  Here we go:

Lokpal bill: In the August of 2011, a frail Gandhian by name Anna Hazare and a group of argumentative Indians bandied as Team Anna by the media brought thousands of middle class Indians to the streets.  The cause was to get a “Lokpal bill” passed in parliament. At the peak of its movement Team Anna moved the country and was inexorable. Today, Anna has been pushed to avail VRS (voluntary retirement scheme), Team Anna on losing steam got dismantled and Lokpal bill is in cold storage.  Once again.

Delhi Gang Rape: The heinous act by a few thugs in the capital city in the Dec of 2012 ushered in Outrage 2.0. India’s political class made all the right noises (political noise i.e.) in the aftermath, Nirbhaya became omnipresent, Justice Verma was commissioned to suggest suitable amendments to the Crime Laws, he rose to the occasion and submitted his recommendations in record time, the Govt. passed a law with supposedly stiff provisions to prevent rape,… ,…So far so good.  7 long months on – the guilty have not been punished yet. If this is the situation on one of the most visible crimes in the country, I shudder to imagine what would be the state of affairs on lesser known crimes!!  Justice Verma in the meantime passed away and to me, the cause which he furthered all his life (Justice System) failed once again. And for the Govt. closure was achieved when in the Budget it set up a “Nirbhaya fund”!!! Did we hear anything on that post March???

Coalgate: Till then CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) in India was just another “babu” whose department did audits of Govt. departments and released reports, mostly harmless. But this time the then CAG Vinod Rai decided to do a “Seshan” and released a draft report which accused the Govt. of a scam of epic proportions in allotment of coal blocks to public and private enterprises arbitrarily thereby causing loss of ( I forgot ) so many lakh crores!!! The opposition duly disrupted parliament for a whole session. And where are we today? There is a power shortage in most parts of the country. Power plants need coal. Mining has been stopped in most of the states. A Congress MP and a young scion Navin Jindal has been accused to be in the thick of action in the scam. A minister does “proof reading” of the status report prepared by the CBI (He ceases to be a minister now). And frankly I’ve lost track on what’s happening in this front!!! At the end, are there now clear guidelines on allotment of coal blocks or for that matter any natural resource??

Pakistan’s dastardly act in LOC: 2 Indian soldiers were captured, killed, beheaded and their body mutilated allegedly by Pakistan army in the LOC. The outrage here in this part of LOC was spontaneous. I’m not privy to the steps our Govt. took subsequently. We hope some steps have indeed been taken to ensure this doesn’t repeat.

Blasts in Hyderabad: Yesterday, 13th July marked the 2nd Anniversary of the serial blasts that shook Mumbai. Few months from now, it will be the 1st Anniversary of the twin blasts that rocked Dlisukhnagar in Hyderabad in February. Anniversaries such as this come and go and Candles do brisk business on these days. We are yet to figure out the cause, the perpetrators of the crime or any mechanism/process to prevent such acts in the future. In fact last Sunday the Bodhi temple in Bihar was the centre of another blast!!! That Buddha in his time was considered an apostle of peace completes the tale of irony.

Match fixing: For long Indians were supposedly good at match fixing. The only way Indians got married was when their parents “fixed the match”. As things changed in that space, we turned to a different Match fixing it seems. It emerged that in IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket, players were involved in betting and fixing the outcomes. It turned out later that even owners were also in the ring. Another rage. From everyday dose of investigative revelations few months back to complete peace in that front, we find that the whole saga has been fixed and buried with no outcome!

Uttarakhand flooding: This is the recent one. We don’t know if the floods have actually receded there but the nation’s attention and mindshare already have, already. Actually now starts the act of reconstruction. If done with vision, here’s an opportunity to create a new “Chardham” experience. Will it happen? Ground evidence doesn’t provide any play for hope.

So as can be seen, for the aam admi it’s been just OSOT – Outrage Se Outrage Tak (From one outrage to another) and they have not yielded any tangible result.  In a democracy as ours, our opportunity to “materially” intervene comes once in 5 years. Post that intervention, we have no choice but just to show outrage.  At the same time is there a way by which while we keep moving on, get the attention focused on the earlier issue and obtain closure? Can the leading news channels/newspapers devote a weekly slot on re-visiting “Open issues”?  Is it too much to expect of the opposition to demand action on older issues?  Can we have constitutional amendments paving way for the President to intervene on outstanding issues? Gurcharan Das in his piece in TOI today goads us to spend 1 hour a week in the neighbourhood as an answer to our increasing political disenchantment.

This is my small attempt to keep the fire on, lest we forget.

Outrage

Tailpiece : When he was “outraged”, Bharathiyar said:

thani oru manithanukku unavu illai enil jagathinai erithiduvom” (if there is no food for a single person we will destroy the whole universe)

Today’s Govt. says:

thani oru manithanukku unavu illai enil Food Security Bill kondu varuvom” ( If there is no food for a single person we will bring the Food Security bill)!!!